Ed Cooke's Recollections Continued (Pt 2)
19 OTU Kinloss
July1942 and I finished my tour on 102 Squadron, after two weeks leave I was posted to 19 OTU at Kinloss, arriving there at noon and unloading my kit bags at the Sergeants Mess the first one I saw was Owen Catt who had been on the course with me there the previous year, he said there was room in his bunk so took my kit over there and we bunked together for the rest of my stay there.
After lunch I reported in and was posted into "B"Flight joining Owen , there were only five others as it seemed as if so few were completing a tour they were short of instructors. Things had changed since my last time here, now we worked seven days a week but I did manage to get the first Saturday off to go into Inverness to visit the Mother of Jim Fraser who had roomed with me on 102 but was lost on the first 1000 raid on Bremen June 25th.our tail gunner was sure that it was them who blew up behind us but for the life of me I couldn't tell his Mother, had to leave her with some hope that he was a POW.
The O.C was W/Cmdr. Robinson but in September we took him south to Graveley where he was taking over the newly reformed 35 Squadron into Pathfinders, W/Cmdr.Gill arrived to take his place. The C.O. was G/Capt.Jarman and more will be heard of him as this progresses.
Our main job was teaching all the tricks we had acquired to the W/Ops. in the air, they started out doing three hour cross countries in Ansons, A W/Op. and a Nav, the W/Op. providing assistance to the navigator via loop bearings and fixes from ground stations, but the main thing was the loop antenna. After so many day trips they went on to night cross-countries and were finally crewed up with a pilot and tail gunner. Usually we went along on there first trip and if they were Ok off they went on there own, first in daylight and then night flying.
We were issued with bicycles, our dispersal point was across the airfield along the Findhorn road, not that we cycled out there very often as we had a small van and a motorcycle for our use. Sgt."Ginge" Sam Tilston was in charge out there and kept the planes flying, quite a character was he. The Sergeants Mess was the same, one main dining room and two ante rooms divided by the bar, one room for the pupils and the other for permanent staff where we made it as close as possible as a home from home. Accommodation was two to a room with the ablutions down the road a way, all in all far superior to my previous stay here.
One day I was due to fly at 1300 so went to the Mess for an early lunch and was just in time to see the C.O. and the Messing Sergeant really having a donnybrook. It appears that the C.O. threw a smoke bomb into the Mess to check the response time of the fire department, the Messing Sergeant saw this thing spitting smoke, grabbed it and put it in a bucket of water, the C.O. wondered what had happened and came it to see threatening to put the Sergeant on a charge for interfering with a fire exercise and the Sergeant was telling the C.O. that with his rank and age he should have had more sense as it would have spoiled the lunches, I believe that it all ended in a draw.
A new instructor was posted in to the flight, Ron Irons, he was a marvelous piano player, could play anything and usually opened with the Warsaw Concerto which was all the rage at that time and there was never a dull moment for Ron. Christmas Eve and we finished work at noon and were going to meet the Officers at the flight office and go out to the dispersal point for a game of rugby plus the beer they had out there. Waiting at the flight and we saw this bunch of people moving along, it was a U.S.Army Officer driving a jeep which was completely covered with all these bods shouting hop aboard but we declined and followed them out in the van. We had quite a time out there, lots of beer and a rugby game where everyone joined in, what a free for all that was, luckily no one was hurt or maybe we had consumed enough beer to keep us safe. The U.S. Officer was saying how you couldn't turn over a jeep and of course we told him B----- so to prove his point he and three others climbed into the Jeep and headed for the grave yard, coming back on the grass and the crazy fellow wound over the wheel and of course it rolled right over, we lifted it off them and set it back on its wheels and none of them got even a scratch. We saw the C.O. driving in and we were heading out but luckily he had imbibed some Christmas cheer so they ended up having tractor races.
