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Published Under the Authority of the Air Officer Commanding the Rhodesian Air Training Group.
All typescript and illustrations are copyright with the Rhodesian Air Training Group.
ORAFs records it’s thanks to the R.A.T.G for using their documents to further expand knowledge of the Rhodesian Air Force.
The crest of the R.A.T.G was inserted by the undersigned.
Thanks to Butch (Richard) Graydon and Ken Salter for making the booklet available to ORAFs
Thanks also to Robb Ellis for his continued support
Napier - South Africa
END OF PAGE 2
Office of the Minister of Air,
Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia,
4th December, 1944
This is the first book to be written on the Southern Rhodesia Group of the Empire Air Training Scheme, but it will not be the last.
Compared on a basis of population, the Group is by far the largest in the Empire; it opened the first school and turned out the first pilots ; its growth, development and success, due to the energy and initiative of Air Vice-Marshal Meredith, C.B., C.B.E., A.F.C., and his staff, and the cooperation of Government Departments, contractors and workmen, in no small way contributed to the victory now in sight.
In this book no attempt has been made to "shoot a line" or "gild the lily" It is a brief and factual narrative of one of the less spectacular, but- none the less important achievements of the Second World War.
Having served its purpose, the Group has already commenced its closing down operations. This book will serve as a reminder to our visitors of, I hope, a happy sojourn in our midst, and to those who remain in the Colony a reminder of our association with the Royal Air Force during a momentous period in the history of our Empire.
Minister of Air
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Colonel the Hon. Sir Lucas Guest, K.B.E., M.P
Minister of Internal Affairs for Southern Rhodesia
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FOREWORD BY THE AIR OFFICER COMMANDING
This book has been produced to provide a record of the connection between Rhodesia and the Royal Air Force. It has been designed to interest, firstly those Rhodesians who have done so much to entertain and help all ranks serving in the Colony, secondly those who have served in the Colony, and thirdly the relatives and friends of those who have served here but have never been in the country themselves. In catering for such a diversity of readers it is inevitable that parts of the book may seem long-winded and uninteresting. For this we must apologise but hope that, as a whole, the book will please those for whom it is intended.
I feel that no foreword would be complete without a reference to the hospitality and kindness experienced by all ranks. The Service deeply appreciates the magnificent efforts not only of organised bodies but also of the many private people throughout the Colony who have not spared themselves, their time or their money in their desire to make the stay of R.A.F. personnel both happy and interesting. Many firm friendships have been formed and these, together with the interchange of views, will surely do much to further the ideals of the Empire.
The R.A.F. owes much to Rhodesia but it also owes a debt of gratitude to Rhodesians. Before the war it was thought in some circles that the Imperial idea was a spent force. The lie would have been given to these misgivings, or, as they were in some cases, false hopes, had these pessimistic persons had an intimate knowledge of the personnel of the pre-war air force. Rhodesian young men in relatively large numbers made their way "home" by many and various means, with the sole object of becoming pilots in the Royal Air Force. Thus it came about that "the Few" in the early days of the war numbered in its ranks representatives of the flower of Rhodesian youth. As time went on this number was very greatly increased.
The R.A.F. is proud and thankful for the contribution made by these representatives of the Colony in its ranks. Many of them have won high honours and decorations for their gallant and selfless deeds in the air. Many, having laid down their lives, will not return to their homes. All have been distinguished for their high sense of loyalty to the Mother Country in the time of her greatest need.
Air Vice-Marshal, Air Officer
Commanding Rhodesian Air Training Group.
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Air Vice-Marshal C.W. Meredith, C. B., C.B.E., A.F.C.
Air Officer Commanding the Rhodesian Air Training Group
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PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This booklet tells the story of Southern Rhodesia and the R.A.F., with particular reference to the work of the Rhodesian Air Training Group—how it was formed, how it did its work, how it supplied the R.A.F., Rhodesian and Allied squadrons with their aircrews, and how its members lived while serving in Rhodesia.
The Group was formed early in 1940, when Great Britain and the Empire stood alone against the Axis Powers and, although its work has never before been widely published and its size was not as great as that of the Canadian scheme, it played a very efficient and important part in the provision of aircrews for the Royal Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Hellenic Air Force and the Royal Yugoslav Air Force.
Most of the material for the booklet has been obtained from official sources, but grateful acknowledgments are due to the Government Archivist, the Information Officer and the Chief Native Commissioner in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, for their willing co-operation, and also to many members of the Group who contributed text and illustrations.
Ranks, titles and decorations are accorded to individuals as held by them on the date when they appear in the context or when photographs were taken.
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Foreword by the Minister of Air, Southern Rhodesia.
Foreword by the Air Officer Commanding, Rhodesian Air Training Group.
Preface and Acknowledgments.
Aviation in Southern Rhodesia in Peace and War.
Chapter 1.—Pre-war flying, the Southern Rhodesian Air Force and the Rhodesian Squadrons: Page 10
Chapter 2.—The Rhodesian Air Training Group: Page 20
Chapter 3.—Arrival of the R. A.F. Page 25
Chapter 4.—The Auxiliary Services: Page 34
Chapter 5.—The Training of Allied Air Forces: Page 38
The Training of Aircrews in the Rhodesian Air Training Group.
Chapter 1.—The Pupil and his Problems: Page 40
Chapter 2.—The Instructor's Day: Page 48
Chapter 3.—Maintenance, Administration and Welfare in Rhodesia: Page 55
Chapter 4.—The Aircraft and Equipment; Supply and Local Problems: Page 70
Southern Rhodesia: A Short Description.
Chapter 1.—Geography, Climate and History.: Page 73
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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Colonel, the Hon. Sir Ernest Lucas Guest, K.B.E.,M.P: Page 4
Air Vice-Marshal C. W. Meredith, C.B., C.B.E., A.F.C.: Page 6
The Statue of Cecil Rhodes in Main Street, Bulawayo: Page 11
The Main Falls of the Victoria Falls : Page 13
The Odzani Falls, in the Mountains of the Eastern District: Page 17
Air Vice-Marshal C. W. Meredith, C.B.E., A.F.C,.
with Air Commodore C. R. Steele, D.F.C.: Page 27
The Rows and Rows of Racks in the Central Maintenance Unit in Bulawayo: Page 28
A Conference at Headquarters, Rhodesian Air Training Group: Page 29
A Portrait of a Flying Instructor: Page30
Practice Smoke Bombs being made in the Salisbury Ordnance Factory: Page 31
Four Members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Service: Page 34
Cadets of the Rhodesian Air Training Corps: Page 35
Sentries of the Rhodesian Air Askari Corps: Page 36
Harvards over Mazoe Dam: Page 39
A Portrait of a Pupil Pilo: Page 41
A Pupil Pilot goes Solo: Page 42
Harvard Single-engined Advanced Training Aircraft: Page 42
An Oxford Twin-engined Training Aircraft : Page 43
Cartoon on Flying: Page 44
Cartoon on Flying: Page 45
A Parade at the Initial Training Wing in Bulawayo.: Page 46
An Oxford Instructor explains a few matters to Two of his Pupils.: Page 49
A Navigation Instructor Briefs his Pupils.: Page 52
Fitters, Assisted by a Native, working on an Aero Engine: Page 56
A Swimming Gala in the Thornhill Swimming Pool.: Page 58
The Heany Military Band. Page 59
The Mountains of Inyanga, in the Eastern District.: Page 61
Lunch being prepared in the Kitchen of one of the Airmen's Messes.: Page 64
Lunchtime in the Airmen's Mess.: Page 65
The Mazoe Dam.: Page 66
The Salisbury Sports Club: Page 67
Air Commodore L. H. Cockey, C.B. Page 79
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AVIATION IN SOUTHERN RHODESIA IN PEACE AND WAR.
Pre-war Flying, the S.R.A.F. and the Empire Air Training Scheme.
The story of Rhodesia and the R.A.F. should not be told without something of the beginnings of aviation in Southern Rhodesia. Although the comparatively temperate and constant climate of the Colony was a big factor in the establishment of a Training Group so far away from sources of supply and demand, the decision to do so was as much due to the foresight of the many men who had struggled to develop aviation in this corner of the Empire.
The first aeroplane to astonish the natives of the Colony was a Vickers Vimy, the Silver Queen, flown by Lieut.-Colonel van Ryneveld and Major Brand from London to Rhodesia in March, 1920.
The effect of this flight on Rhodesian air development must have been immediate, because a Company called "Air Road Motors, Ltd." was registered in Bulawayo in April of the same year, with a capital of £20,000. Major A. Miller, one of the foremost pioneers in aviation in South Africa, did much to develop this Company's aims, and in May, in co-operation with South African Aerial Transports, Ltd., a Le Rhone Avro with Messrs. Thompson and Rutherford as pilots gave passenger flights at the Agricultural Show in Bulawayo.
The aeroplane was christened Rhodesia and visited many places in the Colony, giving passenger nights, with Messrs. A. English and Aston Redrup accompanying the two pilots as engineers. Air mindedness, however, had not yet arrived. The Company went into voluntary liquidation and nothing further was done until Sir Alan Cobham, A.F.C., with Mr. A. G. Elliott as engineer and Mr, B. W. G. Emmott as photographer, passed through in February and March, 1926, on a survey flight from London to Cape Town and back in a de Havilland 50 aeroplane.
In August, 1927, Mr. Aston Redrup formed the Rhodesian Aviation Syndicate, with Mr. Herbert L. Stewart and Captain J. Douglas Mail, A.F.C., using a wartime D.H. 60 aeroplane. Mr. Francois Issels and Mr. A. G. Hay, of Bulawayo, joined the Syndicate and a Cirrus Moth Mark II was bought in England and sent out to Durban, where it was assembled and flown to Bulawayo. Mr. Hay also obtained the agencies in Northern and Southern Rhodesia for de Havilland aircraft and Cirrus aero engines. He further obtained a promise from the Beit Railway Trust, Ltd., through Sir Henry Birchenough and Sir James McDonald, for a grant of £500 per year for three years if the Syndicate became a limited liability company, and obtained a grant-in-aid of a similar sum from the Southern Rhodesian Government.
In April, 1931, the Rhodesian Aviation Co., Ltd., was registered, with an authorised capital of £7,500, absorbing the previous Syndicate, and the Government voted a subsidy of £750 per year, to be earned by the training of seven pilots a year to "A" licence standard, who were to be available for an air force reserve in case of need.
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In 1930 a Civil Aviation Department, under the Department of Defence, had been introduced and the Aviation Act 1930 had come into force. Cobham-Blackburn Airlines, Ltd., assisted with technical advice, personnel and equipment, until they were absorbed by Imperial Airways, Ltd. Mr. Francois Issels was made Chairman of the new Rhodesian Aviation Co.; Mr. Aston Redrup, Director and Secretary; Captain B. Roxburgh-Smith, D.F.C. and Mr. Pat Judson were made pilots and instructors, and Mr. Richard T. Launder, who came from England in 1927, was made ground engineer. The aircraft consisted of a Blackburn Bluebird, two Avro Avians and two de Havilland Moths. Later, Mr. Robert G. Burton was appointed Managing Director; the authorised capital was raised to £20,000. Captain Roxburgh-Smith left the Company and was succeeded by Mr. Miles Bowker. A tragic setback occurred when Mr. Pat Judson and his pupil, Mr. A. E. G. Speight, were killed when taking off at Salisbury. Mr. M. H. Pearce then joined the Company as additional pilot.
The Statue of Cecil Rhodes in Main Street, Bulawayo
The Company got most of its revenue from private charter work, and later by feeder services to Imperial Airways (Africa), Ltd., which Company started their London/Cape Town weekly services late in 1931, with Hercules airliners and, later, with the Atalanta type. The feeder services did much to encourage aviation in the country, and Imperial Airways were anxious to take over the Rhodesian Company, but their agreements debarred them from doing so. After discussion between the two Companies and the Beit Railway Trust, Ltd., the Rhodesian Aviation Co., Ltd., was dissolved and Rhodesian and Nyasaland Airways, Ltd., was formed in November, 1933, with an authorised capital of £25,000. The principal shareholders' were Imperial Airways (Africa), Ltd., and the Beit Railway Trust, Ltd., who took over the assets of both the Rhodesian Aviation Co., Ltd., and Christowitz Air Services, which latter airline had operated between Salisbury and Nyasaland since 1932.
The new Company introduced first a Westland Wessex and later Dragon Rapides, which in 1937 started a weekly service between Salisbury and Beira, in Portuguese East Africa, to link up with the flying boat service.
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In 1934 the de Havilland Aircraft Company (Rhodesia), Ltd., was formed in Salisbury, to service aircraft and train pilots. Southern Rhodesia was becoming used to air travel and an air rally which was held in Salisbury in 1936 brought 20,000 people together to see a display by forty aircraft and to have flights. Scholarships were awarded to many people who wished to fly and could not afford the normal training. In addition, Sir Abe Bailey gave £3,500 to be used to provide a travelling flying school, which was operated by Mr. D. D. Longmore and an engineer. The school opened late in 1938, using a Tiger Moth, and visited the smaller towns in the Colony, teaching people to fly at comparatively low cost.
At the outbreak of war in September, 1939, civil aviation had certainly established itself in Rhodesia, but with the war most of its activities were taken over by the Southern Rhodesian Air Force. The S.R.A.F. was not officially formed until 19th September, 1939, although military aviation first appeared in the Colony in 1926 and an air unit was formed some years later. In 1926, four R.A.F. Fairey 3Ds., under the command of Wing Commander C. W. H. Pulford, O.B.E., A.F.C., flew from Cairo to Cape Town and back, calling at Bulawayo both on the outward and return journeys.
Earlier in the same year, it was arranged with the Air Council that the R.A.F. would accept two candidates each half-year from Southern Rhodesia, as apprentices, and one candidate nominated by the Governor for a cadetship at the R.A.F. College at Cranwell. During the next nine years a few R.A.F. visits were made to the country, including those by S/Ldr. O. R. Gayford, D.F.C., A.F.C., and F/Lieut. C. E. Nicholetts, A.F.C., in the long-distance Fairey Napier monoplane, and Group Captain C. W. H. Pulford, this time with five Fairey Gordons.
In 1934, Parliament in Southern Rhodesia voted a sum of £10,000 as a contribution towards the cost of Imperial Defence to be used to raise and train an air unit in Southern Rhodesia, and an air section of the existing territorial forces was accordingly formed under the command of Major D. Cloete, M.C., A.F.C., who drafted the details for its formation in conjunction with Colonel G. Parson, C.B.E., D.S.O., the Commandant of the Southern Rhodesia Forces. The Officer Commanding the 1st Rhodesia Regiment was asked for volunteers and eight candidates began their training in November, 1935, in Salisbury, at the school run by the de Havilland Aircraft Co. (Rhodesia), Ltd. A Government Notice No. 765 in November, 1935, established the Air Section of the Territorial Force.
In March, 1936, Group Captain A. T. Harris, O.B.E., A.F.C., who as a young man had served in the British South Africa Police and the 1st Rhodesia Regiment, and became A.OC., in Chief of Bomber Command in the present war, came from the Air Ministry to advise on the development of the air unit.
A military airfield was first considered in June, 1935, and it was-decided that, as the Service flying might later interfere with commercial flying at the Civil Airport, a new site should be found. In 1936, clearing of trees and construction of the airfield at Hillside was started, the Government resuming possession of this commonage land from the Salisbury Council. Work on the airfield continued into 1937, when the Air Ministry agreed to second R.A.F. personnel to the Colony as instructors and ground staff. Also, in 1936, six Rhodesian youths were sent to England to be trained as a nucleus for the ground staff for the air unit, and six Hawker Hart Day Bombers were bought from the Air Ministry.
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In August, 1937, Flight Lieut. J. A. Powell, from the Central Flying School, arrived to act as instructor, with Flight Sergeant A. Greenwood and Sergeants C. P. Horton and V. G. Royce as ground staff. The six Hawker Harts had already been delivered to the B.S.A. Police Depot Stores, as the hangars were not yet complete at Hillside, and when the R.A.F. personnel arrived the aircraft were partly assembled and towed to the airfield for completion. Meanwhile, the pupils at the de Havilland school had almost completed their eighty hours ab initio flying in Tiger Moths and were due for intermediate flying training in Harts in October, 1937. Due to delays in the construction of the Hillside Airfield, however, they did not go there until December.
An officers' mess was made from two Hart packing cases. The airfield was inspected by Colonel J. S. Morris, C.B.E., in December, 1937, and by Lord Trenchard in February, 1938. Also, in February, 1938, thirteen youths were sent to England to take up Short Service Commissions in the R.A.F., and this policy continued in succeeding years.
On 1st April, 1938, the air unit was separated from the territorial force and came under the command of S/Ldr. Powell, with Major Cloete as Staff Officer Air Services, in control. On 12th May, His Excellency the Governor, Sir Herbert Stanley, presented the first seven Rhodesian flying badges at a full parade at Hillside. The "wings " had been designed on the lines of those used in the South African Air Force, incorporating the Rhodesian coat-of-arms.
Major Cloete then visited England, consulting the Air Council on the form in which the air unit should be expanded.
It was recommended that a complete first line squadron should be formed, and to this end the Air Ministry sold to the Rhodesian Government, at a nominal figure, six Hawker Audax and three Gloucester Gauntlet aircraft. Commissions in the R.A.F. Volunteer Reserve were granted to those members of the air unit qualifying for the flying badge.
Major Cloete flew back to Rhodesia a Dragon Rapide, specially ordered for His Excellency the Governor, Cabinet Ministers and high Government officials
The main falls of the Victoria Falls seen from the Rain Forest
When he returned, five aircraft of the air unit visited Bulawayo, the Victoria Falls, Wankie Colliery and Bulawayo again, under the command of S/Ldr. Powell. In Bulawayo a flying
END OF PAGE 13
display was given, with the 2nd Battalion Rhodesia Regiment present to study the cooperation of aircraft with the Army. S/Ldr. Powell and F/Lieut. Maxwell later cooperated with the Army at the annual territorial camp at Gwelo.
The first course now began its advanced training and the second course moved to Hillside. The Government agreed to the training of twelve pilots each year, six from Salisbury and six from Bulawayo, instead of the six previously agreed. The Bulawayo pupils could only go to Salisbury for training during annual leave, so they had to have an intensive flying training course lasting three weeks. The third Salisbury course and the first Bulawayo course began their training and the new aircraft were later ferried from the Middle East.
In June, 1939, Lieut.-Colonel C. W. Meredith, A.F.C., relinquished his post as Officer Commanding Aircraft and Artillery Depot, Roberts Heights, and came to Rhodesia as Staff Officer Air Services and Director of Civil Aviation, in place of Major Cloete, who had retired in March. S/Ldr. Powell remained in command at Hillside and, in July, five aircraft of the air unit visited Nairobi, Kenya, via Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar, showing in an impressive way the advance which had been made in aviation in Southern Rhodesia.
The S.R.A.F. and the Outbreak of War, 1939.
In August, 1939, eight pilots, one medical officer, two NCOs, six air gunners and six aircraftmen were called up for full-time service and, on the 27th, S/Ldr. V. E. Maxwell,, in command of a flight of three Rapides, three Hart and three Audax aircraft, left for Kenya, to take up war stations. At Nairobi, two flights, "A" and "B," were organised, and "B" flight left immediately for Garissa, on the frontier between Kenya and Italian Somaliland. "A" flight left on the next day for Isiolo and the three Rapides returned to Salisbury, flown by the R.A.N.A. pilots who had taken them north.
It is believed that Southern Rhodesia, on 3rd September, 1939, with its two detached flights, was the first country in the Empire—apart from Great Britain—to establish war stations outside its own borders and on 19th September the air unit became the Southern Rhodesian Air Force.
