Stirling Pilot

his RAF history

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Andrew joined the RAF in December 1941, and did his Elementary Flying Training at 22 EFTS at Teversham, Cambs, with Marshalls, on the site of what is now Cambridge Airfield; the aircraft was the DH 82 Tiger Moth. He was then one of the student pilots to be sent to America under the Arnold Scheme.

Posted to Lakeland School of Aeronautics (soon to become the Lodwick School of aeronautics), Lakeland, Florida, in Feb 1942, he commenced training on the PT17 Stearman aircraft, mainly under the watchful eye of a civilian instructor, W.A. Lethio, before progressing to Cochran Field, Macon, Georgia in May '42 and the BT13A "Vultee Valiant". After that he was off to Dothan, Alabama in July '42, and the AT - 6A ("Harvard") aircraft, for Advanced Flying Training. At this stage he was also flying out of Elgin and Napier Fields. He was an average pilot, with comments from his flight commander of, "Flying O.K., but too cocky". But he persevered, and gained his wings.

He also gained the interest of a couple of the local young ladies. One was possibly Mary Malpass, the other possibly Lucille (?). Mary may have been the daughter of a Lakeland dentist. The pictures on the "Lakeland" page, which were in his personal effects, are now in my keeping.

Posted back to the UK( Nov '42), and No 14(P) A.F.U. at Ossington, Notts, he flew the Airspeed Oxford. His first twin-engined "solo" was on the 21st Nov '42 in Oxford Ser No 9635. After 3 months on the Oxford he was posted to fly the Wellington Aircraft. Steady progress meant that he went in May 1943 to 1651 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit), at Waterbeach, Cambridge, to learn to fly the Stirling Bomber. During the 11 OTU and 1651 posting the final crew (Crew 6) teamed up. Completing the conversion training on the 18th May, 1943, he was posted with "Crew Six" as an operational crew to 149 (East India) Squadron, flying Stirling III Bombers out of Lakenheath, Suffolk. On the 29th of May, he and the crew received their new Aircraft, A Short & Harland built "Stirling" Mark III serial number EE872, contract No 774677/38. This aircraft was transferred to 149 Sqn on the 26th May '43 and given the Sqn letters OJ-N. The Sqn records show it as "Cat E" (missing) on the 6th of Sep and SOC (Struck Off Charge) on the 11th. Although this was not the only Aircraft the Crew flew, it was still considered "theirs" by them, and treated as such.

The first trip for the crew with 149 Sqn was with Plt.Off. Laurie Blair as first pilot in OJ-M (BF531) on the 27th May '43. His first "Op" was on a trip to Wuppertal on the 29th May (Alex Holms also shows this trip in his log book). Again Plt Off Blair was first pilot.

A lot has been written about the Stirling, from its ability to turn inside a Hurricane at low level, to its insane vulnerability when flying fully laden at it's operational ceiling of 15,000 feet. Please see this page, this article or the Links page for more details on this aircraft.

It was in aircraft EE872, N-Nuts on the night of 5/6th Sept '43 for an "Ops" mission to Mannheim ( his second trip to that target) that he and his crew were lost.


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