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Thread: RAF Flight Engineer Training (WW2)

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    Default RAF Flight Engineer Training (WW2)

    We have just finished documenting our grandfather's service history and we now want to add some more detail if we can.

    We are particularly interested to see if we can find answers to the following:

    1. He was at RAF Regents Park for a month; was there a particular course that he would have been on (eg was this junior NCO course). Are there any details on the curriculum? Would he have "passed out" from there?

    2. He was at an ITW at RAF Torquay for two months, was there a particular course that he would have been on (eg was this junior NCO course). Are there any details on the curriculum? Would he have been studying "his trade" whilst there? Would he have "passed out" from there?

    3. He was at 4 SOTT for 6 months; Are there any details on the curriculum? Would he have "passed out" from there? As we do not have his log book, would he have started his "flights" whilst there?

    We have picked up "bits and pieces" of information from places like the war memories project but accounts seem to vary, hence the thread to see if there are definitive answers

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by PeteT; 31st October 2011 at 08:53.

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    In essence, Regents Park was where he would have been kitted out, drilled and inducted into the RAF. At Torquay he would have done his Initial Training Wing leading to a decision as to which aircrew grade he would be allocated.

    St Athan (4SofTT) was where he would have received his technical engineer training to turn him into a flight engineer. I don't have a course syllabus but he would have needed to become proficient on all the mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic systems but he would have done no real flying at that stage and the emphasis was on generic systems not aircraft type systems. On graduation he would have gone to a Heavy Conversion Unit (if going to bombers) and met up with a crew. He might have been trained on one type - say the Stirling - but then moved to another type - say Halifax before going to an operational squadron. At the HCU he would have done his type conversions and started to gain flying experience. However, he could have arrived at an operational unit with very little airborne time at all.

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    Hello PeteT,

    I have sent you a 'Flight Engineer' training syllabus to your email address.

    Norman

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    It is with some trepidation that I might disagree with what I have recently seen described as one of the possible Forum Grandees!!!
    Regents Park, I would suggest, was induction, kitting out, medicals (both ground and aircrew), haircuts, jabs, etc, and all the other "hanging about" whilst the RAF collected a sufficient number of possible F/Es to make up a course. I doubt - even with best will in the world - you could do a complete Square Bashing course in a month?
    I suggest that ITW was where the Square Bashing took place - Foot/Rifle drill, Marching, Saluting, Air Force Law, Weapon Training, basic First Aid, basic Field Craft, etc.
    And then off to SoTT to learn what makes an a/c fly (and what don't!!!).
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    My apologies for a 'sloppy' post above: I sacrificed accuracy for speed - not something to be recommended in any aspect of flying!

    Peter is right in that most of the general service training (drill etc) was done at ITW. However, it was at ITW that the final assessments were made re aircrew category for which an individual was probably best suited (or not at all).

    As regards Flight Engineers, here are some stats taken from AP3233. Years are 3 Sep to 2 Sep.

    1940-41 = UK trained 154
    1941-42 = UK trained 563
    1942-43 = UK trained 6022, India trained 14
    1943-44 = UK trained 6705, Canada trained 207, Australia trained 175
    1944-45 = UK trained 4441, Canada trained 1706, Australia trained 194, South Africa trained 79

    The analysis by service of graduate is: RAF = 17899, RCAF = 1913, RAAF = 369, SAAF = 79 Total = 20260. Within the RAF total is included details of foreign nationals but how many and from which country were Flight Engineers is not shown.

    All figures relate to successful graduates. Some personnel who failed in one category might have been offered training in another category or 'washed out' as aircrew altogether. It will also be appreciated that some trainees might have failed later on.

    Finally, I haven't got any idea about awards but Norman Jackson was a Flight Engineer who was awarded a VC.

    Again my apologies for duff gen! Seven days 'jankers' awarded - march out the guilty bar steward (at least that's what I think the CO said he was)

    Colin Cummings

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    Hello Colin,

    Something to chew over while you're in the guardroom. Its really a question about how I'm reading your post number 5.

    Am I right in understanding that RAF volunteers were trained at No 4 School of Technical Training at RAF St Athan; and the rest of the Empire trained in their own country before reaching the OTU stage; as hitherto I have understood all Bomber Command Flight Engineers were trained at 4 SoTT ?

    Thank you
    Norman
    Last edited by namrondooh; 1st November 2011 at 18:30.

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    I don't know the national mix of trainee Flight Engineers at 4 SofTT St Athan. In consequence, I can't say and don't know where it might be recorded (certainly didn't find it in AP3233), how many overseas Commonwealth candidates came to St Athan for training. That said, the listings of various school types for aircrew, only records 'Schools of Technical Training' as being in UK and Canada and hence how did the Australians and South Africans get trained? It is possible that such training was done within the scope of another type of school but I don't know.

    However, it will be apparent from the data posted above that overseas trained Flight Engineers would not have appeared in UK until the end of 1943. That said, of the numbers being trained in Canada and Australia, there was probably a 'home country' requirement for some of those.

    What is well known is that almost all flight engineers, flying in Bomber Command with the 400 series Canadian and Australian squadrons, were RAF/RAFVR for much of the war.

    What I find most remarkable, is that for almost all Flight Engineers there was really a single point of professional training and that was St Athan. One wonders what might have happened had there been a large enemy air attack on the base and how easily the training system could have been disrupted.

    Not a very satisfactory answer, Norman, but someone out there will know!