About the same time, the Hillside Station became officially known as the Cranborne Air Station, and was equipped with four Harts, eight Moths of various types, and one Rapide. The de Havilland Aircraft Co. (Rhodesia), Ltd., and the Salisbury and Bulawayo Flying Clubs helped in providing aircraft and instructors. With S/Ldr. Powell in command, the Cranborne School was soon reorganised and busy, training air and ground crews, with an increased staff and speedier training programme.
More accommodation became necessary for the Department of Aviation, and a house in Montagu Avenue, Salisbury, was adapted as Air Force Headquarters. The R.A.N.A. Co. (Flights), Limited, the de Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., and the Civil Airport at Belvedere, were taken over and a recruiting campaign brought in 499 applicants in twelve days.
The Officer Commanding the Southern Rhodesian Air Force, Lieut.-Colonel C. W. Meredith, visited Nairobi with Lieut.-Colonel E. Lucas Guest, O.B.E., M.P., Minister for Mines and Public Works, and arranged for the training of recruits in ground duties and, later, in October, Lieut.-Colonel Meredith went by air to England to discuss the future of the S.R.A.F. with the Air Council. It was this visit which led to the huge expansion of aviation in Southern Rhodesia and the formation of the Rhodesian Air Training Group.
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Training continued at Cranborne, but it was apparent that the few aircraft and instructors available would be insufficient to cope with intermediate and advanced training, so an offer from the R.A.F. Flying Training School at Habbaniyeh to take on this training was gratefully accepted. Accordingly, a draft of partially trained pilots went north at the end of November, and at about the same time more pilots for the S.R.A.F. squadron and men for training in ground duties went to Kenya.
Cranborne was again reorganised and did elementary training with ten Moths of various types and with an increase of three instructors. Early in 1940 the Communication Squadron was formed at Belvedere, with the R.A.N.A. aircraft.
Lieut.-Colonel Meredith returned to Rhodesia with plans for the formation of the Rhodesian Air Training Group, a separate Department of Air was formed under the Minister of Justice and Defence, and the training programme had to be abandoned in view of the bigger developments. In seven months, however, the school had trained fifteen pilots through intermediate and advanced courses, sixty-two pilots through the elementary course, nine air gunners and three instructors, beside partially training many fitters, riggers and photographers. This was very creditable, since only twelve aircraft and six instructors were available.
THE RHODESIAN SQUADRONS.
No. 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron, Royal Air Force.
When war broke out the two detached flights of the Southern Rhodesian Air Force became No. 1 Squadron of the S.R.A.F., and until December were training, and cooperating with the Army in manoeuvres in Kenya.
In early December, 1939, " A " Flight went to Mombasa on coastal patrol and " B " Flight went to Isiolo, but " A " Flight returned to Nairobi about Christmas time. In January, 1940, they were still continuing training with the Army, and in April the squadron was officially designated No. 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron, Royal Air Force, its equipment consisting of Hart, Hardy and Audax aircraft divided into three flights and a headquarters reserve. Patrols were instituted on the northern and north-eastern borders of Kenya, within the actual border, but when Italy entered the war on 10th June the squadron was given the duties of reporting any enemy movements into Kenya from either Abyssinia or Italian Somaliland. Flights were organised at Wajir, Malindi and Garissa, and patrols operated from these places. The country over which the aircraft flew is very desolate and arid and forced landings would have meant long and dangerous tramps back to civilisation, but due to the good work of the ground crews, these were almost non existent. The enemy bombed the landing grounds and damage and casualties occurred, and some aircraft were hit by fire from the ground while on patrol. The pilots were able to retaliate by bombing and machine-gunning Italian posts and troop concentrations.
In August, the squadron was visited by the Hon. R. C. Tredgold, Minister of Defence for Southern Rhodesia, Group Captain C. R. Steele, D.F.C., Senior Air Staff Officer, and Squadron Leader Davison, Senior Equipment Officer of the Rhodesian Air Training Group. In September the squadron moved up to Khartoum, where they carried on operations in the Galabat, Kassala and Keren sectors. These activities continued with varying fortune and, in November, the squadron was being equipped with Lysander aircraft, an aeroplane which
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was faster than the Hardys but which could also fly more slowly and consequently land in a smaller space. The enemy flew Savoia S.79 and Caproni bombers, and the highly manoeuvrable CR.42 fighter, and must have provided our pilots with some hair-raising incidents, but the squadron's spirit was good and they kept Rhodesia in mind by naming a new Headquarters site "Umtali." In March, 1941, a further improvement in the squadron's fortunes occurred when one flight was provided with Gladiators, which were a better match for the Italian CR. 42s. The squadron moved its headquarters to various sites during its period in the Sudan, but when Asmara surrendered unconditionally in April it moved there, and later in the same month Massawa was captured. In May, the Duke of Aosta's forces surrendered at Amba Alagi to our forces and this was seen by many of the squadron's pilots who were then operating at Makale. In June, Squadron Leader Maxwell, who had commanded the squadron since leaving Southern Rhodesia, was promoted to the rank of Wing Commander and posted away. The squadron moved to Wadi Haifa in June, and Wing Commander Maxwell's place was taken by Squadron Leader G. A. Smith. Shortly afterwards, in August, it again moved, this time to Kasfareet and about this time one flight was patrolling the Libyan Desert as far as the Kufra Oasis, over very bad country. Squadron Leader G. A. Smith held command for one month and was then boarded back to Rhodesia, his place being taken by Squadron Leader E. T. Smith, who had been back to Rhodesia and returned to the Squadron in October. Although these two officers had the same surname, they were not related in any way.
In November, 1941, the squadron moved to the Western Desert and, now equipped with Hurricanes, remained there until February, 1942, when it moved again, this time to Ismailia. The period at Ismailia was spent in reorganising and a further move was then made to Mosul, in Iraq, where Air Marshal Sir A. W. Tedder, K.C.B., presented the official crest to the squadron. While at Mosul the Duke of Gloucester honoured the station with a visit, and a flying display was provided for him when he subsequently visited Teheran, the squadron being congratulated by the A.O.C., Iraq, on their fine flying. Although fairly well used to hot weather, the Rhodesians found that this part of the world can be exceptionally hot, a temperature of 115 degrees in the shade being recorded at one time. Yet again the squadron moved, to Quiara, and shortly afterwards to Kermanshah, in Iran, where they were visited by Air Marshal R. M. Drummond, C.B., D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C, and, later, by Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Lord Trenchard. Another move took place in December, 1942, to Kirkuk, where exercises with the Army were continued, and then a return to the desert where fighter training was done in preparation for the convoy patrols which followed. The squadron was now officially designated "Fighter Reconnaissance” and, after a long period of comparative peace during which training alone and with the Army was done, they returned to combat patrols. In April, 1943, Wing Commander E. T. Smith, D.F.C., who had commanded the squadron for a year and a half, was posted back to the Rhodesian Air Training Group for instructional duties, and Squadron Leader J. Walmisley took his place.
In June, 1943, the squadron was honoured with an inspection by the Right Honourable Sir Archibald Sinclair, Bt., K.T., C.M.G., M.P., and Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas, K.C.B., M.C, D.F.C., and in July Air Vice-Marshal Meredith, C.B., C.B.E., A.F.C., visited them, returning again in December with the Minister of Air, Colonel the Hon. Sir Ernest Guest, K.B.E., M.P., to spend Christmas with them.
While in the desert, in addition to official visits, the squadron was well provided with entertainment, as the E.N.S.A. concert parties visited them, and they also produced a concert party of their own.
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The Odzani Falls, in the mountains of the Eastern Districts
Late in 1943 the squadron was equipped with Spitfires and continued their good work, watching over the Eastern Mediterranean and its northern shore. They had been one of the very first squadrons to go into action in this war, and they gained many decorations and suffered many losses, but their spirit remained high and they did sterling work.
No. 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron, Royal Air Force.
This squadron was formed in October, 1939, at Sutton Bridge, under the command of Squadron Leader J. W. A. Hunnard, and was equipped first with Battles and later with Spitfires. It operated from Wittering during the Battle of Britain, and in January, 1941, was informed that Rhodesians would be progressively posted to it, until there was a majority on the strength, when it would be entitled No. 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron, R.A.F. This took place in August of the same year and in December the Squadron Crest was officially presented to it by the High Commissioner for Southern Rhodesia in the presence of Air Vice-Marshal R. E. Saul, C.B., D.F.C. Also in December, the Minister of Air for Southern Rhodesia and Air Vice-Marshal Meredith visited it, and in June, 1943, Air Vice-Marshal Meredith again visited.
In February, 1943, the squadron was being equipped with Typhoons, and in August a Rhodesian pilot flew the first Typhoon to shoot down an enemy aircraft. Moves were made to Duxford and subsequently to Exeter.
Prior to "D" day the squadron was employed in silencing RADAR targets in order to make a success and surprise of the Invasion. These targets, especially Cherbourg, were heavily defended but the raid was successful though the squadron received some casualties.
On "D" day the squadron was first in on the initial landings, bombing transports coming up in enemy support on the beach-head.
The squadron was then fitted up with rocket firing apparatus and moved to France. On its first trip as a Rocket Typhoon Squadron it was attacked by 25 M.E. 109s with the result that one enemy was shot down and two damaged. The, squadron soon proved the value of its
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new equipment, doing damage to troop transports and barges crossing the River Orne. It also gave close support to the Army by smashing mortar guns, troop concentrations, and observer posts.
The squadron played its part in attacks on the Falaise Gap and was most successful against enemy transport vehicles and tanks. Although there were few enemy aircraft in the air, flak was always intense, which resulted in some losses. The results of this hammering of the enemy were so successful that the Army, on more than one occasion, complimented the squadron on its good work.
The squadron continued to play an important part in the Invasion and moved forward as the Army advanced into Belgium, continuing to give direct support until it returned to England. From its new base it made many shipping strikes off the Dutch shores and was engaged in strafing the Channel Ports and hindering evacuation.
The squadron again moved and continued strafing the Channel Ports from bases in Belgium. A most successful attack was made on the dykes at Walcheren, where direct hits were made, flooding surrounding areas and blocking the canal. A 6,000-ton ammunition ship was sunk off the Dutch coast after direct hits from a salvo of eight rockets. Shipping was now the squadron's main objective and many hits were scored, resulting in the sinking of two 3,000-ton ships off Flushing and many tugs and barges, as well as sea-going vessels transporting troops from the mainland in defence of the Dutch Islands.
On the 13th October, 1944, the Rhodesian Squadron was honoured by a visit from His Majesty the King, who was accompanied by Generals Montgomery and Dempsey, and was complimented on the good work it had done during the Invasion.
Then came a period of penetration raids into Germany. All forms of transport were attacked, including trains, lorries and tanks. Rail communications were dislocated. With four other squadrons, a German Headquarters was attacked, at a time when a Staff Conference was being held. The Headquarters was completely destroyed and 2 Generals, 17 Staff and 30 other Officers, and 200 men were killed. This resulted in one of the biggest State funerals the Germans have ever held.
The squadron continued giving support to the Army, hammering at transports, and three trains full of ammunition and supplies were totally wrecked. On another occasion, the squadron was given the task of destroying an important bridge at Dordrecht. This raid was completely successful, the attack being made at very low level. The aircraft went so near the bridge that the last to attack returned to base with two massive bolts from the bridge structure in its mainplane as evidence that the raid had achieved its object.
No. 266 Rhodesian Squadron played an important role in the Invasion and deserved the good reputation it earned.
No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron, Royal Air Force.
This squadron did not become Rhodesian in character until after August, 1941, when it was informed that, as soon as the majority of the members were Rhodesian, it would be renamed No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron. It was the squadron in which Squadron Leaders Learoyd and Nettleton, both V.C.s, served with the rank of Wing Commander as Commanding Officers for a time, and it took part in the devastating attack by ninety-four Lancasters on Le Creusot
END OF PAGE 18
in October, 1942.
At the beginning of the war it was stationed at Waddington, under the command of Wing Commander J. N. Boothman, A.F.C., of Schneider Trophy fame, and was equipped with Hampdens. The station, Waddington, was at that time commanded by Group Captain L. H. Cockey, who later became Senior Air Staff" Officer in the Rhodesian Air Training Group. For many months the squadron was engaged in leaflet raids, security patrols and mine-laying over the enemy coasts in the North Sea, and it also assisted in delaying the Germans in their drive through France early in 1940. Later it became almost entirely concerned with strategic bombing, including the bombing of the Von Tirpitz, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau. In the middle of the "blitz" of British towns, it digressed from its normal activities to destroy enemy aircraft and disorganise raids on such towns as Birmingham and Bristol.
In January, 1941, the squadron was honoured with a visit by Their Majesties, the King and Queen, who held an investiture and decorated officers and men from this and other squadrons. Wing Commander D. W. Reid was in command at this time.
In August, the first Rhodesian-trained pilots posted to the squadron went on their first operations and bombed docks and shipping at Calais effectively. The High Commissioner for Southern Rhodesia visited the squadron during the same month and in September it became No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron, a Lancaster being delivered to it for training purposes, and further Lancasters in December. In November, His Majesty the King graciously approved the crest, which is described as "On a Mount an Elephant," with the motto Fulmina Regis lusta.
In December, Colonel the Hon. E. Lucas Guest, Minister for Air of Southern Rhodesia, and Air Vice-Marshal C. W. Meredith, C.B.E., A.F.C., Air Officer Commanding the Rhodesian Air Training Group, visited the squadron. In February, 1942, Wing Commander R. A. B. Learoyd, V.C., then commanding the squadron, broadcast a description of the squadron's activities to Southern Rhodesia from the B.B.C. in London.
In March, 1942, Lancasters of the squadron laid mines, in enemy waters, this being the first time that these aircraft were used in any operations, and later they bombed Essen,, the first time that such aircraft had been used in a bombing operation. It is noteworthy that Rhodesian squadrons were the first to use two of the most outstanding aircraft of the war, the Typhoon and the Lancaster. In April, the famous raid on Augsburg took place, from which Squadron Leader Nettleton's Lancaster was the only one to return out of eight which took off. For their part in this raid Squadron Leader Nettleton was awarded the Victoria Cross and three Rhodesians the D.F.C. and the D.F.M. Shortly afterwards, the Tirpitz was bombed in Trondhjem Fjord, and Rostock and Warnemunde were attacked, the first wholly Rhodesian crew to operate being posted "missing" in the latter raid. At this time the squadron had been operating with good effect several times over enemy territory and great personal interest in its work was taken by the Prime Minister and the A.O.C.-in-Chief of Bomber Command and, although it lost some of its most experienced crews, it carried on and in May assisted the first 1 000 bomber raid on Cologne, a raid which was a complete success. This was followed almost immediately by another 1,000 bomber raid on Essen, and the squadron then continued for many months to bomb the industrial towns of Germany, sometimes at great heights and sometimes below 100 feet.
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The Rhodesian Air Training Group.
As has been noted, the visit of Lieut.-Colonel Meredith to England at the end of 1939 was the first active step towards establishing a bigger training scheme in Rhodesia, although it must have appeared to many people that the Colony was very well suited for the purpose. The weather is such that flying can go on nearly every day in the year under good conditions and the Colony is far enough away from the apparent war zones for there to be little chance of enemy interference. The chief disadvantage is that equipment and personnel have to be conveyed enormous distances, but this has been shown to be unimportant compared with results achieved.
The Rhodesian Government suggested, in October, 1939, that, with the co-operation of the Imperial Government, Southern Rhodesia should supply and keep up to strength the personnel for three R.A.F. squadrons. In order to train the pilots the Air Ministry was asked to supply aircraft and equipment for the necessary air training schools in Southern Rhodesia. During Lieut.-Colonel Meredith's visit to England all this was discussed, the Southern Rhodesian Government being fully informed of all developments. The Air Ministry was interested in training on a larger scale and the outcome of the discussions was an agreement to establish three pairs of full-sized schools, with possibly an observer's school later. It will be seen how this first agreement led to the establishment of further schools and how the Air Ministry's confidence was amply repaid. The financial details of the scheme were left until the Minister of Justice and Defence, the Hon. R. C. Tredgold, K.C., M.P., could discuss them on arrival in England. He left Rhodesia at the end of 1939, meeting Lieut.-Colonel Meredith in Nairobi and discussing details with him there.
In the meantime the Air Ministry confirmed their agreement to the scheme which was to proceed on Lieut.-Colonel Meredith's return to Rhodesia. The Rhodesian Government was to act as the Air Ministry's agent for orders and contracts for materials, and for the acquisition of land for airfields and the erection of air stations. The Air Ministry also began to arrange despatch of equipment and personnel.
Then began the practical application of the scheme, and it was decided that the old civil airport, renamed Belvedere, should be an elementary school, Cranborne should be a service school, and that, in view of the large expansion necessary in headquarters, the old Government buildings in Jameson Avenue, Salisbury, should be taken over. At the same time, Army ranks in the S.R.A.F. were abolished and R.A.F. ranks introduced, and Lieut.-Colonel Meredith was appointed to the rank of Group Captain. Captain H. W. T. Chalcraft, who, from the beginning had dealt with all personnel matters, was appointed to the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
The second pair of schools was to be established in Bulawayo and Lieut.-Colonel Guest and Group Captain Meredith went there to select sites. The third pair of schools was to be at Gwelo.
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Selection of Aerodrome Sites.
One of the first considerations in the selection of aerodrome sites in a country like Rhodesia, which, being an African colony near the equator, is naturally malarious, is that an area in which hundreds of men are to live and work must be as free from mosquito breeding grounds as possible. Malaria is a much more serious menace to pupils being trained for flying than it is to the farmer or the man in the street. Although it keeps the average civilian away from his work for a few days if he should contract it, it will keep the pupil pilot away for a much longer time, as his standard of medical fitness requires to be very much higher. He therefore has to spend more time in convalescence, and may have recurrent attacks when he goes home to the colder climate in England.
In the selection of aerodrome sites, high altitude and comparatively cool climate appeared to reduce the incidence of malaria, and Salisbury, Gwelo and Bulawayo, above the 4,000 feet contour, were approved. Cranborne, Belvedere, and Kumalo were known and the sites at Guinea Fowl, Thornhill and Moffat were surveyed for malaria and found suitable. Mount Hampden, Heany and Induna were surveyed after occupation. Advice was given by the Pasteur Institute in Salisbury on prevention, and courses were held to instruct members of the Southern Rhodesia Medical Corps, although these men had mostly lived in a malaria country for many years.
The second consideration in selection of sites was the provision of a constant supply of safe water. This was fairly simple in the cases of aerodromes in the municipal areas, but with such stations as Guinea Fowl, Heany, Induna and Mount Hampden and later Norton, special arrangements had to be made to obtain water from boreholes, chlorinate it and store it in large tanks. Even when the stations were near towns it was found that after one or two wet seasons in which little rain had fallen, the municipal supply was not sufficient. This was particularly true in the case of Moffat, where at one time the men were reduced to having showers instead of baths, and only two per week. There was at least one case of a man being "put on the mat" for taking a bath, a strange state of affairs for Englishmen
Eventually all stations obtained sufficient quantities of water and there has been no case of illness on the stations which could be traced to any defect in its quality.
Sewage created its own problems and as far as possible town facilities were used. Where this was not possible, septic tanks, and in extreme cases, such as the disposal of waste from photographic sections, french drains were used.
The planning of the air stations was done by Squadron Leader C. W. Glass, M.C., the Director of the Works and Buildings Department of the Staff, and, apart from Cranborne, Belvedere and the Bulawayo Municipal Airport, later renamed Kumalo, the sites were selected by Flight Lieutenant B. Roxburgh-Smith, D.F.C. They had to be reasonably flat and well drained, have good access by road and rail and have an ample supply of electricity.
