WITH 77 SQUADRON AT MIHO
by 85428 LAC Reg Adkins - Armourer
Jason (our eminent Webmaster) has been badgering me as to what I did in the RAAF way back then, It reminded me of my 18 months with 77 Squadron in BCOF Japan, in1947-48 so I dug out the Diary I kept, as an almost 21 year old,.and this is an excerpt of an exciting time on an Operational squadron.
July 11th, 1947. We deployed to the Spitfire base at Miho (near Matsue, on the coast on the north of the island in the Tottori Prefecture), for a Firepower Exercise (or Rocket/Gunnery Camp). The flight by RAF Dakota took 75 minutes.
The Flying programme called for 600 hours flying in 3 weeks, and flying began on the 14th, with Pilot Firing Range familiarisation.
July 15th, Plenty of general flying. There were two minor incidents when one aircraft ground looped on take off but recovered OK. Another's brakes overheated on take off so that when he retracted the gear, smoke filled the cockpit causing him to make an immediate landing back downwind.
July 16th, Big day with rockets. Twenty five hangups (i.e. failed to fire). Teams getting in each others way. Flying scrubbed at 1400 due rain.
The six rockets carried underwing were cordite filled and with a 60 lb concrete practice, or 25lb steel warhead. They were reputed to be "touchy" when armed, and this was only done on the end of the strip just before take off, with engine running and aircraft pointed away from habitation.
It was stated (on Course) that it takes less than 2volts to fire a RP (Rocket Projectile) and that it will blow a hole in 3/16' armour plate at 15', and it was a requirement for an electrician to get up on the wing to check/test the cockpit circuit first.
Then the armourer would approach from the side and rear, kneel down under the wing (in the slipstream from the big four bladed propeller), take the rocket electrical lead plug in his right hand, offer it up to the socket, cover his face with the left hand, in case it ignited, say a prayer and push it in. I hate to think what the rocket blast would have done to us, wearing nothing but shorts and boots, in which case we would have been burnt to a crisp, I suppose, but we never had any problems. I do remember one day when somebody got in a cockpit to do the "Daily" and tested the circuits. For some reason there was a rocket on its rail and it fired with a mighty roar heard all over the camp as it “whooshed” off and landed in a village.
Miho was on the north coast of Japan, a welcome change of scenery and a RAF station. I remember the early morning and late afternoon swims in the sea to which we were driven in trucks to refresh from the heat and humidity. I remember being most intrigued when I walked into a RAF Recreation Room one day, to see an airman and a Nurse, sitting holding hands and listening to a romantic tune on a gramophone - unheard of for lowly airmen in the RAAF at Bofu. It was playing the wistful song “Falling in Love with Love”, which always reminds me of that day whenever I hear it now.
July 17th, Sent off 9 Details with 25lb steel headed rockets, using about 250 per day and only 9 hangups.
July 18th, The section working more smoothly now and only nine hangups. Pilot averages increasing. Could see the Rocket Puffs (at the range), from the strip.
July 19th and 20th, Flying scrubbed due weather and this was due to Typhoon "Gwen". (refer my 1947 Diary for September 11th).
July 21st, Using rockets with 60lb heads and teamwork has settled down and everything going well.
July 22nd, Rockets - some rain.
July 23rd and 24th, Gunnery started.
I put up a "Black" one day, neglecting to remove the fabric patches from the ammunition links ejection chutes. They were normally faired over to cut down drag. On the pilot's first burst at the target, the links banked up in the chutes, causing the guns to jam. On return, the pilot said nothing to me, but his look of recrimination has stayed with me til now!
July 25th, Had some tense moments when Mustang A68-746 AM-A (F/O Campbell), landed without hydraulics, flaps or brakes. After going round twice, the pilot decided to put her down. He used half the strip before touching and then kangarooed twice. He was going like a bat out of hell and then the brakes came in. He was just about at the end of the strip and looked like going into the lake, so ran one leg into the dirt. I’ve always wanted to see a plane prang - but not after that. I think everybody was in that plane riding it down. It was ‘my’ aeroplane , too!
July 26th, I cleaned my guns and belted up 2500 rounds of .5 ammunition.
July 28th, Using some 25lb steel heads but mostly 60lb concrete heads. Very heavy and tired out after a full days work.
July 29th, - Gunnery - AM. Rockets - PM. A68-746 AM-A went U/S.
July 30th, - An RAF Sqdn. Ldr. took a Mustang up for the first time - Take off as expected. Landing was worse, but not bad for an initial.
August 1st, A68-746 AM-A in Gunnery detail. - Fired 518 rounds out of 600. Starboard outer gun jammed - blamed the cocking lever.
August 2nd, - Out to the Range to watch the Rocket firings. A/c dive from 6000' and release at 1000' to 500'. Rocket attains speed of 700 mph.
August 5th, Last day of Exercises. Seven Details of practice bombs finished by 1500 hours. Packed all gear. All aircraft serviceable except 3, including A68-746. AM-A.
August 6 - All the kites took off for BOFU this morning.
Everything was ready in plenty of time for the take off. The Pilots posed for a “Course” photo and then the “Erks” turned it on for any photographers interested.
The WVS girls put on their best frocks for the occasion and made everyone homesick.
Take off was at 1030 and all the kites got started without mishap - even old ‘46. Got some good shots as the kites took off in pairs. It was an excellent take off. They flew over while making formation and then came over in a 77 group formation.
The place seems strange now with no kites around.
We returned to Bofu on August 8th by Dakota after a very pleasant and exciting month at Miho. On return, found our room covered in mildew! Temperature on 13th confirmed at 100 degrees F. and "has been like that for a month". Most uncomfortable due to high humidity level.