After my leave finished, I had to head for Oxfordshire to R.A.F.
Transport Command Station, Upper Heyford, my first posting after West Kirby.
No1. Parachute Training School was established here in 1946 . In 1947 the Horsa Glider was included in the Training for the Paratoops. No.1.P.T.S. was at Ringway during the war. The U.S.Airforce took it over as a base for the Air Refueling Squadron, in 1950 and was closed down when they left in 1993.
No. 1 P.T.& G.S moved to Abingdon when the U.S.Airforce took over. (Now it is at R.A.F. Brize Norton)
With a travel warrant made out to Bicester, as it was April/May I knew I would not be home again for some time apart from a weekend pass, that is. On arrival at Bicester I found an R.A.F.15 cwt truck waiting for me, two other bods were picked
up as well, it was only a 5 mile journey so wasn't too bad. On arrival at the camp I was documented told were every thing was, told where I could find standing orders, and told to check them every day.
I was shown to my billet, a two story old building, from the 1920's, thats it below, my mate Bill on the left with my hand on his shoulder.
The main road ran through the middle of the camp, one side the airfield and the other admin and domestic. Once I had setled in I was asked if I still wanted to work on aircraft engines, so I said no I would like to be a pilot, the Flt. Sgt. said
so would we all, with a laugh but you start your trade training as from tomorrow.
I have just found some of my notes from my trade training as F.M.E.
The first was:- Duties of an F.M.E To be able to undertake minor periodical inspections, servicing instalations, testing of engine and engine parts.
The following are some of the of the sketches we had to do.
Proof of my status, this is part of my records from Gloucester, I am too shy to show any more. So after a while I was up for my trade test and passed out as AC1. F.M.E.
Then I had more training on the Dakota enginges, they were Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp, this is the badge,
after which I was a specialist on the Pratt & Whitney. The tools that we were issued with were far better that the R.A.F. issue.
Here are some photos .
No.1. Me soppy but happy.
No.2. two electrician's, two F.M.E.'S, one F.M.A.
No.3. I'm on left, Winnie and Walter (Jock) Turnbull.
As the days went by things improved, I was making friends, doing night shifts where the pilot’s were doing landing on one engine and two of us waited at the end of the runway to restart them with a trolley ac, which was a heavy two wheeled trolley with batteries in and we plugged the cable into the belly of the Dak see photos below,
and here are the petrol bowser crew.
Daks & Gliders.
Sergeant Fred (or Freddie) Stratton.
His nickname was apparently Sgt "Dad" Stratton.
His full name was George Frederick Stratton.
He was a parachute instructor at Upper Heyford,
(and previously at RAF Ringway during the war).
Anyone remember him ??.
Above is the Fairchild XC-82B, first flown in 1947, and finished in September 1948, it could have been at U H same time as me.
2× Pratt & Whitney R-2800-85 radials, 2,100 hp (1,567 kW) each.
No. 1 Parachute Training School was formed at a critical time in the nation's history and is one of the most famous units of the Royal Air Force. The staff of the School comprises of Physical Education Officers and Physical Training Instructors - all of which are qualified as Parachute Jumping Instructors - a Training Design Advisor and a small support staff who provide administrative assistance.
"We ought to have a corps of at least 5000 parachute troops.....I hear something is being done already to form such a corps but only, I believe, on a very small scale. Advantage must be taken of the summer to train these troops.......
" Winston Churchill April 1940.
The Central Landing Establishment was soon formed at Royal Air Force Ringway, Manchester and the first decent was made on 12 July. The first fatality occurred less than 2 weeks later. Parachuting was suspended immediately but very shortly a new parachute was designed and would stay in service for the next 20 years. Trainees were arriving at a rate of 100 every 2 weeks for a 2-week course, consisting of 6 descents at decreasing heights from 800 ft to 300 ft. The first British Airborne operation was carried out by 40 of the original Commandos, now reformed as the Special Air Service at the Apulia Aqueduct in Italy.