All the architects in the country were formed into panels to cope with the enormous amount of detailed work, all the materials were bought by the Air Force, and the builders were only required to provide the labour, being paid on a "labour plus" basis, the profit allowed covering wear and tear of building plant. This scheme, devised by the Director of Supplies, Squadron Leader W. H. Eastwood, M.P., worked very well and gave the Air Force complete control, saved money and ensured speed. The hangars involved the only exception to the general plan and Head, Wrightson & Co., Ltd., were given the contract for almost all
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of them, provided that certain parts were made by engineering firms in the country which resulted in £96,000 worth of local manufacture.
That was the basis on which all building was done, and the speed with which the stations were put up (one of the first stations was completed from raw veld to serviceable air station in eleven weeks) reflects great credit on all concerned. When the R.A.F. specialist officers arrived with their special requirements for buildings for training equipment, they were given the most ready and cheerful co-operation.
Headquarters and the Stations.
The Headquarters of the Rhodesian Air Training Group in Salisbury had two functions—as the intermediary between Air Ministry in London and the training stations, and as the Rhodesian Air Ministry. It had necessarily to be a rather bigger unit than the average Group Headquarters owing to the need for a Works Department and Supplies Department to deal with the building of air stations, and an Accounts Department to deal with the pay of Rhodesians in the R.A.F. squadrons, as well as the whole of the finances of the Group whether for Air Ministry or Southern Rhodesian Government account.
The historic building in Jameson Avenue was first occupied in February, 1940. This building was erected in 1901 as the first Government offices and was occupied by many different branches of the civil service before the Air Force took over.
Headquarters was divided up into various branches. Air staff supervised the whole of the training done in the Group, flying training, navigation, armament, signals, ground training and lectures, link training, sports, education, etc. Equipment staff ensured the supply, recording and disposal of all the multitudinous material needs of the Group, from complete aeroplanes to trouser buttons and fish cakes. Technical staff supervised the maintenance of all aircraft and ground equipment, and the training of airmen in the appropriate trades. Personnel staff dealt with the records and history of every man and woman in the Group and of Rhodesians serving in the R.A.F. abroad. The Accounts Department controlled every financial transaction in the Group, including the payment of Rhodesians serving abroad. The medical staff cared for the health of all Service personnel in conjunction with local hospitals. The Works Department first designed and built the air stations and then continued to supervise their maintenance. All branches worked very closely together and an understanding of R.A.F. and local problems by everyone was assured by having R.A.F. and Rhodesians almost equally represented. This close cooperation did much to bring about the outstanding success of" the Rhodesian share of the Empire Air Training Scheme. All the air stations contained the same essential features of airfield, hangars and workshops, ground training huts, administrative offices, living quarters and sports facilities, but they were not by any means identical in functions or layout.
Cranborne, the first Service flying training school, was equipped with Harvards. It was one of the biggest stations in the Group, was situated in thick bush country five miles south-east of Salisbury and could easily be overlooked when driving along the road. There were many "married quarters" alongside the approach road, and these were occupied by officers and men of Cranborne and other local stations who had their families with them. Some of the details of this station were typical of all: the main gate with its sentry box, its huge steel boom which would effectively stop any car or lorry rushing the gate, and its wire fence stretching out on each side to encircle the station proper; the guardroom, detention room, fire picket and fire tender; the Headquarters offices and training huts, with messes, canteens
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and living quarters well away to each side; the workshops, hangars, tarmac and flying control offices; and beyond all these the big airfield with its taxi-ing strips and runways which did much to obviate the winter dust and summer mud which in the early days caused much trouble for the technical staffs. From time to time the air and earth vibrated as Harvards took off with a shattering roar, and one could not help feeling sorry for the occupants of offices on the tarmac whose voices must be raised until the earthquake had passed.
Belvedere, the old civil airport for Salisbury, contained an elementary flying training school, a communication squadron, the Headquarters of the Rhodesian Air Askari Corps and a small disposal depot for pupils who had failed their courses.
The buildings of the Agricultural Show Ground had been occupied and their adaptation for various purposes was somewhat ingenious. The rooms under the main grandstand became the canteen; a large tearoom became the officers' mess, an adjoining building the sergeants' mess, and other small buildings the doctor's surgery, the clothing store, the chaplain's quarters, the library and sports office, etc. The initial training wing occupied tents, and later huts, in a secluded corner of the same grounds until it removed to Bulawayo when these huts became the disposal depot.
Mount Hampden, the last elementary flying school to open, was situated eleven miles north-west of Salisbury, near the hill of that name which was the originally intended site for Salisbury.
The last station of all to open was Norton, the flying instructors' school (later renamed Central Flying School), thirty miles west of Salisbury. It breathed an atmosphere of its own, rather rarefied and academic, as would be expected of the "University of the Training Group," where the cream of the pilots were instructing.
In the Gwelo area there were three stations, Guinea Fowl, Thornhill and Moffat. Guinea Fowl, the E.F.T.S., was eleven miles out, and travelling to it one appeared to be coming to the back of beyond. It was originally called "Divide" as it was on the top of the watershed between Gwelo and Selukwe, and in the winter it was sometimes covered with "guti," a Scotch mist which flows up from the south.
Another Harvard station was Thornhill, a spacious station two miles from Gwelo on the Salisbury road, while Moffat, the third Gwelo station, was the navigators' and gunners' school.
The Bulawayo stations were Kumalo, Induna, Heany, the Central Maintenance Unit and Hillside. Kumalo was one and a half miles from Bulawayo on the Gwelo road, and a passing motorist might be startled by the "whoosh" of an Oxford taking off a few feet above his head. Heany, like Cranborne, also had an aircraft repair depot on the station.
The chief characteristic of Induna, from which the station got its name, was the flat-topped hill some miles to the north-east, which bears the native name "N'Thabas-Induna," "The Hill of the Headmen."
Central Maintenance Unit was simply a large warehouse with rows of sheds filled with racks loaded with all that the R.A.F. needed in Rhodesia—except food and drink.
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One more station, Hillside, where the future pilot first learnt his service discipline, was previously an Army camp and kept some of its Army character, with rows of barrack huts, lecture rooms, messes and canteens, wide parade grounds and playing fields.
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Arrival of the R.A.F.
While the Group was being planned, Cranborne carried on with training, sent up to Nairobi sufficient men to bring No. 1 Squadron, S.R.A.F., up to war establishment strength, and continued training their last course under the old scheme
The Minister of Justice, Defence and Air returned from England and, due to the vast increase of work, a separate Air Department was made, which Lieut.-Colonel E. Lucas Guest took over in addition to his Department of Mines and Public Works.
In March, 1940, the first R.A.F. draft of eleven officers and ninety-two other ranks under the command of Squadron Leader Eady arrived and were distributed between headquarters and Cranborne. Some of them remained in the country for over four years, did excellent work, and received appropriate promotion and honours.
At the same time Group Captain Meredith was appointed Secretary for Air and was later promoted to the rank of Air Commodore.
After the last flying course at Cranborne had departed north to complete its training, the time before the R.A.F. arrived was used to start ferrying Harvard and Oxford aircraft from Durban where they had been assembled, as the crates in which they were packed were too big for the railways.
So now, in April, 1940, the Rhodesian Air Force Training Scheme came to an end, and the Empire Air Training Scheme in Rhodesia really began. As Belvedere was to be the first station to operate, equipment was consigned there, hangars were built, many Tiger Moths were assembled, and the Indian community of Salisbury generously gave two ambulances to the Air Force, one of which went to Belvedere. In May, the Belvedere draft arrived, under the command of Wing Commander E. H. M. David, and on 24th May the station was officially opened by Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, G.C.V.O., K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., in the presence of the Hon. G. M. Huggins, Prime Minister; Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. E. Lucas Guest, Minister of Air; Air Commodore C. W. Meredith, A.F.C., Air Officer Commanding, and others. The Air Chief Marshal in his address said that this was the first school in the Empire Air Training Scheme to be in operation, beating the schools in Canada by a few days, although the latter had been considered before those in Rhodesia. At the same ceremony, a Tiger Moth, named Rumbavu, was presented to the school by Mr. J. McAllister Smith, of Salisbury.
This Tiger Moth was the first of many aircraft presented by residents of Southern Rhodesia, and by the middle of 1941 over £70,000 had been subscribed towards the cost of aircraft for the Royal Air Force, through the National War Fund of Southern Rhodesia and other organisations. Included in this sum were gifts for the purchase of Tiger Moths Jennifer, Sheila, and Mary Ann, by Mr. and Mrs. G. R. Milne, of Salisbury; Firefly, by Mr. and Mrs. H. M. Barbour, of Salisbury; Roich, by Mr. W. N. Munro, of Salisbury; Bindura, by Mr. B. S. Leon, of Bindura; and another Tiger Moth lnez, by Mr. McAllister Smith.
Early in 1944 the natives of the Colony subscribed, on their own initiative, the astonishing sum of £10,000 which was devoted to the purchase of a Spitfire named Mashona for No. 237 Rhodesian Squadron, and a Typhoon named Matabele for No. 266 Rhodesian
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Squadron. This was a most munificent gift, as the average wage of natives working in the town or on the farms or mines is only about one pound sterling per month.
In the meantime Kumalo was being built at Bulawayo and Mr. J. E. Marzorati, of Bulawayo, was appointed as Assistant Director of Works and Supplies with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Kumalo was to be a service flying training school, and Sauerdale, a landing ground eleven miles south of Bulawayo, was picked as an elementary school, but was later found unsuitable. Guinea Fowl was, accordingly, taken as the second elementary school until Induna was found later.
Belvedere was now running smoothly, and the first course was handed over to Cranborne in July. In the meantime the Cranborne main detachment had arrived, under the command of Group Captain J. S. Chick, M.C., A.F.C., and this involved a large addition to the population of Salisbury.
Officers were also posted from home for headquarters, and Group Captain C. R. Steele, D.F.C., became Senior Air Staff Officer from August, 1940, until August, 1942. A tremendous amount of work was done under his executive direction in that time.
Wing Commander H. W. T. Chalcraft, who was awarded the O.B.E. in 1944, was Senior Personnel Staff Officer from 1st January, 1941, and was responsible for all personnel matters in connection with R.A.T.G. and also all records of Rhodesians wherever serving.
The question of accommodation in the towns for families of R.A.F. officers and men had been foreseen to be difficult, so plans were made for building houses and flats for them, to be taken over by the Rhodesian Government after the war, and eventually over 300 quarters were built. The first were built at Belvedere and later houses were added in Salisbury itself, at Cranborne, in Gwelo, and alongside Kumalo air station, in Bulawayo. The houses were designed by the staff of the Director of Works and the majority were bungalows, varying in size from the double-floored eight-roomed houses for the senior officers, down to the two-roomed bungalows for airmen's families with only one child. They were all-electric, most of them had some sort of stoep or verandah and the sizes of plots varied from slightly less than a quarter of an acre to half an acre.
A feature of the Rhodesian houses which struck the R.A.F. as strange was the small living quarters or "kias" for native servants, usually put at the bottom of the garden. These would consist of a small living-room-cum-bedroom, a shower and lavatory, and a small covered yard with a fireplace for cooking mealie meal or "sadza." Native "boys" come into the towns from the kraals, many leaving wives and families behind them, to work as cook boys, houseboys, garden boys, etc. Many of them cannot speak English when they begin working as "piccanins" and most Europeans who have lived in the country for a number of years learn to speak a sort of pidgin English called "kitchen kaffir," which originated in the employment of natives in the kitchen. Its words come from a mixture of the native languages of Sindebele, Chishona and Chinyanja, with a liberal addition of English and a few Portuguese and Afrikaans words.
The R.A.F. families soon adapted themselves to their new living conditions. If they lived in the towns, the officers and airmen made their own arrangements for travelling to the air stations, until later a routine transport service was organised. The wives occupied themselves with their families, obtained jobs in the towns or helped with the work of various voluntary war organisations.
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Air Vice-Marshal G.W. Meredith, C.B.E., A.F.C, with Air Commodore C.R. Steele, D.F.C.,
Senior Air Staff officer in the Rhodesian Air Training Group from June 1940 to August, 1942
The Growth of the Stations.
Guinea Fowl was the third station to open, and the draft arrived under the command of Wing Commander H. W. Marlow, A.F.C., on the 8th August, 1940. It was provided with aircraft from Belvedere until it could assemble its own
Up to this time, all equipment had been addressed to the stations themselves, but it now became apparent that a central receiving depot was necessary, under the direct control of Headquarters, so that the equipment could be examined on arrival and apportioned to the stations most in need of it. Thus was the receiving depot in Bulawayo formed, which later became the Central Maintenance Un Up to this time, all equipment had been addressed to the stations themselves, but it now became apparent that a central receiving depot was necessary, under the direct control of Headquarters, so that the equipment could be examined on arrival and apportioned to the stations most in need of it. Thus was the receiving depot in Bulawayo formed, which later became the Central Maintenance Unit.
In October, 1940, the Kumalo draft arrived, under the command of Group Captain W. A. K. Dalzell, and pupils' from Belvedere and Guinea Fowl began their training on Harvard and Oxford aircraft. Very shortly afterwards, however, it was decided that Kumalo should train pupils on twin-engined aircraft and that Cranborne should train fighter pilots on Harvards, and the Harvards at Kumalo at that time, with the " fighter " pupils who were there, accordingly moved up to Salisbury. This policy continued and eventually Cranborne and Thornhill were "single-engined" stations, and Kumalo and Heany "twin-engined
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The Rows and Rows of Racks in the Central Maintenance Unit in Bulawayo.
About this time an agreement was made through the Air Ministry with the Australian Government for the training of Australian pilots, and the first draft arrived in December, 1940, with Squadron Leader S. Humphrey attached to Headquarters from the Royal Australian Air Force as Liaison Officer. Apart from the Rhodesians recruited in the Colony, these were the first pilots to be trained who had not come from Great Britain. As time went on, South African, Canadian, Fiji, Greek, Yugoslav and Free French pilots were also trained in Rhodesia, and although the Group never became quite so cosmopolitan as London has been in this war, the galaxy of varied shoulder tabs prompted one British R. A.F. officer to appear in the mess one day wearing neatly sewn tabs with the word "Scotland" on them.
The Group now expanded rapidly as the basic principles of the organisation became appreciated by everyone and as the standard plans for the station buildings were issued. The main draft for Induna arrived in January, 1941, under the command of Wing Commander R. J. Clare-Hunt, and the third E.F.T.S. began operating. Shortly after, in March, the Thornhill draft appeared in Gwelo, under the command of Squadron Leader D. Price, and the station opened under the command of Group Captain J. C. Chick, M.C., A.F.C., who had previously been in command at Cranborne. At about the same time the Mount Hampden draft arrived, and Squadron Leader N. C. Hendrikz was posted from Kumalo in command. Finally, in July, 1941, the draft for the eighth and last flying training school arrived at Heany, under the command of Group Captain T. H. French, D.F.C., and the Group appeared to be almost complete. The only other station being considered at the time was Moffat, the bombing, gunnery and navigation school, and under the command of Group Captain J. K. Summers, M.C., it opened in July, 1941. It was later commanded by Group Captain C. Findlay, D.F.C.
There were many difficulties to be overcome in the early days, but by November, 1940, such progress had been made that the Air Officer Commanding issued the following Group Routine Order :—
"The work you have done has been of first-class merit and the difficulties you have encountered you have overcome. The courses are operating to schedule, and although the future can only demand even greater' efforts, you have the consolation of knowing that the
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Rhodesian Air Training Scheme will have some effect on the successful prosecution of the war. I know that all concerned will put their very best efforts to ensure that the present thin trickle of pilots will quickly become a steady flow."
The Headquarters Staff
The flying training staff had to ensure that the sizes of courses of pupils were such as could be efficiently handled by the instructors available, and that the instructors could follow the syllabus of training and train competent pilots without too much fatigue. It has sometimes been said that the work of a flying instructor is easier than that of an operational pilot because the instructor does not have the mental and physical stress of flying in adverse conditions against an enemy. In many ways, however, the instructor has a more arduous duty than the operational pilot, although he does not experience the extreme danger which the bomber pilot does when over his objective or the fighter pilot attacking his foe. Consider the instructor. He takes into the air a youth who has never been in the air before, who may learn his lessons as they come, who may take hours of patient instruction before he learns the simplest manoeuvres, who may be ham-footed or ham-fisted, who may freeze on to the controls and demand all the instructor's physical strength to avoid disaster, who may be scared stiff or who may be airsick. An instructor must be 50 per cent, flying instructor and 50 per cent, psychologist. He must judge the right approach for each individual pupil, must demonstrate every manoeuvre, must explain each one as it is done, must pounce on every error which the pupil makes, must be ready at a split-second's notice to take over control while the pupil is taking-off or landing and must judge the time when the pupil may safely be allowed to go solo. He repeats these processes several times over during a course with different types of youths and then when he has sent them all into the air as pilots, if not fully operational pilots, they leave him to go on to bigger aircraft and eventually to meet the enemy, and he is left to start all over again with a new batch of groundlings. His enemies are slackness and complacency, and his reward, or perhaps consolation, is that he has turned out so many embryo pilots, and he may occasionally get a letter of thanks from an ex-pupil or see some months later that one of them has been awarded a D.F.C.
A conference at Headquarters, Rhodesian Air Training Group.
Air Vice-Marshal C. W. Meredith, C.B.E., A.F.C., Group Captain L. J. Schoon,
Colonel the Hon. E. Lucas Guest and Air Commodore J. W. B. Grigson, D.S.O., D.F.C.
Group Captain Schoon was Staff Officer for Administration during the Group's history
and Air Commodore Grigson was Senior Air Staff Officer from August, 1942, until July, 1943.
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At the beginning of training there were few aeronautical maps of Southern Rhodesia available and one of the first duties of the navigation staff was to decide on suitable scales, provide the detailed information and have sufficient accurate maps printed for all instructors and pupils who would be doing cross-country flying. The greatest help was received from the staffs of the Government Survey Department and Lithographic Press, in the production of these maps, and when the war is over and aeronautical maps of Southern Rhodesia are issued for public use they will be found to contain much information provided by the navigators of the Rhodesian Air Training Group.
A portrait of a Flying Instructor.
Although the weather in Rhodesia from May to November is so good that it causes little difficulty when flying from town to town, during the wet season it is necessary always to find its condition at the arrival point when leaving for a long flight. Weather stations had been established before the war, but in June, 1941, the Southern Rhodesian Air Force Meteorological Section was officially formed, with its Headquarters at Belvedere. Meteorology was also taught to the pupils and the "weather clerks" worked in close co-operation with the navigators.
The armament staff dispensed the training policy for bombing and gunnery. One of their peculiar problems was the provision of sufficient practice bombs. The original supply of these 11 ½ lb. smoke bombs was sent from Great Britain, but it was early realised that if they were made locally, shipping space and manufacturing capacity in Great Britain would be saved and a constant supply assured. Local enthusiasts tried to make simpler bombs than the standard Air Ministry type early in 1940, but the results were unsatisfactory and it was then decided to make the standard bomb in factories in Salisbury controlled by the Electricity Supply Commission and in Bulawayo controlled by the Rhodesia Railways. The
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bombs themselves were made in these factories, which were staffed almost entirely by women, but the detonators and smoke-producing compound had at first to come from the Union of South Africa.
Practice smoke bombs being made in the Salisbury Ordnance Factory
Although much of the detailed work of the-signals staff must remain veiled in secrecy it can be said that in addition to the signals training given to pupils, many facilities for communication between stations, aircraft and Air Ministry were inaugurated and the full co-operation of the Postmaster-General of Southern Rhodesia was received.
Other specialist staffs dealt with link training, radio beam approach training, synthetic training, lectures and written examinations, and the diversion to other duties of pupils who had failed in their flying training.
