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Anthony Johnstone

TJ 's WWII Scrap-Book Memories

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  Then                 Now

Photos taken in training with U.S. Army Air Corps 

August 27, 1941 to March 6, 1942

Southern Aviation School, Camden, S.C.


All the luck in the world to you - Tony.

Remember the Reproduction Room at Napier Field, Alabama!

Thumbs up,

Paul H. Melrood

Ralph L. Ramstad

This page is essentially devoted to my WWII flying experiences!

 I was working in Antwerp, Belgium, for a subsidiary of the British-American Tobacco Co., when the Germans invaded the Lowlands on May 10, 1939 and a week or so later I and countless of other Britons were evacuated by ship from Ostend to Dover, and finally to London, courtesy of the Royal Navy.


            Administration Building     The Main Gate

My young brother joseph, has already enlisted in the army. He chose the Devonshire Regiment, but I had no intention of following in his footsteps. Through my brother-in-law – my sister Moura was then married to a Col. Colin Defries – I was able to find work in a “reserved occupation” which meant that I was safe from call-up – at least, for the time being.

 The Ramp and Cadet Quarters

    My employment was making windshield-wipers for cars and, later, for planes. Needless to say, this situation could not last indefinitely, and in May, 1940, on the spur of a moment, I took the tube to Uxbridge, where there was a long-standing R.A.F. station, and joined up. The paperwork having been taken care of, and being assured that “you’ll hear from us”, I returned to my sister’s residence but not before I had purchased a Royal Air Force Volunteer tie which I was wearing when I met her and said “I’ve joined up!!”


           Calisthenics     Class 42-B on Parade

    I don’t recall whether it was when I enlisted or later on when I was summoned to a “selection board” and was asked “what do you want to do?” and I told them that I wanted to be a pilot. “Why?’ was the answer. “To fight the enemy” was my answer, to which the response was –”We have plenty of pilots, you can be a Wireless–operator/ Air-gunner and fight the enemy that way!!” That certainly was not what I had in mind as I had heard of rear-gunners literally being hosed out of their turrets at the end of a mission, but if that was what I was destined for, so be it!!


 The Flight Line from the Ramp        The Flight Line

    I was sent to Blackpool for “foot-slogging” – the equivalent of boot-camp here in the States. Before the war it was strictly a holiday destination, with nothing but boarding-houses overlooking the beach and throughout the city. Now, the R.A.F. had taken it over and we, raw recruits, were their occupants. It certainly was a good money-maker for the owners!!!

Stearman PT-17s

    Besides learning basic military discipline we attended radio classes every day where we were introduced to the Morse Code. I had already made up my mind that I would be the best Wop/Ag ever, and I studied my dits and dahs at every opportunity. As I marched in cadence with the others in my squad I would “morse out” street names so that eventually, even at 15 words a minute, I could copy what the instructor was sending while reading a book or possibly, a dirty magazine!!!!


       The Coke Machine         Mess Hall and Hangar

    It was at about this time, while still in Blackpool, that I underwent another selection board. I remember distinctly the Group Captain saying to me “I see you want to be a Radio-operator/ Air-gunner”. “No” I replied, ”that is a mistake. I requested to be a pilot”. Some discussion followed, followed by a couple of mathematical questions, and he finally said to me, “I’m giving you the opportunity to be a pilot, but you’ll never become one”. I saluted smartly and exited the room!!


Stearman  PT-17 #22

    Things changed after that. All of us who were bound for aircrew duties were issued white “flashes” which were inserted into our forage (side) caps, and which made us stand out among the other “ercs” (recruits). We marched at a higher cadence and we definitely felt SUPERIOR!!

Budding Pilot!

    Finally the great day arrived!! We received our orders to proceed to Greenock, Scotland, to board a ship which was to take us to Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, whence we presumed, we would depart for our final destination in the U.S.A.


Taken the Day I Solo'd - 17/9/41

sitting down on the jobThis was taken on March 6, 1942, on graduation





    After a few days in Moncton where we were amazed at the food which had been unavailable to us in England – butter,jam, etc  - we boarded a train for Ontario, Ottawa, and finally ended at #1 Manning Pool there. I have no recollection of what took place there, but the next thing I recall is that we were on a train heading south into the U.S.A. accompanied by quite a few GIs. I remember having the currency explained to me. The soldier showed me a quarter and pointed out “In God we trust” and, he added, “there is the Latin translation on the other side!!!”


My First Instructor                        Jaynes, Myself, Burrows 

- A.R. Burrows                            and Kennedy

    Our final destination ended up in being “Southern Aviation School” in Camden, South Carolina, where we were to do our Elementary Training.  We had civilian instructors with U.S. Army Air Corps officers supervising the whole operation. My log-book shows my first flight – in a Stearman, for 43 minutes, on August 29, 1941, – during which time I learned the effects of control, straight and level flight and turns.


    Approximately 3 months and 63 total hours later we were transferred to Cochran Field, Macon, Georgia, where we were to carry out our Basic Training in Vultee BT-13s. My first flight was Nov. 6, 1941 – an orientation ride of 35 minutes. It was while I was in Macon that an incident occurred which caused me some trouble but not irreparably as I was later promoted to Cadet Lieutenant.


