These aircraft were armed with 4 x 20mm guns, 8 rockets with 60lbs warheads on.
The warheads were slid down onto the rocket rails, which could be fired by the
pilot either as a pair, 2 pairs or the whole lot in one go. When going into service
later on, these were devastating in the continental fighting.
As we were all getting used to each other, once again, I received another posting. This time I was to be posted to Manston. The reason for this, as I found out later was, that in the invasion, only three squadrons were going over initially. This was due to the fact that the aerodrome or landing strips would only have sufficient room for those aircraft. When they went, I don’t know, but later on I joined them.
From this point I was posted to 137 Squadron. Having once again been sent around, I finally found Manston, it is in Kent, very close to the coast. Ramsgate became our local place for relaxation.
At Manston I learnt about operational aircraft in its true meaning. I soon found out that on operational duties it was totally different from the training systems .I had learnt at Hurn basic necessities to do my job, but at Manston it was operational.
One of the first things I noticed, was that here everything had to run smoothly. We had a Nissan hut where we had a Flight Sergeant who was in charge of all the different working units, including the armourers, the fitters, the riggers, the radio operators and all other people .My first job was to meet the lads, whom I was going to join to look after the Typhoons .The job was quite similar to what I had learnt at Hurn, but on this occasion, the planes were operational and had rockets on.
The process of fitting the rockets was to the armourer’s job, they also had the four cannons to attend to, plus a camera that was alongside the actual body of the aircraft. The reason for the camera was that anybody who said they had shot an aircraft, a train, or a tank, could then have it verified by the film. This was aligned, so it followed the tracer down to the ground, or followed the rockets to their target. Having seen some of these films, on the TV, they are absolutely fantastic.
I soon got into the way of making sure I did the right thing at the right time. This involved seeing the pilot when the scramble was on, meeting him, helping him up into the cockpit, having his straps ready over his parachute so he could soon put them on and jumping off and standing by, ready for him to start the engine. Later on, I used to start the engine before the pilot was in the aircraft –this way gave them a quicker start, and could taxi off onto the runway.
Manston has a huge runway, I believe that it was the number one crash aerodrome, for all the lads struggling to get back having been on raids on the coast. Many of the crashes I did see come in, although spectacular, were very distressing, as they were our lads in the aircraft-this happened quite regularly.
When I first arrived at Manston, there was a Naval unit there. They had the old fashioned Swordfish aircraft, with a torpedo slung underneath its body-these really did worry us, but typical Navy, they had armed guards in each corner of their patch of ground, which I thought was very unusual, but being the Navy, we respected them. Having been with the lads at Manston for awhile, we all got to know the aircraft, each one had its own peculiarities, and the trick was to learn quick, so that they could be started without the danger of a fire occurring, which could happen.
Just after I got there, the problem with doodlebugs started. These were automatic self-propelling, jet engines with a bomb underneath. They came over quite regularly, fired either around local areas or they headed straight to London.
The Commanding Officer, or he may have been the Flight Commanding Officer, was a Polish chap.