British Air Transport Auxiliary
In September of 1939, a notice appeared on the pilots' bulletin board at the Army Air Corp at Mitchell field Long Island. It stated that pilots with 500 flying hours would be accepted for flying duties with the Royal Air Force. Interested pilots were to report to the RAF office in New York City for an interview.
At the interview an RAF wing commander reviewed the pilots' logs and determined that several had less than 500 hours and were unable to be considered for flying duties. In March of 1940, I was recalled for a second interview and was asked to report to Mr. Errol Boyd, who was with the Clayton Knight Committee at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
During my interview with Boyd, he noted that my flying hours were less than what the Air Ministry in London required, however, he included me along with nine other American pilots to report to Mr. Hobbs in Montreal, Canada.
I packed my bags and took the train up to Montreal where I was interviewed by Mr. Hobbs, and without a flight check prior to leaving the United States or Canada, was given the OK to leave for England. After a few days stay, I, along with nine other American pilots, boarded a Norwegian cargo ship that was carrying ammo to Britain, and departed Montreal on May 5, 1940. I was 21 years old, had 420 flying hours, and was off on the biggest adventure of my young life.
Our ship was part of a 63-ship convoy and after 23 days of zigzagging across the Atlantic we finally arrived in Gourock, Scotland. There we were met by an RAF officer and escorted to the Glasgow Railroad Station where we took the train for the 12-hour trip to London which made frequent stops due to air raids.
Once in London we ten Americans stayed at the Regent Palace Hotel in Piccadilly Circus. Due to many air raids we didn't depart for Whitchurch Airdrome Bristol until late June. During our stay in London, everyday we were told that Germany would invade Britain.
Upon our arrival at Bristol, we were put up in the Grand Hotel and in the weeks following we were given flight checks by A.R.O. MacMillan in a Fairy Battle single-engine, two-seat Fighter/Bomber, powered by a Rolls Royce 1050 H.P. engine. After passing our flight checks, we were issued a gas mask, a Very Pistol with five flares, a steel WW1 helmet and a parachute. Then each of us was assigned to one of five British Overseas Airways pilots for familiarization flights in the single-engine Battle and Master, and the twin-engine Oxford, Anson, and Blenheim. I was teamed with B.O.A.C. Captain O.P. Jones, and after making several flights in each aircraft, I was certified and began ferrying.
My introduction to four engine aircraft came in January 1941 when Captain Harold Cordiner and I, (as co-pilot), ferried three Liberators, (B-24s), and five Fortresses, (B-17s), from Prestwick to Speke near Liverpool. Each flight was approximately one hour and forty minutes. After that I was permitted to fly all aircraft through class five. My flying time then was 920 hours.
After 7 months at Bristol I was transferred from #2 Ferry Pool at Whitchurch, to #4 Ferry Pool at Prestwick, and In February of 1941, the ATA school moved from Whitchurch to the former #13 EFTS RAF School at Whitewaltham. All ATA pilots at that time were required to attend refresher and conversion training at the school under A.R.O. MacMillan.
In May of 1942, I was given command of the new #10 Ferry Pilot Pool established at RAF Lossiemouth in Northern Scotland, where I remained until the end of the war.
During my five years in ATA I was qualified to fly all single engine, twin engine, and all four-engine bomber aircraft. I flew a total of 87 different types of aircraft. Flying for the ATA was an experience that I will never forget. During those five years I made many friends, some of which I still visit on my trips to the U.K. and here in the United States. Our camaraderie that we shared is among the memories that we often speak about when we get together each year at RAF Air Base Lyneham in Wiltshire England.
After the war I was fortunate enough to be able to make a career out of flying. I was an airline transport pilot with the airlines and retired in 1986, exactly 50 years from the time I first took to the air. I have a total of 33,400 flying hours!
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