Introduction and Summary

Aubrey as a Boys Trumpeter, probably taken in April 1939, 3 months after his 16th birthday.

Aubrey as a Boys Trumpeter, probably taken in April 1939, 3 months after his 16th birthday.

In 1938, at the age of 15, Aubrey, applied to join the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice. Although he passed his RAF exams, he was deaf in his right ear, and as a consequence failed the medical. However, undaunted, he later applied to join the Army, fortified by the knowledge of how they carried out hearing tests.  In his own words, he “conned” the Services Medical Officer, and this time passing his medical with flying colours, joined the Royal Artillery as a boy trumpeter on 24th January 1939, signing up until January 1950.
Although the 2nd World War was declared eight months later, Aubrey managed to go through his war years without being involved in any action against enemy forces, despite his considerable efforts to get transferred to units or regiments involved, or likely to be involved in fighting abroad.  A certain amount of luck also appeared to be on his side.  Stationed in Plymouth for a year, he left just before the blitz started, and spent two weeks in London during the middle of the blitz when no major bombing took place.  Aubrey was also involved in a train crash during this time, in which 4 people were killed, although he escaped unharmed.

Moving to India with the Royal Artillery in December 1944, he applied to join the Glider Pilot Regiment within about two weeks of arriving in India, and by the end of January 1945, had transferred to the Army Air Corps.  This appeared to finally give Aubrey the opportunity to fulfil his two ambitions from the war; to become a pilot and to engage the enemy, even if it was the feared Japanese.  Although he fulfilled the first of these aims, flying Tiger Moths, and qualifying as a Glider Pilot, the second was finally denied him by the surrender of the Japanese Army in August 1945 just after he had completed his initial pilot training.

Gliders lined up after a days flying.

Gliders lined up after a days flying.

Picture shows Halifax tug attached by rope to Horsa Glider about to take off

Picture shows Halifax tug attached by rope to Horsa Glider about to take off








Subsequent to this he was posted to Palestine in August 1946, at possibly the most tense time in the British mandate. Arriving a few days after the first major terrorist act of the 20th century, the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, he spent the next year acting mainly in a security role. This was carried out under the constant threat of kidnap or terrorist action. Returning to the UK in June 1947, and with a minimum of  2½ years left in the army, Aubrey started training Glider Pilots at RAF Booker near Marlow. However, married, and with a new baby on the way, he bought himself out of the last year of his service in January 1949.

Aubrey relaxing probably in India in 1946.

Aubrey relaxing probably in India in 1946.


Aubrey in the skiing resort of Gulmarg in the Himalayas in January 1945. Aubrey is third from the right .








Although Aubrey was forbidden to be a member of a political party whilst in uniform, it was clear from people who knew him in the early 1940s and his reading material, that he was exploring in detail the socialist ideals being practiced at the time. He was a keen reader of socialist material, particularly Russian texts which were the main socialist source available, particularly during his time in India. Whether this influenced his politics or not is not known, however he was to join the centre-left think tank the Fabian Society in February 1947, six months after arriving in Palestine, and four months before returning to the UK.

Royal Artillery, based in the UK, 24/01/1939 to 14/12/1944

  • 24/01/1939 to 26/08/1939       Woolwich
  • 27/08/1939 to 16/11/1939       Ascot
  • 17/11/1939 to 13/11/1940       Devonport (Plymouth)
  • 14/11/1940 to 19/08/1942       Newtown
  • 20/08/1942 to 31/12/1942       Grantham
  • 01/01/1943 to Sept. 1944        Alford (Lincolnshire)
  • Sept. 1944 to 14/12/1944        unknown, but probably Alford

1939 Boy Trumpeter

Up into the outbreak of war in 1939, boy trumpeters at Woolwich, or “Badgies” as they were affectionately called, were recruited into one of two depots, known respectively as the Depot Royal Artillery or the Grand Depot.  These boys were recruited in three sets of 60 for each Depot throughout the year in January, May and September.  These were then split into one of two batteries, with 3 sections in each Depot.   For the Grand Depot, January intakes went into the Ramsey section, May intakes into the Dickson section and September intakes into the Borgard section.  For the Depot Royal Artillery, January intakes went into the Ross section, May intakes into the Shrapnel section and September intakes into the Roberts section.  Aubrey was recruited into the Depot Royal Artillery in January just after his 16th birthday, and as such went into Ross section in the 2nd Boys Battery.  Together with the other boy trumpeters, he started a 1 year training course with the aim of producing the trumpeters required for the Royal Artillery and the Royal Horse Artillery.  Boy trumpeters were the time keepers of the day during the 2nd World War, and starting with Reveille, they would sound a succession of calls for various military duties throughout the day before ending with lights out, typically at 10:30.

