Stan Smith by davoakey


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									Stan Arthurs memories

At Brize Norton, around April 1942, Horsa's were being towed routinely by
Whitley’s. Circuits and bumps were performed both day and night. Take off-
glider release and land-rope drop from Whitley - Whitley lands. Engine
failures, dodgy take offs; inevitably casualties were the order of the day. The
aircraft were flown by RAF pilots on "rest" from bombing trips. Wellingtons
with their geodetic construction had been tried, but stretched when towing
and the eventual choice of tug, the four engined bomber hadn't yet been
considered. In June 1942 I was part of the night flying scene. I'd flown in both
tugs and gliders and Wing Commander May O.C. night flying had suggested
that there'd be "something to do" in either the tug or the glider. Cleared with
my electrical NCO I chose the glider. A dark night and "laid out" flare path,
the usual signals, a jerk and we were away. Flight sergeant Tobias was the
pilot. Although we were quickly airborne and "holding down", the tug, not
unusually seemed to lack acceleration. The amber lights showed and then the
red lights appeared to end the runway. The tug with the full crew staggered
off and gained perhaps 550 feet but then stalled, to nose dive and explode,
killing all on board. We had cast off and flew down the main street of the
village Black Bourton, no light, vague shapes and then oblivion. I can
remember, fleetingly, travelling fast through the unlit lanes of Oxfordshire
headed for the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. Bell jangling, quite a lot of pain
causing me to ask them to slow down. A fleeting glimpse of my mother by my
bed, tugging at her wide brimmed hat. She'd been sent for urgently. A
telegram and travel warrent helped but how did she managed the trip to New
Street station and from Oxford to the hospital? We never had the opportunity
to experience these things. INJURIES Apparently I was in Radcliffe
Infirmary for about a fortnight but I was barely conscious of events. My
mother begged to be able to stay and she was accommodated somehow.
Transferred to St. Hughes Collect that had been converted to a military
hospital; specialising in aircraft injuries, I hovered between a vague
consciousness and sleep. Three times a day I would be trundled off for tests
and dressings. My skull was shaved with two deep lacerations and fractures.
Neck muscles were damaged and a deep cut encircled my throat. My spine
had suffered a compression fracture between my shoulder blades and I had
three fractures in the small of my back. A damaged kidney, torn stomach
muscles and a wound on my leg completed the damage. Flight Tobias was
paralysed. Wonderful nursing. I would rave about the routine filling of form
700 and apologise profusely as I woke from my delirious state. I didn't realise
I was in a ward. But then, my state of health was common and understood.
Such comradeship. Later the lads would shave in amongst the numerous cuts
to my face. Ken Jefferson, later killed in a military lorry accident was a
particular mate. A pilot, he'd broken his back in a crash and later was to
discover he had intense pain when experiencing the severe vibrations of
wartime aircraft. Then to a rehabilitation centre at Middleton Stoney,
normally hte Earl of Jersey's estate. Wonderful treatment and food. Pity the
local cemetery, within the estate, echoed to the sound of military music as
dead aircrew were buried. A constant reminder of how lucky I was. And so I
returned to Brize Norton. An aircraft medical board had pronounced me fit
and I arrived for duty with my old uniform, heavily bloodstained and torn,
wrapped in brown paper. I'd had to keep this from day one. The medical
officer shoed real anger and after writing an chit for a complete replacement
of kit, arranged that the NCO who had instructed me to look after it to ensure
a replacement be demoted. To my dismay, I was informed that a fortnight
after my crash I had been posted to a flying training school in Canada!

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