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A Visit with Al Castleman, page 4

No.1 British Flying Training School

This page is dedicated to James Edward Castleman of Bogata, Texas.
Here you will learn about his early flying career working with the RAF
and the No. 1 British Flying Training School, Terrell, TX.

J. E. Castleman 1942
[1917 - 1967]

The following was taken from an article and picture in a local newspaper dated August 1, 1941:

Castleman Teaching the British

Pictured from Left to right:
Student J. R. A. Stead of Yorkshire, England;
Instructor James E. Castleman of Bogata, TX;
Students W. H. Smith of London, England;
and J. K. P. Rumball of Buenos Aaires, Argentina.

This picture shows Castleman and British RAF student pilots standing by a U. S. Army training plane. These boys join the RAF in practically the same manner as American cadets join our air corps. They received about six months ground training before they left England, then came by boat to Canada. While there, they received more training in navigation and meterology. Before their arrival at the aviation school of Dallas, they had received no actual flight training, however, when they have sucessfully completed the five months course, they will be competent fighter or bomber pilots.

Presently they are in the secondary phase of training, which includes night flying, instrument flying, formation and combat flying. Their advance training will be received in the Vultre and North American advance training planes. A large airport is under construction at Terrell, Texas, for the RAF training program. The field will probably be in operation by the middle of August. Instructer Castleman is the son of Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Castleman. He joined the staff of the Dallas school this spring after considerable experience flying his own plane in Bogata. Mr. and Mrs. Castleman are making their home in Dallas now.

Yearbooks called "DETACHED FLIGHT", Vol. 1-6, were published for the men who studied, worked and flew from this school. Click here to see a few photos from these yearbooks. And click here for photos sent to us by a former student, V. P. Cheek...Thanks, Pat!!!

There is a North American Association for this group. The current editor of the newsletter and chairman is Henry C. Madgwick, Sr., a past mayor of Terrell, Texas. The reunion in October 2000 in Terrell was a success, as was the November 2003 Reunion, also held in Terrell. Donations are always welcome for the support of the museum for the No. 1 British Flying Training School of Terrell, Kaufman Co., TX., which is now open. Send donations to "Museum Board Fund" Treasurer, Cliford N. Taylor, making checks payable to No. 1 BFTS Association, 6 Silent Wings Blvd., Terrell, TX 75160-5401.

Newspaper article

The above image was captured from an old yellow worn out newspaper clipping. Staff correspondent, Hal Lewis, wrote his article Aug. 24, 1945, about the closing of the No. 1 British Flying Training School in Terrell, TX. He said that 2,200 men trained at the school, closing out a chapter in the war-years history of the RAF training in this part of Texas. Mentioned in the article was Flight Sgt. A. L. Aaron who received the Victoria Cross, the highest award in the British army and a graduate of the school. He died of wounds which would not have been fatal, but he insisted on sticking at the controls of his Stirling and brought his crew safely home before he died. Mentioned also was Flight Lt. Ken Vickers, a great pilot who distinquished himself in the battle of the Ruhr, and many more too numerous to list who attended the Terrell school. The school was owned by W. L. Long of Dallas, and it was the first of six civilian contract schools opened in this country in 1941 to train RAF pilots. All flight training was handled by civilian pilots and flight supervisors under the direction of an RAF staff. A staff of American AAF officers handled the ground school instruction. Eighteen English boys are buried at the Terrell Oakland Memorial Park cemetery with a monument there inscribed from Rupert Brooke's famous lines: Some Corner of a foreign field that is forever England.

We have received many nice E-mails regarding this website. Below is a wonderful E-mail from a man who viewed this webpage and was kind enough to write this message, which touched us deeply:

