Tuesday 5 March 2013

Map of Courage

By Mitch Stirling

I am drawn to old maps... like a moth to a light bulb. They are wonderful visual records of change - sometimes for good, sometimes not-so-good - but always fascinating, like this 1: 250 000 aeronautical from 1943.  

If you trace the railway line from Salisbury to Sinoia... you can see that it branches off the Umtali line on the outskirts of Salisbury near what used to be the Municipal market. Then it snakes along, where the Enterprise road is today, and alongside the prison and through where the University now stands. Then it runs parallel to the Lomagundi road where a little side-road called Halt Way exists today. Presumably this was a railway station in the old days?

A wider scan shows Pendennis airfield and today's Pendennis road must have been named after the farm.

The four airfields marked with roundels were: No 20 SFTS Cranborne, started in 1940 and No 25 EFTS Belvedere, in the same year. No 28 EFTS Mt Hampden was opened in 1941 and the same with No 33 CFS Norton. 

Sebastopol, north of the Umtali road, was a relief airfield for Cranborne. Heinzani was somewhere nearby, but I can't find it, nor Park Ridge. Inkomo, Oldbury and Rainham were relief fields for Mt Hampden, but only Rainham Farm is familiar these days - on the extended centre-line of runway 06 at Charles Prince airfield. There's no sign of Stamford airfield today.

'Pana mazinana ano bururuka', the motto of EFTS Mt Hampden where 'fledglings take wing', could have applied equally to all the flight training schools, except Norton, perhaps, where advanced training took place. The Elementary Flight Training Schools gave their recruits 50 hours of basic instruction on simple trainers, but pilots with signs of good aptitude were introduced to more advanced types at Service Flight Training Schools and finally Central Flying School where all types were in use at the Flight Instructor's School under Group Captain Craig. These included Cornells, Oxfords and Ansons.  

The history of flight training in Mashonaland is dotted with incidents and accidents, with the thin air of the high plateau often cited as one of the main causes. The underpowered Tiger Moths had to be nursed along very carefully and the Cornells were a welcome replacement as time went by. Old Harvard 1's and variants 2, 2a and 3 were scattered around the country, sometimes crashing in remote areas of bush. The 'Ox Box' and 'Flying Glass House' were used as twin-engined trainers for pilots, navigators and gunners.


Harvard 'prang'

Canadian-built Fairchild Cornell

Avro Anson

Airspeed Oxford

Tiger crash at Belvedere 

Later Belvedere derelict buildings

Belvedere Opened 24 May 1940

Belvedere Camp Cinema
Roll of Honour 1940 - 1944

Roll of honour

TRIBUTE paid to the memory of the under mentioned Flying Instructors, Cadets and members of the Ground Staff of this Station who were killed or died during the course of their service at Belvedere during the period 1940-1944.
Cadet Sgt. I C, Smith: 20th June, 1940.
Cadet L/A/Q A. B, Birrell: 20th May, 1941
F/Lt. L. S. T. Tindall: 28th August, 1941
P/O. R.F. Murphy: 16th December. 1941
Cadet L/A/C. C. E. Graham: 22nd August, 1942
F/Lt. A, E, Stringer: 14th November, 1942
Cadet L/A/C. C. P. Fotheringham: 23rd November, 1942
F/O. M.G.F Nockolds.: 24th November, 1942
Cadet Cpl S. Collins: 21st October, 1943
Sgt. W. H. Southgate: 26th October, 1943
Cadet Cpl. J. H. Tait: 26th October, 1943
P/O. A. J. N. Berry: 4th November, 1943
Cadet A/C/2. N. R, Bell: 29th December 1943
L/A/C/W. M. A. Hughes: 17th September, 1944

But it was not 'all work and no play' for the boys (and girls) at RATG!

R.A.F. Belvedere
Belvedere Concert Party
" Full Revs"
11th, 12th & 13th September 1944

By kind permission of I be Commanding Officer
Wing Commander P. C. Fletcher, D.F.C.

