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Thread: PO Leonard George Gray 136452 Canada

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    Default PO Leonard George Gray 136452 Canada

    I'm looking for some info about my great uncle Pilot officer Leonard George Gray 136452 Who died in a plane crash in Canada in 1943 . I have the following info on his training postings from his records & report of his death.

    No 8 ITW Newquay
    32 EFTS RAF Bowden Alberta Canada
    36 SFTS RAF Penhold Alberta Canada
    19 SFTS RAF Vulcan Alberta Canada
    39 SFTS Swift Current Saskatchewan Canada

    He got his wings in late 1942 & Died in May 43 at Swift Current while training his pupil ( LAC Ashcroft ) in Oxford 718

    My question is how did he become a flying instructor only 6 months after getting his wings without any operational action ? I hope someone can help me out.

    Thanks in advance.

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    Neil,
    There is nothing out of the ordinary as far as I can see. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan fed on itself in as much that most of its Flying Instructors were recent graduates from the Service Flying Training Schools.

    His rank of Pilot Officer suggests he graduated (probably from 36 SFTS) with high marks in both flying and ground exams and been rewarded with a commission. He must then have been posted to a Flying Instructors School - most likely No.2 FIS at Pearce, where he would he would have been instructed in the art of flying instruction and honed his flying skills. I have looked at a few of the log book copies I have and it appears a two or three month course at a F.I.S. would be quite usual and therefore the six months between his graduation and being actively employed as an instructor at an SFTS would not be exceptional.

    Missing from his list of postings is that to Flying Instructors School. There were three such establishments operating in Canada in 1943; No.1 FIS., Trenton and No.3 FIS., Arnprior, both in Ontario and No.2 FIS, then at Pearce, Alberta.

    His RAF record of service should show this posting to a F.I.S. Alternatively, if you can find the full accident investigation report that would also be likely to contain a record of his training. Most of these reports are available on the Canadiana Heritage site. You will need the guidance of someone who is familiar with the Oxford accidents to find which reel it may be on. I cannot help you there - I am still trying to find all the Cornell reports!

    Hope this helps, Tony Broadhurst

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    Thanks for the info Tony. The record which I have has the last 3 postings listed as 32 EFTS , 36 SFTS then Discharged 17/12/1942. I know he was then at 19 SFTS & 39 SFTS from addresses on letters he sent home, The first one from 19 SFTS in Feb 43 so I guess he must have been at FIS between wings in Dec 42 & Feb 43.

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    Neil,
    My apologies - one important correction to the locations I gave. No.2 F.I.S. was located at Vulcan, Alberta during the period in question. The move to Pearce was made in May 1943.

    No.2 F.I.S., Vulcan, Alberta. Aircraft on Strength, Jan 31st, 1943: 47 Cessna Crane and 39 Fairchild Cornell.

    Regards, Tony

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    Neil,
    I’m not sure if this pertains to your great-uncle’s situation, but it may be in the ball-park.
    An RCAF pilot told me he was acting as a flying instructor at Prince Albert Saskatchewan on Tiger Moths in June 1943 when he was an LAC.
    He was given the choice to remain in Canada as instructor or go overseas.
    Shortly after arriving in England, he was again placed as a flying instructor.
    He said that at first it was hard to get used to the British version of Tiger Moth, as it has no brakes!
    Again, he was given the choice of going to instructor’s school or to continue toward operational training.
    He seems to have the skipped the rank of Flight Sergeant and went straight to his commissioned rank of Pilot Officer.
    He did a 32-Op tour on Lancasters and received the DFC.
    After he died, I got his military records where there is no mention of any formal instructor’s training.
    Your great-uncle may have a similar history where there was no formal instructor’s training.
    However, due to skill and aptitude, he was chosen to act as flying instructor.
    Cheers

