THE SPANISH EPISODE

(Leading to a Chance for a Commission in the R.A.F.)

At the end of the flying course I returned to Brough and to my old job. I found a note left for me by a number of the ground engineering staff with whom I was friendly. It said "Come on Geoff, come down and join us. We've all gone down to Imperial Airways and joined the ground staff there". Although I applied to Imperial Airways for a job, I also decided that I would first of all reply to an advert that I had seen for pilots, although I hadn't got a lot of experience at that time. Even so, I found to my astonishment that I was to have an interview in London for the job. The job was flying aircraft out to Spain. The Spanish War was in progress at that time and this was for the Spanish Government. I decided that it was quite wrong for me to do anything like that, although it was for four hundred pounds a month, which was very tempting at the time. So without any further hesitation I wrote and sent the particulars on to the Air Officer Commanding, Reserve Command. I had an immediate reply asking for the original letter offering me this job. I forwarded this to the Air Officer Commanding and the next thing that happened was that I was informed that I had got the job I'd applied for with Imperial Airways.
The more recognisable Croydon Airport around 1930.

An Armstrong Whitworth Argosy,
G-EBLF 'City of Birmingham',
with a Handley Page W10 'City of Pretoria' behind, waiting on the apron while passengers, mail, and cargo are being loaded.

Original painting by Kenneth McDonough


Handley Page 42

So I moved down to Croydon, after giving my notice in at Brough, and went on to night shift work. This time I was on maintenance of the large aircraft, the Handley Page 42 and the Short Scylla aircraft (both four engined passenger machines). Mind you I was only cleaning plugs etc. Anyhow, after a fortnight of this the hangar foreman came up to me and said, "Look here, Porter, wouldn't you like to go on a course to become a Licenced Ground Engineer? Because we have a school right here and you could go to it and be paid the same as you are now, so you wouldn't lose by it". I thought, " That's a good idea", and started Ground School the following Monday, where I was to learn enough to get my Aircraft Maintenance Licenses. If I passed that I would be able to carry on and complete a course on engines as well, so that I would then have both 'A' and 'C' Ground Engineer's licenses, which were the licenses needed for the maintenance of both private and commercial aircraft. They would also qualify me to carry out daily inspections and sign daily inspection certificates.

About a week or so into the course I went home for the weekend and my fiancÚ told me that a Scotland Yard Inspector had been to her home, wanted to see me and said he would be back in half an hour.

When he came back he informed me that they wanted me to continue my contact with the people that were recruiting pilots for Spain and if possible to make an appointment with these agents and find out a bit more about it. I agreed to this and he told me that he would be calling for me and notifying the airline people that I was to be allowed to come out of the class at any time that he called. On making the appointment with the agent in London, I met a number of other chaps who were after the same job and reported this to the officer in charge at Scotland Yard. From there on I was going to Ground School to get my Engineer's licenses during the day and also going backwards and forwards getting information on the Spanish job. This went on for some time until I was eventually notified that I would be required to take an aircraft to Spain from a South coast aerodrome. On informing the inspector about this he told me not to worry and that I would not be going to Spain and that they had now got sufficient information to take some action to stop it. In the mean time I was asked what they could do for me. I told the inspector that all I really wanted was to get more flying in so that I could get a commercial pilot's license. He said, "Well, how would you like to take a short service commission in the Royal Air Force"? I said that four years was too long as things were happening at that time. He said that he would see me next time and see what other information he could get for me. I saw him a few days after that and he gave me some papers which he said he'd like filled out and signed and that he would take it from there. The next thing I heard was a request for me to go to Air Ministry for another board; this one a Commissioning Board. He said that they were going to commission me as an acting Pilot Officer and that I could go in the Force for twelve months with other young men taking Short Service commissions as pilots, which should be enough flying time for me to get my commercial pilot's license.


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