The Central Examination Board was set up in headquarters to set and mark written examination papers on all the subjects taught to pupils in lectures on the stations.
Physical training was always considered an essential part of aircrew training in order that crews might be physically fit enough to stand the enormous strain of modern operational flying. The staff at Headquarters and the physical training officers and instructors on the stations had their own problems, many of which were due to the local climatic conditions, but apart from the many sporting events which were arranged, all pupils received sufficient physical training of one form or another to ensure that when they left the Group they were even fitter than when they entered it.
The equipment and technical staff saved many thousands of pounds by local manufacture, instead of having to depend on supply from sources overseas. Much of the furniture for the stations and R.A.F. houses was made from local timber and many other smaller items were supplied in the Colony. Well-equipped workshops were set up on all stations, particularly in the two aircraft repair depots at Cranborne and Heany and during the days of shipping difficulties, with their consequent delays, these workshops were very hard worked, repairing and improvising aircraft parts which were urgently required.
Stationery and publications were needed in very large quantities, and although many forms
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and books were printed locally or in the Union of South Africa, most of the supplies came from Great Britain, since, if shipping space was to be taken up by paper being consigned to Rhodesia no more space would be required if that paper was printed.
The large number of tradesmen employed in all branches in the Group was continually improving their knowledge of their jobs and were regularly given the opportunity of being reclassified in a higher trade Group by taking "trade tests." They were able to apply for a trade test or would be recommended by the officer in charge of their particular section and would be given an oral and a practical test and in some cases a written test. In this way they could improve their status and, much more important to them, their pay. A very large proportion of the men in the Group were re-classified, and in some cases men were remustered to other and higher trade Groups.
The staff which dealt with all personnel in the Group, "P" staff, kept personal records of every officer, ensured that any vacancies in the establishment at Headquarters or on the stations were filled by the right kind of officer or airman, authorised all movements of personnel in the Colony and acted as a link between the Air Ministry and the stations for all matters affecting them. One section dealt with the records of all Rhodesians serving in the Air Force outside the Colony.
The department presided over by the staff officer in charge of administration co-ordinated the work of the various administrative sections, and from time to time, in conjunction with a representative from the Air Ministry, checked the establishments of men and women in every section in the Group in order to ensure that the best possible use was being made of the personnel available. It also collated and issued the regulations or standing orders for the various auxiliary services, the W.A.A.S., the R.A.T.C, the R.A.A.C., and later, the Italian Labour Service.
The Service Police were operating at the very beginning of the Group's history, and although station commanders always controlled their own Police, the whole organisation eventually came under the supervision of the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal at Group Headquarters, who worked closely with the Military Police under the Provost Marshal in Salisbury. The D.A.P.M. worked closely with station commanders and also provided a small Police section in each area which could be called upon if necessary.
Security and security training was supervised by an officer in Headquarters who also dealt with censorship. These two subjects received more attention than would at first be thought necessary in a training Group so far from the war zones, but it was this remoteness from everything savouring of war which might produce a laxity in talk and behaviour.
It was inevitable in the Group, consisting as it did of a large number of imperial, colonial, allied and native troops, that some of its members would at some time commit offences, either against the Service law or against the civil law. The Air Force, like the Army and Navy, takes with it wherever it serves its own legal machinery for dealing with these matters and is able to provide from among its own members the necessary tribunals for dealing with offenders. Minor offences are invariably dealt with by commanding officers, but those more serious have to be considered by a Service court which is more generally known as a court martial.
All matters relating to this Service legal machinery are the duty of the department of the Judge Advocate General attached to the command, the officer in charge being a deputy to
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the Judge Advocate General of the forces. The Judge Advocate General of the forces performs his duties in respect of the Army and the Air Force and invariably appoints, in independent commands, an officer as his deputy who is legal adviser to the air officer commanding on all matters relating to courts martial and similar Service legal matters. As the Rhodesian Air Training Group was considered to have the status of a command, being bigger than the normal Group and under the direct control of the Air Ministry, a Deputy Judge Advocate General was appointed to it.
Another department in Headquarters was the Finance Department, presided over by the Principal Finance Officer. This department was, as far as staff was concerned, the biggest at Headquarters and was responsible for the financial control and accounting of the whole Air Training Group. Actual figures of expenditure cannot, for security reasons, be given, but it can be stated that the actual annual expenditure considerably exceeded the annual budget of Southern Rhodesia before the war, and this fact alone gives some idea of the enormous effect the Group had on the Colony's economy. There were over 150 separate non-public accounts dealing with messes and canteens with an annual turnover of over £350,000.
There were two other smaller departments in Headquarters which must be included to complete this list. These were the photographic section in Air Staff, which controlled all photographic work in the Group, and the Medical Board, controlled by the President and supervised by the Principal Medical Officer. The Board was the final authority in declaring, from a medical aspect, an officer, airman or air woman fit or unfit for duties, and was supplied with all the necessary equipment for medical tests according to R.A.F. standards.
Finally, of those employed in Headquarters, there was a large number of women secretaries and typists who were not in uniform but who did good work in releasing men for more active work.
In addition to the branches of Headquarters there were small units connected with the Group and established in London, Johannesburg and Cape Town. The Office of the Southern Rhodesia Air Liaison Officer was in Rhodesia House in London, there was an official representative of the Group in Johannesburg, and a Liaison Officer in Cape Town. The Johannesburg office dealt mainly with supply of stores, while that in Cape Town dealt with movements of personnel and consignments of stores from overseas.
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The Auxiliary Services.
The Women's Auxiliary Air Service.
By the formation of the Women's Auxiliary Air Service in 1941 the women of Rhodesia were able to take their part in the work of the Group. Mrs. D. Roxburgh-Smith, one of the first women in Africa to obtain a flying licence and who had done over 500 hours flying, was made Commandant. Similar ranks to those in use in Great Britain were established, and in due course Mrs. Roxburgh-Smith became Squadron Officer.
Many hundreds of women previously occupied with family and household duties became capable with a few months' training of releasing airmen for more active work. They became clerks, teleprinter and telephone exchange operators, radio telephone operators, tailoresses, canteen assistants, instrument repairers, parachute packers and fabric workers. They also staffed the station sub post offices and many of the officers became assistant adjutants and junior equipment officers.
They wore a uniform similar to that of the R.A.F. with the same badges of rank, but when off duty were allowed to wear mufti, thereby still giving scope for feminine attractiveness. Common rooms (generally known as the "Waaseries") were provided for them and at three stations the "Waasies” lived-in. At these stations, attractive barrack huts were provided in which three airwomen or two NCO’s might share a room. They were allowed all the normal privileges accorded to airmen in the way of medical treatment, leave and, to some extent, late passes. They were happy and contented on the stations and did much to brighten social functions such as dances and concerts, taking part also in games and sporting events.
Some of the "Waasies" had sons in the R.A.F. and many had husbands serving with the Rhodesian forces. They followed the examples of their sisters in Great Britain, America, Russia and China, and what they lacked in numbers they made up for in enthusiasm for war service.
Four members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Service
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The Rhodesian Air Training Corps.
The Air Training Corps in Rhodesia was formed after the example set up by the A.T.C. in Great Britain, and in its first form was simply an air section of the Southern Rhodesian Cadet Corps which had been established for many years in the boys' schools in the Colony. Although training began in 1941 the R.A.T.C. was not officially formed until 1943, when eight units with an establishment of thirty cadets per unit came under R.A.T.G. headquarters for administration and training. Schoolmasters volunteered as cadet officers and a training syllabus was issued by Headquarters with the intention of giving the cadets pre-entry training for service as aircrews in the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm.
Training was given by means of R.A.F. publications and equipment, by visits to stations and by lectures in navigation, meteorology, aerial photography, hygiene, etc. The training culminated in the annual camp, when competitions in each subject were held. At one camp, held in 1943, no unit got less than 70 per cent, in the practical tests, which were not easy.
Much help was given by the R.A.F. stations who saw in these young cadets some of their future pupils, and the A.T.C. units were affiliated to R.A.F. stations as near as possible to their own schools. Cadets volunteered and were enrolled between the ages of fifteen and eighteen years, wore a uniform similar to that worn by the R.A.F. airmen but with distinguishing badges and received the same medical benefits as the airmen while undergoing training.
They were tremendously enthusiastic, and a boy of fifteen who might be airsick on his first flight would insist that it had riot worried him and that he must have more flying.
Cadets of the Rhodesian Air Training Corps being inspected by the Air
Officer Commanding the Rhodesian Air Training Group
The Rhodesian Ferry Control Unit.
During the North African campaign it became necessary to transport aircraft by sea to West Africa and the Cape, assembling them at the port of discharge and flying them to the war zone. There were several staging posts on the Cape to Cairo air route, in Northern Rhodesia, which appeared to be more conveniently administered if staffed and managed by men from
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the Rhodesian Air Training Group. In the middle of 1942 the first Rhodesian unit took over at Ndola.
The title "staging post" covers the ferry control airfields which were usually the night stops and the staging posts proper which were refuelling points. The Officer Commanding the Ferry Control had a radio signalling system by means of which he could keep in touch with all aircraft which were flying within the area under his control. A continuous watch was kept, so that by this system any aircraft flying on the ferry route between the Cape and Cairo was always in touch by radio with some airfield in case of need. Weather information could also be passed from airfield to airfield and a pilot about to take off would know what to expect on the route over which he would fly.
The Erection Units at Cape Town and Durban.
These two units were staffed and controlled by the Rhodesian Air Training Group and they received the Harvards and Oxfords from the Merchant Navy, assembled them, tested them and handed them over to the ferry pilots who came down from Rhodesia from time to time. They were small self-contained units billeted at one or other of the aerodromes in the towns where they operated.
The Rhodesian Air Askari Corps.
The biggest of the auxiliary services was the Askari Corps, officially formed in August, 1941, but active in different form in 1940. At first a few civilian unattested natives were employed at Cranborne and Belvedere, controlled by British NCO’s, but as these were quite inadequate, the Labour Corps of the Rhodesian African Rifles was asked to supply labour, and later the Air Force Native Labour Corps was formed, with British officers and NCO’s seconded from the Rhodesian African Rifles. Entry was made voluntary to the natives and the Rhodesian Air Askari Corps was formed under the command of Flying Officer T. E. Price (later Wing Commander, O.B.E.), with R.A.T.G. headquarters as the controlling authority. The Corps was divided into an armed section for station guard duties, and a labour section for aerodrome work.
Sentries of the Rhodesian Air Askari Corps guarding aircraft.
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The armed Askaris became useful and enthusiastic guards, releasing a large number of airmen from these duties. They gained a reputation for smartness and keenness, as many an orderly officer making his rounds on a dark night could testify, often finding a bayonet presented at his chest when least expecting it. The Askaris in the labour section proved themselves capable of propeller-swinging, aircraft refuelling and marshalling, and became fitters' and riggers' mates, motor transport drivers, carpenters and assistants on fire tenders. Apart from the normal performance of their duties these natives showed their initiative in emergency. In the early days of the Group, one native helped to drag the pilot from an aircraft which had crashed and burst into flames. He was officially commended for his action and asked what he would like as a reward for his courage. His answer was a bicycle—the desire of every native—and he got it. Another native, Private Vengai, when a practice bomb exploded at the fusing point on a station and injured an R.A.F. N.C.O., doubled away without waiting for orders and pulled up the complete first aid box from the ground and brought it to the scene of the accident, thereby enabling prompt treatment to be given before the ambulance arrived.
He, also, was officially commended for his action.
The Askaris were issued with uniforms and provided with an adequate and balanced scale of rations which considerably improved their physique. They lived in barracks built by their own pioneer section on the stations, and the same pioneers helped with other buildings. They were all volunteers, and it speaks highly for their faith in their King and in their superior officers that over 7,000 were eventually enrolled.
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The Training of Allies in R.A.T.G.
Greeks, Yugoslavs and Frenchmen were trained as pilots, navigators and air-gunners in the Rhodesian Air Training Group, in addition to those numberless youths and men from the English-speaking countries of the world. They added an interesting touch of colour to a job which might otherwise have become somewhat monotonous, but although they were keen to the point of desperation to return and hit back at their enemies, their training meant further complications in the Group's routine. Most of them before the war would not have imagined for a moment that they would eventually learn to fly in the middle of Africa, and their means of getting to Rhodesia would have provided material for a dozen Nazi war thrillers.
There was a Frenchman who got out of Syria in the boot of a car; there was another who shaved his head, added -ski to his name and walked out of Tunis with Polish repatriates, and there was Captain Foch, the grandson of the great Marshal, whose way of escape must remain a secret.
Of the Yugoslavs, very few were able to escape from their country before it fell, as the Germans had taken the precaution of strafing their aircraft on the ground three days before they declared war. Some came to Rhodesia from England, others enlisted in the Argentine, but the later arrivals came by "underground" over half occupied Europe after escaping from a German prison camp.
The first Greeks to arrive were the remnants of those who had battled so gallantly in their out-of-date aircraft against Messerschmitt and Stukas in the defence of Athens. Others came later after weeks in the mountains waiting for a small boat to take them from isle to isle of the archipelago, until eventually they would arrive at an Allied shore. Then as the Royal Hellenic Air Force was rebuilt in Egypt, and Greek youth was mobilised there, Southern Rhodesia became the nursery of its pilots.
The majority of these Allies had never flown before, some had to unlearn an obsolete technique, some spoke English well, but some even had to learn our alphabet. The first necessity was to give them all a sound working knowledge of English, not only as a medium of instruction, but also as a vital operational requirement, since Allied aircrews would have to work, in the air, with British and American aircrews, with the radio-telephone as their means of communication. The matter was solved in a surprisingly short time. A special English course for Allies was started at Bulawayo, and although it was found that classroom English is not spoken in the R.A.F., our rich idiom was learnt over a glass of beer. It is a remarkable thing that although English is a much more complicated and unreasonable language than other European languages, it was rarely more than three months before those who could not speak English at all on entering the school were able to go on to the flying course proper and follow lectures on highly technical subjects in English.
With an increasing flow of Allies into the Group it became necessary to establish a Liaison Officer in Headquarters in Salisbury. An R.A.F. officer was appointed who could speak other European languages and who helped to smooth out any international difficulties.
Greek flying and link-trainer instructors were trained and established at Mount Hampden, Cranborne and Heany, and eventually more Greek pilots were trained in the Group than had
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formed the front line force that took up Mussolini's challenge in 1940. That the efforts of the Group in training the Allies were appreciated is borne out by the testimony of a Yugoslav officer who, in thanking his instructor on leaving, said: "In my country I become a pilot. Here I become a Doctor of Flying."
The greatest proportion of the Allies trained in the Group were Greeks and many of their pilots joined the three Royal Hellenic Air Force Squadrons—two fighter and one bomber—which operated in the Middle East and have taken part in the campaign of El-Alamein and afterwards in Italy. Some units became part of the Baltic Air Force, which operated from its own landing grounds in Greece against the Germans in Crete and the Dodecanese Islands.
The numbers of other Allies slowly decreased but Yugoslavs and Poles were still trained in small numbers. The former were absorbed into the R.A.F. V.R. or volunteered for Marshal Tito's Forces; while the Poles, recruited and trained as R.A.F. V.R., once their training was completed, became part of the Polish Air Force.
Harvards over the Mazoe Dam
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THE TRAINING OF AIRCREWS IN THE RHODESIAN AIR TRAINING GROUP.
The Pupil and his Problems.
Who were the pupils? What did they think of flying and which aircraft did they want to fly? Spitfire or Lancaster? How did they attain the skill of an operational pilot and learn everything they had to in the time available?
The pupil was the reason for the Rhodesian Air Training Group. Everything was done for him, his health was considered first, the aircraft were made to suit him, the training was made as easy as possible for him. Thousands of men and women were busy at countless different jobs in all parts of the world in order that he might become a well-trained and experienced pilot and shoot down his Messerschmidt quickly or take his bomber to and from the target accurately and safely.
Let us take two typical pupils from civil life, put them into Air Force uniform and take them through their training at home and in Southern Rhodesia until they have become active members of operational squadron member of the Civil Air Guard or of the Air Defence Cadet Corps, either getting his hour or two of flying per week at the local Aero Club or dreaming through his school days of the glory of being a pilot. Of such were two youths, Tempest and Stirling. Tempest was a little older than Stirling, and when he joined the R.A.F. in 1940 he had already got his "A" licence, while Stirling was counting the days to the birthday which would proclaim him to be of military age. Tempest registered for aircrew training, and when he was called up he was first sent to an Initial Training Wing in England, where he lived in a palatial hotel in a seaside resort on the south coast, a palace, however, which had been denuded of most of its creature comforts. There he learnt mathematics over again, studied the elements of navigation, dismantled and assembled a Browning gun, and sent and received Morse with buzzer and lamp. Drill and physical training were done on the sands, and those of his fellows who had not flown before learnt to control the visual link-trainer which gave the effect of operating aircraft controls under varying conditions. The instructors were retired R.A.F. and Army officers who had joined the new Air Force for this purpose.
These courses continued until Tempest and many others were posted to Southern Rhodesia to complete their training. They embarked on a troopship and landed at Cape Town some weeks later after a voyage which they spent in learning more about human nature and making friendships, many of which would be abruptly ended a year or two later when " one of our aircraft failed to return."
There was no time to be wasted in Cape Town, and Tempest's draft took the train for Rhodesia almost as soon as they had landed. They arrived at Belvedere, were allotted barrack huts, where they indulged in much horseplay, and started their flying training in earnest. Tempest's flying ability was tested according to R.A.F. standards, and, as it was found to be not quite up to scratch, he had to do a few more hours with an instructor in the front seat of the Tiger Moth. He had many talks with his instructor about this or that little problem—why he slipped in on turns, why he always held off a little too high when
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landing, why. his take-offs were bumpy. There was no need for his instructor to try to instil any enthusiasm for flying into him—rather the reverse—and Tempest had to be patient before he was allowed to go solo again. His instructor realised that he was a " natural " pilot, but that he had many lessons to learn. It would have been easy to say " yes, you've been solo before, so off you go, and take care," but this might have meant that Tempest would go shooting up some friend's house and crash or would misjudge the speed required for a landing at this altitude
A portrait of a Pupil Pilot
Tempest was therefore shown as many as possible of the mistakes he might make, was told how to correct them, and was then allowed his first solo flight in Rhodesia. Then followed more dual instruction, more solo, more dual, instrument and night flying and more solo until he was ready for posting to the intermediate and advanced flying training school.
Concurrent with his flying instruction he had lectures in navigation, theory of flight, armament, signalling, engines and airframes, fired a course on the rifle range, did physical training and played games and finally sat for the examinations which would allow him to go on to more advanced training. He passed everything comfortably, though not without many hours of study.
Tempest was not the kind of fellow to worry about what was going on at home, he was far too anxious to finish his training and go to a squadron, but one or two of his fellow-pupils were so worried during the Battle of Britain, not having heard from home for several weeks, that it affected their abilities as pilots and they needed very careful attention from their instructors. There might be an occupant of the barrack-room who would not take part in any of the ragging and would quietly go to bed early, perhaps with a book to read, until his friends, understanding his worries with their usual sympathy and good humour, would shake him out of his mood. Occasionally, very occasionally, the pupils on the course would
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be shocked to hear that one of their colleagues had been killed in a crash during flying training, or would hear, with sympathy, that So-and-so would not "make the grade " and had been "scrubbed."
