6/4/43 No.11 Operational Training Unit, Oakley (11 O.T.U)

Up to this point, training had been ‘trade’ specific. The Operational Training Unit’s function was to form crews and to train them to not only work as a team, but with the skill and proficiency to ultimately allow operational deployment. There appears to have been no cunning psychometric testing or behavioural profiling behind the composition of these new crews – put very simply 10 or so of each trades were assembled at the beginning of a flight class and given enough beer and sandwiches to allow natural groupings based on attitude and personality to form. It was then hoped that this initial crew would be durable and resilient enough to develop and grow as a cohesive unit by the time they were due to move to conversion training. Because training at this point was conducted in a Wellington, the fledgling crew would comprise of a Pilot, Navigator, Air Bomber, Wireless Operator and an Air Gunner – the increased technical and operational requirements of a front line bomber meant that a Flight Engineer and an additional Air Gunner would join the crew at the Conversion Unit stage.

In discussion with Jack, it seems clear that the airmen were allowed to simply mingle and talk. Jack conceded that the methods of selection were hardly based on exacting performance standards;‘Allan had a moustache – he looked like he knew what he was doing……Jock said he knew what he was doing as well – so we had him too……..’

Ron Mayhill’s recollections are similar and equally arbitrary regarding the forming of his crew;

“Already the ten bomb aimers and ten navigators who had trained together on the previous course at 4 AFU(O) (Advanced Flying Unit, Observers), West Freugh, were moving towards each other. Duncan Hodgson and I caught each other’s eye, making an instant bond. Tall, thin, dark and debonair, Dunc and I had been friends since mid-1942 when some 120 Air Training Corps had been called up together.

Dunc and I confirmed our bond and the next step was to get a good pilot. This was critical, and we instantly agreed whom we wanted. A few words and Dunc dived though the noisy throng while I made a brisk sweep of the field on the look out for a likely wireless operator. I soon came across Dunc in earnest conversation with Jake Aitken, a slim and quietly confident pilot we had met in the mess. Jake was cautious. He wanted to be sure and wasn’t going to be rushed. I could also sense a subtle interplay that he was going to be skipper of his crew and he was going to do the choosing, and that was fair enough. We were soon joined by the young wireless operator I had spotted, Gordon Grindlay from Watford, who immediately impressed the others with his clean-cut appearance and friendly, open smile. Two gunners quickly joined us. Excitement was high, we were all in crews, and Christmas was upon us. Another thing that impressed me was that the other crews also thought they had been most fortunate in their choices”.
Bombs on Target by Ron Mayhill DFC, 1991, Patrick Stephens Limited

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s