Feb.10th,and I was duty instructor waiting for the boys to return and was one missing so I phoned out to the dispersal for any information and which aircraft was missing. I phoned the D/F hut and asked when they had last heard from the aircraft and they informed me that they had given him a QDM (bearing to reach me with zero wind) about half an hour earlier. I laid the bearing out on the map and it appeared as if they had hit Carn nan tri-tighearnan, P/O. Stephens was duty pilot so we took off in a Anson and stooged around for over 3 hours trying to get a view of the mountain but it was covered in mist and cloud but we had to finally give up.
The next morning we took off again but alas couldn't get anywhere close so had to return to base. It was decided that two parties should be formed to attack the mountain from two sides. We were taken in trucks to as close as we could get to the Eastern side of the mountain and then we spread out and hiked our way up. As the day progressed the cloud and mist slowly cleared away and as we approached the summit a varey light went up from the other party attacking from the West. The aircraft had ploughed in to the mountain about twenty feet below the summit and all were killed, we loaded the bodies on to stretchers and carried them down to the trucks. It was always stressed to the pupils that they fly at least 1000 feet above the highest terrain on there route and only let down when they knew where they were, we seemed to lose quite a few this way and it was decided to tune in the T1154 to a M/F D/F frequency for use in case of an emergency and I was delegated to do the job and my log book reflects all the aircraft I air tested.
Early March and a A.M.O. came through saying that W/Op. A.G's were now eligible for there crowns and the rank of F/Sgt. and on D.R.O's Sgt, Jennings and myself were the first to be so honored but had to go for an interview with the C.O. Reporting to his office at the appointed time and waiting to be admitted Mike Jennings said to me that you know how the C.O. is so don't say anything, called into the office we marched in, halted in front of his desk and saluted, probably lucky for me the C.O. said "Sgt.Jennings, how many men have you put on a charge", none Sir replied Mike and after being asked why remained quiet so the C.O. proceeded to tell him his duty in no uncertain terms and only finished when he ran out of steam. Then it was my turn and when asked why I had not put any men on charge I replied that I believed that an ounce of prevention was better than a pound of cure, his face went red then he shouted "OUT! OUT!", so we about faced and marched out.
So much for keeping quiet I asked Mike, oh well there goes our crowns, but on D.R.O.'s two days later there we were, Mike wasn't too happy as his was back dated to December and mine was to August. As if all this wasn't enough, in April my W.O. came through so what more could one ask for and probably the result of this I was delegated to go to Grantown-on-Spey in May to organise there Wings for Victory week I was given a Sgt. Air Gunner and between us we obtained enough stuff to fill a truck, the largest being the Turret from the firing range and off we went on this Friday morning, arriving in Grantown we unloaded the truck at the Town Hall and then had to arrange our display plus leave enough room for a parachute packer who was to follow on. We put on quite a do, having the display open from 9-0am to 9-0pm.,plus the time to set things out and put them away at night. The final day was a Saturday and there was quite a parade, the two pictures were sent to me and were taken by the local paper, but it was quite a relief to return to camp and our regular routine.
We were getting a few more instructors in and one was quite a puzzle,
here was this tall Sgt.in new uniform with the DFC and DFM medals,
"Slim" Matthews and his story didn't do much for the powers that be in the
RAF, on his first tour he was awarded the DFM and also commissioned, after a period of "rest" on his second tour he was awarded the DFC and attained the rank of Fl/Lt. when on a return trip they crashed and he was in hospital for quite a time then discharged as "unfit for further
service", after being at home for 3 months he recieved a letter from the Air Ministry to return to service as a
P.O., he replied that he would be glad to return but at his old rank of
Fl/Lt., finally he was told to come back as Sgt, or be conscripted into the Army as a private.
There was a small grass plot in front of the Mess and a fence around consisting of stakes about 24 inches high and two strands of wire joining the whole thing.We had a party in the Mess one night and the Officers were
invited, Davie Dunlop and Don Mansbridge lived out at Findhorn and seeing them off after an evening of
fun, off drove Davie followed by Don, but some silly b---- had tied Don's bumper to the fence and off he went down the road with all this fence trailing along behind
him, it probably dropped off before he got to Findhorn.
|All Pictures copyright Ed Cooke.|