I daresay that just about this time you’ll be getting quite a raft of mail from the boys of Course 6@, seeing that we all got our F/O’s the other day. There was bags of panic and a hell of a clamour for broad braid. We were all F/O’s very smartly, when in battle-dress, and a few in great-coats, but nobody took the risk of doing their own tunics, and it took a while to ferret out the station tailor.
Mortimer & I arrived on the same station the other day and he showed me a letter he had had from you. I was sorry to hear you were delayed on your posting to Ferry Command. I hope things have started moving for you again. I had indirect news from one of the Australians of course 63 who went to Ferry Command, and he’s evidently had some very interesting trips. I believe he’s been pretty well all over the world.
At present Mortimer, Wey, McKillop and I, with our crews, are on one station together. We did O.T.U. at different schools, so I hadn’t seen any of them for several months, and we’ve had some good chin-wags since we landed together. Les and I are hoping our crews get posted to the same squadron. I daresay there’s a chance. Grunall hasn’t finished O.T.U. as he’d had two pilots who were both grounded for medical reasons, and Don Richardson, having been sick, hasn’t properly started O.T.U. yet.
We are all quite happy to have finished O.T.U. It was a fair course, and we learned a lot about flying, and about navigation. We also got our crews and, of course, did all our flying with them. That was the best part of it all. It is remarkable how much better you can work when you have your own crew. It is also remarkable how much better navigation you get when you’ve got a pilot who doesn’t claim to know where he is, like all the staff-pilots we’ve always been flying with. When the pilot flies your courses in blissful ignorance, you get where you want to go, and also get winds that are reasonable. It makes it much more satisfactory for the navigator. It also helps to be able to give somebody hell without being afraid of the adverse report they’re liable to turn in about you. I think my most memorable trip at O.T.U. was one where the compass was U/S. We went all over the sky that night. What a trip that was. Astro U/S, and with the compass U/S, that automatically made the loops U/S, even more so than usual. However, we made base O.K. I had an instructor with me and got quite a good criticism for the effort. We’re not operational yet, by any means, and don’t expect to be for some time, but we have been out peddling papers once. We had a very nice trip. As for the Ops, when we get there, I’m not forgetting your request to write your name on some of the bundles of cheer we carry. I’ll put you on the first block-buster I carry. That should be one time when your name, dropped in passing, should really raise hell.
We have a very good Bomb Aimer. He takes me some very nice astro-shots, and flies me nice courses when he’s flying, and drops some wizard bombs. His weak-point is pin-pointing, but I’m teaching him fast. If you’re still at the A.O.S., here’s a suggestion I’d like to pass on. In my estimation, pin-pointing is of supreme value, for there are certain times when nothing else will do. For instance, conditions of visibility are sometimes such that you can get lost in the circuit of your base aerodrome. This would be almost humorous, if it were not so serious. Don’t think I’m exaggerating, for I’ve seen this happen on one trip, a certain crew got over base and into the circuit, and got twelve miles away 3 different times before they got landed. I would suggest that Navigators and Bomb-Aimer’s practice map-reading from the Bomber’s position in the nose. This gives about the same limits to the field of vision as you get from very duff visibility, and helps one to practice identifying places quickly. If you get a ground-speed in the vicinity of 200 mph, and can’t see over for 3 miles, you can’t frog around long in identifying a place. Also, while the Bomb Aimer is supposed to be the map-reader, the Nav. Wants to make damn sure he can map-read better than the Bomb Aimer, or else he’s liable to have some disconcerting experiences. Normally, I never get out of my office during a flight, but I still make a practice of being thoroughly familiar with every stick and stone within 20 or 30 miles of base, so much so that I can locate myself instantly, without a map. I’ve found this to be mighty valuable. On a good many trips I used to come into the co-pilot’s position and map read my way in from the E.T.A. position. This sounds absurdly simple, but when you consider the vis. It’s not so absurd. Mist and industrial haze are things you just don’t learn about by experience, at No.2. A.O.S. I’ve seen days when you could see maybe 2 miles “down-sun” and about 200 yds. up-sun. With these things in mind, I can’t over emphasize map-reading, and I’d suggest that a navigator shouldn’t be satisfied until he can pin-point himself within two or three hundred yards, and do it instantly, at any time when he can see the deck. I can’t do it, but I’m sure practicing.
