Flying Training


In the late 1940s/early 1950s, Battle of Britain Day was always a big celebration at the RAF College.  Old Cranwellians were encouraged to fly in for the weekend, preferably borrowing their front-line machines for the purpose, so as to provide a fascinating display of the RAF’s latest aircraft, both in the air and on the ground (one could do that sort of thing in those days).  A regular feature of  Saturday’s flying programme was a 'dive-bombing’ attack on a target in the middle of South Airfield, for which a number of Prentices were temporarily re-sprayed in Luftwaffe camouflage and markings, their spats in particular making them closely resemble Stukas.  These 'baddies' were, of course, always ‘driven off’ by RAF Harvards, the commentators had a field day and a good time was had by all, not least the QFIs who were doing the flying.  To add to the realism, the ’Stukas’ were fitted with air-driven sirens, which gave out a piercing scream as the aircraft accelerated earthwards.  Readers will appreciate that it takes time to make such modifications, and also to restore the status quo ante afterwards, and so there was a window of about five flying days either side of BofB weekend, when these fearsome-sounding Stuka lookalikes were available on the flight-line for flight cadets to use for normal flying training purposes.  If one was fortunate enough to be allocated one of these aircraft, the trick was to get authorised for solo practice forced landings in the Fens, where many honest Lincolnshire folk could be seen toiling in the fields below.  It was hardly surprising that they became highly alarmed at finding themselves apparently under attack by a howling Stuka, complete with swastikas and crosses!  The practice approach was often somewhat steeper and faster than perhaps it should have been, the overshoot height limit of 200 feet was not always rigidly observed and the aircraft was, on occasion I believe, held down a bit before climbing away.  Some particularly sadistic pilots were only really satisfied when they saw their victims running for their lives or flinging themselves into muddy ditches.  Sadly the Prentices were withdrawn from service in 1952 and the practice had to cease - just as well, perhaps, before someone complained!

Mike Allisstone 62C

We started training at the RAF College Cranwell in April 1954.  After nine months, we started flying training on the Percival Provost T1 using the grass north airfield and the grass airfield at Spitalgate as the south airfield was being updated with two concrete runways for the introduction of the Vampire. In January 1956, our entry started jet aircraft training on the Vampire T 11 and Vampire FB 9. It was understood that the 'powers that be' insisted that Cranwell should only be equipped with the FB 9 as opposed to the FB 5, which was slightly inferior, having a less efficient cockpit air conditioning system.  Students felt they were not far from becoming real fighter pilots as many of the FB 9s were camouflaged.  From an administrative point of view, 69 Entry felt privileged in that they would complete their jet aircraft training to 'Wings' standard at the college whereas 68 Entry would graduate at the end of the 1956 summer term and complete their training at Swinderby.

The extra time required was achieved by extending the Cranwell Cadet training scheme to three years or nine terms. This produced another fact of which the entry was proud, that being, that they were the senior entry for two terms, graduating in April 1957 with their 'Wings'.

Dickie Lees 69A