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Max Venton - flight engineer

 Max Venton, age 21 came from Melksham, Wiltshire Max was an ex-pupil of Trowbridge Grammar School, he enjoyed the outdoor life and was articled to the town surveyor in Melksham.  With thanks to Max's brother Colin for the portrait photograph.

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Trowbridge Grammar School

Max's family had a small business selling and servicing cycles and motorcycles  in Melksham.

Coincidentally, my mother as a young girl of 14 years old and having just left school, worked in Webbs the Bakers.

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As a young man Max kept a diary of his many "adventures" in the countryside around his home town.  He was a great observer of nature and had a an avid interest in topography and land use, which undoubtedly linked up with his desire to become a surveyor.

This account relates to "Cuff's Corner just outside Melksham.

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He was also a member of the local Air Training Corps (ATC) which had been established on 5 February 1941, with King George VI agreeing to be the Air Commodore-in-Chief, and issuing a Royal Warrant setting out the Corps' aims. A new badge was designed for the ATC and, once approved by the King, was distributed in August 1941. The motto ' Venture Adventure ', devised by Air Commodore Chamier, was adopted by the ATC and incorporated into the badge.

Screenshot 2021-11-22 at 22.09.27.png father aged 19 in his ATC uniform in early 1942.

ATC cadets on parade and.....


This extract gives an idea of some of the ATC activities:  "ATC in the evening.  Tried out Aldis lamp with NCO's and drill."  The next day was "Morse with the Aldis lamp and navigation."

An extract from Dad's diary:   "Work.  Miserable day.  Comp lost.  Only six planes seen (this was in Dad's work as fire-watcher from the roof of a local factory).  Went up the camp in the evening.  Had a game of rugger.  Went to the NAAFI with Max and Wilf afterwards."  

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Dad had already written in "Got Prof(iciency) certificate (pilot)" for May 11 1942, but this certificate shows  that  the previous November he also had the Wireless Op. award.  

Other diary entries show that they studied maths, navigation, P.T., rifle shooting, aircraft recognition, morse code, gas defence etc.

Max and Dad were posted to S Rhodesia to train as pilots; for a couple of country lads the new landscape was a revelation:


Max exploring a kopje and the flora and fauna near Bulawayo.

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Max wrote many letters to his school friend Dick back in England, I was honoured to be given these by Max's brother Colin.  To the left is an extract from one of them which describes a task given to the newly arrived trainees when they were taken out into the bush, or bundu  as it is known in Rhodesia, and had to navigate their way back to camp.  Toby Williams mentioned here is my father.

Sadly the ostriches in the photograph that Dad took are barely discernible!

Below are a few more photos from Max and Dad's Initial Training Wing days in Rhodesia:


After gaining his wings on multi-engined aircraft, Max was posted back to the UK ready for further training to become a bomber pilot.  But, like many others, he found that the Empire Air Training Scheme had worked so efficiently that there was a surfeit of pilots.  He was given the option of re-training as a Flight Engineer, which he chose to do, so he was posted to No.4 School of Technical Training at St Athan, details of which will be found in "Trade Training".

Above, LAC Williams, the intrepid photographer armed with his Leica camera.

More details of Max's time in S Rhodesia can be found at

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