Training and Manpower

Air Marshal A G R Garrod, CB, OBE, MC, DFC, Air Member for Training on the Air Council, was appointed to his present post in July, 1940. He had previously served as Deputy Director of Organisation at the Air Ministry and Director of Equipment. In 1931, he served in Iraq on Air Staff operational duties. In World War I he entered service in the 3rd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, and was assigned to the Royal Flying Corps in 1915. He was awarded the MC in 1915 and the DFC in 1919. and was three times mentioned in despatches. He was an RAF Staff College instructor.
The RAF's training organisation is a vital factor in the attainment of air superiority by the Allied flying forces.

An expanding air force depends upon the efficiency of its training organisation. Training must not only be maintained at the high peacetime standard, it must also embody the lessons of war and impart the confidence and skill which before could only be gained in the first few months of squadron life. The pressure of war does not allow the finishing touches to be reserved for the front line units.

At the beginning of the war the Royal Air Force was a small but very highly trained organisation. It opposed the formidable German air force which had been built up through the preceding years with one aim — to achieve absolute mastery in the air. To this end the Germans had spared neither men nor material, for they believed that success in modern offensive war depended primarily on air superiority over the enemy. The first victory of the Royal Air Force was to deny this superiority to the Germans. Final victory will come with our own achievement of complete air superiority, and in attaining this the training organisation plays a vital part.

Since the outbreak of war, the Royal Air Force has expanded to many times its former size, until it is now capable of putting 1,000 bombers over Germany on one night. Its air crews come not only from the United Kingdom but from the Dominions and from the Allied Air Forces. Nearly all of them have received some part of their training in one of the great overseas training centers.

In the autumn of 1939, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand agreed in conference at Ottawa to send their airmen to Canada for both elementary and advanced flying training. Separate agreements governed the setting up of training organisations in Australia and New Zealand as well. And later arrangements were made to transfer a large number of RAF air training schools to Canada. Air training on a large scale was also organised in the Union of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, while later in Trinidad and Bermuda preliminary aircrew training was given to candidates recruited there.

Moreover, apart from these Dominion schemes the United States recently provided Britain not only with aircraft and equipment but with additional facilities for training in the United States. The first scheme to come into operation during the war was a refresher course for Americans and for British citizens in America who wished to join the RAF. This was followed by the opening, in civilian-operated establishments, of British flying training schools, at which pupil pilots from the United Kingdom were given elementary and advanced training on aerodromes specially constructed for their use. For instance, Pan American Airways run navigation training courses at Miami. Finally, in the spring of 1941, the US Army Air Forces offered to allot part of their own training capacity for the elementary and advanced training of British pilots and crews, and the US Naval air service gave us facilities at Grosse Ile and Pensacola for pilot and navigation training.

These training schemes in the Dominions and the United States gave the RAF the inestimable advantages not only of the enormous local resources, but of skilled auxiliary manpower, aerodromes in open country, freedom from enemy interference, absence of restricted areas and blackout conditions — and, above all, of the American climate which is ideal for the early stages of flying training.

The responsibility for training in the RAF rests with the writer, who is a member of the Air Council and Air Member for Training. His Department, in conjunction with the headquarters of the dominion training organisations, settles training policy to conform with the operational requirements of the Air Staff. Each dominion is entirely responsible for the executive command and administration of its own organisation, but maintains close touch with the Air Ministry through its Air Headquarters or its liaison officer in London. The Department of the Air Member for Training is divided into directorates responsible for operational training, flying training, technical training and administrative training. The Director of the Air Training Corps is also responsible to him. A Training Progress Branch undertakes statistical planning and the phasing of input and output at schools and a Training Adviser has been appointed who examines the human difficulties underlying the training system.

The executive command of the flying training units in the United Kingdom is vested in Flying Training Command, and Technical Training Command controls all ground training schools. The operational training units are controlled by the operational commands which they feed, for only these commands are in a position to know the exact requirements of their squadrons and the standard of training which the crews must attain before they are fit to fly on operations.

A large proportion of the young men now entering the RAF receive pre-entry training in the Air Training Corps or in similar organisations in the dominions. The value of the ATC cannot be overestimated. Open to boys aged 16 and over, it affords two distinct courses. One is an air crew course comprising mathematics, navigation, Morse code, aircraft identification and RAF administration; the other, intended for boys mechanically or electrically minded, comprises wireless and mechanics, flight mechanics, electricity, and motor transport mechanics. In either case every effort is made through physical training to improve the physique of the boys. It is inevitable in a long war that there should be some falling off in the quality of recruits. The ATC, which now numbers some 200,000 boys, is the corrective; it fosters enthusiasm and esprit de corps, and stimulates the team spirit which is the foundation of successful training. The RAF and the Dominion air forces will come to rely on it more and more in the future.