Now here’s a good piece of business. At this point the writing of this letter was interrupted by a week-end in Harrogate, and when I came back there was a letter from you. I was certainly glad to get it and am mighty glad it arrived before I got this posted. I’ll answer it bit by piece before I go any further on ramblings of my own.
We’re not so happy about Don’s condition just lately. Immediately after his operation his recovery was almost phenomenal, but he sort of slowed up then, and was quite sick for several days just before I last left him. He was to have a medical board a few days after that and I’ve not heard from him since then. He’s not worried so much about being sent back home; what he dreads is what we all would dread, being grounded and having to stay here. That is generally considered to be the prize joe-job in the outfit. If we have to be on the ground, we are all agreed we want it to be Canadian soil.
Teaching other members of your crew seems to be a funny business (teaching always is, for that matter). It sometimes seems that when you try hardest you teach the least, and the some other time when you make no particular effort, you put over the greatest amount of information. Also it seems you have to put in a lot of time studying your “pupil.” Just at present it appears as though my W./Op is going to be the man I’ll want to depend on as emergency Navigator. I’ve also found that with a little bit of effort on my part, I should be able to make my rear gunner more valuable as a map-reader, without a map, than my pilot and bomb-aimer together, with maps. My tail gunner has a mighty sharp pair of eyes in his head (thank goodness), and several times he has picked up land-marks which the pilot and bomb-aimer missed.
You mentioned almost washing out a lad for his disposition and were wondering how he’d get along in a crew. it’s a darn funny thing, but Mother had an old saying “Every pot had it’s lid,” and it seems she was right. I’ve seen chaps here that nobody seemed to be able to get along with, ordinarily, yet they have crewed up quite successfully. And vice-versa – some chaps who get along very well on the ground, could never fly together. As long as chaps are allowed to crew themselves up, I think you need have no fears about the lad you mentioned. There may be some grief if he is crewed up the way they do at some units, by just telling a Pilot that certain individuals are his crew. That is not very good. Of course you can always reject a man if you’ve flown with him and find you can’t work to-gether, but everybody dislikes having to resort to that. It is far nicer to be able to crew up as we did, by mutual consent.
Look, whatever would you want to be second nav. to me for? Anytime you want to get in my crew I’ve got room for you, but it will be Hosty that is second nav., and in my spare time, when I’m not shooting stars, etc. for you, I’ll be getting in some dual time, getting ready for my remuster. I’m still going to learn to fly in this outfit. I have acquired a certain amount of inst. Link, and at O.T.U. whenever we got to the bombing range I used to sit in the co-pilot’s seat, and help the pilot find the target on run-ups, and as soon as the bombing was finished, I’d take over, and practice a few turns, etc. Then when the pilot asked for a course for home, I’d say “To hell with a course, I’ll fly you home.” There were other occasions, too, when I was able to dispense with formal navigation, and then I’d get the controls and fly contact. It gave me quite a thrill the first time I put the old Wimpey through a turn, and found that I could keep the slip-needle in the centre. There may be hope for met yet.
Wey told us the other day that he saw Stonehocker in Bournemouth. We hardly believed him when he said that the first place he saw him, Stoney was hoisting an elbow in the biggest bar in town. Has Baxter’s happy event taken place as yet? If it has, give him my congratulations, and tell him I’ll be expecting my cigar any day now.
It’s good to hear that you are getting in the odd flight to the north. They will be a change from the regular Hanna Drumheller route. Did Don tell you he got a flip in a Mosquito on one of his leaves. (And the damn twerp didn’t get it into his log-book!)
This letter is being finished in much pleasanter surroundings that it was started. I started it in our Nissen hut at camp, and at present I am sitting in the lounge of the Overseas League on Prince’s Street, Edinburgh. I have 10 days leave and am spending the whole of it in Edinburgh. My first 3 days will be here at the Club, and I have invitation to a private home for the balance of the leave. At present our leave is to Dec. 23, with an extension quite probable. Am I ever hoping, as I take a dim view of reporting to a station on Dec. 23. I’ve done it once (at Alliford bay) and it sure knocked my Christmas spirit all to hell.
