Rowland Ward's pilot training

 Having been accepted as fit for aircrew training in October 1942, Rolly was issued with a lapel badge to show his membership of the RAAF Aircrew Reserve and told there would be a wait of some months before his call-up. Shortly afterwards he received an issue of twenty one books which he was required to study; they covered mathematics, Air Force law, theory of flight and related subjects.

No. 10 EFTS Temora

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Temora airfield in 1942/3, with many of its 97 Tiger Moths on show.

In January 1943 he was posted to No.10 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) Temora, where he spent two months learning to fly in the de Havilland Tiger Moth. If there was any doubt at all in Rolly’s mind about just what he was getting into, it would have been dispelled in March with two fatal accidents involving members of his course. 

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Just over a week later, on 10 March, LAC Frank Brooker from Artarmon NSW took off in Tiger Moth A17-433 accompanied by his instructor Sgt Cyril Plisch, the latter having 527 solo hours on Tiger Moths.  At 10.15, the aircraft struck the ground 7 miles south-east of the airfield, bursting into flames and killing both occupants.  The cause of the crash was unknown, although it occurred in a low flying area so again pilot inexperience (Frank Brooker had just under 4 hours solo, though 14 ½ hours dual on Tiger Moths) could have been the reason.  Other accidents had been caused by severe down-draughts on the leeward side of hills in the area.

On 2 March 1943 19 year old LAC Brian Flynn from Waverley NSW, took off to do circuit and landing practices, he had just 1 hour of flying experience since his first solo.  As he approached the airfield on a gliding turn, the Tiger Moth spun into the ground killing Flynn instantly.  The probable cause of the accident was attributed to poor technique on behalf of the trainee pilot.

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Typical scenes at a Temora; a group of pupils and instructors in front of their Tiger Moths, and on a training exercise.

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Rolly's class of smiling trainees at the end of their EFTS course.  Rolly is on the right of the instructor.

No. 6 SFTS Mallala

Having survived the rigours of his first experiences in flight, and gained some proficiency as a pilot, it was time to move on to bigger things.  Rolly was posted to No. 6 Service Flying Training School Mallala flying twin engined Avro Ansons.

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Dan Conway explained in his book "The Trenches of the Sky" that:  "the trainees main worry was how they would cope with the twin-engined Anson, which until recently had been the frontline bomber and reconnaissance aircraft of the RAAF.  With two motors and a blind flying panel, it was a big step up from the Tiger Moth.  The fledgling pilots soon found however that the "Aggie" was a respectable dowager without a vice which, for example, when practising stalls, would "mush" down slowly without dropping a wing."

The Ansons of Mallala on display!

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The Anson cockpit

But there was no room for complacency, things could and did go wrong, from rather embarrassing landings:

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...to much more serious accidents....

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LAC Gordon Young was coming towards the end of his SFTS course in early July 1943.  He was on a solo cross country exercise, with 81 hours of flying time under his belt, when he lost control of the Anson whilst in cloud.  The aircraft was seen in a steep diving turn coming out of the base of the cloud at 800 feet.  The inevitable crash happened killing Young instantly.  Trainee pilots were specifically ordered to avoid flying in clouds.

Two weeks after this tragedy Flying Officer John Pettit, one of the instructors with 1232 flying hours logged, accompanied by 4 maintenance personnel took off on a 240 hour check flight in Anson W2556.  They failed to return.  The next day 29 aircraft conducted a search for W2556, small bits of wreckage were found in St Vincent's Gulf though no bodies were recovered.  Pettit and his passengers were listed as missing presumed dead, no cause for the crash was ever established.

LAC Cook, another fellow pupil on 32 Course crashed Anson AW262, he succumbed to his injuries and died the day before "Wings Day",  when successful pupils reached the end of their course.  Rolly is shown circled on this auspicious day, 23 July 1943.

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No.2  E D Bradfield Park

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Having successfully completed his flying training in Australia, Rolly's next step was a posting abroad.  He was sent to No. 2 Embarkation Depot, Bradfield Park in Sydney. 

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After a short stay there, he embarked on a troopship for the United Kingdom on 11 August 1943, arriving in England on 16 October.

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All aircrew arriving from overseas were initially sent to a Personnel, Despatch and Reception Centre (PDRC) which were usually peacetime holiday towns such as Blackpool, Bournemouth, or in Rolly's case, Brighton.  He would have stayed either at the Grand or the Metropole hotel whilst all the paperwork regarding postings for further training was sorted out.

His first posting must have surprised, and perhaps dismayed him because he was sent to an Elementary Flying Training School equipped with Tiger Moths!

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This was 29 EFTS Clyffe Pypard near Devizes in Wiltshire.  He spent a month there, from 31 December to 31 January and he would have found the flying conditions very different to this he experienced in Australia in every respect, not least the weather and the landscape.  This really was a period of acclimatization.  The accommodation was a little different to the Grand Hotel, the ubiquitous Nissen hut with its infamous pot-bellied stove in its centre which roasted those whose beds were near to it, but whose heat couldn't be felt if they were at either end.  The acclimatization also extended  to the flying conditions, most notably navigating over the complex network of England, its fields, lanes, woods and villages with few notable landmarks.

He spent further time "kicking his heels" at No. 104 Personnel Despatch Centre RAF Hednesford in Staffordshire  before being sent on 21 March to No. 3 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit at South Cerney in Gloucestershire.  Here he learned to fly Airspeed Oxfords, known as the Ox-Box; twin-engined aircraft like Ansons but with a "less well mannered" performance.  Compensation had to be made for a pronounced swing on take off and a marked but not predictable tendency to suddenly drop a wing prior to a stall.

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He joined Course No.45 on 3 May based at nearby Bibury, the home of 1539 Beam Approach Training (BAT) Flight, starting with a lecture at 07.30 hours by F/Sgt Taylor.  An hour later 3 aircraft were flying in good weather until 17.30.  This pattern continued until the end of the course on the 8 May; it was a very intense course mostly consisting of the aircraft taking off up to 100 feet or so at which point the instructor pulled a screen over the trainee's side of the cockpit, blacking everything out.  From that point onwards flying was by instruments only, guided by the radio beam until in the final stage of the approach for landing the screen was removed.  During this course Rolly also passed the General Instrument course on the Link Trainer, a rudimentary but effective flight simulator.

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Beam approach (sometimes written as blind approach) was essential training for bomber pilots who would had to return to their bases in the dark in often less than ideal conditions, where visibility could be marginal.  The beam approach system relied on two audible signals, Morse A (dit dah) and N (dah dit) which were transmitted from different parts of the airfield.  Listening to the signals through his headphones, the pilot was able to determine from which side of the airfield he was approaching.  When he started hearing both signals at different strengths, he was aware of how close to the runway centreline he was.  When both signals merged and became a continuous sound he knew he was "on the beam", perfectly lined up.

Canadian borne F/Lt Harry Cave was an instructor at Bibury before becoming operational as a Lancaster pilot.  "Bibury," Harry said, "was the most beautiful town in the whole of England, but the meals were foul, never worse, terrible!"  Rolly was probably thankful that the course only lasted a week.