LETTERS HOME FROM A LOVING SON – PART FOUR
The pressure was on for No.6 Course to get to grips with the more technical flying. On 21st April Arthur apologised to his parents for not writing as often as before.
“We seem to have less spare time than ever. When we do we usually go the flicks. We’ve nearly finished our Basic Training and in about two weeks we shall be going onto Advanced training – flying the Harvards. I have done about 130 hours, including 15 hours night flying – a lot of it solo. I think that a bright city looks far nicer from the air at night than it does at day. We were over Dallas a few weeks back and saw all the bright streets and the skyscrapers brilliantly floodlit.
“A few days ago we were visited by Lord Halifax. With him were one or two of the newsreel representatives (Movietone, Universal or something). I suppose this letter will get home too late to warn you but if you do see the shots they’ll give you some idea of what the camp is like.
Love from Arthur”
By now the weather was fine and getting increasingly hotter by the day. The students were hoping soon to be able to discard the RAF Blue uniform and wear some much lighter summer uniform.
“If there’s any sunshine at home we go into the garden and enjoy it. Here in summer it’s just one mad dash for the shade. Our barracks are cool and the windows have shutters otherwise it would be very unpleasant for studying. We finish this week on the Vultees and before we go on to Advanced training we might get another week’s leave. I fancy going by myself this time to Santa Fe, in the Rockies and into Colorado. If not, there are plenty of high mountains around Santa Fe.”
Arthur’s Swiss background and love of the mountains and the outdoors generally was showing very prominently at this time and on 12th May he was able to write home.
“Well, I made it at last! I intended to spend my leave in the Rockies and I did get two days there. I was hitching towards Santa Fe but gathered that Colorado Springs was the best place to see the Rockies. So at Amarillo I headed North instead of West and after about 2 ½ days I got to Colorado Springs, staying just outside in Manitou Springs.
Unfortunately it was too early in the year for much mountaineering. The snow was still very deep on the mountains. So I decided to try to climb Pike’s Peak (14,100ft). Although I did not quite reach the top I got onto a small peak about 1,500 or 2,00 from the summit. It was very much like Switzerland. The mountain is rather like the Jungfrau, with a railroad to the summit, although shut owing to the snow. I’ll send you the photos that I took.
All jealous by now? Some of the chaps took the train to Hollywood where they were shown round the studios, meeting many of the film stars – Priscilla Lane, Johnny Weissmuller and a host of others.”
We’ve started on the Harvards now.
They are really nice planes to fly and a good bit faster and more powerful than the Vultees. There are even more controls, instruments and gadgets to mix you up – and I don’t have to forget to lower my undercarriage before I land. Fortunately there are plenty of warning devices – hooters and the like.”
With all the activity in the good flying weather it was two more weeks before Arthur could write home again.
“I’m enjoying the flying now better than I did when I first started. Aerobatics are far nicer to do as there is plenty of power in the engines of the advanced trainers. Last week I flew up to Wichita Falls (about 160 miles) returning by the same route. The amount of petrol used for that little trip amounts to a good deal more than your basic petrol ration for a whole year, by the way. I’ve a good deal of work to do to prepare for some exams in just over a week so I’ll write again after then.”
When he did exams were over and lectures finished they were able to spend some time relaxing in the swimming pool. They had all heard of the 1,000 bomber raid on Cologne and hoped that one or two towns would be left for them to have a go at!
“The Americans seem quite impressed and every newspaper I pick up has got something about the RAF in it.
“Love from Arthur”
That was his last letter home from Texas. Basil Amos remembered their graduation parade for another reason. He said that the box containing their coveted “Wings” had gone to another BFTS and all they received in Terrell was a box containing a pair of size 10 boots destined for yet another BFTS.
Those who passed out as pilots travelled back to Canada by the route they had entered, received their Wings at Moncton in a very low key parade and crossed the Atlantic back to England. When they reported to the ACRC at Bournemouth Arthur is said to have offered to the Duty Officer to forego his disembarkation leave if he could arrange a posting onto fighters. However, there was a greater need for bomber pilots and he was disappointed.
Not only that but he lost his leave also. All of the RAF boys returning to the UK were quarantined at RAF Padgate for two weeks due to an outbreak of chicken pox on the transatlantic troopship, which was also carrying American GI’s on their way at the start of the build-up of forces in England towards the hoped-for invasion of Europe. Poor Arthur had to wait a few months before he could get back home to see his family as a period of intensive preparation for operational flying was about to begin.