THE LANSDOWNE MONUMENT
further info by
Alf Daltrey (non member)
I found the article about the Lansdowne Monument by the Marquis of Lansdowne very interesting because I was a Staff Pilot at No. 2 RFS Yatesbury in 1944. He was correct about there having been some near misses during WW2. There were several, but, they were not accidental. In actual fact, the obelisk posed no threat to our safety because we did not fly in dangerously bad weather. Every morning before breakfast the CFI (Chief Flying Instructor) took a look at the weather and made a decision. It had to be really bad for a 'clamp' announcement which resulted in us retiring to the Mess to play poker, bridge or whatever.
About half of the sixty or so pilots at Yatesbury were elderly veterans who had completed one or two operational tours in Fighter or Bomber Command. Some of them were at least twenty five. The other half were youngsters like me, raring to go and much aggrieved to have been sidetracked into a six month stint as a Staff Pilot before going on to an OTU (Operational Training Unit). I was barely twenty years old and mad keen to get involved on the war raging full blast in Europe and the Far East. Instead there was I stooging sedately over the Downs in an equipment laden Proctor while my WOP/AG aircrew cadets carried out their air to ground wireless training. It went on day after day, weather permitting, weak after weak, month after month. I looked for opportunities to relieve the monotony, as did some of the other younger pilots. One such opportunity cropped up when our landing flight path was over the Monument. I deliberately flew as close to it's top as I dared. The nearest I achieved was about ten feet which was not very good according to some of the other pilots, particularly the Aussies. (They were a bold lot, but that's another story).
I would stress that Proctors were very reliable aircraft. To the best of my knowledge, they flew tens of thousands of prang free hours in WW2. Not so the Yatesbury Tiger Moths. They were there to enable the pilots to carry out their mandatory monthly instrument flying practice. Two pilots per session taking turns to spend half an hour flying blind under the hood while the other acted as a safety pilot. Observers in the more remote areas of the Downs would have often witnessed a Tiger Moth pilot demonstrating some remarkably skillful 'blind flying'. Impressive low level aerobatics were common and the 'last minute' hedge hopping was often spectacular. Unfortunately Tiger Moths were not very good at flying through large trees, as occurred twice during my time at Yatesbury.
At long last I was posted to an advanced flying training unit from where, eventually, I was posted to a Mosquito OTU - on the day the war ended!
Half a life time later, my attitude to my war record as a non combatant Staff Pilot at Yatesbury changed to one of gratitude. If my youthful wish for a speedy posting to 'the action' had been granted, I might not be writing these words, nearly sixty years on, about how young WW" pilots mock attacked the Landsdowne Monument - for a lark.
I'm glad we never hit it!
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