Harvard single-ended advanced training aircraft. xxx
After their elementary training the pupils, perhaps, had two or three days' leave, and arrangements would be made for them to visit a farm where they would ride or hunt game with a gun or a camera. Nothing was too good for them
Pupil Pilot goes Solo
Then came the day when Tempest joined his fellows at the Service Flying Training School, where they would fly bigger and more powerful aircraft, learn the elements of bombing and air firing, formation flying and night cross-countries, and where the tempo of training
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increased. They were paraded in one of the hangars and the Commanding Officer of the station explained the nature of the training they still had to have, appealing to them to use their common-sense and obey the regulations, and issuing a gentle warning that if they misbehaved they would receive the punishment due to them. He emphasised how necessary it was for them to complete their training as early and efficiently as possible so that the end of the war might be brought nearer.
An Oxford twin-engined training aircraft is marshalled on to the tarmac.
Tempest was allotted to an instructor who had flown in India before the war and as he was considered to have the required dash and vigour he was to be trained on Harvard single-engined aircraft as a fighter pilot. It was with joy in his heart that he realised that his ultimate aim would be to fly Spitfires, and although he would never have admitted it, a thrill passed through him as he taxied out for his first Harvard flight. Up they went, through the usual sequence of gentle, medium and steep turns, take-offs and landings, forced landings and instrument-flying, and all the rest, but with the added complications of variable-pitch propeller, retractable undercarriage, flaps, radio, boost control, and a bewildering array of new instruments. This was much more satisfying than flying a Tiger, and when later he did aerobatics with that powerful Wasp engine in front of him he began to realise the real joy of flying.
He had his first taste of low flying, with an instructor in the back seat, roaring along over the bush at nought feet, and when he was allowed to go solo there was always a great temptation to take the law into his own hands and go shooting up native villages on his own. He had, however, to keep his enthusiasm in check, and half-way through his course he was rewarded by receiving the blue ring on his white armband which denoted that he had been recommended for a commission and entitled him to use one of the ante¬rooms in the officers' mess. This again was something of a thrill and he felt rather self-conscious the first time he entered the mess and had a meal in the big dining-room, but he was too busy to give it more than a passing thought.
Lectures were continued and he had to do advanced plotting exercises, study the line of fall of various types of bombs, learn the uses of radio and the care which had to be taken when using radio-telephony, recognise the stars, various kinds of weather conditions and many types of Allied and enemy aircraft at a glance, assimilate "officer-like " qualities, and absorb all those hundred and one details which go to make up the efficient, commissioned, squadron pilot. He had also to practise advanced instrument-flying on the link-trainer and to
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land safely by means of radio signals when the clouds were "right down on the deck." He practised firing a machine gun while allowing for the deflection which was necessary when shooting down a moving bomber from a moving fighter. He played games, swam in the local swimming pool, and studied all he could about his job when he felt he could dispense with the relaxation which this concentrated training so often required.
In the air he found his training becoming more interesting and more complicated as the weeks went by. He spent hours "under the hood," flying by the aid of instruments from point to point on his map, he flew long cross-countries at night over the bush where a technical failure of his aircraft would necessitate his baling-out without any idea whether he would land safely near a farm or in a river inhabited by crocodiles, he joined others of his colleagues in long formation flights, changing formation from time to time —flight formation in vie, echelon and line astern—watching his leader constantly, and just as constantly accustoming himself to keeping one eye roaming around the sky so that when on operational flights he would see " the Hun in the sun " before the Hun saw him. One day towards the end of his course he packed up light camping kit and flew out with others to a relief landing ground away out in the bush. There they all settled down for two or three days, flying early each morning, making rendezvous with other Harvard aircraft at some pre-arranged point and intercepting twin-engined Oxford training bombers which had been detailed from another training station to bomb a target in the area covered by the Harvards. This was almost "the real thing" and Tempest progressed steadily until the greatest day of all arrived when he received his wings. One final party in town to celebrate and he joined a large airliner and flew north to an operational training unit in the Middle East. Here the details of the Spitfire were carefully explained to him, and he indulged in much cockpit drill until he was allowed his first flight, with no second cockpit to carry a watchful and helpful instructor. Desert flying, fighter tactics, operational briefing and all the rest and he was finally posted to a squadron, there to battle over the Mediterranean and in desert dust storms.
"I told you it would drop out of your hand."
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While Tempest was completing his training, Stirling came of military age, and in spite of his mother's and sisters' anxiety he volunteered immediately for aircrew duties, preferably piloting. He was sent to an Aircrew Reception Centre in England where he joined many of his Air Training Corps friends and had his first Medical Board. This was rather a frightening affair and more selective than that which Tempest had had, since much had been learnt of the medical requirements for pilots since the beginning of the war. The Empire Air Training Scheme had been such an out standing success that the Air Ministry could afford to be more particular. His height and weight were measured, his heart and lungs were tested, his ancestors' medical history was studied, his blood pressure was taken, his ears were tested, his eyes were tested again and again—in fact, his whole physical and mental make-up was given a thorough overhaul. Feeling rather mentally exhausted after this examination he learnt with relief that he had passed and went on to the first part of his training, which consisted of much physical and mental exercise and a "grading test " in a Tiger Moth. This test discovered that although he had not the dash which Tempest had had he was sure and steady in his reactions, a little anxious but conscientious withal.
He then joined a draft for Southern Rhodesia, leaving many of his colleagues to be posted to Canada. The voyage was taken up with more training, various look-out and gun duties, and the continual joy of watching the other ships in the convoy with the destroyers weaving in and out among them. One day there was much excitement when a Focke-Wulf Condor appeared and, after dropping a few bombs which did no damage, was shot down by aircraft from the escorting aircraft carrier. After rounding the Cape, Stirling's ship turned in to Durban, while the rest of the convoy continued north with its load of men and material for the Eighth Army.
A long, dusty train journey brought Stirling's draft to Bulawayo where they were delivered in lorries to the Initial Training Wing at Hillside. There they had their usual medical inspections, were allotted quarters and were harangued by the Station Commander. The comparative comfort of their quarters and the quantity of food were a welcome relief to all of them after the short commons they had had at home and during the voyage, and it took them some time to realise that in spite of glaring lights at night in camp and in town they were safe from air raids.
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“The trouble with your flying, Hawkins, is that you
handle the controls like an elephant”
They received their blue armbands and began their training lectures, drill, physical training, cockpit drill, swimming, with an occasional full parade of the whole population of the camp for an inspection. After some time they passed their examinations and were posted to their respective flying stations, Stirling and his fellows to an elementary flying training school, and others to the Bombing, Gunnery and Navigation School
A parade at the Initial Training Wing in Bulawayo.
Having had a taste of flying during his "grading test," Stirling was just as keen as Tempest to fly again, so that there was no need for his instructor to remind him to be punctual for his training periods and lectures each day. Unlike Tempest, Stirling was not a born pilot, but he
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was steady and conscientious and was not easily disturbed. These characteristics were of value to him when he heard from home that a brother had been killed when his merchant ship was torpedoed and lifeboat machine-gunned. This event produced in Stirling a cold fury, and although he was not an abnormal type of youth and took his part in all the off-duty games and amusement, he took his training very seriously from that moment onwards. His flying was absolutely reliable but unspectacular and as his instrument-flying and navigation were good he was recommended for bombers and consequently went to an Oxford station after his elementary flying course. This suited him perfectly, as he was longing for the day when he should fly his Lancaster over the submarine building yards and bases.
He always flew his Oxford with great care, and long before he had finished his course his instructor came to admire the apparent ease with which he operated all the various controls when taking-off or landing, raising or lowering the undercarriage or flaps without the slightest deviation from course and without the slightest variation of airspeed. His instrument-flying and link-trainer practices gave his instructors very little trouble and his bombing was always accurate. When his qualities were considered by the Chief Instructor and by his Commanding Officer he was found to be a very good pilot, but had not the required initiative and leadership to make a good officer and he therefore received his wings as a sergeant, a sergeant who would probably receive early promotion, and when he had gained more experience might eventually be recommended for a commission. He accordingly left Rhodesia as a potential Lancaster pilot and went back to England to take a Heavy Conversion Course, which he completed with ease and attained his ambition of joining hundreds of his fellows in concentrated attacks on Germany.
What were the thoughts of all these pupils as they went through their training in Southern Rhodesia? They left their homes at ages varying from eighteen to thirty-two. Some of them, like Stirling, had just left school but, having felt the effects of the war in their own families were old for their years. Some, like Tempest, had a more careless outlook on life, seeing this 7,000-mile trip as an adventure, leading up to more adventures, without thought for the morrow. Others might be permanently homesick and find their training a constant struggle, sometimes a rather frightening struggle, with an apprehensive thought of what they had to go through later, in operations. Some might look upon their visit to Africa as a heaven-sent opportunity for seeing the world and finding the basis for a future career there.
But whatever were the individual ideals of these youths and men who were trained in the Rhodesian Air Training Group, whether thoughtful, careless, fearful or calculating, they all had one thing in common—the desire to become efficient pilots, navigators, gunners or bomb-aimers, so that they could smash the German Air Force and bomb German industry into destruction and end the war as early as possible.
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The Instructor's Day.
The bus for the aerodrome left town at 0515 hours and Flight-Lieutenant Harvard, awake at 0430, thankfully turned over and dozed for fifteen minutes, listening to Sixpence making tea in the kitchen. His wife and small daughter were still asleep, and after dreaming for a while he dived out from under the mosquito net, shaved and dressed quickly, gulped his hot tea, said good-bye to his family and walked to the corner of the road. Broken clouds covered the dark sky, a gentle cool breeze was blowing and the eastern sky was streaked with red and pale yellow. This was always the best part of the day. A woman in the party last night had talked to him about the climate of Rhodesia and asked him if he had ever seen the dawn. After two years of early morning flying, what flying instructor would not have seen it? Some people seemed to think it remarkable to get up before dawn.
The bus, designed and made at the aerodrome and mounted on a three-ton Ford chassis, turned the corner of the road and halted to pick him up. "C.F.I, in the front so I can't have that seat this morning." Harvard pushed open the door and climbed in, tripping over feet and greeting Flight-Lieutenants Tiger, Throttle and Perspex, Flying Officers Squaresearch and Guti, Pilot Officer Prang and Sergeants Beam and Servo. Tiger gave him a wry smile, reminiscent of the previous night's party.
"Looks like being a good day even after that storm last night," said Guti," Wonder if it flooded us." "Should be all right anyway, with those new runways," answered Harvard. " I remember the time, before my knees were brown, when weather like last night's would stop us for a day. Life's too easy now."
"What's the layout for to-day? "asked Tiger, Harvard's assistant Flight Commander. "Jones and Brown should go solo to-day," Harvard answered. "You might check them for me. I've got that Court of Enquiry to attend. Why do pupils take off after a forced landing when we've told them so many times not to? And anyway why do they go and get lost, you’d think a fellow would be able to see a railway line when there's only one within a hundred miles. Talk about the Battle of Training." "I don't know," said Tiger "that laddie's a good enough pilot, and he did bring the aircraft out of a pretty small mealie patch, safely. I think a bit of extra map-reading should fix him. He'd been night-flying shortly before and he seems to me to be the type who needs his sleep. I think he'll get away with a caution." “Oh, and I've got to do some link to-day," exclaimed Harvard, “that’ll take an hour or two." “Oh what a bind that link is,"sighed Prang. "My boy," here Squaresearch, who had got a D.F.C. in the desert, put a word in, " if you had to fly in any visibility less than twenty miles you would be the first to cry ' Why didn't I do my link ? ' I hand it to those link instructors. They've all been pilots at one time or another and they sit at their instruments of torture day after day with a constant desire to fly and yet all they get is the occasional flip with us. And they produce the goods. I like to think that all the Pathfinder crews were trained here in Rhodesia, that job needs good instrument flying." "All right, up with the link," agreed Prang, "but give me flying. And I like to see where I'm going."
"I heard a buzz yesterday there'd be night-flying to-night, sir," said Beam, one of Harvard's instructors. "Oh Lord, that scrubs my quiet evening. I'd hoped to get home early."
All these instructors were married and "lived out" in various flats, houses and boarding houses in town, and their working day might vary from morning and afternoon flying to a
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twenty-hour turn at the aerodrome, with early morning flying and night flying the following night. It all depended on how the courses got on, but night flying was always going on in one flight or another. They met in the bus each morning, talked the inevitable shop, even when off duty, and discussed their families, their parties, the latest Berlin raid, or Churchill's speech, their tour of duty overseas, and their chances of going on operations. They were young, none over thirty years of age, and some at the age of twenty-three, veterans of three years instructing. They all wished to fly on ops., and a man who had been there was pumped for all the "gen" he could give, although the slightest sign of line-shooting on his part would produce an uncomfortable" silence among them and his presence would not be noticed until he had proved himself in the duller, and in some ways, more dangerous game of flying instructing.
The bus drew up near the flights where the majority of the instructors who lived on the station were appearing at the offices and collecting their pupils and flying kit. On the tarmac, rows and rows of Oxfords were warming up, the roar broken from time to time as another engine spluttered and started. Flight mechanics were everywhere and pupils with their white armbands were gathering in the crew-rooms, reporting to their instructors and collecting their parachutes. As yet the administrative life of the station had not started, but as Harvard and Tiger walked into their office the first aircraft to take off was moving along the tarmac on to the taxi-ing strip.
The flight offices were full of men hurrying to and fro and Harvard settled down to arrange the day's flying, his second cup of tea at hand. "How many cups of tea do I drink in a year, something astronomical I should think? Ah, here comes Robinson, the type who took off from the mealie patch." Harvard leaned back and looked at him.
An Oxford instructor explains a few matters to two of his pupils.
"Well, my friend, you'd better be ready to stand by for Flight Lieutenant Lex at 1000 hours, and in the meantime don't get lost again. I believe you're doing low-level bombing first thing this morning, but when you go for that Court of Enquiry keep your story short, snappy
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and straight to the point and don't beat about the bush" "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," Robinson saluted smartly, turned about and left the room, mentally kicking himself for having let his Flight Commander down.
One of Harvard's sergeant instructors then entered and reported a pupil of his who was backward in his landings, asking if he might be given a test. Harvard agreed to do this after he had done half an hour on his returns. What a variety of types of young men he had to deal with! There were these half-dozen pupils on his list who were really outstanding, always punctual, always cheerful and well-disciplined, always ready to pick up a new point in their training, accurate in their flying, reliable in their landings, thoughtful for the airmen who kept their aircraft flying. Then there was the large mass of "average" pupils who, perhaps, "boobed" mildly in one or two exercises from time to time, but on the whole were good, steady pilots and would be useful additions to a squadron. Some of them, though not exceptional pilots, might show qualities of leadership suitable for recommendations for commissions. Finally, there were the few below average and backward types who put the "battle" into training. They, like all minorities, caused much tearing of hair, but with much careful, patient handling by instructors, who were as much psychologists as pilots, might be turned out as average pilots. Failing this they would be "scrubbed" and given other jobs.
Harvard studied his string of names and pictured every pupil as he considered his qualities. He called in an airman who was passing. "Blake, see if you can find Pilot Officer Cowling for me, will you?” A moment later the instructor breezed in, saluting as he entered. "How's that fellow Atkins of yours? Pretty good, isn't he? “asked Harvard. "Pretty good. I wish they were all like him. I've never met a pupil like him. Can't go wrong. Piece of cake." Cowling for once was enthusiastic. "Thought so," said Harvard, "think 'I'll give him a special recommendation. Thanks, Cowling" Cowling breezed out again, grinning happily.
The phone bell rang and Harvard answered it. The C.F.I, is laying on night-flying to-night. Let me see, what time is it? 0630 hours. My wife should be up so I'll let her know. He picked up the 'phone again and phoned his wife, telling her he would not be home until after midnight.
A pupil appeared diffidently at the door. Morning, Backstrut. Come for your run round with me? What seems to be the trouble? Well, sir, I feel perfectly all right in the air and quite happy about approaches, but it's this holding-off business that gets me. Well, let's go up and see what's wrong. Eyes all right, are they? Glare not worrying you? Not too many late nights? No, sir. I have the odd beer, sleep all right and my eyes don't trouble me, but I can't seem to get the hang of it. Perhaps I'm a little too tense. They told me that in the link.
Harvard picked up his parachute and helmet from their box and joined the bustle of instructors, pupils and flight mechanics between the flight offices and the tarmac, Back-strut following disconsolately, all the cares of the world on his shoulders. They walked across the tarmac and climbed into the Oxford, their parachutes bumping awkwardly behind them. Backstrut took his place in the port seat, started the engines and ran them up while Harvard adjusted the starboard seat to its forward position and made himself comfortable at the dual control. After Backstrut was satisfied that the engines gave their full revs., and had warmed them up, he waved the chocks away and taxied slowly along the tarmac on to the taxi-ing strips, signalling the airmen at the wingtips to release them from their duty when the way was clear. The aircraft rumbled slowly along, turning as each engine was given a gentle burst of throttle and as each brake was applied, until the take-off point was reached. Here Backstrut searched the sky to leeward of the airfield to ensure that no aircraft were
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approaching to land, checked over his cockpit drill, turned into wind, opened the throttles fully and took off smoothly.
Harvard sat and watched every action of his pupil, noting that the correct sequence of operations was followed, but ready instantaneously to correct an error or take over control. As the aircraft became airborne he relaxed to some extent and watched Backstrut raise the undercart, adjust his throttles for cruising revs, and set his gyro. The aircraft made a wide circuit of the aerodrome and approached in a long glide for the landing, engines ticking over. Harvard, without appearing to do so, immediately increased his intense concentration on his pupil's actions. Cockpit drill correct, undercart down and locked, angle of glide a little steep but safe enough. Now for the landing. He noticed, out of the corner of his eye, that the knuckles of Backstrut's hands were white, that his legs appeared stiff. "There it is," he thought. "Too tense."
The aircraft approached the runway with flaps down and the pupil gradually eased the control column back, but Harvard noticed that his arms were quivering slightly and that he was see-sawing the aircraft backwards and forwards. Harvard, with his feet on the rudder pedals and his hands lightly but firmly on the wheel watched the runway flashing beneath them until with a bump the wheels touched heavily, bouncing the aircraft. He grasped the wheel firmly, opened both throttles smoothly, held off until safe flying speed was regained and started climbing again. He indicated to the pupil to raise the undercart and later the flaps, and settled down for the second circuit, switching on his intercom. "Now you must relax, and bring that control column back smoothly, watching the ground well ahead. I'll do a landing and I want you to hold the controls very loosely and see how I do it." "Yes, sir," came back the pupil's subdued voice.
Other aircraft were on the circuit so Harvard took a wider sweep, allowing a long straight glide-in so that Backstrut would have ample time to study the landing. Again the cockpit drill; throttles, undercart, warning horn, undercart down, mixture, flaps. The runway approached, the aircraft smoothly levelled out and with a slight screech of tyres it landed with hardly a bump on three points. Harvard waited until it stopped moving and then turned slightly out of wind and looked behind for other aircraft landing or taking-off. When all was clear he taxied straight on to the taxi-ing strip on the far side of the field and came round again to the take-off point.
"You see how easy it is when you relax." "Yes, sir, I think I might be able to do it all right now." "Well, we'll go round two or three times more. You can do the landings but I'll keep an eye on you."
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A navigation instructor briefs his pupils
The next two landings, done by Backstrut, were not perfect, in fact they were very bumpy, but it was noticeable that he had relaxed considerably and had lost that strained expression during the approach. On the fourth circuit, therefore, Harvard took over and flew the aircraft to a practice area some distance from the aerodrome, and there handed over to his pupil telling him to do a few gentle turns each way. One or two little faults were corrected and they then returned to the aerodrome, joining in the circuit and allowing room for a long straight glide-in. This time Backstrut seemed to be much more at ease and brought the aircraft down to a landing almost as good as his instructor's. "Now do that every time and you'll be all right," shouted Harvard cheerfully, as his pupil, grinning happily, taxied in.