On arrival at Greenwich, it is likely that Aubrey would have first reported to the Guard room at the Deport Royal Artillery where he would have been given his regimental number (889196) which stayed with him for the rest of his regimental career.  Here he would have enlisted for the minimum that a boy could which was 9 years, with his service not starting until after his 18th birthday.  This meant that Aubrey committed himself to the Royal Artillery until his 27th birthday, on 19th January 1951. On joining, Aubrey’s father would have been asked to sign a certificate agreeing that he could receive physical punishment if he was charged with any misdemeanours, the principal one of which was smoking which was strictly forbidden.  Few parents withheld permission.

Early Swimming Photograph at Woolwich taken in 1939 (2nd Boys Battery, Ross Section)

Early Swimming Photograph at Woolwich taken in 1939 (2nd Boys Battery, Ross Section)
Line up – 1st row Stride George Butcher Hames Snowden Hunter Leach Whitmarsh
2nd row Page? Midgeley Byrne Wardley
3rd row Ford Dudley

The daily routine of boy trumpeters was very regimented.  Starting with reveille at 6:30 blasted out by one of the trumpeters, their day would have consisted of the same routine of foot drill, sounding practice, physical education and education at the military school until tea at 17:00, and lights out sounded by one of the trumpeters at 10:30.  All these routines were kept to by the trumpeters call delivered from the square, with the ultimate aim of making sure that all boys passed the Army 3rd and 2nd class certificates of education and the sounding exams set by the Director of Music (Aubrey passed his 2nd class certificates of education whilst at Woolwich, and his 1st class with distinction a year later at Devonport).  After three months training, the best trumpeters were appointed as ‘Silver Trumpeters’ and were issued with a solid silver trumpet engraved with the donor’s name.

Although boy soldiers had weekends off, they had to attend church every Sunday, and were only allowed out of the barracks in the afternoons at weekends to visit friends in the area, provided of course that they had permission off their parents, and had been “taught to walk about smartly”.  Aubrey notes several trips out of the barracks in his diary, where he often visited relatives at his maternal grandfathers house in Lambeth.

Weekend leave was only granted for exceptional circumstances.  Two thirds of their pay was kept back for leave, which was three weeks duration, three times a year.  Aubrey notes in his diary his first weekly pay (after the two thirds deduction) was 2s 6d (12½p), from which he would have had to pay for his boot polish which in 1939 cost 4p, as well as silvo to polish his trumpet, which would have cost a similar amount.  However his pay doubled to 5s by November when he had qualified as a trumpeter.  This equates to about £15 in today’s (2015) money.

Social activities included a number of organized games, mainly football, cricket, boxing, hockey and swimming. For those who couldn’t swim, they were thrown in and poked with a stick if they tried to get out. Although Aubrey took an active part in many sporting activities, his favourite sport rugby did not appear to be an option at Woolwich (and later Ascot), and Aubrey did not play the first of many games in the Army until December 1939, by which time he had moved to Plymouth.


Lance Bombardier Aubrey Hames (far right) as the Brigadier trumpeter with (from left) Carter, Fred Brawn and Smith. Each regiment had 4 trumpeters, led by the Brigadier trumpeter. It is likely that this photograph was taken in Devonport in November 1939 when Aubrey was 16.

As for the first year of Aubrey’s army career, it did not have the most auspicious of starts. One month after joining he was hospitalised for two weeks, probably as a result of an allergic reaction to one or several vaccine injections. However, having recovered and obviously having leant to play the trumpet to an acceptable standard, he played a fanfare on 18th July 1939 for David Lloyd George, Prime Minister during the 1st World War, and the current Secretary of State for War, Leslie Hore-Belisha. Four days after this he also sounded a general salute for Queen Mary.