We do very well over here on leave. There is no end of civilian hospitality and anymore who spends a dull leave has no one to blame but himself. There is a Lady Ryder society which organizes hospitality and they are right on the bit. This leave was sprung on us on Saturday, and having no relatives here, I had nowhere that I could just drop in. So I wired here to the club for a reservation for 4 night’s lodging, and wrote to Lady Ryder asking for an Edinburgh invitation, stating the length of my leave, and asking could they inform me here at the club. I arrived at the Club late Monday evening, and this morning, Tuesday, right after breakfast, a bell-hop brought me a telegram which was an invitation covering the rest of my leave. Not bad going, eh! Don & I spent our first leave on a Lady Ryder invitation, with a lady near lake Hindermere. Les Mortimer and I spend the second leave on another similar invitation with a family near Southampton. We had grand times on both occasions, so I’m expecting a good time again.
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If you ever run across a P/O Hostetler, anywhere in Canada it may easily be (in fact it is nearly certain to be) my young brother. He is a Flying Instructor, and just at the moment I can’t say just where you might run into him. The last news I had was that he was finishing his Instructor’s course & expecting a posting. If you see him I’ll authorize anything you can do to him, the young punk hasn’t written to me but once since I left Canada.
Edinburgh looks to be a good town, at first sight. I’ve not been very far this morning, as I have this letter and a few others to finish before I start sight-seeing in earnest. Most big towns here appall me, as they are so crowded and dirty and drab. This one seems different, and appears to look more like a Canadian city. Prince’s Street, just outside my window, is the widest street I’ve seen over here. This is my first trip to Scotland, and with almost 10 days at my disposal, I hope to be able to look Edinburgh over rather carefully.
No doubt I’ve told you of all the cycling we’ve been doing over here. By this method we’ve become very well acquainted with every part of England where we’ve spent any time. To date I’ve lost two cycles. The first was stolen in the summer, and the second disappeared en route, on the railway, when I was posted the last time. I may be able to collect for it, however, if it doesn’t turn up. Just the same, I am still mechanized. My present mount consists of a half-interest in a very fine tandem bike, which I bought in partnership with my W.Op. We bought it in Leeds a little over a week ago and it is our proudest possession. You’d have laughed to see us first get on and start to ride, as neither of us had ever riden a tandem before. It was quite a shaky do for the first few minutes, but it wasn’t long till we learned to swing and sway together, and we are now quite expert at it. It is amazing to note the added speed and hill-climbing ability you get with the same expended effort as when riding ordinary cycles. Of course, our “Geranium” is a very noble effort, with a three-speed gear, and hand-operated hub-brakes fore and aft.
I’m sending you a picture of the “Four Mad Cyclists” of Bournemouth. The fourth member is George Lempriere, a graduate of 62N, at Winnipeg. The picture is taken in front of one of our favourite haunts, the Café Continental, where, by means of a few sweet nothings whispered into the ear of a waitress, we were able to get a pork-chop every evening about 10.30.
Well this seems to have gone on to considerable length and maybe it’s time I should quit. As usual, when anyone of us writes to you, we tell the rest and they all say “Give Doe my regards & tell him I’ll be writing soon.” In fact I believe McKillop got a letter away to you just a few days ago. Give my regards to everyone about the A.O.S. who remembers me. Is Cloudy Joe back there again? Also give my regards & Christmas Greetings to Mrs. Crossley & the wee girl, as well as to yourself, of course. I know this is too late for the Christmas Greetings & the Happy New Year, but just consider them back-dated.
I hope to hear from you again soon. If you let me know when you get on Ferry Command, and how to get in touch with you. I might be able to have a letter waiting for you when you land here sometime, so you’d know where to find me. I’m practically certain to be on a Canadian squadron and would sure like to see you if you hit this country. We could go out to a local and hoist a few.
P.S. – A man passing a pet-shop heard a parrot say “Ah know summat abaht thee!” He tried to buy the bird. The owner would not sell the parrot, but sold the man an egg which he said the parrot had laid a few days before. Several months later he passed again, and again he heard the parrot say, “Ah know summat abaht thee.” He turned slowly, saw the bird, and replied, “And I know summat abaht thee, too. Thy ‘usband were a duck!”