Fortunately for those of us interested in air operations from World War 2, many first-hand accounts exist in writing through the plethora of auto biographies, biographies and through some sound recordings. The interest in this period of history has not diminished. The memory of those who lived to pass on their stories and those who did not, will live on forever in print for future generations to learn about. As time marches on, the chances of unearthing new stories are diminishing as those who were there sadly leave us for blue skies up above.
Very occasionally we are lucky to happen across a story that has not been told and through, diaries and log books come fascinating stories that must be added to first hand accounts and primary source information we have available.
By chance I was having a conversation with an ex airline pilot friend and fellow aviation enthusiast about risk in aviation and we got around to talking about air operations in the far east in World War 2. He mentioned he had been listening to a sound recording made by a Sussex man who flew the P47 for the RAF in Burma. He said it was a fascinating tale of his training, conversion to the P47 and finally operations in the last few months of the war in the far east.
I was lucky enough to be able to borrow the disks and spent hours listening to the voice of a man I had never met, but I was blown away by his story telling and loved his ability to bring to life aviation, his trials and tribulations and the risks involved in aviation.
As soon as I listened to this passage I was hooked:-
‘Now the switch was moved in the opposite direction to the engage position and the scream ended abruptly in a heavy grunt and the four bladed propeller began to turn each blade six feet long. Round it went the valves in the cylinder heads making urgent gasping noises, then whoosh, away she went bursting into a rich roaring note. Lovely exciting noises they were. Smoke came swirling back in a hot blast past the cockpit, streams of flames sometimes if the engine had been a bit slow in picking up. Beautiful moments these. That present bit of fear was now completely banished, and I was never troubled with it again. There was anxiety at times, yes, a lot of that, but never again that useless nauseating fear.’
The way the story teller put across both his fear and at the same time his anxiety at starting this powerful 2800 horse power 18 cylinder radial of a P47 thunderbolt, about to head out on his first operational sortie captured my attention.
Also what was nice was that the story was not just about his few months of combat, he took time to expand on his training, his observations, the chacters and the lead up to the culmination of his learning to make him a combat ready pilot. A great story of a little written about aircraft and a campaign that was worth putting into print but also a story that typified many pilots training through Tiger Moth grading in the UK to advanced flying training in Canada.
This is a great story of one mans war, from being selected for pilot training through to his trials and tribulations flying the P47 in Burma.
© Copyright Mark Hillier