But with war imminent  by the summer of 1939, training of boy’s trumpeters ceased and Aubrey was transferred to Ascot.  With war declared on 3rd September, Aubrey like many of the boy soldiers was shocked by this news, noting it several times in his diary. Other boy soldiers found this too much to take, and over the next eight weeks, a number of them deserted, some of them several times. Most of these were caught within a day or so, and returned to the army to face their worst fears with no escape.

1940 Plymouth

Despite the initial shock at the horrors that war would bring, life at Ascot for the trumpeters soon settled down to a set and simple routine. The long days of lectures and bugle practice at Woolwich, with no or little time for social activities in the evening were modified, with regular route marches introduced, but now also supplemented with regular concerts and shows in the evenings. With Britain also entering the period of the Phoney War, that was to last until May 1940, life at Ascot also appeared to be relatively sedate. Giving Aubrey plenty of time for reading until waiting for his first posting of the war, this came on 17th November 1939, when together with three others he was posted as a trumpeter to the newly formed 23rd Medium and Heavy Training Unit in Devonport Plymouth.


One of a number of aerial photographs issued to Luftwaffe pilots during World War II to enable them to identify their targets. This photograph shows Raglan Barracks where Aubrey was stationed during the initial raids on Plymouth in late 1940. Courtesy Michael Cole, The Clique.

However, by May 1940, with the start of the Battle of France and the end of the Phoney War, events in Plymouth were about to take a dramatic turn. With 300,000 troops evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk, many of these started to arrive in Plymouth, including a large number of French troops. With France surrendering on 22nd June, the previously safe Plymouth was now exposed to front line danger, with at this time little armed defence against enemy air attack.

As a consequence, within a week the first of Plymouth’s 602 aid raid warnings during World War 2 were heard. These early warnings were recorded in Aubrey’s diary, as was the first bombing of Plymouth on 6th July, in which a lone aircraft dropped a number of bombs killing three people. Further raids took place the following day, and these were stepped up throughout July and into August, with some of these lasting all night. Raglan Barracks where Aubrey was stationed came under attack, with Aubrey noting several occasions where bombs dropped nearby, usually with significant loss of life.

With the inevitable loss of life following a raid, Aubrey was often called on together with another trumpeter to play a salute at a funeral. This included one on the 9th July after the initial raids, as well as one on 16th August, almost certainly for three naval ratings killed three days earlier.

Plymouth was by now no longer a safe place for the military, and in November 1940, the 23rd Medium and Heavy Training Unit packed their bags and, as was the norm at this time, travelled overnight to Newtown in mid-Wales.

Fire at Turnchapel Oil Depot 27 November 1940, following a bombing raid.  Although this raid took place two weeks after Aubrey left Plymouth, it demonstrates the damage carried out in Plymouth during his time there

Fire at Turnchapel Oil Depot 27 November 1940, following a bombing raid. Although this raid took place two weeks after Aubrey left Plymouth, it demonstrates the damage carried out in Plymouth during his time there

January 1941 to August 1942 Newtown

A rare photograph of the Royal Artillery marching through Newtown on Armistice Day 1940.  Courtesy National Library of Wales.

A rare photograph of the Royal Artillery marching through Newtown on Armistice Day 1940. Courtesy National Library of Wales.

Considered safe from the bombing raids that afflicted many towns and cities in the UK, the arrival of over four thousand military personnel brought a significant boost to the fortunes of Newtown, including its social life. Dances at the Church Hall increased to twice a week, later supplemented by dances at the Drill Hall. Programmes at the Regent Cinema changed twice weekly, and the approximately 30 licensed premises in Newtown undoubtedly witnessed a significant increase in trade.

Army meals were taken in the County Pavilion, although Aubrey soon found an alternative source of food, Mrs Jones’ Fish and Chip on Frolic Street. This very quickly became a firm favourite with Aubrey and his friends, where games of monopoly quickly became a common way of passing the day.

However, by this time, the frustration and boredom of being attached to a training unit was starting to tell on Aubrey. Occasional military exercises, and a presumed excitement at learning to drive in a Bren Gun Carrier, could not overcome his desire for action and his lack of desire as a drill and small arms instructor through the streets of Newtown. In March 1942, he put in for the newly formed Airborne Division. This was followed over the next three months by several requests for postings into action, all turned down by his Commanding Officer.

