Danny Bonwitt 211 AFS 1955

I arrived at RAF Worksop for my jet conversion in March 1955 to join No. 61 Course and was awed by the size of the Meteor after flying Harvards! I was 21 years old when I started.  The training was very intense. My log book shows there was hardly a week-day that I did not fly and many days I flew three sorties.  Enjoyment is a difficult word to define.  I was delighted to be there and fly a jet.  Strangely I remember very little about the base, which suggests we were too busy (tired) to do much else.  Our course was based at the far side of the airfield, so getting a lift to the flight was always a struggle and I seem to remember mess lunch was a rushed affair. Add to this all the ground school work. It was incredible flying a jet.  It was so different to my previous experience on Tiger Moths, Chipmunks, Prentices and Harvards.  Everything happened so fast.  A typical sortie was 35/40 minutes long. One of my memories was getting to about 30,000ft over Worksop and seeing both East and West coasts of England!  Asymmetric flying was physically hard work.  Even with full trim you had to lock your leg to hold the aircraft.  We only pulled back an engine. I do not recall ever flaming out one of the engines, except at height to demonstrate how to re-light.

Above: Danny's flight log from RAF Worksop. Courtesty of Danny Bonwitt

June 30th was not a good night.  We were night flying and I was on a cross country navigation exercise around the North East of England.  The weather suddenly deteriorated and all my diversions were out of action.  The SATCO took over and kept me at high level to preserve fuel whilst he got other aircraft down at Worksop. I was either the last or one of the last to land with the fuel gauge on its stop. The QFI was W/C Knott, a fighter pilot, who didn't speak much during my final check flight.  When we landed (I thought I had done rather well) he said it was a good job I'd opted for Canberras as he wouldn't let me loose on a Hunter!  My circuit join was far too sedate.
 
On the lighter side I was one of the shortest pilots to have flown Meteors (5ft. 4") and my instructor was "Monty" Burton, one of the tallest.  His helmet was in constant contact with the canopy!  As we walked to and from the aircraft the contrast was often remarked upon. My biggest problem was asymmetric flying as I'm short but apart from that the conversion was more or less straight forward. 
 
The summer ball of 1955 was also memorable.  There must have been a lot of money available and we had superb talent among some of the National Service pilots.  One such was an art student and he set about building a tube station in one of the Nissen huts.  The train formed the bar and he painted the most realistic escalators at either end.  Another Nissen hut had a stream running through it with real lawns and potted trees where we could drink champagne and eat oysters.  Those were the days.  My girlfriend (now my wife) was sitting her final exams and could not come, so I was allocated one of the Station Commanders three (four?) daughters to escort.  I remember Monty Burton was also instructed to look after one of them.
 
Of the stories you relate, I was a friend of P/O Cohen who was killed.  He was a fine cricketer and played regularly for Glamorgan.  I had flown Meteor 7 WL474, I think the day before.  It was certainly the one in which I flew my first solo on type.  The Meteor was an unforgiving aircraft and not suited to training (in my view).  We had many accidents and went to many funerals. Throughout my career the attitude to losses were the same.  You got on with the job.  I believe this has always been the case and speaking to my son who spent 10 years flying in the R.A.F., his generation feel the same. 

I always played cricket whilst in the R.A.F., but I cannot recall ever playing at Worksop.  I probably did.
 
My final flight at Worksop was 7th July 1955.I had a short service commissiion, simply to make sure I got onto a squadron.  I could have gone in as a National Serviceman but Worksop would have been the end stop, as far as flying was concerned.  So I went onto fly Canberras on 61 Squadron during the Suez affair. I was tempted to convert to a permanent commission but in those days a non-Cranwell officer had little chance of promotion to senior ranks.  I was about to do my V- force conversion at Gaydon when I Left the service.

Danny Bonwitt.