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Thread: RAF Pilots

  1. #1
    JJ'sGirl Guest

    Default RAF Pilots

    Hello everyone,

    Could someone please answer my question or point me in the right direction?

    What was the criteria and requirements necessary to become a pilot in the RAF during WW2? For example - age, exams, tests, skills....etc?

    Thank you very much.

    Best wishes,

    JJ's Girl
    http://halifaxhero.googlepages.com
    Last edited by JJ'sGirl; 19th September 2008 at 21:33.

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    That's a very good question JJ's girl, and not one that I know the answer to....even if there is a definitive answer. One obvious requirement is good health; a friend of mine was declared fit for aircrew (he became a gunner) but not to be a pilot since his medical exam revealed an irregular heartbeat. As for the other criteria, I imagine there was a fair degree of leeway in the initial stages of selection though I know they had to sit intelligence tests amongst others.

    My father was grammar school-educated (in this country it means he had passed entrance exams and was therefore shown to have a fair degree of intelligence!), but he left due to family circumstances age 15 (they couldn't afford to keep him at school) before he took any final exams. When he volunteered for the RAF in 1941 age 18, he told the interviewing officers at his selection board that he wanted to be a gunner, however they obviously saw some qualities in him that suggested he would make a pilot, which he duly did in 1943.
    I'll be interested to see what others contribute to this thread.
    Regards
    Max in sunny Dorset
    Last edited by Galgos; 20th September 2008 at 14:22.

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    Max/JJ's Girl,
    There is no short answer - except that you have to be fairly fit, fairly intelligent, and have most of your faculties fairly well endowed, to get in in the first place.
    Beyond that - once you're in - then nothing is beyond possibility.
    I've flown (with total and utmost confidence) with one-eyed Truckie pilots. Not only did they know more about Piloting, but they knew at least as much as I did about The Met. I'd learned it in the classroom and by experience. They'd learned it all entirely by experience.
    You can lose legs and still fly brilliantly (Bader and Hughie Idwal Edwards)
    You can lose an arm and still fly brilliantly (Gus Walker and others).
    What is required is that you have a personality, and force of character, that marks you out as being over and above the abilities of 'normal mortals'. The problem with this is that many of those so endowed do tend to become fighter pilots. More than an unseemly number of fighter pilots have tended to become CAS's (or similar), or failed - spectacularly - on the way up the greasy pole. It shows!
    If anyone wants to carry out an intellectual debate as what makes a good Sqn pilot, and/or, subsequently, what makes a good CAS, then I am up for it!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Rgds
    Peter Davies

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    Thanks for that Peter. Dad was consistently assessed as above-average in his flying skills, but he was a rather modest and shy person. Perhaps this combination made him suitable as an instructor?
    Max

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    From viewing records of several RCAF graduates of the BCATP, it seems that "above average pilot skills" very often resulted in a first posting as an instructor.

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    Max,
    Tks that - so true!
    I had, paricularly in mind, Leigh-Mallory. Double-barelled surname - obvious 'high flyer'. Was (as I understand it) Pain in Arse. Good fighter pilot but - when confronted with strategic, long-term, politicall/administrative decisions - did not have the ability to think long-term, and with a wider view. He ended up (if I am correct) as Chief of Staff to Mountbatten, wherein he was Chief File Shoveller - never ever given an independent Command, ever again, 'cos he was not good enough. Mountbatten himself was a very good Destroyer Captain, but did not have the intellectual abilities to be a Supremo (whatever his connections with The Good & Great). Another case of "Who You Know" taking precedence over "What You Know".
    I could go on at great length, and be fairly viturperative in the process!!!
    If we may require to converse on this "off board", I suggest we do so. Some of the Forum members born after 1945 may have some diofficullty in coming to terms with the realities of WW2 (and immediate post-WW2) decisions.
    HTH
    Peter Davies

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    I will review my father's audio tapes later this afternoon to listen to his comments on this topic (as I know he did comment on it). There was no shortage of people wanting to be RCAF pilots, particularly fighter pilots, and "washing out" was common. Such individuals went on to become bomb aimers (most commonly), gunners or navigators.

    Dad did indicate that if you had high blood pressure or were colour blind, or other sight defect, you would be passed over. He had high blood pressure and was rejected initially, but a doctor straightened his nose, involving significant loss of blood, and he immediately went for another test and was accepted. Another thing they did was hold up a column of mercury by blowing into a tube to see how long you could go before quiting or blacking out. Depth perception was also considered important. Bill's comment about "Above average pilot" is interesting: That was the assessment of Dad's talents, and he went on to become an instructor (much to his disappointment), and later an instructor of instructors, where he taught the "patter" or language of instructing pupils in the air during dual instruction. I suspect his numerous hours contributed to his skill prior to operational training and helped his survival in combat.

    Mountbatten: Hmmm! Not a popular individual with Canadians generally! We remember Dieppe bitterly!

    Jim
    Last edited by JDCAVE; 20th September 2008 at 17:00.

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    Default Instructors?

    Hi Jim,
    Have you read "Boys, Bombs and Brussels Sprouts" by a fellow countryman of yours, J Douglas Harvey? He seems a fairly outspoken character on many issues, one of which is instructors who become operational pilots!! I'm sure it didn't apply to your Dad, but he feels that most were hide-bound by the rules etc that they had spent so long grinding into their pupils that they lost touch completely with the flexibility, inventiveness and "feel" often required of operational pilots.
    Regards
    Max

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    Yes, I have Max, and I remember his comments on this too. I'll have to get it out again as it's been 10 or 15 years since I've read it. It was a favourite book of my Dad's and he didn't seem to be insulted at all by Harvey's comments. We must remember that Johnny Fauquier was Canada's greatest bomber pilot, the CO of both 405 squadron and also 617 squadron. He was a former instructor and former civilian pilot who obviously knew what he was doing. He was described as one who didn't suffer fools!

    On further reflection, I think that Dad would have agreed with Harvey on the need for "flexibility, inventiveness and feel" (to quote your quote) as an operational pilot. Dad really enjoyed acrobatic flying in the tiger moth and had over 1350 hours on TM's Magisters Harvards Cranes etc before going to AFU (Advanced Flying Unit). I think he would have listened carefully to, and taken the advice from instructors at OTU and HCU who would have completed tours.

    Jim
    Last edited by JDCAVE; 20th September 2008 at 17:43.

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    I think others have covered most angles of becoming a pilot. Mostly depended on education and ability as far as RAFVR were concerned. Cranwell cadets already had the education...ex RAF apprentices also had the education as well references from the RAF. Auxiliaries, pre war, had only an interview with the Commanding Officer and an air experience flight with the adjutant: pass both and you were more or less in. It was taken for granted that they were educated and were gentlemen. So, really there is no difinative answer and the ways are diverse.

    Best Wishes.
    Robert.

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