However, finally in August 1942 Aubrey finally got his wish and was posted to the 180 Field Regiment stationed in Grantham in Lincolnshire. His diary entry on hearing the news read “Hurrah!!! Whoopee!”.

August to December 1942 Grantham

Grantham was a place that with the benefit of a crystal ball would have been of great interest to Aubrey considering the organisations and people that it housed at the time. Since the 18th century it was best known as the place where Britain’s greatest mathematician Isaac Newton went to school, and during the war years, many members of the RAF were based nearby, as well as the Glider Pilot Regiment, whom Aubrey would successfully apply to join 2½ years later. However, of most interest in Aubrey’s crystal ball would have been the new head girl of Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, a certain Margaret Roberts, who later became better known as Margaret Thatcher. Although it is not known if Aubrey Hames and the future Mrs Thatcher ever met, their paths probably crossed including the local cinema the Picture House, which they both attended regularly.

However, the most significant event during Aubrey’s time in Grantham was a train crash he was involved in on 13th November, resulting in the death of four people. These are believed to be the only deaths witnessed by Aubrey during his time in the war.

Appleford Train Crash

At approximately 1:45am on November 13th, returning to Newport from a visit to his Grandfather in London, the train that Aubrey was travelling in collided with a derailed freight train that had passed through a red danger light near Appleford, just outside of Didcot. As a result, the three carriages containing approximately 200 passengers overturned, with Aubrey getting thrown against a window, before climbing out under the overturned carriage.

Three people were killed on the scene, including the driver of the freight train who by coincidence was from Newport.

Fourteen people were injured, nearly all of whom were army personnel. With the main impact taken by the mail carriage, no passengers were directly killed, although three RAF men were seriously injured and trapped under the wreckage. The most serious of these was a John Pritchard who lived a few miles away in Benson, who had broken several ribs as well as both his legs. With the help of fellow passengers, Aubrey used the splintered coachwork to light fires to provide light and to assist in the rescue operation. Although all three RAF men were rescued up to eight hours after the crash, one of them later died of his injuries a week later.

His death was reported on the front page of many papers the following week alongside news of the first operation carried out by members of the Glider Pilot Regiment, which resulted in the death of all crew members of the gliders. Aubrey was later to become a member of the Glider Pilot Regiment in 1946.

1943 and 1944 Alford

At the beginning of 1943, the 180th Field Regiment moved 50 miles up the road to Alford. Coinciding with the British victory in the second battle of El Alamein, the first major offensive for the allies since the start of the war, this also marked a significant change in the wars strategic direction. With large numbers of divisions posted abroad, and other divisions gutted to make up for lost troops, the 180th Field Regiment had lost 70% of its strength by the end of 1942. With the future of the regiment uncertain, and further postings out of the regiment before the end of March, Aubrey was devastated when on his 20th Birthday on 19th January, it was announced that the 180th Field Regiment was to become a reserve, supplemented with young members from other disbanded regiments.

Having joined the 180th Field Regiment to escape a training unit in Newtown, he now found himself back where he had started, but this time in a place that he wasn’t particularly enamoured with, and a tortuous 200 miles away from his new fiancé in Newtown.

Aubrey was to remain in Alford for the next two years. During this time he would have witnessed the aeroplanes filling the sky at the start of D-Day, followed three months later by the largest airborne operation in history, Operation Market Garden. This time having transferred to the 120th Field Regiment, he would have had to listen as his new colleagues recounted their experiences in France of D-Day, while his future colleagues of the Glider Pilot flew overhead. However, Aubrey’s frustrations were finally to come to an end on 15th December when he boarded a troop ship for an unknown destination after volunteering for service overseas.

