Fighter pilot, Royal Navy 1945, Hydrographer Iraq 1947-52 India 1952-53, Canadian Hydrographic Arctic explorer 1953-1960, Writer-producer Canadian National Film Board 1961-72, Freelance journalist, audio-visual producer 1972-2009, National Press Club of Canada 1961 - 2006

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Long Dormant Financial Oversight


Wake up all Royal Navy ex-Petty Officer pilots and join me in protesting to the UK government and the Royal Navy about how badly we were exploited when we were flying on RNAS squadron No: 805, in 1945. Surely we are due large lumps of cash in compensation. There must be many sympathetic boards and commissions before whom we can successfully plead our long-tolerated and hidden grievance.

This gripe stems from watching footage of modern US aircraft carrier operations. All navy pilots today are two-ring lieutenants or above in rank and highly paid. Or Marine Majors and colonels. All raking in umpteen thousands of bucks every month.

Yet we poor Petty Officer navy pilots were fobbed off with what? As far as I remember it was 7/6d a day. Or it could have been a few peanuts more or less. Ok, anyway, plus just five or six bob a day as flying pay for a whopping total of perhaps 13/6d.

But for that we had to go round and round Machrihanish air space flying our powerful Seafire XVs, time after time, practising ADDLES (Advanced Dummy Deck Landings) in anticipation of imminently flying aboard our aircraft carrier and joining the Pacific Naval Fleet. So there we were up in the air all day, manoeuvring crabwise about thirty degrees sideways, letting down in long, low, flat and slow, labouring curves, so we

could peer out to port past the long engine cowling in order to keep the batsman and the white lines, marked out on the runway, all in shimmering view.

Keeping lots of power on in order to hang from the prop in a nose-up attitude meant banking round with the pilot’s head sticking out the cockpit and peering through an obscuring hot cloud of thick exhaust ejecta often composed of flame-spurting, eyebrow singeing, mixture-rich unburned gases which would violently ignite when coming out through the hot exhaust pipes.

Ok, so we did wear goggles, a helmet and oxygen mask but a scarf round the neck came in handy when those unburned mixture-rich gases went pop-bang-pop. It was a time for full flaps, full mixture, fully-fine pitch and full exaggerated use of wiggly controls gone extra sloppy through keeping the airspeed down so dangerously low, just above the stall. In all, a very unnatural and unseemly display of airmanship.

Ah, those were the days. There’s no life like it. But don’t let on, my lads. We need all the sympathy we can muster if we’re going to make our case for lots of lolly in recompense for our dedication. Think of it, many months of back pay—including 65 years of accumulated interest.

Yeah! So, Goff Parker of Coventry and Danny Bannatyne of the Isle of Arran, the only old 805 squadron comrades I'm still in touch with, here’s our case:

Lookit! Say we did ten addles a day. That’s 13/6d divided by ten, that’s about 1/6d an addle. What a bargain their Lordships of the Admiralty were getting. One and sixpence a go. Christ! Just about what a good seat in a movie cinema cost in those days. (and about 30 cents sixty-six years ago in 1944 Canada when a 5c bottle of pop suddenly jumped up to 6¢).

Yeah, I know our Seafire XVs only cost about £7,000 ($28,000) and today’s modern jets go for many millions each, and we did get our gasoline free, but still...

On top of that we had to keep all those lovely WRENS' girls happy and contented. Washing out piles of their undies every evening and making them special dainty gourmet meals. You know how fastidious the Wrens were, especially those in flying control.

So, all that work for what? Peanuts:

13/6d a day, £4-14s a week, £17-10-00 a month, £215-12-6 a year.

I dunno why we didn’t take strike action.

I should have started our compensation campaign for supplementing our past pittances when I spoke with, and smoked a pipe with, UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson when he visited the press club long years ago, in the 1970s.

Another opportunity lost.

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