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Library Reference Number: 047


Jimmy Roxburgh, Aircrew Association, Saltire Branch

We all know of the huge casualty rate suffered by the Royal Air Force in the second World War. In human terms, a tragedy. Yet from a different perspective, that of the effect of these losses, and on the ability of the R.A.F. to effectively to pursue the war, they were no threat at all, for the Commonwealth Air Training Plan was stuffed with up-and -coming replacements. This is the story of one of these.

Desperately keen to become pilots as soon as they were old enough, boys of my age were attested into the R.A.F. during the latter part of 1942. Straight away we were placed on "Deferred Service"; at that time an estimated period of ten months! Unfortunately, this initial disappointment was but a foretaste of things to come.

At last, in the middle of 1943 I was called up. The waiting was over - or so I thought. In fact, it would ne nearly two years before I reached the magic Wings Parade. Each stage of flying training was interrupted by a long period of doing nothing; waiting until a space became available in the next step forward.

In other words, from my first day in the Air Force to qualifying as a pilot 59% of this time was unproductive.

My total flying hours by then was 233. I had probably spent another 233 flying the Ping Pong table in the N.A.A.F.I. In terms of useful War Service , 'They also serve who only stand and wait' has a very hollow ring for me. Nevertheless, I can think of one place where it might be appropriate. I understand that a plaque has recently been placed in Manchester's Heaton Park to commemorate the thousands of Aircrew Cadets who languished there for weeks at a time while awaiting that boat. I do hope that some ironic wit saw fit to include Milton's adage in the inscription.

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