Royal Artillery, based in the Deolali India, 15/12/1944 to 24/01/1945

Aubrey’s destination on leaving Britain was Deolali in India, a vast sprawling transit camp, the largest in India and the initial destination for nearly all troops proceeding to and from Britain. Housing a military hospital where soldiers with mental health problems were sent prior to being sent back to the UK, it had become famous for the origin of the slang word “doolally”, a phrase used to describe someone who is “out of one’s mind” or “crazy”. In the 1970s it also became well known as the setting for the first four series of the well-known sitcom “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”, based on Jimmy Perry’s experiences there with the Royal Artillery Concert Party in the Second World War. Later to become a big fan of Dad’s Army, Jimmy Perry’s most famous creation, Aubrey gave himself little time to enjoy any of the Royal Artillery Concert Party’s shows. Within a few days of arriving, an opportunity arose to join the newly formed Glider Pilot Regiment in what is now modern-day Pakistan. With no medical required, and therefore no chance of the deafness in his right ear being discovered, Aubrey was one of a number of army personnel who applied.


Glider Pilot Regiment

The idea of a glider pilot regiment for British forces came about as a result of their successful operation by German forces in a number of operations across Belgium, Holland and France in late 1939 and early 1940. As news of these achievements spread through Europe, so the potential of this new form of warfare became apparent. On 22nd June 1940 the very day that France asked Germany for an armistice, Churchill raised the order for the formation of a British force of airborne troops and a glider force that was to be in operation by the spring of the following year.

From the very early days, the concept behind the selection, training and use of British glider pilots was that having brought their troops and vehicles into battle, they were of no further use unless they could engage in combat. In this respect, they therefore had to be as fully capable as infantrymen as they were as pilots, in other words a “total soldier”. This concept immediately brought into focus a subject of contention between the Air Ministry and the War Office that was to last over a year over who was to supply and train these men. This was initially settled by the then Deputy Chief of Air Staff, later Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, who expressed reservations about the use of semi-skilled army personnel. The first batch of glider pilots where therefore initially recruited from the RAF from January 1941. However, this proved to be unsuccessful, mainly due to outside influences caused by a lack of progress in training as well as a shortage of suitable aircraft able to tow fully laden Horsa gliders. With morale amongst the RAF personnel low, the policy was then changed to recruit from the Army, with the call for volunteers going out on 3rd December 1941.

Initially the call for volunteers was restricted to the 5,000 army personnel who had already applied for transfer to the RAF for aircrew duties, with a minimum rank of sergeant. Having failed his RAF medical in 1939 and not yet being a sergeant, Aubrey was not able to apply, however on 10th March he did the next nearest thing, and applied to join the airborne division. Aubrey would have been well aware what he was letting himself in for at this stage as it was made clear at their interviews that a flight in a glider into enemy territory was possibly a one-way ticket. This may also have explained his actions exactly a week later when at the age of 19, he got engaged to his girlfriend Connie.

Initial operations of the glider pilot were not successful. In fact they were pretty disastrous. The first operation in Southern Norway in November 1942 resulted in both gliders used in the operation crashing as well as one of the tugs. All crew members either died in the crash or were captured and later killed by the Germans on the direct orders of Hitler and in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention. The next operation, the largest operation before their use in the D day landings of June 1945 involved 145 gliders as part of the Allied invasion of Sicily. Of these, only 54 landed in Sicily. 69 came down at sea and 11 were unaccounted for. This resulted in massive casualties, including the death of 57 pilots. However, the primary lessons from these disastrous operations, mainly a shortage of time in training and preparation were taken on board. There subsequent use in the D-Day landings of June 1945, where they were used to prepare the way for seaborne landings was hugely successful. This included the liberation of the first house during D-Day at the now named Pegasus Bridge, named after the shoulder emblem worn by the British airborne forces. The other bridge captured during this operation, a few hundred yards to the east is now known as Horsa Bridge. Despite the huge success of this operation, involving 248 gliders, and all pilots withdrawn to England the following day, 34 pilots still lost their lives.

However, possibly the most remarkable effects of the Glider Pilot Regiment was in the Battle of Arnhem, one of the most famous battles of the 2nd World War in September 1944. Although this battle is often described as a heroic yet tragic disaster for the allies, the initial stages involving the transport of vast numbers of men and equipment behind enemy lines was a remarkable achievement for the regiment. However, with 229 members of the Glider Pilot Regiment killed, and 469 either wounded or caught, this initially appeared to be the end of the regiment as the recruiting and necessary flying training of so many replacements appeared to not be possible.