                                            Myself                     My Second Instructor  Anderson, 

                                        Wimbush, Croley, F.D.Croley, and Sanderson

    I had read in the paper that Pres. Roosevelt was coming to Warm Springs, Georgia, for a belated Thanksgiving Dinner, and I decided that I would hitch-hike there and see him. This was in December of’41. My fellow cadets asked me where I was going for the week-end and I told them “have Thanksgiving Dinner with the President!!”  I reached Warm Springs without any problem, but getting into the Warm Springs Foundation grounds was certainly not easy. I eventually did so and to make a long story short I was able to have a few words with Pres. Roosevelt.


 My Third Instructor - Grubb W.B.     Wright, Grubb, Sancha, Me.

    An account of my meeting ended up in the local press and I was confined to camp for one month, given 20 demerits and ordered to serve 20 punishment tours which consisted of marching up and down in front of Headquarters. It was the Sunday following my meeting and I was serving the first day of my tours when a GI came rushing across the field and shouted at me “Guess what?” and I answered “What?” “They’ve just bombed Pearl Harbor!” “Where the hell’s Pearl Harbor?” I replied.


    That day was December 8, 1941 and things changed after that. We were no longer restricted to civilian clothes – the U.S. had been neutral(??) up to then – and we started to wear our R.A.F. uniforms.  My last flight at Cochran Field wasJanuary 2, 1942, and after 76 hours of flying in BT-13s we moved on to Advanced Training at Napier Field, Dothan, Alabama. We were Class 42C and the class before us were Brits who made us toe the line, just as we did with the class that followed us. We flew AT-6s or Harvards as they were called in Canada.


Mel and Instructor - G.F. Reid        Instructors at Camden

    By now we were pretty well assured of graduating. It was just a question of keeping out of trouble. But that was not to be with me! (So what’s new???) On a X-country flight with my good friend Joliffe he upchucked and was quite concerned that if they found out about the incident he would be declared unfit for flying. So I chose to land at an unpaved airstrip so that we could clean up the plane before returning to base.

Russian Officers visit Camden  20-11-41


Inspecting a  PT-17                           Col. F. Pavel Berezin  and F/Lt Keith, RAFAO

    Unfortunately, contrary to the elementary rudiment of landing in the first 1/3rd of the field I landed long and found myself facing a fence. It was either brake or ground –loop. I opted for the former and the aircraft gracefully ended up on its nose!!! My instructor came out to survey the damage but nothing became of the incident!!  I flew 70 hours at Napier.  my last flight being on March 2,1942 – a  3-ship formation lasting 1.75 hrs.  Total time to graduate with US Army Air Corps Wings – 209.5 hours. The graduation date on my diploma is March 6, 1942.


Russian Officers visit                Lieut. FAHS Shows Them How!

            Southern Aviation School 

    Needless to say, the first thing we did was to purchase our US Army Air Corps Wings, which are the same as used today by pilots of the U.S. Air Force. Some of us were granted commissions and stayed behind as instructors. The remainder received the rank of sergeant and we purchased our stripes and R.A.F. wings either in Canada or in England on our arrival there. We wore both our wings and no wonder we were called “biplane pilots!!!”


Col. F. Pavel Berezin                           Col. Ilia M. Sarayev

                Assistant Military Attache

    I spent some time in Bournemouth “hanging out” but eventually was posted to 37 Maintenance Unit in Burtonwood where I spent May & June of 1942. I didn’t do any flying there but was able to get a few hours as passenger in various types of aircraft. July and August of that year was spent at #11 Advanced Flying Unit in Shawbury, transitioning to multi-engined aircraft via the “Airspeed Oxford”.


      Mel  -  The Pilot                 - Gentleman of Leisure!

    Because a considerable number of U.S. trained pilots had difficulty flying in total darkness we spent a couple of weeks at 1521 B.A.T. (Blind Approach Training) Flight on Link Trainers, and having finished our multi-engine training we went our separate ways. I was posted to 21 O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit) in Moreton-in-Marsh to fly Wellingtons I was in a relationship at that time and when I informed my significant other that I was going to fly Wellingtons.  She immediately expressed her concern because of what she had heard about their maintenance problems. As it happens, the second or third day after my arrival all aircrew had to attend the funeral services of a crew that had died a few days before. It was not an auspicious beginning for me.


           Me                               Towed Wreckage of First Major Crash

                                                   Noone Injured

    The first entry in my log-book for a Wimpy flight is Oct.5,1942. I flew a little over 1 hour with Flying Officer Grey as instructor, and soloed after 8 hours.  While crews were at 21 O.T.U. we were all required to make one trip over enemy territory and it was with some apprehension that I joined my crew at the briefing, especially as “junior” Harris had mentioned to us that he had spent the day unloading 250 lb. bombs.


