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Maple leaf 

Ground studies were going fairly well and there seemed no doubt that I had caught up with my lack of schooling and my results were well into the top half in the regular weekly tests but flying was another matter. I was getting thoroughly depressed. My compatriots were returning from flights and boasting of their exploits. Their turns were perfect, their recovery from spins were perfect but worst of all their rolls were also perfect. In a roll the aircraft is turned on to it's side, then on to it's back with the pilot hanging in his straps, continuing to rotate onto the other side and the rotation is continued bringing the aircraft back into level flight. This should bring a complete rotation on the axis of the line of flight. It was all too easy to lapse into a barrel roll in which the rotation is around but some distance from the line of flight. This is much more comfortable because the resultant extra 'G' forces one into the seat.

At last I decided to confide my fears to my instructor and was much relieved to find that my failing was to believe the boasting of my fellow pupils. My confidence was somewhat restored but judgement found lacking! Worse was to come. At PT the following morning it was plain that I had a temperature and a swollen throat. Off flying for that afternoon but it became worse and I was ordered to sickbay where I was to stay for over two weeks with tonsillitis, a badly infected throat etc: The question now was; how could I catch up with the others? More tests and Xrays. My lungs were OK but I was forced to convalesce with a low blood count. Anaemia! I couldn't believe it. I was far fitter and tougher than most but I was off flying!

I could hardly grasp it but was told in no uncertain manner that if I wanted to get my wings I had better do what I was told. A low blood count may well lower my threshold to blackouts etc: etc: so I would still be off flying. I had now been off for almost four weeks, they 'may' allow me to drop back onto the next course which was four weeks behind us.

It would mean leaving the friends who had been with me for so long and would certainly mean that I would lose the instructor with whom I had such a good rapport. It was plain that I had better get my head down and make the best of a bad job. My fun with toilet rolls followed me here but it was far harder and I never succeeded in cutting one more than twice. It was so much more difficult to find them with the superior speed and greater turning circle of the Harvard

The following is copied directly from a letter home at about this time:-
NB It was written over a period of some weeks.

"I should love to 'bail out' (escape by parachute) but it is not likely unless someone chews my tail off formation flying line astern. I mention this because it happened to one of our chaps. He had his tail damaged by someone following him. Everyone was in a hell of a flap because the blood wagon was out and he made a fairish landing under the circumstances. He got out and went round to have a look. When he saw the damage he flaked out!

At the present moment planes are hareing around all over the sky @ 0 ft. There is a clamp on (low cloud base) and to think that I missed it by a matter of minutes. Hell! Some people get all the luck.

We get thrown off the course for low flying ordinarily. My old course gets it's wings tomorrow then off they go. Some as instructors, a few on PRU (Photographic Reconnaissance Unit) and the rest to train on twins as bombers. Only three out of the 56 went on to OTU (Operations Training Unit) as fighters. These three are the most envied in the camp. One is my great friend Johnnie Walton. I always said he would be top of the course and he said that I would. McKee went on to PRU. (remember, he
and I took our leave horse trekking in the Rockies)

I have no idea when coming home. It depends on what I get to do. As you would expect I shall do my best to go to O.T.U. but it looks bad when so few made it from the last course. I have been doing my best to project my dreams to the powers that be. My instructor considers me to be too "split arsed" with a plane to be an instructor so I hope to avoid that at least. Before solo at night I must confess to being somewhat apprehensive about my abilities as a night pilot but when it came to it I made my best night
circuit ever. Lofty (my instructor) came to meet me as I taxied in full of congratulations.

I perform so much better in a plane on my own and boob on every dual test I make. In fact I sometimes wonder why they have let me get this far. Most people get test nerves but I certainly seem to get them very badly.

Several days later

Lofty took me through the obligatory aerobatics that we must perform (rolls - spins both ways - stall turns - etc: etc) he took me through them time after time and I was clumsy as hell. We landed and he said "You had better get some practice in." My heart sank as those damned wings seemed further away than ever. I went up and tried everything time after time; 1Hr 15 mins intense aerobatics.

When I walked in Lofty was standing there, helmet in hand. "Now why don't you fly like that on a test?" "Fly like what?" "You had better keep a better lookout if you ever get onto fighters!"

Lofty - Sgt Lofting

Sgt. Lofting, "Lofty".

 I had thought, at first, that he was a bit wet. He must be 6' 3" but probably weighs less than I do. We must look odd going out to the plane together with him tall and lanky looking as though the wind would blow him over and I short and (If you want to be polite) 'chunky'. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza!!! No. That is a bit cruel! To me of course.

He told me that he too had trouble on flying tests, perhaps he is letting me down lightly! Bill Wray (he has been with me since entry at St John's Wood) has had it. He crashed about 100 miles away bang in the middle of a lake about 5 miles across. Luckily for him it is very shallow. I went to have a look yesterday. The wings are off and upside down with one wheel poking at the sky in futility. The fuselage is almost intact @ about 45°, half under water - engine half hanging off. He got away with it. He is in Assiniboia Hospital with concussion.

Harvard split in two

  Bill Wray's Harvard. 

His plea (not that anyone believes it) is that "the sun got him" @ about 6,000ft and that he remembered nothing more. He also claims that he had concussion as a kid. He will be thrown off the course whether his story or no. It is very difficult to judge height over smooth water. How do I know? Shhh!! "

Here the letter ends but at this distance in time there is nothing of importance to add.

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Edward Sparkes ©1998