From: "glyngowans" [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Sent: Wed, 18 Aug 2004
Subject: No. 1 British Flying Training School
Dear Mr. Castleman,
When I was a child growing up in Wales in the late Fifties and early Sixties, one of the few benefits of being ill in bed was that after work my father, James (Jim) Macaulay Gowans, would come and sit with me for a few hours and tell me all about his experiences of learning to fly in Texas during the War, a place which at that time I knew only from films and television and associated with cowboys and 'Indians'. And he would go and fetch all his old maps, which, if I remember correctly, were marked 'US ARMY AIR FORCE' and 'TOP SECRET'; I'm not sure he should have brought them home with him to the UK, but they not only helped to illuminate his exciting tales but also proved to give me a life-long passion for maps!
In June of this year my father celebrated his eightieth birthday and a few weeks later he came to visit us here in Mallorca. For some reason, we ended up one evening talking about Texas and his RAF service during World War II. Wonderful memories came flooding back for both of us, and after he left I resolved to try and find out more about that extraordinary period in his life. So, I just typed 'Texas' and 'RAF' in the Yahoo Advanced Search boxes and up came your superb website. I was immediately stunned to find myself looking at a photograph of my father: in the The Daily Times Herald photograph of August 24, 1945, Papa is the fourth from the left in the back row! I printed off copies of the photograph and all the information about your father and mailed them to my father in Cyprus, where my parents have lived for many years. My letter only arrived there today and immediately I received a truly ecstatic fax from Papa; indeed, you cannot imagine how happy your website has made him and, therefore, me - for which I thank you profusely.
Papa remembers your father well; indeed, he flew with Papa on his final instrument check. To quote my father: 'His plane was the latest with all the electrical and instrument gadgets for instrument flying. I don't know why he checked me out!' My father still has all his wartime maps of Texas, but unfortunately when my parents moved some four years ago he misplaced - and possibly lost - all his Terrell log books, in which your father probably featured. However, I believe he still has his personal War diaries.
My father also recognises all the pilots in the Times Herald photograph and remembers most of their names, although he believes some of the chaps on his course are missing. One of those is Jeremy Fry, who was a member of the family which at that time owned one of Britain's largest chocolate companies! Fry was at the famous Gordonstoun School in Scotland (where both the Duke of Edinburgh and his son, Prince Charles, were educated) and was a brilliant engineer. He went on to invent the motorized pipeline valve actuator and to found the company Rotork plc. He was also a close friend of Anthony Armstrong-Jones (now the Earl of Snowdon) who married the Queen's sister, the late Princess Margaret. Indeed, Fry was to have been the best man at their wedding in Westminster Abbey, but, according to the official reports, he was too ill to attend. I belive Fry is still alive and now lives in India.
Papa sailed from Liverpool on New Year's Eve 1944 on the Mauretania and landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There followed a tremendous train journey across North America to Dallas via Montreal, Chicago and St Louis. Of course, coming from a country suffering from severe rationing, bombing and blackouts, Texas was like Heaven. Indeed, although he was being trained for military action, I believe those months in Terrell were some of the happiest of his life. When Germany surrendered in May 1945, my father expected that after receiving his wings he would be sent to the Far East to help finish off Japan, and had grave doubts that he would return. And then came the terrible atom bombs, which, paradoxically, probably saved both his life and those of countless thousands of other Allied military personnel.
My father remained in the RAF for some time after the War, but finally decided to return to civilian life and a career in engineering. As I've said, he and my mother have lived in Cyprus for some years. Their home is not far from the large British RAF base at Akrotiri. As an ex-RAF pilot, my father is a menber of their flying club, so he still gets his hands on the controls of a few non-jet planes from time to time - thanks in no small part to your father!
In conclusion, I must say that I find it truly amazing that due to this electronic medium, I can, almost sixty years later, communicate with the son of the man who unwittingly helped to provide me with those magical hours as I lay in bed all those years ago battling against childhood ilnesses. On a more general note, perhaps I should add that even though our two nations may have occasional disagreements - just like all good friends and couples - I am sure that most Britons, like myself, recognise that without the brave sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of young Americans in two World Wars, we here in Europe would not today be enjoying the freedoms and liberties which, all too sadly, so many take for granted.
Yours sincerely,
Glyn Macaulay Gowans

Stan Perkins 27 Course
Thanks to Stan Perkins for sharing this photo. He was a former student of No.1 BFTS from Course 27, now of Mandurah Western Australia. He wrote in Aug. 2004: "Jimmy Barr was my instructor on Primary and ........"he just flew by the seat of his pants", a remarkable bloke. Mr. N. G. Howell was my advanaced instructor on AT6 Texan's." Stan also wrote that he left the RAF in 1947, then moved to Australia.

Oakland Memorial Cemetery
British pilots buried at Oakland Memorial Park Cemetery
Photo taken Feb. 1999, Terrell, Kaufman Co., TX.
Click here to see this same cemetery in the 1940s


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This page was created Feb. 1999 and updated Feb. 7, 2009