They handed over the long-suffering Oxford to the flight mechanics and walked slowly towards the offices, Backstrut thanking his instructor fervently, and Harvard explaining other little points, which it is doubtful if Backstrut took in, in his relief at having got over further difficulties. Many other aircraft were coming in to the tarmac for the breakfast period, and as Harvard entered his office, Backstrut's instructor appeared and asked for the verdict.
"He'll be all right. Don't ride him too much and give him a little bit of encouragement for the next few hours. He's keen enough but still a little nervous. After all, an Oxford's a little bigger than a Tiger Moth." "Thank you very much, sir. I'll watch him." The sergeant saluted smartly and retired.
Harvard studied the papers on his desk and as there was nothing urgent and his phone had not rung he picked up Tiger and went along to the mess for breakfast. On the way the C.G.I, met him and told him that he had spoken to the C.F.I, and that there were a dozen A.T.C. cadets coming along that morning for flights. Harvard groaned. " These kids were so keen that you had to be careful they didn't take the aircraft off themselves or walk into a revolving prop. Hand them over to the 'Professor,' one of the instructors who'd been a schoolmaster and could handle them. Then they asked such awkward questions. Seemed to know more about aircraft than the instructors themselves. Ah, well, I'll put one of them in each aircraft. Some of them' will probably be coming back here next year as pupils and it'll probably save some training if we fly them now."
The mess was full of officers studying the morning papers and reading of last night's heavy
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raid on Berlin, a gift of money towards a Rhodesian University, Smuts's latest speech at Cape Town, sharks which had been seen at Durban and the inevitable Curly-Wee. The CO. came in and everyone rose, but he waved them down again with a "good morning, gentlemen," and turned into the dining-room. Harvard and others followed, propping up their newspapers on the marmalade jars and discussing everything under the sun, even shop. Such is the war-time Air Force, in which shop is talked even in the mess.
After breakfast, Harvard went slowly back to his office where he found twelve bright morning faces waiting for him, in the charge of a harassed S.P. The A.T.C. cadets all saluted, with their eyes half on Harvard's medal ribbon and half on the aircraft which were beginning to taxi out for the mid-morning flying. "You're early, aren't you ? " said Harvard. "Yes, sir. The bus was needed for another job later in the morning, so it picked us up early. Can we fly now, sir, please sir?" "Well, just a moment while I find the Professor, I mean Flying Officer College." The Professor emerged at that moment from the offices so Harvard thankfully handed over the schoolboys to him, with a warning to them not to walk into propellers or touch controls they shouldn't touch.
He checked over his morning's programme, talked about various pupils with his instructors, tested another pupil, had a word with the Station Technical Officer on aircraft running hours, read Daily Routine Orders and found that he was Station Duty Officer in a couple of days time, was reminded of the Court of Enquiry, and finally went along to attend it and give evidence on the authorisation of the pupil's flight and his general flying qualities. With his many duties, always within sound of aircraft engines and amid the continuous bustle of airmen preparing for or returning from flights, it was lunchtime before he realised it.
Again he went to the mess, this time to have a leisurely shandy before lunch. One had to make up the loss of moisture in this climate with something cooler than the ubiquitous tea, but it was not good to drink too much until sundown, unless there was a clear afternoon and evening. It was always warm in this place. There were a thousand advantages in being in Rhodesia, but what wouldn't he give for a cold wet day in England. Even a pea-soup fog in London. And Rhodesian beer was all right, but he was looking forward to some of that draught which he'd found at a little pub. in Somerset, overlooking the sea. It may be just association of ideas as he'd been on leave then, but that little place seemed to be heaven just now. One supposed that when one returned to England one would remember with pleasure many little details of life here. The grin of pleasure, for instance, on that pupil’s faces this morning when he found he could land his Oxford.
After lunch he talked with the CO. about a forthcoming golf match, read the illustrated papers in the mess for half an hour, got a book from the library and retired to a spare bedroom for an afternoon nap, after which he' would have a game of squash with Flying Officer Squaresearch. "This afternoon sleep was never much good, but one did at least relax, and it would make up to some extent for the lack of sleep tonight."
After an hour's doze, he changed, picked up Squaresearch and was violently active for half an hour in the squash court, finishing with a shower and a cup of tea and returning to his office for night-flying tests. Each afternoon preceding night-flying the aircraft would be tested to ensure that all equipment was in order and some instructors would prolong their flying until night landings were made, the flare-path, boundary and obstruction' lights gradually appearing as the sun went down. This part of the day was almost as good as the dawn and the sunsets at this time of the year were magnificent.
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Night-flying would continue until midnight, with a short break for dinner, and it was always an impressive sight to see the aircraft navigation lights approaching the flare-path before the aircraft itself could be seen, and then the aircraft coming into sight and flashing past the line of flares to a safe landing. What must it be like to see the Lancasters and Stirlings at home returning in their hundreds in the early hours of the morning?
Harvard completed his night duties, taking his turn in instructing the pupils in the need for extra care while flying at night, pointing .out the need for careful and accurate instrument-flying to accustom one to the sudden change on take-off from the friendly line of flares stretching in front to the black nothingness of the night sky when overcast. When all aircraft had returned to the tarmac, the flare-path had been put out and all offices were locked he climbed wearily into the bus and returned home, with a mental note that he would sleep until 0700 hours the next morning and catch the late bus.
Such is an outline of a flying instructor's day in Rhodesia. It is representative of that of any other instructor, whose duties in some cases have not been mentioned and in others only hinted at. The Chief Flying Instructor, the Chief Ground Instructor, the navigation, armament, signals, link trainer, sports, cockpit drill instructors and others all have their full day, whether they live on or off the station, all handle the pupils their daily work dictated by the pupil's needs and intermingled in so complicated a way that it is well named "The Battle of Training."
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Maintenance, Administration and Welfare in Rhodesia.
Nine-tenths of the men and women of the Royal Air Force are busy with duties which enable the remaining one-tenth to fly and fight. This large proportion of the total number, described sometimes disparagingly, sometimes compassionately, see flying people, as "penguins" or "wingless wonders," deals with the maintenance of equipment, the administration of the service and the welfare of the individuals.
However courageous or skilful our pilots and aircrews may be, their fighting capabilities become ineffective unless the remaining officers and men and women providing them with the means of fighting are equally efficient.
Next to the flying and instructional staff, the largest section on a training station is the maintenance staff. The "ground staff" do work which has none of the glamour which surrounds the pilot or air gunner, but without the conscientious and often monotonous labours of the many tradesmen on the ground the finest aircraft would be earth-bound. A modern aircraft needs constant inspection and checking to ensure that all its complicated mechanisms and equipment are functioning correctly and are available for the use of the aircrew when required. The very safety of the aircrew depends on the work of the ground crew and their adherence to a system which the R.A.F. has built up over many years to safeguard its aircraft and the men who fly them.
The system applies equally to the Lancaster which drops 12,000 lb. block-busters on Berlin and to the training aircraft which disturbed the quiet skies of Rhodesia. Every type of aircraft has laid down for it a schedule of inspections which have to be done by airmen of different trades at stated intervals, "between flight inspections," "daily inspections," "minor inspections " (possibly every 40 hours) and "major inspections" (possibly every 320 hours). The airman of a particular trade examines all the items laid down as his part of the inspection and by his signature for each detail of the work certifies that the aircraft is fit to fly. When all the different trades have done their part there should be no doubt as to the efficient and safe operation of the aircraft and its equipment. "Daily" and "minor" inspections call for less highly skilled tradesmen than "major" inspections and the duties are allocated accordingly and the degree of skill is indicated by the "Group" of the trade.
The trades of the Royal Air Force are many, but the following are some of those which were necessary to maintain and operate training aircraft in the Rhodesian Air Training Group ; fitters, riggers, electricians and instrument repairers, all in Groups I and II; instrument makers; wireless and electrical mechanics ; equipment assistants and armourers. There were Rhodesian men and women in nearly all of these trade Groups. The tradesmen were drawn from all walks of life and many were very inexperienced in their work on arrival in Rhodesia, but a "leavening of "old hands " and continued training produced what was needed. They all had opportunities for improving their status and pay by taking trade tests which enabled them to be reclassified within the trade or transfer to another more skilled trade in a higher Group.
The repair of crashed aircraft and the complete overhaul of engines were done by the maintenance staffs in the Aircraft Repair Depots.
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The Station Technical Officer, who supervised all the technical work and equipment on the station, was usually a senior officer who had had many years' experience in the technical branch of the R.A.F. He was assisted by a team of specialist officers and N.C.Os who controlled the various sections under him. One section would deal with airframes, another with engines, another with instruments, another with electrical equipment and yet another with parachutes.
Fitters, assisted by a native, working on an aero engine.
The administrative sections in the Service maintain the fighting airmen by rendering services essential to efficiency and by supplying requirements such as food, shelter and clothing, means of communication, aircraft, guns and ammunition, petrol and oil, and transport to convey these and other supplies. The administrative sections must not be visualised as one organisation. There are a number of specialised sections, each a separate organisation, but all cooperating, their efforts being coordinated to obtain the maximum efficiency.
Other instances of the duties performed by administrative sections are in the provision and upkeep of buildings by the Works Service; the supply of furniture, clothing, etc., by the Equipment Service; the maintenance of health and hygiene by the Medical Service; the payment of officers and airmen and accounting for stores by the Accountant Service, and the security of the station and discipline by the Provost Service, i.e., the R.A.F. Police.
The Station Commander is the supreme administrator, but, due to his heavy responsibilities in the training of aircrews, many of his more routine duties are done by officers in his own headquarters. The Station Administrative Officer or "Squadron Leader A" acts as a deputy for the Station Commander for directing much of the station administration and a filter through whom all routine matters pass. In addition to relieving his Commanding Officer of details, he is directly responsible for the conduct of the officers', sergeants' and airmen's
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messes, inspection and general supervision of supplies, equipment, clothing, arms, etc. ; supervision of public and non-public funds ; general welfare matters, fire-fighting services and hygiene and sanitary.
The Station Adjutant acts as confidential staff officer to the Station Commander and is also responsible for many items of administration under the Squadron Leader A.
The Assistant Adjutant deals with office organisation and acts as deputy for the Station Adjutant.
The Orderly Room and the Central Registry deal with the "paper work" of the station, including the filing system, airmen's records and documents, leave forms and much more of a like nature.
In the same headquarters is the Station Accountant Officer who, besides paying officers and men their pay and allowances, keeps a financial check on every item of equipment on the station and in the married quarters. He works closely with the Station Equipment Officer, and between them they arrange periodical checks of equipment. If any item is missing, the officer in charge of the particular section in which it is lost usually pays for it. The Equipment Officer and his staff record and store all spare parts, whether for uniforms or aeroplanes, and issue items to the various sections requiring them and, where necessary, demand more from the Central Maintenance Unit.
In Rhodesia where a new command was being built up these administrative duties had particular importance and was bound up closely with general welfare matters. Administration and welfare were so much intermingled that it is necessary to explain in more detail how the officer or airman spent his time when not working at the training of aircrews.
Welfare in Rhodesia.
Welfare is one of the prime responsibilities of all officers, from commanders downwards, although some have more obvious connections with it than others through the nature of their appointments. Administrative and personnel staff officers, education officers, and of course doctors, have their particular parts to play, but all flight and section officers should know their men, provide for their welfare and be able to discuss their personal problems and help to solve them.
In the Air Ministry is a Directorate of Air Force Welfare, amongst whose duties is the task of elimination of worry from the mind of the individual—not the type of worry which results from being put on a charge for a misdemeanour, but that which emanates from any troublesome events of private life. A happy airman is a contented worker, and Welfare aims at achieving this. The Directorate has summed up the subject under three headings ; the elimination of private worry, the improvement of living conditions, and the provision of facilities for use of leisure hours.
Welfare in the Rhodesian Air Training Group involved many problems which would not arise in Great Britain. The country was new to almost all the men on the stations, certain questions of health had to be carefully considered, there were no large towns to provide spare-time amusements, the sea and its attractive leave centres were far away and, perhaps most important of all, the officers and airmen were far away from their relatives at home in the " front line." In this description of what went on behind the training scenes in the Group,
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it is as well to consider the various aspects of welfare individually, although all were interwoven to some degree.
The Amenities Provided and How They Were Used.
All stations had an officers' mess, a sergeants' mess and an airmen's mess. The officers' and sergeants' messes provided their occupants with their social life, but the airmen's mess was simply a place where they could feed, part of their spare-time amusement being obtained in the canteen and the Corporals' Club. There was also a cinema, usually set up in one of the hangars, with a regular show of films distributed by the African Films Corporation. There were sports pitches of every kind,- and tennis and squash courts, and later, gymnasia and swimming pools. There was usually a station library supplied with books provided by the Women's National Service League or paid for out of the airmen's own funds. There was a church where regular services were held. There was a quiet room for the pupils, in which they could expect an atmosphere suitable for study. There were station post offices. Some stations started magazines, riding clubs, piggeries, model aeroplane clubs, orchestras, dance bands, military bands, arts and crafts clubs, and many other organisations to provide the officers and airmen with spare-time occupation or amusement. Some stations produced plays and revues which were greatly appreciated by the general public. Quiz teams were also made up from time to time and competed against civilian teams. All these things were done in addition to the formation of teams in many kinds of outdoor games.
A swimming gala in the Thornhill swimming pool.
How were all these things organised, and where did the money come from?
There are two types of funds in use on R.A.F. stations— public and non-public funds. The public funds cover all normal service charges for equipment, pay, accommodation and rations, but the non-public funds are built up on each station purely for the benefit of the occupants. In the beginning when the new stations in Rhodesia were being opened, there were no non-public funds available for providing all the amenities the officers and airmen required, so a grant was made from public funds to enable each station to make a start.
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In Great Britain, the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes run the service canteens on a non-profit basis, buying goods in enormous quantities at low prices and selling them to the airmen in the canteens at a small profit. This profit is then given back to the airmen in the form of general amenities, and if it is found that the profits in the canteens are too high, lower prices are charged. In this way the airman (or soldier or sailor) gets more value for his money than if he were to buy the goods and amusements he requires in the normal way.
There was no N.A.A.F.I. operating in Rhodesia, but the canteens were set up on a similar principle, and each had to publish a balance sheet every few months. As time went on, some of the stations were able to provide a very large number of amenities, and the larger the station the more the amenities. Considerable help, however, was given by local voluntary organisations, notably the Women's National Service League, the National War Fund and the State Lotteries Trust.
The person who organised and administered these "general" amenities was the President of the Service Institute, usually a squadron leader. He supervised the social side of the airmen's life with the help of a committee of representatives from all ranks except the officers.
Station Welfare Activities.
The extent to which stations built up their own amusements depended very largely on the drive, initiative and business acumen of their own officers and men and some of these deserve special mention. It was usually the stations farthest away from towns which did most, as they did not have the alternative attractions of the towns conveniently to hand, and almost the first really big station project was the building of the Guinea Fowl swimming pool, funds being provided by the P.S.I, and the labour by the officers and men themselves. Bricks and cement were bought, railings were made in workshops from salvaged material and gardens were laid out with grass and plants from local sources. Almost all the other stations built their own swimming pools as- time went on and funds grew, and there was much competition in their design and layout.
The Heany Military Band, playing at the ceremony of the presentation of
the gold cup by the R.A.F. in Salisbury in October, 1944.
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Heany started a military band which became very popular not only with the R.A.F. but also with the civilian population of Rhodesia. It played at many functions and occasionally in the town parks on Sunday afternoons and was as skilled and versatile as any band in the Colony. When the air cadets visited Kumalo during their first annual camp in Bulawayo, the Heany Military Band led them through the streets part of the way and the Kumalo Pipe Band piped them out of Bulawayo and into Kumalo. Dance bands were organised on most stations and were in great demand for public and private dances, charging a small fee for their services. Occasional concerts of chamber music were held when sufficient players were available and local civilian music clubs helped to increase the interest. As there are no big orchestras in Rhodesia, all symphony music had to be provided by gramophone recitals, and there was nearly always a concert being given by some enthusiast in a lecture room at one station or another. Swing music fans also made themselves heard and they, also, had to use gramophone records. Induna at one time instituted a "music while you work" by means of loudspeakers, and the workshops became a hive of whistling, working airmen. Cranborne had a Glee Club which sang the old part songs and broadcast many times, providing a very refreshing programme.
The first magazine to be started was Afraf, at Heany, and although it was wisely never very pretentious it was very popular throughout the Group. A somewhat better produced magazine was Thornhill's Slipstream, which was also circulated in all stations of the Group. Hillside produced Fledgling and Moffat started Rafters, but the last-named later came under civilian management. The magazines were, of course, all very topical and were only of real interest to the R.A.F., but they filled a definite need.
The Arts and Crafts and Model Aeroplane Clubs provided spare-time occupation for many, and a room was usually set aside for their use, with lockers, work benches and tools. The Group's amateur photographers took some very beautiful photographs of the country, but their activities were very much curtailed by the lack of materials. There were artists who painted in water colours and oils and portrait artists who worked in crayon and pencil. An Arts and Crafts Exhibition was held in Salisbury, Gwelo and Bulawayo early in 1944, to which the public were admitted, and some fine exhibits were seen. Perhaps the most outstanding item at this exhibition was a series of portraits in crayon executed by Sergeant T. Beetham, some of which are included in this book.
Apart from making their own amusements, the R.A.F. in Rhodesia were fortunate in being entertained by concert parties and artists from the Union of South Africa and from Great Britain. Miss Ivy Tresmand brought a revue company to Salisbury and Bulawayo, which was augmented by members of the R.A.F.; Sir Seymour and Lady Hicks gave a series of concerts at all stations ; the Union Defence Force concert party twice toured Rhodesia, and Mr. Noel Coward gave a much appreciated series of entertainments at most of the stations.
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The mountains of Inyanga, in the Eastern District.
Leave in Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa.
There were several centres where the R.A.F. could spend their leave in Rhodesia, the most popular being, of course, the Victoria Falls. The Rhodesia Railways ran an excellent hotel there and allowed special rates of half the normal charge to members of the R.A.F. The mountains in the eastern districts provided three main attractions, the town of Umtali, the Vumba Hotel, and the Inyanga district. Umtali itself is a pleasant little town with good hotels, and as there was no air station within 160 miles it gave some relief from the continual roar of aircraft. The Vumba Hotel is perched near the top of a mountain with magnificent views of the Chimanimani Mountains and the Portuguese border, and there are many attractive walks in the neighbourhood. The Inyanga district is the highest part of the Colony and some of it is rather like parts of Scotland, with moorland slopes and trout streams. Another place which some visited on leave was the Zimbabwe Ruins, but although there is a hotel, there is not much of general interest in the district apart from the Ruins.
One of the best ways of spending leave in Rhodesia was to stay on a farm, and the farmers were extremely hospitable, allowing their R.A.F. visitors the complete run of the place, which often extended to several thousand acres. Many of the larger farms had swimming pools and tennis courts, with specially built guest houses and beautiful gardens, and an officer or airman could spend a very pleasant leave either lazing his days away or riding over the veld or hunting small game, or simply wandering about in the bush and grassland, where there was always something interesting to see. Some of the airmen returned the farmers' hospitality by doing odd jobs about the farm, repairing cars, pumps, radios and agricultural machinery.
The voluntary societies and organisations did a tremendous amount of work to ensure that the R.A.F. could spend their leave pleasantly and economically. Toc H provided accommodation in their hostels, the British Empire Service League installed airmen's canteens in all main railway stations and in the State Lotteries Hall where weekly dances were held, the Rhodesian Forces Helpers' Society organised a free lift system at Salisbury
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railway station, and the National War Fund provided a large hostel in Salisbury. The Women's National Service League organised camp libraries and had a complete register of farms and houses which offered hospitality, arranging leave accommodation according to the wishes of the individual airman. The Bulawayo Club opened its doors wide to officers on leave or visiting the town on duty. The Salvation Army also had a hostel in Salisbury for those airmen who could not afford an expensive holiday. Almost every town in the Colony extended its hospitality to the R.A.F. in some practical form such as services clubs, and restrictions were imposed on only those holiday places which were malarious.