Stage Manager: Eddie Kilfoy
Electricians: F. Sgt. Jenkins, Reg Whitclock

Electrical Installation  by: Reg Whitclock

Costumes Created by: "Yorky" Downsborough

Stage and Setting: J. Groves, K. Sanson, E. Hodgson

House Manager: Ted Plews

Production: Val Manning, J. Groves

Words and Music of Opening Chorus and Finale by: Eddie Harter

Words of 'Thanks for the Memory' by: Colin Winsor

Our thanks to:-
W/Cdr. Fletcher for his permission (kind)
S/Ldr. Hall who we pestered every day.
S/Ldr. Pennant Rae for the loan of his staff.
F/Lt. Miller who arbitrated all our fight.
Sg. Harper and staff of the Canteen who gave us food.
The W.A.A.S. who ushered you in and sold programmes.
The Personnel of the Station who suffered through our continual rehersals and to Val Manning without who this show would never have gone on.

Christmas dinner - RAF Norton

After the war the core buildings at Norton were used briefly as an internment camp for POW's and thereafter as a Junior school which opened in 1948. Kids who went there - Chris Dixon (RIP) was one - will remember the names of Cornell, Oxford and Anson, the names of their school hostels. The concrete runway, with tall thatching grass growing through the fissures, and the old tower and concrete plinths were extant even in the 1970's. By this time the school had been renamed Dudley Hall in recognition of the past headmaster, an exceptional man.

Ask any ex-pupils from Norton school about the folklore that lingers in their memories and they will tell you spooky stories about the Porta farm atrocities during the Mashona rebellion in 1896 when Joseph Norton and his wife and child were brutally murdered. And ask them about the eerie spectre of airmen who never returned from war lurking in the school cellars and underground bunkers. Like the ghosts of Biggin Hill, the 'ghosts of Norton past' were very real to some and provided good ammunition for seniors to scare young boys and girls!

Norton Camp - 20 March 1944

But, imprinted clearly on all of their young minds was the wonderfully unique school motto - the single word  'COURAGE' - which epitomizes the bravery of past members of 33 CFS Norton and all other war-time airmen throughout the land.
'Strength will come through our fledglings'  

Photo credits with thanks to: Stan Rogers, Mark Dorkin, Brian Spurr, John Reid-Rowland, Tony Hawes memoirs, 'Souvenir Brochure of Belvedere' from Nicky (Elphinstone) Pearce and the interesting map and 'walk' down the old railway track by John Reid-Rowland.      


Thanks to Mitch for sharing his article with ORAFs, thanks also to all those that made photographs and memories available to ORAFs.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at orafs11@gmail.com

(Please visit our previous posts and archives)

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At 6 March 2013 at 10:00 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Nigel Fotheringham (RhAF) Writes:-

Please thank Mitch for this story.

You have no idea how much time I have spent trawling through stories like this over the years looking for a mention of my father’s brother, Claude Fotheringham, and bingo, there is his name in the Roll of Honour in this article. He was killed in a training accident flying a Tiger Moth somewhere near Marandellas. But I never knew where he was based or his rank.

At 16 March 2013 at 13:09 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Gomo Hill (BSAP) Writes:-

The article by Mitch Stirling brought back some memories..

When my father took us to Rhodesia at the end of the last world war, we lived in a house owned by Kim Rule [RAR] situate in the Lomagundi Road, just opposite the Avondale Halt on the rail line to Sinoia where King George [I think] Rd and Lomagundi met at a ‘T’ junction. The railway reserve was a wilderness and was my play ground for many years. The steam trains came past on a daily basis, Monday to Friday. What fun to watch them come past and, sometimes, shunt and leave a wagon or two at the siding. The wild flowers in spring time were plentiful and beautiful. Broadlands road ran to the north side of the rail reserve and there was a Convent up on the top of the kopje that rose above the road and rail reserve.

In later years as a policeman stationed at Avondale I had a hilarious chase after a criminal along Broadlands road. There had been a housebreaking and an accused had been chased into a thicket of trees. He had not come out but we could not see him. A rustle above my head made me look up and there was the accused on a branch above me.

He jumped down and took off, jumping fences as we chased after him through the big residential properties in the area. We must have looked like something out of Keystone cops!

The chase took us through a garden where there was a party on the go. None of the party goers did anything to help but a shouted invitation to ‘come and join us when you have caught him’ was accepted with alacrity. We duly caught the criminal, recovered the stolen property and went and joined the party, uniforms and all.
A wonderful evening and good police / public relations were formed.

What wonderful days those were!


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