With the end of the 2nd World War, and the emergence of the Helicopter, the tug glider combination was no longer seen as viable, and the Glider Pilot Regiment gradually started to disintegrate from 1948 onwards, finally being disbanded in 1957. The closure of possibly the smallest and most short-lived of the Regiments of the British Army, ended up losing 553 of its members over the course of the 2nd World War, which was over one third of its strength.


Army Air Corps, based in India, 25/01/1945 to 06/08/1946

  • 25/01/1945 to 26/08/1945       No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School
  • 27/08/1945 to 05/12/1945       344 Wing RAF
  • 06/12/1945 to 06/08/1946       670 Squadron RAF
Parachutists believed to be jumping out of Horsa glider at an unknown location.

Parachutists believed to be jumping out of Horsa glider at an unknown location.

After joining the Glider Pilot Regiment, Aubrey faced months of rigorous army training designed to make them “Total Soldiers”. This was to train a soldier to fly large numbers of troops and vehicles into battle, and then to fight alongside these men as infantrymen, gunners or sappers, proficient in the handling of all airborne weapons and vehicles. Aubrey therefore followed an initial period of unarmed combat, run marches, drill, rifle drill, lectures and kit cleaning. Many pupils struggled with this initial training, with the operations records book regularly noting what they termed “wastage of pupils”, and many having their training suspended. For those who passed the initial training period, flying was introduced after two months, with all Glider Pilots completing this part of the training promoted to Sergeant. This was undertaken on a De Havilland DH82A Tiger Moth, used as it was considered an easy plane to fly.

Clocking up 90 hours of flying time, Aubrey finally qualified as a light aircraft pilot on 25th July 1945, at which point he was posted to Fatehjang in the Punjab. By this time, the war in Europe had ended, although the war in the East did not seem likely to end soon, with little sign of the Japanese surrendering. However, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, followed by one on Nagasaki three days later soon brought the war in the east to an end, and Japan surrendered on 2nd September 1945.

Unloading a 75mm gun off a Horsa 2 glider

Unloading a 75mm gun off a Horsa 2 glider

Aubrey in the cockpit of a Horsa II glider about to land.

Aubrey in the cockpit of a Horsa II glider about to land.







With the surrender of the Japanese, and the ending of the 2nd World War, there suddenly became no obvious use for the Glider Pilot Regiment. Instructors were posted away from the school, leaving a skeleton staff, with measures taken to start winding the school up. With books in plentiful supply in India, this gave Aubrey plenty of time to read in this time, particularly socialist texts, a large number of which he seemed to get through in India.
Finally in August 1946, with little further use for Glider Pilots, Aubrey was posted with seven or eight other members of the Glider Pilot Regiment to RAF Aqir in Palestine.

No.1 Elementary Flying Training Squad in the Sergeants Mess in Secunderabad 8th May 1945 receiving news of VE day.  Talking to the South Wales Argus in the 1990s, Aubrey said this only caused muted celebrations in India at the time.  Even VJ day did not result in a great deal of celebration as all the soldiers wanted to do was come home and be demobbed.

No.1 Elementary Flying Training Squad in the Sergeants Mess in Secunderabad 8th May 1945 receiving news of VE day. Talking to the South Wales Argus in the 1990s, Aubrey said this only caused muted celebrations in India at the time. Even VJ day did not result in a great deal of celebration as all the soldiers wanted to do was come home and be demobbed.


Horsa GliderThe Horsa glider was a large flying machine designed to deliver large numbers of troops as a compact fighting unit behind enemy lines on or very near to a defined target.  It was constructed by gluing plywood onto a wooden frame and other non essential war materials, including a perspex cockpit.  Usually made by men skilled in woodwork, including undertakers, it was not surprisingly sometimes referred to as a flying coffin.  Rather an apt nickname when you consider the number of pilots killed during the 2nd World War, most of whom were killed in training.In Asia and the Middle East, it was found that the glue melted in the climate, and the wood was in Aubrey’s own words when interviewed by the South Wales Argus in the 1990s “prey to all sorts of little wood-nibbling insects that were out there”. The Horsa was therefore eventually replaced by American Waco gliders, which were constructed of canvas over metal tubing.  Despite this, all the glider pilot flying that Aubrey undertook was carried out in Horsas, and he never flew a Waco.