Although the coast of the Union of South Africa is nowhere nearer than several hundred miles from Rhodesia, it was inevitable that many men would wish to spend their leave there, and in fact, it is advisable to do so every two or three years. The South African Women's Auxiliary Service arranged hospitality in Cape Town and other similar organisations did likewise in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Durban and East London. Full details were provided in the Group, but bookings had to be made well in advance and it was not worth going down to the coast unless the leave period was a fortnight or more, as the journey either way took two or three days at least.
The Group, however, had its own leave centre at Knoetze, near the forest of Knysna, a beautiful part of the coast of the Cape Province. A large house set high on the rocks just above the beach and accommodating twenty-five airmen was presented to the Air Force as a leave centre and convalescent home by the late Mr. H. S. Henderson, V.C., of Bulawayo. The house was run by a local committee with a resident matron, and an airman could have fourteen days' leave, including travel to and from Knoetze and a day in Cape Town, for £4. This was a glorious place for a holiday as apart from the scenery there were surf riding, fishing and tennis, free transport to town twice a week and free beer every day. One can imagine how popular it was with the airmen.
It has been the invariable policy of the Air Ministry that to whatever part of the world the airmen are sent the chaplains go with them. Nevertheless, in the organisation of new commands overseas it was not always possible, especially in the early days of the war, to arrange for chaplains to be posted to them immediately from the home establishment. Those who were available had to be sent to the most urgent spheres of operation, and when the Rhodesian Air Training Group received its first drafts from home it was not possible to send chaplains with them. The Chaplains' Department of the Southern Rhodesian Forces generously stepped into the breach, and provided sufficient chaplains from their very small establishment to enable the first stations to have the benefit of their ministrations, some on a part-time basis and some as full-time resident chaplains.
The Chaplain-General of the Southern Rhodesian Forces, the Right Reverend E. F. Paget, M.C., M.A., Bishop of Southern Rhodesia, advised the setting up of special buildings for churches on each station, and this was done, in spite of the great difficulty of obtaining furnishings. As it was impossible to equip them on the same scale as station churches at home, due partly to the fact that almost the whole of the Air Ministry's stocks of ecclesiastical furnishings had been destroyed during the air raids of 1940-41, the men on the stations set about equipping them themselves. Four years later much of the original improvised furnishings were still in adequate service and remained as a tribute to the taste and ability of the Service craftsmen. The co-operation of the local churches was also sought and freely given in the provision of altar linen, carpets, curtains and such items. Although in
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most cases the churches were "Tin Tabernacles" without, inside they were wholly worthy of their sacred associations and functions.
It soon became impossible for the Southern Rhodesian Forces to provide chaplains for all the stations, and in May, 1941, the Air Ministry constituted the Group a separate "area" and appointed the Reverend Leslie Wright, R.A.F., as senior chaplain, with the rank of Wing Commander. Early in 1942 there were thirteen commissioned chaplains serving in the Group, of whom nine were R. A.F. In August, 1944, there were fourteen, of whom all but two held R.A.F. commissions. These represented the Church of England, "other denominations," and the Roman Catholics.
The chaplain's work on a training station in Rhodesia was much the same as that on a station at home, with the usual parade services, Holy Communion and voluntary services, and confirmations, baptisms and marriages. At one station church, in the first four years of its existence over one hundred babies were baptised and twenty couples married. The chaplain is first and foremost the "spiritual pastor" of the men on his station, and in this capacity concerns himself closely with airmen's welfare. He found, in Southern Rhodesia, that many of the personal problems were more difficult than they would have been at home, due mainly to the great distance from home and the inevitably slow communication. The Directorate of Air Force Welfare, however, was of great assistance in watching over the welfare of the dependants of the airmen serving in the Group. In the more isolated stations the chaplains sponsored many spare-time activities in the shape of Toc H groups, Rover crews, fellowships, discussion groups and others, and at all times had much encouragement from the commanding officers and other officers on their stations.
One duty peculiar to Rhodesia, though not directly the responsibility of the R.A.F. chaplains, was the religious ministration to the Christian natives in the Group, both of the Askari and Labour Corps, and in 1943 the Air Officer Commanding appointed the Reverend Herbert Carter, General Superintendent of the Methodist Church in Southern Rhodesia, as Chaplain Superintendent for this work. Monthly services for the natives were arranged in the station compounds and conducted in the main by local European and native clergy with the help of the station chaplains. Welfare work for the natives was also done by qualified men permitted to visit the compounds and camps for this purpose.
Much indebtedness was due to the help and hospitality given by the local churches, at whose Sunday evening services many members of the R.A.F. would be found and whose clergy on many occasions took Sunday duties to allow the chaplains to get away for leave.
Feeding the Airman.
One of the most important jobs in the R.A.F. is the job of feeding the airman. The old days of hard tack or bully beef and biscuits have gone, and as much care now goes into the production and preparation of appetising and nourishing food in the Services as into the design of a heavy bomber. Lord Woolton, who has proved the value of careful feeding, even in a time when rationing was necessary, has brought Napoleon's maxim up to date by saying "an airman flies on his stomach." And he was not referring solely to bomb-aimers.
When the Rhodesian Air Training Group was in its early stages it seemed an almost impossible task to provide sufficient food for the countless airmen who would be added to the comparatively small population of Rhodesia. Although the country is largely agricultural, much organisation would be needed to ensure a steady flow of all the necessary
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food into the air stations. From the beginning, however, the airman in Rhodesia was fed almost to pre-war British standards, although this involved some need for getting used to local fruits and vegetables, many of which were rarely seen in Great Britain.
Lunch being prepared in the kitchen of one of the airmen's messes.
In the beginning, the Southern Rhodesian Government formed the Southern Rhodesian Supply Corps, whose duty it was to combine the functions of the Royal Army Service Corps and the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute and supply the requirements of the officers', sergeants' and airmen's messes and institutes. The Corps very efficiently coordinated local food production and arranged for regular daily distribution to the air stations. The messing system adopted in the Group was in principle the peacetime R.A.F. system, with one or two alterations. A basic ration was agreed upon between the Principal Medical Officer and the Senior Equipment Staff Officer to provide a balanced diet, and was converted into the cash equivalent. The ration entitlement was published monthly, slight variations which appeared representing price fluctuations in basic commodities. It was considered that this cash entitlement would be more economical in foodstuffs and allow a greater variety in diet than a ration system, and experience proved this to be correct.
The airman in England likes his meals in the order, breakfast, dinner and high tea, with a snack for supper. This system does not work in Rhodesia, where a heavy midday meal clashes badly with the usual high midday temperatures. On the other hand, a hot dinner in the comparatively cool evening when the day's work is done is much more acceptable. The local custom was therefore adopted and the usual sequence of meals, snacks and drinks was as follows :— (i) An early morning cup of tea, usually about dawn, (ii) breakfast, usually about 0800 hours, (iii) mid-morning tea and bun (or "char" and "wads," as the airmen call it), (iv) lunch, about 1300 hours, (v) tea at 1500 hours, (vi) sundowners at 1800 hours, (vii) dinner at 1900 hours
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Lunchtime in the airmen's mess.
That sounds a lot, but for someone working almost continually in the open air, it was necessary. The large quantities of liquid imbibed and fruit and vegetables eaten were also necessary in a hot country where much body moisture was lost through perspiration.
When specialist catering officers were introduced in the R.A.F., similar appointments were made in the larger stations in Rhodesia, some men with catering experience being recruited locally and some being posted from Great Britain. Their duties were to study the local produce markets and arrange menus in collaboration with the medical officers, having due regard to their cash entitlements. They were then to ensure that the food was properly cooked and served. And this is where the airman's epithet of "grub spoiler" for the cook is daily being more and more discounted. In fact, the catering officers and cooks provided such good food that the Inspector-General of the R.A.F. commented specially on it when he concluded his tour of inspection in R.A.T.G. in 1942.
Games in the Rhodesian Air Training Group.
Wherever R.A.F. airmen congregate they will play games, and if the facilities for playing games are not at hand they will beg, borrow, appropriate or improvise them. In Southern Rhodesia there were, fortunately, many facilities available in the various sports clubs, and the committees of these clubs gave all the help in their power to allow the officers and airmen of the Group to have their afternoon and week-end exercise and enjoyment.
Great encouragement, however, is given in the Service to the playing of games, and equipment was supplied as soon as it became available, but the new stations, many of them carved out of bush country, had to find their own playing fields. Sports officers were established to deal with the organisation, and their first duty was to find and prepare suitable fields within the station areas. Pitches were made simply by clearing the bush and levelling the ground, and inter-hut, inter-section, inter-flight, and inter-squadron competitions were organised on these pitches, while other surfaces were being prepared and brought up to a better standard. This preparation took time, and meanwhile the Raylton, Alexandra and Salisbury Sports Club grounds in Salisbury, the town council ground in Gwelo, and the
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Raylton ground and Hartsfield in Bulawayo, were lent at certain times to the R.A.F. as also were the Police and drill hall grounds in Salisbury.
The Mazoe Dam, twenty-five miles north of Salisbury, wheremany airmen
have spent their weekends sailing
There was no difficulty in raising teams in the various sections on the stations, from which the station and Service teams would be picked, but the next step was to organise full fixture lists, and to this end Sports Boards were set up in each area, pre-war Boards were revived and existing local civilian and Army Boards were joined. This greatly increased the fixture list, thereby providing more entertainment for both Service and civilian population. An inter-station sports committee was also set up, which arranged fixtures and knockout competitions between stations. These competitions were played off first by areas, so as to find the best team in each area, these teams then travelling to other areas to play off semi-final and final. By this means, every station had an opportunity of winning a championship without having to travel to every other station in the Group.
These championship competitions were extremely successful and the enormous amount of interest shown in them is proved by the large number of trophies given by civilians and by the Service. The list of trophies is so great that it is not possible to include the names of the donors in this book. It must be sufficient to say that trophies were given for almost every team game, for athletics, boxing and swimming; for competition between huts, sections, flights, squadrons, stations, areas and Services ; and that the greatest gratitude is felt towards those who so generously presented them.
Exceptions to the rules for inter-station championship competitions were made in boxing, swimming and athletics, for which sports one annual central meeting was held, in one area or another. These meetings will long be remembered for their good organisation and representation and for the records which were set up from time to time. They attracted thousands of spectators from the general public and provided some of the best sporting entertainments which Rhodesia had ever seen.
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The Salisbury Sports Club, showing the Polo Ground, Sports Ground,
Tennis Courts, Squash Courts and Bowling Greens with the Golf Club in the
Growing from the teams raised in individual huts on the stations, teams were raised to represent the Group against the Army in Rhodesia, the Services in the Union of South Africa and against teams in Northern Rhodesia and the Congo. The contests with the Army in Rhodesia were confined to boxing and athletics, due to the limited Army manpower available, but a Group boxing team and a soccer team visited the Union, and a Group rugby team toured the Copperbelt in Northern Rhodesia. In 1943, a Services soccer team from the Union visited Southern Rhodesia and lost its two test games against the Group team.
The sports considered so far are soccer, rugby, hockey, athletics, boxing, swimming, cricket and tennis, but there are many others which have attracted members of the Group. Bowls has been played by R.A.F. teams on the City bowling greens, every station has a very popular squash court or two, and golf clubs have allowed the R.A.F. to become honorary members. Heany made its own golf course, but the shortage of balls consequent upon the lack of rubber curtailed play to some extent. Other sports such as basketball, baseball, softball, miniature rifle shooting and badminton have all been more or less popular.
It is, perhaps, necessary to say a little of what it is like to play the various games in Rhodesia. The outstanding factor is the weather, in which rain hardly ever interferes with play, except for occasionally swamping the cricket pitch between November and March. Games played in the winter in Great Britain are played from April to September in Rhodesia, during the dry season, and the hard, dusty ground usually produces a faster and more open game of rugby, soccer or hockey. The turf on these and the cricket pitches is, never so thick as it is in England and rugby boots do not require the long conical studs so necessary on muddy grounds. Tennis is always played on hard courts, but the nature of
the country does not affect athletics, boxing or swimming. Bowling greens are usually well cared for and have good turf. Golf courses in the dry season are very fast and give one a rather optimistic drive, but in the wet season provide extra hazards in the shape of long grass, and occasional snakes in the rough. Greens are of grass, sand or asphalt. When playing any strenuous game in the open air in Rhodesia one has to remember that the sun is always there and that its rays can be very dangerous.
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The Doctor's Day.
Like the chaplains, the doctors were at first recruited from existing sources in Southern Rhodesia, but it soon became apparent that there were insufficient doctors available, and the stations were eventually staffed almost entirely by R.A.F. medical officers. The local doctors had been supplied from the Southern Rhodesia Medical Corps, but in 1944 there were only five of these left serving in the Group, although the S.R.M.C. provided all the dentists.
The doctor's day was a busy one, and on most stations two Medical Officers were established, apart from the administrative and medical board’s staff at headquarters. They had to deal with ailments rarely found in England, in addition to the more common ones, and although they were, perhaps, not considered to be connected directly with welfare, their influence on the general well-being of the Group were naturally great.
At the early hour of six each morning the first sick parade was held for the airmen, the men whose unspectacular work made it possible for the pupils to become pilots. Pills were doled out, unpleasant medicines were dispensed, hot fomentations applied and unguents rubbed in and the cases were dismissed temporarily or permanently. These minor cases were usually colds, skin rashes, bumps and lumps developed as a result of a rough tackle in rugby or a vicious jab in hockey, but occasionally a more interesting case appeared, and the airman was put through a thorough examination, a form was filled in by the doctor and the unfortunate patient was sent by the eight o'clock ambulance to see a specialist at the hospital.
At nine the officers and pupils arrived and reported their various ailments, and after the officers and pupils came the members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Service, who needed a more delicate approach than the men. These completed the "walking sick" and the doctors then turned to the ward patients who might be down with seasonal complaints such as malaria, influenza, tonsillitis, or "gyppy tummy" officially known as gastro-enteritis. The last mentioned was common among newcomers to the Colony, who having been starved of fresh fruit for a long time tried to make up for lost time, with dire results.
Concurrent with the sick parades in the European sick quarters there were the natives to be seen in the native sick quarters. The difficulty of language formed a disadvantage in finding the cause of the complaint, a native invariably pointing to the temple when he had a headache, or to the chest for most other things.
Office work constantly claimed attention, with requests from harassed section commanders for news of one of their best men who had reported sick when two other people were on leave. Other requests were found on the doctor's desk from the married quarters, sometimes from over-anxious mothers, for a visit to deal with coughs, colds, teething or infectious fevers. In the afternoons these same mothers descended upon the sick quarters with numerous prams and uncontrollable infants.
A constant duty was the supervision of food, ablution blocks, drains, fly traps, etc., and the elimination of insects and stagnant pools and clearing of blocked drains.
Sometimes the peaceful atmosphere of the sick quarters was disturbed by the clanging of the crash gong, when the duty pilot had reported a crash. Then the doctors and staff would
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stand by with the ambulance, ready to go and succour the victim when the whereabouts of the crash had been obtained. The doctor assuredly had a busy day and, unlike many of his colleagues, had to be ready for a call at any time during the night.
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The Aircraft and Equipment, Supply and Local Problems.
No special types of training aircraft were set aside for use in the Rhodesian Air Training Group. So much experience had been gained in the past with standard types in all parts of the world that the Group did all its training with Tiger Moths, Harvards, Oxfords, Ansons and Fairey Battles, the Tiger Moths being later replaced by Fairchild Cornells.
The de Havilland Tiger Moth is so well known in both civil and Service flying that it should not be necessary to give a full description of its construction and performance. Let it suffice to say that it is a two-seater biplane designed specially for training purposes and fitted with a 120 h.p. Gipsy Major engine and full dual control, the pupil occupying the rear seat and the instructor the front.
Although many thousands of pilots all over the world have received their initial flying training in Tiger Moths a progressive policy demanded that they should be withdrawn from service and replaced by Cornells. The change early in this war from biplanes with open cockpits to monoplanes with enclosed cockpits influenced the eventual use of Cornells, which also had other more modern refinements fitted to them. The Cornell is a low-wing monoplane, two-seater training aircraft with enclosed cockpits, fixed undercarriage, fixed pitch propeller and full dual control. Its refinements over the Tiger Moth consist of a more powerful engine, a full instrument-flying panel, flaps, steerable tail wheel and brakes. It cannot, of course, use gravity feed for its petrol supply, but the fitting of a petrol tank close to the fuselage in each wing means that more can be carried and a bigger range obtained. It is an American aircraft, made by Fairchilds, and its engine is a 180 h.p., six-cylinder inverted, in line, air-cooled, direct drive Ranger.
The Harvard, Marks I, II, Ila and III, was used at Cranborne and Thornhill for intermediate and advanced training of fighter pilots and one of its salient characteristics is the great noise it makes when flying with its propeller in fine pitch. It, also, is an American aircraft and is a low-wing, two-seater monoplane, with a single air-cooled radial Wasp engine having a normal horsepower of 420. It is fitted with a fully retractable undercarriage, flaps, steerable tail wheel, and enclosed cockpits with sliding covers and full instrument-flying panels, and dual control.
Bomber pilots were trained on the Oxford, a British aircraft made by the Airspeed Company. It is a low-wing monoplane with twin engines and used for advanced training, having accommodation for three persons, including the pilot. Two Marks have been in use, I and II differing only in equipment and fitted with the Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah X engines. The instructor and pupil sat side by side, the pupil in the left-hand seat and a hood was arranged to be brought over his head so as to prevent him from seeing outside the aircraft when practising instrument-flying. The Oxford also is fitted with retractable undercarriage and flaps, both hydraulically operated, but the propellers are wooden with single pitch.
The foregoing were the aircraft used in pilot training, but at Moffat, the bombing, gunnery and navigation school, Ansons were used for all general purposes, while Fairey Battles were used primarily for drogue towing. The Anson should be well known as a twin-engined low-wing mono-plane with two Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX engines, as it was used largely at the beginning of the war for Coastal Command submarine patrols. The Battle was
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used in France in 1940 as a medium bomber. It is a low-wing monoplane with accommodation for a crew of three, and is fitted with one Rolls-Royce Merlin II or V engine.
In addition to the aircraft, a large amount of other technical equipment was in use in the Group, the next biggest item by reason of numbers being the road transport vehicles, almost entirely Ford. Each station required a number of sedan cars, safari vans, vanettes, large and small lorries, buses, ambulances, fire-fighting vehicles and motor cycles, and their maintenance involved an organisation of their own. Other vehicles included flood-lights, petrol and oil bowsers and trailers, and Coles cranes.
The workshops were equipped with many up-to-date machine tools, of both British and American origin, and the aircraft repair depots at Cranborne and Heany were particularly well arranged. An efficient instrument repair depot formed part of the A.R.D. at Cranborne where the finest instrument work could be done.
Much technical equipment was in use in the various training departments, radio, navigation, armaments, etc. The link trainer has already been mentioned, but there were also devices for teaching bomb-aiming; for producing on the ground the conditions under which a navigator would have to work in the air; for teaching a pilot how the controls worked in an aircraft he would have to fly; for teaching a gunner how to allow for the movement of his own and the enemy's aircraft; for teaching aircrews to recognise enemy and friendly aircraft in the quickest time possible, and many others.
