Terry Harper 211 AFS 1952

We were the second course into Worksop, after it opened as No.211 AFS, and were posted there in mid-November 1952. Several of us had come from RAF Pershore, No.10 AFTS, where we had flown Airspeed Oxfords, but others came from a number of AFTSs, including some regulars who had flown Harvards. Our accommodation was in Nissen Huts, divided into 4 bedrooms, and I had Room 26B. From memory the accommodation site was the nearest to the main road, connected to the rest of the site by the concrete road with the Officers'  Mess site much closer to the airfield. Everybody had an RAF bicycle, with which we travelled around the site, as the flight huts were on the western perimeter. During sub-zero weather, this could be hazardous, and once one turned off the concrete road to cross the muddy waste towards the Mess, staying on the bike was well nigh impossible. Neither could you stand up. Consequently the only thing to do was to drag yourself and your bike to a nearby bush, pull yourself up to the vertical, remound, and ride in a straight line to the mess. Turning corners was very difficult.
 
The first thing that we were told was that Worksop had probably the worst visibility of any RAF airfield, standing as it did downwind of the industrical Midlands and Sheffield. Consequently it was the second airfield to be fitted with Calvert High Intensity lighting, Heathrow being the first, and on a clear night it could be seen well out into the North Sea. Looking at my log book, I see that my first flight was on 26 Nov 52, in WL417 with Plt Off Ibison, newly qualified from CFS. The aircraft were Meteor T7s for dual flying and Meteor 8s for solo flying. As far as I know, all the other AFSs had a mixture of Meteor 3s and 4s for solo flying, but such was the rate of attrition that there were none left for Worksop, so we had the 8s. Because visibility was better at the weekends, we had days off in the week and flew Saturdays and Sundays.
 
One problem with the poor visibility was that you never saw an horizon at low level, which meant that the climbing turn after take-off had to be done on instruments, which were affected by the acceleration throwing the artifical horizon up and to the right, so the seat of the pants had to come into play. On my third flight, on 3rd Dec 52, Ibison introduced me to asymmetric flying, and  tried to demonstrate the effect of losing an engine below critical speed.  The reaction of the aircraft was violent, to say the least, and we got into a spin. We had been at about 20,000 feet, but eventually recovered from the spin very close to the ground and shot back up to 20,000 feet. I should add that Ibison had put one of his feet behind the rudder bar, "to make the effect more obvious". He couldn't get it out once we were in the spin, and I had to recover the aircraft from the second spin when he tried to extract it.  The weather was never very good, and on 14th December I was asked to fly the station Oxford, X7194, to Woodley, near Reading, taking another pupil, Plt Off Mann, who was collecting his self-built aircraft from there. I also took along Fg.Off Worrall, who had a master green instrument rating, as navigator. It was best described as a "claggy" day, and having Fg.Off Worrall with me was a great help. Needless to say we found our way home.. The next day I had one trip with the Flight Commander, Flt.Lt Gill, and we flew into a snow storm on our final landing. I had another flight with him on 18th December, but after that the weather was not good enough for me to fly until 12 January 1953, by which time my original instructor had been posted, and I had Flt.Lt Hampson, with whom I did not get on. We had low cloud and poor visibility, and my next flight was on 18th January, again with poor visibility. By this time the powers-that-be had decided that the Korean War was coming to its end, and they did not need all these pilots, so it was put to me that the RAF might save both an aircraft and a pilot if I gave up the course. Before this I had checks with the Flight Commander - Flt.Lt Gill, the Squadron Commander - Sdn.Ldr Rothwell and the Chief Flying Instructor - Wg.Cdr Coward, who all agreed that I should leave the course.
 
There now followed a period from 25th January while I was waiting to be posted, and in company with other pupils who had had their flying terminated, we set up a routine of billiards after breakfast, coffee at the flight hut, billiards before lunch, lunch in the mess, more billiards before tea in the flight hut, more billiards until the others returned, and possibly some more billiards after midnight. Sadly my father passed away in Gloucester on 12th February, and I had been called home the previous evening to be at his bedside. Consequently I was sent on "Duty at Home" for several weeks to help my mother sort out his affairs. I transferred to the Secretarial Branch for the rest of my National Service, and later became a Fighter Controller during my Reserve Service.
 
We had one fatality on our course, Plt Off Gerald Hopkins, with his instructor, and I suspect that they were doing the exercise which had nearly been the end of me.

Travel to and from the camp for me usually entailed a train from Gloucester to Sheffield, then the Sheffield-Gainsborough bus of Sheffield Joint Transport to Worksop, and then an East Midland bus to the camp. Days off were mostly spent in Sheffield.

Regarding pubs, I have vague recollections of one on, I think, the Tickhill road out of Worksop, possibly at Carlton in Lindrick. The real problem was that having to rely on public transport, the bus into Worksop was the only real means of escape, unless you walked to Ranby.
 
When we had our last reunion in October [2011], one of us mentioned that he was the one who had brake failure and went through several fields in his Meteor to the west of the airfield before it came to rest.
 
One other reminiscence was of the occasion when our peace in the flight hut was disturbed by a pulsating noise of a Derwent jet engine. What had happened was that an erk was doing a run-up on one engine of a parked Meteor, when the chocks slipped on the side of the active engine, and it started to pirouette until he got around to cutting the throttle. I suspect that he needed a change of underpants.
 
Terry Harper