It is a trying moment in a recruit's life when he faces the aviation candidates selection board. Already he has worked on an intelligence test and on mathematical and general knowledge papers; this is the final test. His education, his sports, his hobbies, his likes and dislikes are examined — why does he want to join the RAF? The youth moistens dry lips. "I want to fly." The president glances at him keenly. "Flying is only a means to an end," he points out, "and that is fighting. What do you want to fly?" "A fighter, sir." The president sighs.

Nearly all recruits want to fly fighters, for ever since the Battle of Britain to be a fighter pilot has been the ambition of every schoolboy. Yet the crew of a big bomber have an equally thrilling and even more exacting and responsible job. Well, the lad is a good type. He is intelligent, keen and cheerful, and he has passed his examinations well. The president smiles. "Right, we will pass you for aircrew, but whether you will become a pilot will depend on your own efforts during the early stages of your training. Good luck."

The youth leaves the board room with fast beating heart. Now he must pass the doctors. If there is anything wrong with him physically, they will discover it. The examination is meticulous, for operational service in the RAF demands a high standard of physique. He is passed fit for air crew duty. It only remains for him to be attested. "I ………… swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty, King George the Sixth, His Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, and of the Air Officers and Officers set over me. So help me God."

Now he is in the Royal Air Force.

He goes first to a receiving wing. Here he is kitted, drilled, lectured on various subjects, and in general introduced to service life and routine. Above all he learns that discipline is something much more than merely obeying orders. It is cheerfulness, alacrity, the desire to help others, a willing spirit of unselfish cooperation in a great service.

Then he passes to an initial training wing where he receives intensive instruction in the theory of flying, is introduced to air navigation and learns the elements of map reading and how to solve simple dead reckoning problems. He is initiated into the principles of deflection shooting by firing at clay pigeons. He learns Morse up to at least six words per minute, handles the Vickers machine gun, practices with rifle and revolver, and is instructed in signals organisation, aircraft recognition, and the physiological aspects of flying and first aid. At the same time his sense of discipline and mental alertness are fostered. He plays games and plays them hard, while drills are carried out in quick step at 140 a minute. If there is any physical or mental weakness it is very likely to show up at the initial training wing.

At length, exams passed, comes his flying test. This will determine whether he will continue his training as a pilot or as a navigator or air bomber. If he is selected as a pilot he will go overseas for his elementary and service flying training.

At the elementary flying training school he will learn to fly a trainer type of aircraft and will be given instruction in the theory of flight, airmanship, aircraft recognition, meteorology, navigation, signals, drill and physical training. He is also given instruction in instrument flying in the Link trainer, and is encouraged to take part in discussions and debates. The instructor plays an important role in fitting the pilot for the tasks ahead of him. He must be a good disciplinarian insisting upon punctuality, smartness and obedience to orders; be understanding, patient, tactful and watchful for any fault his pupil may develop. Above all, he must be constructive in his criticism. During the training period at an EFTS the instructor must decide whether his pupils are temperamentally fitted to make a pilot, and if so whether a fighter or a bomber pilot. Pupils with a pronounced element of dash in their make up, allied to an extreme sensitivity of control and quickness of mental reaction are recommended as fighter pilots. On the other hand, pupils who exhibit coolness, stamina, tenacity, initiative and power of leadership should make good pilots for larger type aircraft.

Learning to fly demands a great effort on the part of the average pupil, but the moment comes at last when he is told to "take her off" alone. Pupils' impressions of their first solo have been variously described, but perhaps the most predominant feeling is a great desire to justify the confidence of the instructor and not to "boob" the approach and landing.

By the time a pupil leaves an EFTS he has learned the element of flying, can safely control a trainer aircraft, and is well grounded in a variety of technical subjects. He has acquired a "feel" for the air, and must now learn to develop his skill in handling an advanced type of trainer at a service flying training school.

Potential fighter pilots are sent to a single-engined SFTS and will fly an aircraft which reproduced the main features of the Spitfire and Hurricane. Those intended for the large types of aircraft go to an SFTS equipped with twin-engined aircraft such as the Oxford or Anson. In either case he will receive dual instruction by day and by night in instrument flying, navigation, and formation flying. Handling an advanced trainer aircraft, as he soon discovers, is a much more intricate and responsible job than flying the simple trainer. There is a large instrument panel to watch, a retractable undercarriage, wing flaps, variable pitch propellers; and correct boost pressures must be maintained. There is also much ground instruction to be assimilated. As experience is gained, the pupil makes cross-country flights by day and night gathering knowledge of photography and reconnaissance. Cockpit drill, aerodrome procedure, and signals become instinctive, whilst towards the end of his course he is instructed in air firing and bombing.