    Colin Cummings

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    Strange to see that the RNZAF was not represented in the totals of flight engineers trained at Saint Athans (No. 4 School of TT), although perhaps 50 to 100 were on courses through here, practically all from about March 1945 onwards; perhaps they would have been included in the totals for April 1945 - March 1946? The interesting thing about these bods was that they were all trained pilots (most graduated in NZ, but some were canadian graduates), who were apparently told that because of the surplus of trained multi-engine pilots available at this time, their services in this role would not be required for some time, if ever, and that if they wanted to get to an operational unit before the European war "folded up" in our favour, they could undergo a short Pilot F/Eng course and then be posted to operational squadrons (Bomber, Coastal, Transport Commands, overseas commands?) Over 30 of the graduates were posted directly to 75 (NZ) Squadron in about June/July 1945, which was programmed to be part of "Tiger Force" and their Lancasters were configured for 7 man crews, but only one air gunner and with two pilots, including one of these fellows (I believe the mid-upper turret was deleted or unmanned). However this other war also "folded up" some weeks later, so none ever flew on operations despite their training hard to participate.
    The RNZAF also trained some numbers (perhaps up to 150 - 200?) flight engineers in New Zealand from about mid-1943 onwards to man our "home" air force, which required them for PBY Catalinas and C-47s, and later also for Sunderland III transports. These men were, like many RAF-trained F/Engs, allso given a 4-week aerial gunnery course which ws considered an integral part of their duties, but no RNZAF PBY, C-47 or Sunderland was ever harrassed by the Japanese, although they did keep in practice (one presumes with less and less enthusiasm!) as the months and years rolled by.
    And this reminds me of something; so far as I know, most if not all of the original F/Engs trained for RAF Bomber Command from mid-1942 onwards were volunteers from the ground trades - they were not recruited cold as such. However it is quite possible that some may have been later recruited for these duties, although I have no proof of this. Certainly all RNZAF F/Engs in the "home" air force were volunteers from the ground trades of Flight Mechs or Fitter IIEs or IIAs, preferably with considerable experience worjking with engines and, to a lesser extent, airframes. I imagine that the RAAF and RCAF also trained allk of the F/Engs required for their own "home" air forces, although eventually they would also gain the services of those who had completed tours with the various RAF commands overseas too. Those F/Engs who were experienced tradesmen could revert from aircrew to their original trade if they desired after one or two operational tours of duty - perhaps other Board members could enlighten us on this aspect?
    David D

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    I volunteered for Aircrew duties in April 1943,hoping to become a pilot. I was called to the Aircrew selection board in Euston road, where,after medicals,aptitude tests numeracy and literacy tests I was told that I had been selected for Flight Engineers trainingt but as the intakes were all full I would be put on reserve until there was a vacancy.
    Early in1944 I was called to the Aircrew Reception Centre in St John’sWood (Regents Park)
    to start an eight week induction course,(Kitting out ,billet discipline,hair cut,marching and physical training).etc.,
    Toward the end of the course the whole camp was moved toTorquay and Babbacombe ( V1's had started falling in London at that time) we were accommodated in hotels, (recently vacated by the American army units deployed in the Normandy landings)
    On completion of the induction course I was posted to 90 ITW Cranage Cheshire, the course
    covered workshop practice, the theory and practice of IC engines,airborn weaponry,navigation,and liferaft practice etc.,
    Just before the end of the course, all flights were called to a meeting to be told that training of flight engineers was to be discontinued with immediate effect, and that arrangements had been made for us to be remustered to other trades,this to be carried out in Eastchurch Kent.
    This was a great disappointment as we were expecting to be posted to St Athan’s for the finalpart of the course.
    Perhaps this might provide some anwers to some of the queries that I have seen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William View Post
    I volunteered for Aircrew duties in April 1943,hoping to become a pilot. I was called to the Aircrew selection board in Euston road, where,after medicals,aptitude tests numeracy and literacy tests I was told that I had been selected for Flight Engineers trainingt but as the intakes were all full I would be put on reserve until there was a vacancy.
    Early in1944 I was called to the Aircrew Reception Centre in St John’sWood (Regents Park)
    to start an eight week induction course,(Kitting out ,billet discipline,hair cut,marching and physical training).etc.,
    Toward the end of the course the whole camp was moved toTorquay and Babbacombe ( V1's had started falling in London at that time) we were accommodated in hotels, (recently vacated by the American army units deployed in the Normandy landings)
    On completion of the induction course I was posted to 90 ITW Cranage Cheshire, the course
    covered workshop practice, the theory and practice of IC engines,airborn weaponry,navigation,and liferaft practice etc.,
    Just before the end of the course, all flights were called to a meeting to be told that training of flight engineers was to be discontinued with immediate effect, and that arrangements had been made for us to be remustered to other trades,this to be carried out in Eastchurch Kent.
    This was a great disappointment as we were expecting to be posted to St Athan’s for the finalpart of the course.
    Perhaps this might provide some anwers to some of the queries that I have seen.
    Hi William - what a coincidence! I've just started a new thread about my father (he died in 2000) who volunteered for flight engineer training in 1943 whilst in Iraq. He arrived back in the UK in late 1943, spent only a week or so at St Athans in January 1944 but he too was withdrawn from aircrew training and sent to Eastchurch. I'm trying to find out why he was withdrawn from training - apart from yourself I have heard several other similar stories. Any ideas as to possible reasons for this?

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