Elementary Flying Training School

Cadet Toby Williams wrote in his diary:

I was successful first time in the secondary exams and so prepared to leave ITW for EFTS.  We were given two days leave, which I spent at the Toc H. Bulawayo and then I was on the train for Mount Hampden.  Here we were billeted only two in a room.  I shared mine with Ralph Towsey.  We had to kick our heels over the week-end and start flying on the Monday.

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That great day arrived, the flying kit was taken from the kit-bag at last and I had my first ride in an aeroplane with my instructor F/O Reynolds (now F/Lt).  I wasn’t so thrilled as I thought I should be.  The ground went past too slowly!!  

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Now came several days of dual flying, straight and level, climbing and gliding, stalling and spinning, medium turns and “circuits and bumps”.  At 8 hours 30 minutes dual, I was very thrilled to be first on my course for a Solo Test and at 9 hours 5 minutes was the first to solo.

Major instrument panel items on a Tiger Moth.  The cadet pilot was kept very busy keeping his eye on these, as well as looking on all quarters of the Tiger Moth for the aircraft's attitude in the air, not to mention other aircraft in their patch of the sky.

Accidents inevitably happened:

"We had several crashes on the course, but only one was killed and no one seemed to worry much."

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This is the crash that Toby referred to, it happened on 14 May and the fatality was Sgt Ernest Thomas Rees from Llanelli in South Wales.  Sgt Rees had joined the RAF in 1935, I presume as ground crew but had served with distinction and was Mentioned in Despatches in June 1941.  He applied for aircrew service unbeknownst to his parents in case they worried; extracts from his diary (with thanks to Ali Rees):

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It appears that Sgt Rees was flying solo in Tiger Moth T7938, possibly doing "circuits and bumps" when he collided with another Tiger Moth being flown by instructor F/O J Le Poer Trench and his pupil J Paton, both of whom escaped with minor injuries.  The entry in the RATG HQ ORBs records the event, though it is a month out when stating that it happened in April rather than May.

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Dad had flown T7938 on several occasions, two being shown here in his logbook in late April.

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Sadly Sgt Rees died of his injuries later that day in hospital.

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His death was announced in the Llanelli Star:

The ORB from Mt Hampden correctly states the date as 14 May, the following day a Court of Inquiry was set up, though I can find no reference to its conclusions:

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Four more hours “circuits and bumps” and then onto climbing and gliding turns, steep turns, forced landings, power approaches, precautionary landings, low flying, aerobatics, and cross-country flights. I had a minor prang when on a solo X-country to Gatooma – over-shooting at that aerodrome and running into the ditch.  I broke the propeller and dented the kite a bit, and so travelled back to Salisbury by train.  Next morning I was solo to Gatooma once more and made certain of a good landing this time.

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The route to Gatooma from Mt Hampden.  Apparently there was often a welcoming group of ladies from the Gatooma area ready with tea and cakes, looking after "their boys".

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Toby's logbook entry and his instructor's comment!

The area around Mt Hampden seen from a Tiger Moth.

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A group of intrepid aviators at Mt Hampden.  Cadet Toby Williams is standing in the back row, furthest to the right.

But as Sgt Rees' diary mentioned, besides a fairly intensive flying programme, there was also a lot of classroom learning and studying to be undertaken.  A few pages from Toby's notebooks give an indication of their studies:

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The penalty for ignoring the restriction about low flying was swift and harsh.

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This information was to determine where LAC Toby Williams was to be posted for the next stage of his training, Toby was 5' 7" tall and of slim build!

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We were flying Tiger Moths for nine weeks during which time we did 75 hours.  Then came our final test, a week’s leave and SFTS.

I spent my leave in Umtali (the largest town in the eastern District of Rhodesia).  The landscape of Rhodesia is very uninteresting.  It consists of rolling plain (bundu) studded with small thorn bushes, broken occasionally by a kopje or ridge of hills.  The whole is a dullish brown.  The Salisbury area is a bit better with a few green trees to break the monotony.  The Umtali or Inyanga district is called “the Highlands of Rhodesia” and is the best area of the lot.  With high hills and kopjes and the highest points in Rhodesia – about 8000’ above sea level.

Service Flying Training School

On returning from leave I was posted to a Harvard school (No. 20 SFTS (Service Flying Training School) Cranborne).  These aircraft seemed rather formidable at first, after the Tiger Moth.

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 We soon got them ‘taped’ though and after six hours I went solo.  Then came a period of 2½ months which was much the same as EFTS only in the Harvard.  We still had lectures each day and at the end of this 2 ½ months our final examinations, known as the Wings Exam..