The RAFVR was barely a year old when I received my first flying instruction at the De Havilland School of Flying (also known as No. 13 E & RFTS) at White Waltham, Maidenhead. We were taught on Tiger Moths (DH82A), but other Reserve Schools flew various types. For example, our neighbours at Woodley (Reading), had Miles Magisters and at Hanworth they had a Blackburn Bi-plane (metal) with side-by-side seating.
After the required 25 hours of dual instruction and 25 hours solo on the Tiger Moths we graduated on to Hawker Hart (training special), Audax, Hind etc., and most of our flying was solo, except when being tested for Wings standards. I was not quite up to Wings standard when we were mobilised on September 1st. 1939. I lacked night flying experience because, at that time, there were no facilities for night flying at White Waltham.
You will see from the foregoing paragraph that the VR does not go back as far as the Bulldog, Siskin, Gamecock, Grebe, Snipe, etc., although I have heard that some VR schools had Gauntlets. However, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force existed well before the VR, and its squadrons flew much the same aircraft as the regular Air Force.
Our pre-WW2 flying was “carefree”, indeed. I would say that we had the best flying of all time, but did not appreciate that fact at the time. We had wonderful aircraft, the best possible instruction, and an absolute minimum of restrictive regulations. Few of us had, or needed, any money, life was too good to us. Sadly, many of my contemporaries failed to survive the subsequent war years, but I am sure that those who did survive, owed a lot to the training received at the E & RFTS (Elementary And Reserve Flying Training Schools).
During my time at White Waltham there were few dramatic incidents that I can recall, and my own training was on the whole quite uneven. However it was all absorbing, and we had slot of fun. One incident I can recall concerns the “Cheltenham Flyer” which used to steam past the airfield at a considerable rate headed by the Caerphilly Castle locomotive. It was the GWR’s pride and joy! It was on my annual 15 days training spell late in 1937. I had just gone solo and was having further “dual” training, and being tested on various aspects of our programme. My instructor suddenly shouted “I’ve got her!” and down we went until we were well below the official minimum height, flying through the smoke from the Caerphilly Castle, and hopping over bridges, telephone lines etc. The Tiger Moth was going flat out at about 110 m.p.h., but I guess there was a slight head wind, and my instructor was shouting with rage as the train slowly drew ahead of us. When I looked around I found that we were accompanied by Magisters and Tiger Moths all doing the same thing! The Hawker Biplanes also joined the procession, and further enraged my instructor because they could overtake the train without effort! One can hardly imagine such a scene today!
Off duty, on the ground, we didn’t go far afield, mainly due to lack of money! Few of us had cars, but those who did shared them with the others when possible. (I rode a bicycle from Harrow to White Waltham for weekend flying.) One chap had an old Morris Cowley saloon, with large headlights, and a windscreen that opened outwards. He took six of us out onto the grass aerodrome shooting, with borrowed shotguns, at hare, rabbits and game birds, caught in the headlights. We were surprisingly successful, but l don’t know how we avoided serious injury?
The RAFVR was reconstituted after the war, and I flew Chipmunks at Panshanger for a while, and was beginning to train as an instructor, but all non-regular flying was halted in 1953. I later joined No. 7010 Reserve Flight (photo interpretation), and was retired from the VR to 1975 on reaching my 60th birthday, but 7010, and one other “VR” flight, is still going strong.
F. R. Green
(F/Lt. RAFVR, Ret’d.)