Almost all this equipment came from Britain or America, and the main problems in connection with its supply were those of transportation from overseas and the lack of large-scale production facilities within the Colony. In the case of supplies from overseas, the irregular and limited shipping services necessitated the anticipation of requirements considerably in advance of actual needs.
It was found that considerable saving of aluminium could be effected by using up crashed parts of aircraft and salvaged material, such as pans collected by the general public and an aluminium reclamation factory was established in Bulawayo under R.A.F. supervision early in 1942. The factory was run on a non-profit basis and was most successful, making castings and certain parts, but its activities were later curtailed due to the greatly improved supply position of raw materials and the urgency of reclaiming used materials then became less acute. The local production of practice bombs was also highly satisfactory, and in addition to removing the dependency on shipments from overseas, helped to relieve production in Great Britain.
The capacity for local production in Southern Rhodesia was limited only by the relatively small European civilian population from which skilled labour had been reduced by the many Rhodesians who joined the forces. Native labour was used for unskilled work and for work of a semi-skilled but routine type. In spite of these disadvantages, however, practically all non-aeronautical equipment such as uniform clothing, boots and shoes and all classes of furniture were made within the Colony. In the case of aeronautical and other technical equipment, small items within the manufacturing capacity of engineering firms both as regards the machinery and the skilled labour available were produced in quantity. Production of this kind was confined only to those items urgently needed to maintain aircraft serviceability and which were not available either because of delays in supply from overseas or because the quantities supplied were insufficient to meet requirements. The two Aircraft Repair Depots became factories and were called upon to make a large variety of
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small aircraft parts, and in anticipation of this, one of the two depots was specially equipped with a machine shop capable of undertaking any form of work in limited quantities. Practically the whole of the aircraft steels and all commercial quality steels were produced within the Colony by the Rhodesian Iron and Steel Commission, and the only limit to production of certain alloy steels was the lack of essential alloying elements.
In addition to Rhodesian production, use was made of the resources available in the Union of South Africa, and although that country was fully occupied in meeting the needs of her own armed forces, much assistance was obtained from that source.
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SOUTHERN RHODESIA: SHORT DESCRIPTION OF THE COLONY
CHAPTER 1. A Short Geographical and Historical Survey.
A description of the work of the Rhodesian Air Training Group would not be complete without some note of the nature of the country in which so many pilots have been trained. Before the war, many people in Great Britain, on being told they were to be posted to Southern Rhodesia, would have said, "Where's that?" There are even one or two stories of Service men going home on leave to remote parts of the British Isles taking a Rhodesian with them, and their rural and insular neighbours expecting a black man to turn up. Perhaps, the following will do something to dispel the misapprehension of those people who did not realise that for over fifty years this part of "darkest Africa" has been the home of many white men.
Southern Rhodesia lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, and is bounded by the Zambezi River to the north, the "great green greasy Limpopo River" to the south, the Bechuanaland Protectorate to the west where the Kalahari desert lies, and Portuguese East Africa to the east. It is roughly three times the size of England and consists mainly of coarse grassland and low bush, the grass sometimes attaining a height of over six feet, but few of the trees more than fifteen to twenty feet. Bush country is featureless, and it is very easy to get lost in it unless careful bearings are taken.
The general height of the Colony above sea-level is about 4,000 feet, varying from 8,000 in the Inyanga district, to 700 feet where the Limpopo leaves the Colony. Most of it is part of the "high veld," that huge plateau which forms most of the southern part of Africa, and mountains are rare except in the north and north-east. The greatest rivers are the Zambezi, Limpopo and Sabi, although there are many others which in the wet season are flooded, and in the dry season consist mainly of sandy beds across which in many places one can travel dry-shod. " High level " bridges have been built where railways and main roads cross the rivers, but before these were built it was possible, during the wet season, to cross one river with difficulty, find the next river impassable and return to the first only to find that its level had risen in a short time to such an extent that it also was impassable. Stories are told of travellers having to wait some days between rivers before progress could be made in either direction, and if rations were short this was sometimes a serious matter. The rivers are not navigable to any reasonable extent and few fishes live in them. They are mainly breeding grounds for the ubiquitous mosquito, and the largest are infested with crocodiles.
The "kopjies" or low hills which are met all over the country are often surmounted by grotesquely balanced granite rocks and appear to have been left behind in the general erosion of the whole plateau. The Matopo hills to the south of Bulawayo in the south-west corner of" the Colony, where Baden-Powell started the Scout movement and where Rhodes found his "World's View" and his burial place, are an incredible jumble of low hills, sparsely covered with bush and scrub. It was here that the M'limo priest practised his rites among the Karanga natives and where, many years later, Rhodes was to go, unarmed, to meet and make peace with the Matabele.
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The seasons in Southern Rhodesia have none of the daily variety of the English climate, and from May to October, if an outdoor festival is planned, one can be fairly sure that it will not be spoiled by rain. There are three seasons, the dry the hot and the rainy season, and they are fairly sharply demarcated. From May to August it is dry. From August to November it is hot. And from November to May it is wet, and as much rain falls in that period as falls throughout the year in England.
In early May the rains have disappeared and the sun rises over a clear horizon and shines from a blue sky for twelve hours, but the temperature at night is so low that frost occasionally appears in the small hours and the day is not oppressively hot, even at 2 p.m. Normal clothes such as are worn in England are usual, although light clothing, with a heavy coat for the evenings is best. Three and even four blankets may be needed at night, but the mosquito nets can be left off the bed if one lives in the towns. The ground which has been saturated throughout the wet season gradually dries, hardens and is broken up into dust. The gardens lose their brilliance, except for the flaming leaves of the poinsettias, but the veld itself turns from green to brown as the season advances. Towards July, the first grass fires appear and the clouds of smoke they produce can be seen from the air for scores of miles and rise many thousands of feet. Then it is that the sun rises in a hazy sky and the visibility is reduced from fifty or more miles to sometimes less than ten. The insects have hibernated long ago, the birds have flown north, the swallows to England and the storks to Holland, the rivers dry up and the whole country looks as if another month or two would turn it into desert.
The season is broken very occasionally by days of mist, or "guti" and drizzle with a strong cold south-east wind, but this is rare, and towards September the evenings are warmer and the afternoons oppressive. Clouds begin to appear in the sky about midday gathering towards evening and clearing away at night. Rain may fall in September, but is very unusual and the days become hotter and hotter until November when the rain really decides to come down in earnest. The veld at this time of the year is transformed, and one wakens after a night of rain to find the air crystal-dear. After a few days the young grass springs up and the cosmos, a delicate pink and white flower, appears all over the veld. There is great relief when the rains arrive. The native employed in the towns has an urge to go back to the kraal to plant his mealies and the farmer begins his planting.
Then the insects appear—and do they appear! In the evenings there is a constant chirrup and chatter from the crickets and other hoppers and those which fly swarm round the lights on the stoep and bang against the mosquito gauze. Insects of all sizes, shapes and colours, from the tiny mosquito to the clumsy dung-beetle and the strange flying mantis. Most of them are harmless and one sees them only rarely in the dry season, but some of them are very fearsome in aspect.
The rain continues almost daily until May, usually starting at mid-day, breaking off in the afternoon and flooding the country again in the evening and at night. The temperature may drop considerably after a rainstorm, thunderstorms are common and occasionally cause crop damage and hail sometimes appears. One of the wonderful sights of the country is the lightning playing in far-off thunderclouds when the sun is sinking, often with the most glorious colours in the sunset.
The climate of the country is one in which anyone from England would delight, but in some ways it has an insidious appeal and must be accepted with caution. The sun is dangerous, always, and due care must be taken to prevent its rays inducing that dullness of mind which
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long exposure to it produces. Perhaps, it is because during much of the year the temperature is comfortable that one does not realise the danger of the sun, and it is always advisable to wear a sun-helmet and dark glasses if much time is spent out of doors.
One more detail which appears strange to visitors from England is that throughout the year the days are of almost equal length. Since Rhodesia is so near the Equator the sun is always high in the heavens at midday and there is only about one hour's difference in the length of the days between January and June. There are no long sunny summer evenings and no long fireside winter evenings. One goes home at six and it is dark at six-thirty.
The Rise and Progress of Southern Rhodesia.
Fifty-four years ago Southern Rhodesia was unknown in the civilised world to all but a few missionaries, traders and hunters. The Portuguese, in the sixteenth century, were the first white men to penetrate from the coast into its territories and they returned with stories of black kings who held sway over vast domains rich in gold and silver. They called the country "Monomotapa" and believed that it was the Land of Ophir where Solomon obtained his gold. Nothing much more was known of the country until Livingstone discovered the Victoria Falls ; Moffat and Thomas, the missionaries, established themselves at Inyati; and the hunters, Viljoen, Hartley, and Selous confirmed the gold stories, all in the nineteenth century. The latter also reported that the country was suitable for white men to live in but that the Matabele tribe, who had dominated all the other native tribes, would make any attempts at colonisation a perilous business.
The Matabele were an offshoot from the great tribe of Zulus who reigned in Natal, and were ruled by Mziligazi who had broken the Zulu laws and had fled with his followers over the Drakensberg mountains into the Transvaal. The gradual tide of European expansion had driven him farther north and he finally settled down where Bulawayo lies to-day. When Mziligazi died in 1868 he was succeeded by Lobengula, who remained until the occupation of the country by white men and finally escaped farther north still and is supposed to have died near the Zambezi.
When diamonds were found at Kimberley, in 1870, and gold at the Witwatersrand in the 1880's, the influence of Cecil John Rhodes gradually came to be felt in Africa south of the Limpopo. He had two great characteristics, his tremendous business acumen and his burning desire to see a great British Africa. He accumulated great wealth in the diamond and gold fields and used it, not for personal aggrandisement, but to make the unknown and unclaimed parts of Africa "red on the map." The matter was urgent to him, as the Portuguese were on the east of the country, the Germans on the west in Damaraland, and the Belgians and French on the north, and the nations of Europe at that time were greedy for Empire. His opposition lay in Paul Kruger, President of the Transvaal, who saw the traditional life of his Afrikaner people disrupted by these foreign elements, and attempted to prevent Rhodes from crossing the Limpopo by establishing two petty republics to the west of the Transvaal, in Bechuanaland. Rhodes countered with a military expedition which disposed of the petty republics and brought Bechuanaland under British protection. The next obstacle to Rhodes's plan was the Matabele and he first sent Mr. Charles Rudd, a business associate, to see Lobengula and obtain a concession from him. This was no easy matter, as Lobengula was suspicious of the white men and their gold-seeking, but eventually Rhodes persuaded him to sign, with a clumsy cross, an agreement which was read out to him and which became known as the Rudd Concession. This formed the basis of Rhodes's British South African Company under Royal Charter and he set about planning an
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expedition to carry the concession into effect.
Rhodes's political and financial influence in the Cape Colony was high at this time, so he organised the Pioneer Column of 200 young men, skilled in various occupations, so that they could form the nucleus of a settlement in Mashonaland, under Major Frank Johnson, who agreed to equip the Column at a contract price of £93,000. With the Column would go 500 men of the British South Africa Company's Police to act as escorts and keep open supply routes. The whole expedition was under the command of Colonel E. F. Pennfather, and Rhodes's personal representative was his close friend and disciple Dr. Leander Starr Jameson. In order to ensure that the Column would reach Mashonaland without having to travel nearer than 100 miles to a Matabele village, Rhodes employed F. C. Selous, the famous hunter, who knew the interior well.
Lobengula was suspicious of the Police escort, who to his mind were soldiers, and repudiated the Rudd Concession, but his fears were allayed by Dr. Jameson, who went to Bulawayo, found the king suffering from gout and relieved his pain. In June, 1890, the Column set out from Macloutsie, in northern Bechuanaland, and in spite of being dogged by Matabele warriors almost the whole way and being told by Lobengula to turn back, they reached the Mashonaland plateau in August, establishing their first fort near Fort. Victoria. For some reason the Matabele never attacked and the Column continued north intending to make for Mount Hampden, but when they reached the Makabusi River on 12th September, 1890, and saw the kopje they decided that they had come far enough, hoisted the Union Jack, and established the present-day site of Salisbury. The pioneers were disbanded, became civilians and went out hunting for gold, each man being entitled to fifteen gold claims and a 3,000-acre farm. At first progress went smoothly but the settlers soon began to believe that they were colonising the country solely for the benefit of the all-pervading Chartered Company. They also had difficulties with the natives, since the Mashonas, who had always had to pay tribute to the Matabele, now felt that the white men would protect them, while on the other hand the Matabele saw no reason why the presence of the white men should interrupt their depredations in Mashonaland. The hands of the settlers were tied by the Chartered Company's policy of appeasement with the Matabele, and their prestige with the Mashona consequently declined so much that eventually they demanded a "show-down," and Dr. Jameson, the Administrator, obtained the consent of Rhodes and the High Commissioner of the Cape to a campaign. So 700 of Jameson's men opposed 20,000 savage Matabele in two battles at Shangani and Bembesi, where in spite of the disparity in numbers the natives were no match for the white men's Maxim guns and rifles. The Matabele broke, Lobengula fled and the flag was hoisted on the present site of Bulawayo on 4th November, 1893. Jameson sent a flying column in pursuit of Lobengula and in spite of many losses of good men, including Major Allan Wilson and his gallant band who were annihilated on the banks of the Shangani river, Lobengula continued his flight and is supposed to have ended his life by poison in a cave north-east of Wankie and some forty miles from the Zambezi.
Conditions now improved, Bulawayo became the port of entry into the Colony and Fort Victoria declined in importance. Many settlers were attracted to the country and the Chartered Company modified its policy to aid progress. Then came the Jameson Raid, in 1895, when Dr. Jameson led 600 adventurous Rhodesian settlers in a raid on the Transvaal against President Paul Kruger and his burghers. Relations had become very strained between Kruger and the British element and when the raid failed and many men were killed or imprisoned Rhodes accepted moral responsibility and resigned both his position as Prime Minister of the Cape and chairman of the B.S.A. Company. Jameson was ruined, but such was his character that he rose later to become Prime Minister of the Cape.
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These troubles had an immediate repercussion in Matabeland, in 1896, where the Matabele, smarting under their loss of authority, and knowing that so many men with their guns and rifles were out of the country, rebelled. There was a reign of terror in the land and families living on lonely farms and mines were massacred, until reinforcements from the white settlers in the Salisbury district compelled the Matabele to retire to the Matopo hills, where it was impossible to quell them entirely. The Matabele rebellion was subdued to some extent, but the Mashona rose in rebellion soon after the Matabele, feeling that the settlers would be wiped out and that the Matabele would then turn on them to account for their lack of interest in the first rising. The same fearful story was repeated around Salisbury as in Bulawayo and the settlers finally went into laager in the two towns.
Rhodes saw his dream fading, and at great personal risk but with ample and justified confidence in the Matabele,. he camped unarmed at the foot of the Matopos, waiting for the Matabele to venture out to speak to him. After some weeks he was able to hold a series of indabas" at which grievances were rectified and by his own great personal strength of character he brought the Matabele Rebellion to an end. The Mashonas, not being under one central control did not agree to peace until late in 1897, but from that date onward white man and black lived at peace.
With peace in the country, Rhodes set about developing it and the railway from the south was extended to Bulawayo in 1897. A line had been started from Beira on the coast to Umtali on the eastern border of the country, and this was extended and the Bulawayo-Salisbury line finally joined the eastern and south-western borders in 1902. Although Rhodes died in the same year he had seen his country well established, and although his loss was deeply felt by both settlers and natives, his spirit remained and the country forged ahead;
The British South Africa Company was, in 1889, empowered to administer the territories it occupied besides exploiting them commercially, and in 1894, Rhodesia was permitted to be governed by an Administrator and council of four. This gave the settlers no voice in the government, and in 1898 a further Order-in-Council established a Legislative Council in which the settlers were represented but could not outvote the Company's representatives on any matter prejudicial to the Company's interests. The settlers still felt, however, that Rhodesia was being exploited for the benefit of the Company's shareholders and not for the settlers. The agitation continued for a long time until, in 1920 the last Legislative Council consisted of thirteen elected and six nominated (official) members. However, extremely capable administrators governed the country, first known as Rhodesia in 1892, until 1923 when responsible government was inaugurated.
The Chartered Company had jurisdiction over both Northern and Southern Rhodesia as known at present, and although the amalgamation of the two territories was first raised in 1917 it has never been consummated. In 1938 the Bledisloe Commission recommended it as a principle, but not for immediate adoption, and the Second World War necessitated the matter being shelved.
The Company's Charter had been renewed in 1914 for a further ten years, but in 1922, after frequent demands from the people for the right to govern themselves, the British Government decided that the time had come to end the Charter. Considerable dispute had arisen over the actual ownership of the land, as the Rudd Concession had only allowed for mineral rights of Mashonaland, and Lobengula had granted a concession for the land to
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Edouard Lippert, who sold his rights to Rhodes after the occupation. The land was then sold to several private companies and individuals and the Company's claim to the ownership of the unalienated land was disputed for a long time, until the Cave Commission, in 1921, awarded the Company £4,435,225, less certain deductions for land but plus compensation for public works taken over by the new government. At about the same time the question arose whether the country should govern itself or be included in the Union of South Africa, but in spite of an offer by General Smuts's Government to take over the Company's assets at £6,836,000 the great majority of the voters in Southern Rhodesia wished for their own government. Hence, in 1923, Southern Rhodesia began to govern itself, having been annexed as a Colony by Great Britain.
The first Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia was Sir Charles Coghlan, the driving force in the movement for responsible government and he held his appointment until he died in 1927. He was succeeded by the Hon. H. U. Moffat, C.M.G., grandson of the famous pioneer missionary, and he held office until he resigned in 1933. For a few months the post was held by Mr. George Mitchell, but following a general election the Hon. G. M. Huggins became Prime Minister and he has held the post up to the time of writing, being knighted in 1940, the year of the Colony's jubilee.
In 1923 the mineral rights of the Colony still belonged to the B.S.A. Company, but in 1933 these were purchased on behalf of the Government for £2,000,000, the land already being owned by the people. With the land and the mineral problems settled, Southern Rhodesia did not have full autonomy, legislation affecting native interests and the Rhodesian Railways being reserved in order to receive the consent of the British Government before ratification, and all external policy being dependent on the Home Government, but these matters do not affect the fact that this is the only self-governing Colony in the British Empire.
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Air Commodore L.H. Cockey, C.B., Senior Air Staff Officer,
Rhodesian Air Training Group from August, 1943
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At the time of going to press, February, 1945, the Rhodesian Air Training Group is still in full swing although some reductions have taken place. At this stage of the War large reductions have become possible in the Empire Air Training Scheme as a whole. This is due partly to the fact that air casualties have been less than anticipated and consequently large reserves of aircrew have been gradually built up, and partly because basic training is a long-term investment and it is now justifiable to transfer some of the manpower previously locked up in Training to nearer operational stages. So far the reductions have only affected Rhodesia in a small way, and it speaks well for the work of the R.A.T.G. that training in the Colony is being kept going when such large reductions have been made elsewhere. Undoubtedly, further reductions will be made before very long, but whatever the future holds in store for Air Training in the Colony, all concerned in its development can look back on a period of very creditable achievement. This has not been spectacular, but it has played its part none the less in the march towards victory. Further records will be written in due course but it is hoped that this book will serve as a reminder of what has been done to date, and that it will help to perpetuate happy memories in the minds of all who have served in the Group. It is also hoped that it will bring pleasure and interest to the people of Rhodesia, whose boundless goodwill and hospitality have been so much appreciated.
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END OF ARTICLE
Recommended Further Reading: The Story of Royal Air Force Station, Moffat, Gwelo
This recompilation was completed for no finanacial gain but rather to retain and expand on the memories of what happened in Rhodesia during the WW II period.
If copied then please credit ORAFs and those mentioned by ORAF