His flying times and examinations in ground subjects satisfactorily completed. he is ready to proceed to an operational training unit in Britain, the last stage in his training before being posted to a squadron. He has learned to fly and has gained something more precious than gold his wings. Now he must learn to fight. Until this war started there was a widespread idea that, in the air, the pilot was the only man who mattered. In the last war this was perhaps true. It is still true of short-range fighter aircraft, but in the big complex aircraft that are bombing the German factories and patrolling far out into the Atlantic, the pilot divides his responsibilities with a crew of specialists as highly skilled as himself. The members of an air crew are trained separately up to the stage when they are all proficient at their own job and then, at an operational training unit, they are "crewed up" into one highly trained unit.

We have followed the first part of a pilot's training. We will complete the picture with an outline of the training of the other members of the crew. The main categories of air crew are pilot, navigator, air bomber, wireless operator-air gunner and flight engineer. There are several categories of navigator varying with the role of the squadrons in which they serve, but basically their job is always the same — to locate their objective and to guide their aircraft safely back to its base again. It is a task that requires intelligence and confidence and a clear resourceful mind.

The pupil who, after his ITW course, is selected as a navigator, passes to an elementary air navigation school where he completes his ground instruction. He becomes familiar with all the equipment of the navigator by practical exercises carried out in the classroom, known in the RAF as "Dry Swims." He is then posted to an air navigation school. Here he practices in the air all that he has learned on the ground, flying at first with an instructor who checks his workings in the air and then, when he has gained sufficient confidence, alone and entirely responsible for the navigation of his aircraft. He carries out cross-country flights by day and night, in good weather and bad, and when he leaves his ANS he is a fully qualified navigator. He has gained his navigator's "Wing."

Before going to their operational training units, some navigators go to armament courses, others to wireless courses, and a pupil destined for Coastal Command is posted to a general reconnaissance school. Here he learns coastal and ocean reconnaissance and special Naval and convoy procedure, and here he must acquire the skill and confidence which will enable him to guide his aircraft to incoming convoys and isolated ships under any weather conditions.

The role of the air bomber is becoming more and more important. Once the aircraft has reached the target area it is upon the air bomber that the greatest responsibility rests. He must identify the target and guide the pilot on his final run-up. Upon his aim and judgment must depend the success or failure of the operation. At an air bombers school he learns the theory of bombing and bomb-sighting, the characteristics of the bombs that he will use, and how to handle his sights. He is given as much practice in the air as possible, for accuracy of aim can only be reached and maintained with constant practice.

The training of a wireless operator-air gunner is long and exacting, for a high standard is necessary. It is carried out in Great Britain and also in Canada. In Great Britain they go first to a signals recruits centre. Here, apart from a general service grounding, their principal task is to learn Morse. They then receive instruction at a signals school in the basic principles of electricity and wireless and the manipulation of wireless apparatus. Then follows gunnery training. At an air gunnery school they learn how their guns and turrets work and how to manipulate them; they are given training in aircraft recognition and in the principles of range estimation and deflection shooting and they carry out firing practice on ground ranges and in the air until they have attained a high and reliable standard of marksmanship. Then they are ready to go on to an operation training unit.

Finally, there is the flight engineer, an essential member of the crew in view of the increasing mechanical complexity of the modern heavy bomber. His task calls for intelligence, skill and resourcefulness, particularly in an emergency caused by a bullet or fragment of shell in some vital component such as an undercarriage or wing flaps. The flight engineer is a specially selected fitter. He does gunnery and airframe courses, and an engine course on the type of engine he will have to look after during his operational flying.

The pupil coming from overseas to Britain must take a refresher course at an advanced flying unit before proceeding to his operational training unit. This is to accustom him to British weather and topographical conditions, and to night flying under blackout conditions.

The operational training unit is the final and most important stage of the pupil's training. When he arrives there he is competent at his own individual job; when he leaves he is a member of a fully trained air crew, ready to take its place in the front line. While he is there everything possible is done to give him the benefit of the knowledge and experience gained in operations. The greatest lesson that he learns is the value of cooperation — that the striking power of the operational squadrons is the outcome of the unflagging combined effort of the great force that lies behind them, and that the whole fabric of the Air Force is built up on the principle of teamwork — between air crews and ground staff; between the aircraft of a formation — and, most important, between the individual members of an air crew.