In 1946, No. 1 Parachute Training School moved to Royal Air Force Upper Heyford, using Royal Air Force Weston-on-the-Green as the training drop zone.
In 1950, No. 1 Parachute Training School moved to Royal Air Force Abingdon and then in April 1976 it moved to its current home at Royal Air Force Brize Norton.
Over the years No. 1 Parachute Training School has been directly involved in the airborne assaults in Sicily, Normandy, Arnhem and the Rhine crossing.
With time, parachute types and despatching techniques have evolved considerably. At present, students on the Basic Parachute Course use the Low Level Parachute and complete a total of 9 descents before they are awarded their parachuting wings. With the use of various steerable parachutes airborne soldiers can now deploy anywhere in the world from various heights up to 25000 ft.
The following photos are of the time No. 1 P.T.S was atRingway, during World War Two.
Landing & rolling training,
The Trapeze, connected to your chute harness and then the drop controlled by a rope.
Next was the tower, dropped by static line, at the bottom was the pit filled with cork to soften the landing.
Then your first free drop from the captive balloon.
A safe landing, then preparing to drop from a Dakota.
I believe the first aircraft used for parachuting was the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, as seen above.
Then the Dakota took over, since then various aircraft have been used, the C-130 & the Sky Van.
This is the Hercules C-130.
Working on the flights was Ok in the summer but as the weather got colder it was very uncomfortable when draining the water out of the fuel tanks, your fingers got frozen.
Soon it was Christmas 1947 and we were given a 7 day pass. Mid way through 1948 about June/July, on the notice board, (standing orders), the CO, had asked if anyone was interested in taking a two week parachute training course, after discussing it with my mates two of us put our names forward, you never learn do you, they said, never volunteer.
After we had done our basic’s, jumping from stools, back of slow moving 15 cwt trucks and from balconies in the hanger, (on restricting cables), we went outside and jumped from the tower, again on a cable which our harness was attached to, although the area surrounding the tower had loads of cork to soften our landing it still gave you a thump when you landed.
That was the first week the next we went to a place called Weston on the Green. As we approached we could see an old type barrage balloon high up in the sky and things coming down from it, then we saw the parachutes opening, we were taken to the person in charge and were told it would be about 15 minutes before we were called to go into the balloon basket, had we all got our chutes with us, yes, we all said.
Then it was time to get in to the basket, there were some funny coloured faces in it, what mine was like I hate to think, the higher the balloon went the more I thought why am I doing this, next thing we connected our straps to the cable, then one by one we jumped , I was no 2 so did not have long to think about going down. After the initial jerk as the chute opened,it was fantastic looking around, then I was near the ground and had to prepare for the landing, this is what you had been training for, I hit the ground and rolled over as taught and found I was OK. I did have some photos but can't find them still if I do I can put them on here later.
It was good to be back on the ground again, and we all discused it on the way back to camp.
I can’t remember if we had to do one more jump from the balloon before we jumped rom the Dakota or not, if not the next 6 drops would be from the Dak.
Next thing I know I was taken off the course and told to pack my kit as I was being sent out to Germany on the Berlin Airlift, so bang went my final part of the course.
I did write to Brize Norton in 2003, which is where No.1 Parachute School is now, and asked if they had any records of my jumps, and the Squadron Leader who answered my letter said they had nothing in their archives of my jumps, as I had not finished the course, I suppose it could have been a one off by the CO, still I tried.
Went back in 1976 and found the station had been taken over by the USA Airforce, they were there for 43 years.
I found an office that was manned by R.A.F. Personnel and
had a natter about how things were when I was at Upper Heyford.
Then as I was leaving, I was given a Station lapel badge, as below.
Well that will do for now, I hope it wasn't too boring, and some other
ex veterans, from U. H. will leave something here.
Les Haines. 25/07/2010.