       After a Hectic Day                         Hitch-Hiking at Columbia 

    Fortunately we were not to be part of the 1000 bomber raids on Berlin or other targets but to drop propaganda leaflets over France. The sortie was carried out without any problem though I got somewhat pissed off when ack-ack started around us on our way back!! After all, all we had done was to drop leaflets!!! I flew a total of 18 hours in the Wellington at 21 O.T.U. I volunteered for service in India because I wanted to be close to my brother, Joseph, and I was transferred to1446 Ferry Unit, which was situated on the same airfield.


Ercoupe 415C

    I flew about 15 hours in Wellington IIIs and on Feb. 4,1943, took off on our flight to the Middle East – first stop Portreath in Cornwall where we were to be briefed on our next leg – to Gibraltar.


                     O 38E                      BC-1A

    At that time there were 2 ferry routes available to us depending on how the war was progressing. One was across North Africa to Cairo – our final destination, and the other was via central Africa coming up to Cairo from Sudan. We were fortunate enough to be given the former and on February 4, 1943, on a very dark and stormy night, we were given the O.K. by Aldis (signal light) for take-off. I need hardly tell you that I was quite apprehensive about the venture. We were taking off into a pitch-black night with an Atlantic gale howling around us.


                At-GA and PT-17          Culver Cadet 

                                                        - Retractable Undercarriage!

    After reaching cruising altitude I tried to put the automatic pilot on and it did not lock on and I realized that I had an 8 -hour flight under manual control ahead of me. Dawn found us flying further into the Atlantic as our navigator, F/O  Jack Hillyard, did not want to head east until we had cleared the Bay of Biscay. Had we not done so we might have ended up in enemy territory. Finally, our bombardier, Bob Burns, located our position west of Portugal and we nipped smartly across Cape St. Vincent, infringing on Portugal’s neutrality as we did so, and we finally approached Gibraltar from the south. We had a spot of R/T problem but we landed without any problem. Needless to say, we were glad to get there!!  And about 50 years later I crossed that very same runway on foot from Spain to the town of Gibraltar. There are traffic lights to warn pedestrians of an incoming plane.


Instructor Planes          Fairchild 24 

    The next leg of our flight would take us to El Adem, not far from Tobruk, on the north African coast. For whatever reason (and it wasn’t drinking!!!) I had  a headache and once we had reached our cruising altitude – I think that decision was left to me – I vacated the pilot’s seat and told Bob, our bombardier, to take over. The automatic pilot was working so all he had to do was to “tweak” the controls in case any correction was needed and I took some aspirin and lay down where I could and went to sleep.

O - 52 Lands at Camden          


        Landing                    Taxiing In                    O-52 and PT-17

    We were following the coastline and when I awoke I took over again. I eased the plane slowly down until it was skimming over the sea. I attempted  some “body english” to get the props to touch the water but “discretion being the better part of valor” I didn’t push my luck!! Relating my attempts to another pilot he asked me what props I had and when I told him he said “we had so-and-sos and they’re a couple of inches shorter – we beat you!!!”


A Source of Wonder of Cadets                              Off Again!

                                - and Instructors and Mechs.

    We were still flying at sea-level when we came upon Tobruk and as we climbed to clear some high ground I gave the “V” for Victory sign hoping that it would be mistaken for something else (up yours!!) and muttered to myself that radar would not have detected me. I had some difficulty locating El Adem – the terrain was all desert and,quite frankly, I didn’t know what I was looking for. Finally I saw another aircraft landing and I followed it in for a landing. My log book shows 7 hours of night flying and 3 hours of day from Gibraltar.

DC - 3 (Army C49) Visits Camden          



We were able to get some breakfast there and we took off for Cairo. 2 ˝ hours later we landed at LG (Landing Ground) 224 – the first portion of our flight completed on February 6,1943.  On  this leg, following the coast road that Mussolini had built, we were pleasantly surprised to come across the arch that he had built – similar to Marble Arch in London or l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris – way out in the desert. It straddled the road for no real purpose except as a memento to his ego.A  log-book entry shows that the following day I delivered that plane to 70 Squadron, based at Magrun, accompanied by my navigator and radio-op. 

Southern Aviation School Visited by B - 18A



    We flew nearly all the way back along the route we had flown the day before and returned to Cairo as passengers on February 8. During our stay in Cairo we were able to play the role of tourist and I tried to locate my brother’s regiment. He was now a captain, so I found out, and commanding a detachment of the 3/18th Royal Garhwal Rifles. I met some of his fellow officers, but, apparently he had already moved on to Italy where he was killed on October 23,1944.



Beechcraft C-45A

    On March 1 I took delivery of the Wellington VIII which was to be ferried to Calcutta. It had two 1,000 h.p. Pegasus XVIII engines. We took off on March 7 for Aquir in then Palestine, together with two A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service) officers as passengers, and landed there 2 hours later.


        Northrop A-17                 O-38B

Goodyear C-6 of 2nd Balloon Squadron



90 hp le Blond Engine


My First Attempts at Aerial Photography!


Army Photographer         Gen Hugh A Drum, leaving church 

                         at Work            

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