A Visit with Al Castleman, page 8 - Photos #3

PHOTOS from Mac Parker,
Course 22
During his stay at
No. 1 British Flying Training School

Terrell, TX, USA

Mr. Mac Parker has shared these two old photos from his stay in Terrell, TX during his flight training days in 1943/4 with Course #22.
E-mail from Mac Parker

From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Sent: 10 Feb 2006
Subject: No. 1 BFTS Terrell
Dear Mr. Castleman
I have searched the web on several occasions looking for references to No. 1 BFTS, but this week was the first time your website came up and I was delighted to read it. I was on Course 22 around 1943/4 and I still remember the pride I felt being presented with my pilot wings on the parade ground in front of the control tower. The local band which played during the ceremony selected tunes having the word blue, either in the lyrics or title, I suppose due to the colour of our uniform. The tune being played at the time of my presentation was " Alice Blue Gown ", and whenever I hear it now it takes me back to that memorable day.
I still have my copy of Detached Flight Vol. VI which covers courses from 22 to 25, plus some very interesting photographs of instructors and staff. My primary instructor was Mr G E Robertson, a fatherly person but a brilliant pilot, he showed us how to fly, the advanced course was a refining of the skills with which he endowed us. I will always remember the day of my first solo flight after five and a half hours dual instruction, we had been doing circuits and bumps, when after landing Mr Robertson got out of the front cockpit, tethered the harness and said OK off you go. Having completed your takeoff and got in the air you are singing and laughing, hang a left, now the downwind leg, then the crosswind, the approach and the landing. Probably the best landing you ever make!! On one occasion I had to bring a Steerman back from a satellite field to Kaufman when a dry norther struck the field, without radio I had no knowledge of the weather warning so landed, Mr Robertson met me on the dispersal area, walked round the plane two or three times and could not believe I hadn't ground looped, neither could I as I got airbourne three times just taxiing in.
AS I write this memories keep flooding in, fried egg sandwiches if we had a few quarters left from the canteen in the evening, waiting for the guy who filled the cigarette machine to finish, he would never sell us a pack of Lucky Strike until he had filled the machine. Our families would send us out parcels of goodies, but no one wanted English cigarettes after we had smoked Lucky's or Camel's, of course smoking was safe in those days. One day somebody pinched my throat mike, I had to report it missing and was docked a weeks pay to get a new one. That was a week without Lucky's or fried egg sandwiches.
I remember your father well, and like other pupils used to watch out once the dispatcher had allocated you an airplane, to see which one of us was due for a check flight, and kept an eye on him to see which aircraft he was approaching. On my return to the UK I was lucky enough to remain on flying duties until my demob in 1947, we were retrained for duties in the Far East, but the bomb brought the Japan war to an end, so I took a pilot navigation instructors course.
I have visited Dallas on several occasions on business and was interested to see that the rotating flying horse in bright red neon which was a useful beacon when night flying for guiding us back to the airfield, was still there but no longer the tallest building in downtown Dallas. I am now approaching my 82nd birthday on May 8th this year, I was able to have a double celebration on my 21st birthday which as you will recall was also VE Day. But I consider myself very fortunate to have had that wonderful experience of my time in Texas, I met some wonderful friends in Dallas ,and of course the RAF.
I am attaching two photographs, the first Mr G E Robertson standing on the wing of a Steerman, the second G E R again and his four pupils on Course 22, from left to right, Harry Lowdon, Me, Poochy Pilkington and finally Paddy Preston. Paddy unfortunately didn't survive one of his check flights and was sent back to the UK. Unfortunately all my other memorabilia, log books and photographs were lost in a house move some many years ago, so it is good to have found your site and seen some of the old photographs.
My very best wishes to you and others who may read this,
Sincerely Mac Parker.

G. E. Robertson on the wing of a Steerman

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