Wingspan – 88 feet                   Length – 67 feet       Height – 19 feet
Weight (empty) – 3.5 tonnes     Weight (loaded) – 7.0 tonnes
Tow speed – 127 mph               Glider speed – 100 mph (maximum)

Army Air Corps, based in Palestine, 07/08/1946 to 24/06/1947

  • 07/08/1946 to 29/08/1946       670 Squadron RAF
  • 30/08/1946 to 24/06/1947       1 Wing RAF

Aubrey arrived in Palestine at possibly the most tense time in its history. Sent to Palestine to act as a security force to assist the Palestine Police he arrived there two weeks after the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the first major terrorist attack of the 20th century that had resulted in the death of 91 people.


Bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, 22nd July 1946

Over the next year, Aubrey’s main task, and the one uppermost in the memories of most of those who served with Aubrey in Palestine was the cordon and search of mainly Jewish areas either in the hunt for certain individuals or weapons. During these operations, the troops often faced intense hostility and hatred, being spat on and the subject of intense abuse. This created a deeply unpleasant experience for troops in Palestine. Acting against civilian units without knowledge of whether they had arms and who had no means of identification, they felt constantly at risk identified as they were by their uniform, and their status in many eyes as an illegal occupying power.

With the constant threat of kidnap or terrorist action during Aubrey’s time in Palestine, restrictions were placed on troop movements, and troops had orders to be armed at all times, and to walk out in twos by day, and threes at night. Training and exercises were snatched as opportunities were offered, and were referred to as aims rather than targets.

As a consequence, little progress was made with plans for staging airborne exercises in many countries of the Middle East and many planned had to be dropped dependent on the ever changing situation in Palestine.

The first serious accident within the squadron caused by a pilot overshooting the runway (12/03/47).

The first serious accident within the squadron caused by a pilot overshooting the runway (12/03/47).

This was evidenced by Aubrey’s flying log book, which notes that during his eleven months in Palestine, he flew only four times. This compares to the almost 400 flights that Aubrey carried out during his 3½years in the Glider Pilot Regiment. Aubrey finally left Palestine on 24th June 1947, arriving back in the UK on 6th July. Two weeks later, the main terrorist group the Irgun Tsva’i-Leumi carried out their ultimate threat, hanging two British Sergeants in reprisals for four Jewish insurgents who had suffered the same fate.

Army Air Corps, based in the UK, 25/06/1947 to 24/06/1947

  • 25/06/1947 to 21/08/1947       probably 7 Flt D Squadron GPR
  • 22/08/1947 to 28/10/1947       7 Flt D Squadron GPR
  • 29/10/1947 to 14/01/1948       probably No. 21 Elementary Flying Training School
  • 15/01/1948 to 09/02/1949       No. 21 Elementary Flying Training School

Photograph believed to show Glider Pilot Regiment Instructors of No. 21 Elementary Flying School at RAF Booker in High Wycombe. This photograph which was probably taken in the summer of 1948 when Aubrey was 25, is possibly the last known photograph taken of him before he grew his famous moustache.
Line up: Back row Ridgway Rowley Steele Trueman
Front row Quarington Webb Ledger Hames

Back in the UK, Aubrey started flying Horsa II gliders out of RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire, and finally qualified as a glider pilot after a 12 week training course in October 1947. Aubrey then joined No. 21 Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Booker near Marlow in Buckinghamshire, this time as the trainer rather than the trainee.  With many of the Elementary Flying Training Schools now closed, all pilot training was now done from RAF Booker.  Training pilots from January until September 1948, during July and August 1948 he was unable to continue flying gliders as most Tugs were engaged in the Berlin airlift.  He and several of his army colleagues therefore decided to train as parachutists at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire.  However, with limited opportunity to fly due to the Berlin airlift, army life had by now become a little tedious and dull. With the birth of his first daughter Carole 8 days earlier, he left the army on 9th February 1949, buying himself out of the last 12 months of his service.  This cost him the grand total of £50 (equivalent to about £1850 in 2015). On his discharge, after 9 years active service and 1 year in the reserves, Sergeant Hames’ military conduct was described as exemplary.

Aubrey’s flying record
An excel file giving full details of Aubrey’s flying record is available here.

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