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    Grounded,
    Do NOT accept that the RCAF (nor any other competent air force in the world for that matter, Allied or enemy!) would have any inclination whatsoever to allow LAC A/P u/t to act as flying instructors under ANY circumstances. Perhaps this a case of bad memory, or misunderstanding, but the log book should make it all perfectly clearly. You certainly need aptitude and some skill to become a qualified flying instructor (normally about a three-month course from memory) during which the all-important "patter" must be learned for EVERY exercise, more or less word-perfect. However when your flying trade is just airman pilot under training you just do not have enough general knowledge, nor necessarily any latent instructing ability, so no way would any competent officer at an EFTS permit one of HIS pupils to act as an instructor, no matter how apparently gifted he might seem. Perhaps there has been some misunderstanding here, as after a period of dual and solo flying at an EFTS, the pupils were "paired up" and could fly together, the intention seeming to have them "learn off each others mistakes" or failure to exercise good judgement, although I am not certain exactly how this could work in practise - however if an accident should occur you would have two on-the-spot witnesses to interview, so it is probably more likely that the truth might out. In addition, it is more likely that should the aircraft be permitted to get out of control when being flown by one of a pair of pupils, there is a chance that the pupil NOT flying the aircraft at the time might have a better appreciation as to what mistake the other pupil made, and be in a better mental state to apply the correct recovery action - however that could never be guaranteed! And should a rather boisterous type of pupil decide on some spirited low flying when they were supposed to be carrying out some other kind of (more boring) exercise, then the other pupil might feel aggrieved enough by the apparent disdain shown towards his personal safety by his "friend" that he may well remonstrate with him on the subject over the Gosport tube, including threatening him with reporting the facts to their instructor on their return if the behaviour did not immediately cease. The some kind of "instructing" also took place at all SFTS's throughout the British Commonwealth after the pupils were considered competent to fly these more advanced aircraft with some consistency. This progression was usually noted in the pupil's log book at the appropriate place in RCAF schools, but not in RAAF or RNZAF schools which still operated the old, pre-war system of Intermediate and advanced Training Squadrons, with only the ATS pupils being permitted to fly together on "mutual instruction" flights where this might be considered useful. Perhaps a closer re-read of this pilot's logbooks will reveal the truth after all these years!
    David D

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    David,
    I do not have any hard evidence regarding his flying instruction:
    His words were, “As soon as I got off the boat they told me I was going flying instructing.”
    In Canada, he finished SFTS in November 1943 and was promoted to Sergeant.
    In England, he immediately went to 3 EFTS from 01 Jan 1944 to mid February 1944.
    Then he went to Topcliffe AFU.

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    Grounded,
    I still think we have a problem of perception here, and although the sequence of unit postings sounds about right, I have NEVER heard of a pupil pilot undertaking instructional duties in the normal sense, and regard the chances of such ever occurring in a wartime Commonwealth air force as less than nil. I take it that your only source of information on this person is a (taped?) interview, and you do not have a log book to provide any official back up, that is apart from his record of service you have since obtained. However by his own words, he seems to be saying that he was functioning as a flying instructor right from the beginning of his EFTS course (and you already know what I think of that), and I think it most likely a problem of "translation". Also on his arrival in UK as a Sgt pilot he was shortly afterwards sent to an EFTS. If his actual words as to the purpose of this posting was "going flying instructing", then I imagine he perhaps SHOULD have said, "undergoing flying instruction again". It was a fairly normal thing for qualified pilots arriving in the UK from Canadian schools at this time to complete a short refresher flying course at an EFTS (usually just a month or so from memory, maybe less), and a posting to a (Pilots) AFU after that would be perfectly normal. Had he ever undertaken a proper flying instructors' course at an FIS, this fact would definitely be very clearly recorded in his record of service. My advice would be to consider all verbal mentions of his being a flying instructor as somewhat dubious, although why he should express this belief is hard to fathom - there is no shame in learning to fly in the RCAF! His full record of service (which you may or may not have) should also mention the purpose of his posting to each of his flying training units, such as "under instruction" (for an airman pilot u/t), or "for flying instructional duties" (purpose self evident). If you stick with the official record, I don't think you can go too far wrong. However conducting taped interviews with these by now very elderly (many now deceased) gentlemen can be confusing to both parties in some cases, although if they have their logbooks handy (they usually do) it can suddenly be very easy!
    David D

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    Tony. Thanks. I guess he did his F.I.S while he was at Vulcan before moving on to Swift current to start training others.

    Neil.

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    Neil,
    I apologise for drifting off your topic.

    David,
    Thank you for putting a burr under my saddle.
    I looked at his documents again and cannot find F.I.S.
    Where is "should" be is the entry:
    Attached - 3 EFTS 50 Grp (Pool) (T).
    Last edited by grounded; 8th January 2017 at 06:27.

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