OTU - First Flight

Posted By: Pizzicato

OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 06:58 AM

Gosport - July 23rd 1940

My head’s still spinning. I wasn’t supposed to be transitioning to a frontline squadron for another two weeks, but the loss of nine Defiants from 141 squadron a couple of days ago has forced Fighter Command’s hand. With the Hun becoming increasingly active over the channel, Dowding’s looking to bolster 11 Group with as many aircraft and men as he can spare.

Most of the guys I was training with at RAF Benson are now at “proper” OTUs like Hawarden and Sutton Bridge.


I ended up in Gosport, just west of Portsmouth. It’s not even a real OTU – just a couple of ragged old Tiger Moths, half a dozen recruits and a pair of damp, rotting barracks; all ruled over by the most hideous pair of disagreeably cantankerous ogres Vice-Marshal Park ever saw fit to commission.

Still, it’s not all bad.

This morning, “Lucky” Giles and I got to take the base’s two birds on a little training flight up the estuary to Southampton before heading cross-country to Winchester and Petersfield before finally back home to Gosport. It would have been wonderfully relaxing had Lucky not been accompanied by Squadron Leader Munro and myself by Flight Lieutenant Lambert.

We took off at 6:51.

Lucky went first in the bright yellow Tiger Moth we’ve christened “Custard”.

I followed him in our camouflaged Tiger, “Grumpy”, which got its name from its surly reluctance to start up on cold, damp mornings.

There were no such problems this morning. The warm, bright early morning south coast sunshine was perfectly to Grumpy’s liking and he positively leapt into the air as we roared down the runway.

Once we were off the ground, I began a well-coordinated climbing turn before sliding into position alongside Custard.

As we formed up, I stole a glance across at Lucky and wondered how he was enjoying having the grouchy and unreasonable Squadron Leader Munro as a traveling companion. I could only imagine that he was eternally grateful that Custard wasn’t kitted out with any sort of radio.

Posted By: Pizzicato

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 06:58 AM

It wasn’t long until we crossed the River Hamble and Flight Lieutenant Lambert gestured for me to slide across onto Custard’s left side so that Lucky could make an unobstructed turn to the right once we reached Southampton.

I slotted into position with a little light aileron and rudder as we continued our gentle cruise up Southampton Water.

As we reached the urban sprawl of Southampton a few minutes later, I kept a close eye on Lucky in anticipation of his turn to the North.

Lucky began his turn just as we were reaching the twin bridges that mark the edge of Southampton’s Redbridge district.

Lucky added a little climb into his turn, but I decided to maintain my current altitude.

My decision turned out to be a little foolish as my lower position resulted in me having to stare directly into the sun in order to keep Lucky in sight. Lesson learned.

Posted By: Pizzicato

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 06:58 AM

Lucky rolled out on his new heading using the beautiful Lord’s Wood as a bearing fix.

Meanwhile, I was enjoying the opportunity to take in the wonderful vista of the city as it bathed in the early morning sunlight.

Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in this beautiful panorama that I totally lost sight of Custard.

I frantically scanned the horizon in all directions, but Flight Lieutenant Lambert read my mind – pointing at the distant yellow Tiger Moth in a manner that demonstrated a most distressing amount of irritation. A rush of white heat pulsed through my cheeks and neck as I realised the dressing-down I was going to receive when we got back to base.

My heart pounded and my mind cursed its own foolishness as I opened the throttle and began clawing my way back to Custard.

It took a good two or three minutes before I was back in position off Custard’s right wing. I don’t mind telling you that it was the longest two or three minutes of my life. All I could think was “Please God, don’t let me wash out before I’ve even had the chance to touch a Hurricane’s yoke!”

Posted By: Pizzicato

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 06:58 AM

I was only just back in position as we reached the beautiful old city of Winchester.

I’d barely had a chance to catch a glimpse of Winchester Cathedral, Wolvesey Castle and the Hospital of St Cross before we were gliding into another gentle turn and heading east towards Petersfield.

The leg towards Petersfield was unremarkable beyond the achingly beautiful rolling hills of the Hampshire countryside.

It wasn’t long before we were cruising towards the outskirts of Petersfield, but I was starting to feel rather stiff and cramped. I shifted in my seat and careful stretched my arms and legs to try to keep the blood flowing to my extremities.

Skimming over the heart of Petersfield, we turned south and headed for home.

Posted By: Pizzicato

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 06:58 AM

The stunning scenery dropped away as we gently chugged back towards the coast. The Tiger Moth is such a timid and well-mannered little filly that I allowed myself the luxury of a few moments of blissful dreaming about life in the cockpit of a Hurricane – screaming through the skies in pursuit of a panicking swarm of Jerry fighters.

My transition to fighters couldn’t come fast enough!

My reverie was broken by the appearance of Portsmouth off my left wing.

It wasn’t long until Gosport spread itself out before us.

Lucky pulled Custard into an aggressive inverted half-loop in order to lose some height. I waited a few moments and then followed him… grinning from ear to ear as my stomach dropped away and the wind roared past my face.

As Gosport’s quaint old houses rushed up to meet me, I caught a glimpse of Custard cruising out towards the edge of the town.

Posted By: Pizzicato

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 06:59 AM

Lucky let the town fall behind him before turning for base.

I followed Custard all the way to the airfield as Lucky made a near perfect landing. The gauntlet had been thrown down!

I backed off the throttle and performed a gentle circuit of the airfield in preparation for my own approach.

Once I was well positioned, I lined up on the runway and began my approach.

Flight Lieutenant Lambert’s head made it a little difficult to judge the exact position of the runway, so I found myself using the pedals to crab my way in while looking out of the sides of the aircraft to catch occasional glimpses of the runway.

Posted By: Pizzicato

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 06:59 AM

My hands were sweating as I made a less-than-perfect touchdown.

Luckily, I was able to quickly straighten up and slow to a halt without incident. Not that that made any difference to Flight Lieutenant Lambert who spent nearly 15 minutes chewing me out about my sloppy flying at the debrief.

Still, I’ll have the last laugh.

It won’t be long, now, until I’m rolling, dipping and diving through the skies in a brand, spanking new Hawker Hurricane while Lambert’s still stuck here at Gosport with its stinking, mouldy barracks and crappy old biplanes.

It can’t come soon enough!
Posted By: Chucky

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 08:59 AM

Wonderful! thumbsup
Posted By: Stratos

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 11:44 AM

Great. Lovely pics mate!! Hope your pilot can make into hurricanes soon enough!

Can we get the pic with this caption "Lucky began his turn just as we were reaching the twin bridges that mark the edge of Southampton’s Redbridge district. " I think is the eight one in hires please?
Posted By: Para_Bellum

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 12:12 PM

Excellent AAR.


Posted By: Heretic

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/01/13 06:20 PM

That was really nice.
Posted By: Nick_JM

Re: OTU - First Flight - 09/02/13 05:13 AM

Great writing, well done!
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