At a bomber OTU the members of the air crew are brought together, "crewed up," and introduced for the first time to the type of aircraft which they will fly in their operational squadron. They carry out practice flights by day and night with an experienced instructor, until they are confident in the handling of their aircraft and equipment. Once they are perfect in crew procedure they begin their final tactical training — bombing practice with live bombs, gunnery practice — on the ground at moving targets from portable turrets, and in the air at towed drogues. Signals codes and cyphers and intelligence information must be studied and all the manifold tasks of the crew of a modern heavy bomber assimilated. If they are to specialize in day bombers they must learn the special technique of low flying and navigation. The skill required to reach an objective as far say, as Augsburg, when flying at "nought feet" can only be acquired after intensive training in low-flying navigation. Perhaps low-flying memorization is more descriptive of the process, for map reading is virtually impossible on such occasions and the aircraft must proceed by means of a string of carefully memorized ETAs (estimated time of arrival) for well-defined landmarks.

The work of a pupil at a fighter OTU is no less arduous. The principle of teamwork holds good as much for a fighter formation as for members of a bomber crew, and the pupil must learn all the technique of tactical formation flying in addition to his instruction in radio telephone procedure and firing air-to-air or air-to-ground. Instrument flying, navigation, direction finding, homing practice, aerobatics, air combats, section attacks and interceptions are other matters covered in this intensive course.

Coastal work is so varied in its scope that it is possible to describe only briefly the many sides of this type of training. The Coastal Command pilots fly by day and night, often in weather conditions that would prohibit operations in other commands. The flights are normally of long duration — up to 18 hours or even more — involving long sea passages, more often than not without radio bearings. The training for such work is correspondingly exacting. Dead reckoning is the basis of all air navigation. This particularly applies in Coastal Command, and the captain of a flying boat or landplane who sets out to fly hundreds of miles over the ocean in poor visibility to meet a moving convoy which is maintaining wireless silence must be fully able to appreciate the difficulties of his navigator, and be able to help him in every possible way. At Coastal Command OTUs flights are made to isolated rocks and islands far out in the ocean and during these trips bombing attacks are made on floating targets. OTUs may be concerned with land planes or flying boats. In either case the whole technique of Coastal Command work is studied.

Army Cooperation Command has been described as the "eyes of the Army," and its OTUs are primarily engaged in training pupils in the work of reconnaissance. Thus the first requirement of a pilot is a high standard of navigation and map reading. Here again low-flying technique is being developed, while low- level bombing and air-to-ground firing in support of troops is also an important side of Army Cooperation work. In addition, an intensive training in air photography, including low level photography, strips and mosaics, is given to pupils. Generally speaking, the first qualification in an Army Cooperation Command pilot, after flying ability, is an aptitude for mental arithmetic, for he must be able to find his way about without wireless aids and to pin point his position while flying very fast at a low altitude.

That is, broadly, a summary of the air-crew training system and its requirements in the RAF today. Ground training is, however, equally important. A highly skilled, highly trained ground organisation is just as vital to an Air Force as its pilots and crews.

In peacetime it took the RAF three years to train an expert fitter or armorer, but war demands an output of trained men to match a mounting supply of aircraft and aircrews. It has been a hard task to meet this demand, for skilled labor could not easily be released from aircraft and armament factories for service in the forces. It is a tribute to the aptitude of the wartime recruit and to the system of RAF trade training, which must of necessity be short and intensive, that men who had previously little or no mechanical experience are now responsible for the maintenance of the most complex aircraft and equipment yet designed.

Every man enlisting in the RAF for ground duties is examined by a trade test board. The object of these boards is to see that the available skill of the tradesmen in the service is put to the best use. The board knows its present requirements in each trade, and after examining the qualifications of the entrant, posts him to the trade for which he is most suited. There are over 60 trades ranging from highly skilled mechanics and instrument repairers to general duties; and each has a basic course of instruction. In addition there are many supplementary courses for duties demanding an even greater specialized skill.

The training of instructors is of fundamental importance for they are largely responsible for setting and maintaining the standard of skill and efficiency for the whole force. In the first few months of a pupil's training the foundations on which he will build all his later experience are laid. Both flying and technical instructors therefore are carefully selected and trained, and at the Empire Central Flying School the standard of flying training instruction is constantly reviewed and revised. Instructors from all overseas training organisations attend this course and return to their own countries familiar with the latest instructional technique. Selected officers also attend specialist courses in navigation, armament and signals, and at the war staff college some receive training in air force strategy and tactics, combined strategy, and administration.

This vast machinery for training air crews and ground staffs has been built up slowly and steadily from the beginning of the war by unceasing work and willing cooperation. Its justification lies in the increasing weight and effectiveness of the British air offensive. It provides, now, a solid basis upon which to build the Air Forces which will bring us victory.

This article was originally published in the September, 1942, "Special Royal Air Force Issue" of Flying and Popular Aviation magazine, vol 31, no 3, pp 107-110, 206, 215-216.
The original article includes a thumbnail photo of the author and 14 captioned photos.
Photos are not specifically credited but seem to be from the British Air Ministry.

Photo captions: