diary of bruce johnston diary of bruce johnston




Terms and Slang

French city 125 kms north of Paris near the English Channel


Ack ack
German anti-aircraft fire

Accumulators, the airplane’s internal 28 volt batteries

Aerodrome Control Position – man who sat at the end of the runway and kept vigil on planes taking off, to ensure there were no problems

Officer who assists a Commanding Officer with administration

“A” flight
One of two or three smaller groups of planes that comprised the squadron – “A” flight at 115 Squadron had about 15 crews

Advanced Flying Unit – a training unit one attends before moving on to an Operational Training Unit

Air gunner

Letter written on a special form that was then photographed, sent overseas, developed, printed and placed in an envelope for delivery

Air test
Test flew a new or newly repaired aircraft, to ensure that it could participate in training or operations

Alert and all clear
Loud sirens to warn of air raids, and that the danger has passed - also referred to as “alert and cuckoo”

City in north central India near Nepal

All up weight
Total weight of the aircraft, including fuel, bombs and crew

A ground-based bombing trainer, to practice simulated bombing runs

The Avro Anson was a twin-engine plane that could accommodate 3–4 people, that was used by the Allies during the war as a crew trainer

Items to be sewn on a uniform, such as patches, ribbons, or braids

Arthur’s Seat
250 metre tall extinct volcano in Edinburgh, Scotland

Photo at right:
Arthur's Seat

Artillery Spotting Auster
High winged, single engine unarmed plane used by the RAF for artillery spotting, and observing the enemy

Photo at right:
Artillery Spotting Auster

Assault Course
Obstacle course simulating battlefield conditions

Assignment (home)
Amount automatically deducted from one's pay, and sent home (in this case, to Canada)

Astro navigation

Compass used to determine the true heading of the airplane

Transparent dome in which a navigator could use a sextant to obtain sightings

Auxiliary Territorial Service – a force of about 20,000 women who performed operational support tasks, such as driving, postal work, food preparation, ammunition inspection, and working searchlights

Railway junction 100 kms northeast of Paris, near the German border


Island group in the Atlantic Ocean, 1,500 kms west of the Mediterranean Sea

Bomb aimer

Bad boobs
Big mistakes

Bags of flap
Lots of chaos / disorganization

Large balloons anchored singly or in a series over a potential target to support nets that hindered the passage of enemy planes

Photo at right:
Balloons tethered over London

Town 90 kms northwest of London

Bang on the aiming point
Bombs landed on target

Suburb of Calcutta, India, now called Barakpur

Enemy fire which is designed to fill a volume or area, rather than aimed at a specific target

Blind Approach Training

Soldier assigned as the personal assistant to a commissioned officer

Battle course
Obstacle course simulating battlefield conditions

Battle dress
Woollen working uniform

Battle order
List of airmen going on a bombing mission

Bay of Biscay
Body of water in the Atlantic bordering France and Spain

Beach head
Coastal area of France re-taken from the Germans in June 1944, and secured by the Allied troops

Beat up the field
Low level high speed flyover of an airfield, frowned on by the Commanding Officers

Beauvoir–sur–mer, a French town on the Atlantic coast just southwest of Nantes

Guard of the Tower of London

City on northeast coast of Libya on the Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea

“B” flight
One of two or three smaller groups of planes that comprised the squadron – "B" flight at 115 Squadron had about 15 crews, including Johnston’s

Big Three Confab
Meetings held between Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt in Yalta (south coast of Ukraine) from February 4–11, 1945

Lodgings for military personnel

Town 50 kms northwest of London

A blue coloured combination airmail letter and envelope, that was created during the war specifically for use to or from military personnel based overseas – introduced in 1942 and originally restricted to use to/from military personnel, this was expanded in September 1944 to be used between civilians – the airmail cost was 10 cents

Bofors flak
Swedish manufactured 40 mm anti–aircraft gun

Ran the aircraft off of the runway, where it stuck, hindering the arrival or departure of other planes

Bombed up
Bombs were loaded on the airplane

Photo at right:
“Bombing up” a Lancaster

Bombing panel
Control panel for bomb deployment

Bomb sight
Device used to mark the target to be bombed

Made a mistake

City in the southern part of France near the Bay of Biscay

Bought it
Was killed

Box of tricks
GEE based bombing system

Boys got up
Planes were able to fly

German city 300 kms northwest of Berlin, near the North Sea

City in England 125 kms west of London

Brown boys
The army

German city 175 kms west of Berlin

A training flight over British cities, to learn evasion techniques for search lights and night fighters


Burton on Trent
RAF airbase 150 kms northwest of London, near Birmingham

Bury St Edmunds / Bury
Town in Suffolk 100 kms northeast of London

Busman’s holiday
A holiday spent in an activity similar to, or the same as, one’s regular occupation

Buzz bomb
Nickname for a German V1 flying bomb that was gyroscopically guided and powered by a jet engine

Military transport plane that was an unarmed variation of the Liberator bomber

French city 200 kms west of Paris near the English Channel

French port on the English Channel immediately across from Dover, England

City in eastern India near the Bay of Bengal

City 75 kms north of London

Came back on the beam
Followed a radio signal to get back to base, due to poor visibility

Military operation

Canada Medals
Canadian Volunteer Service Medals

Incendiary bombs

Military shop where members of the armed forces could purchase refreshments and provisions

Small French town near the English Channel, 100 kms north of Paris

Cardigan Bay
Large bay in the Irish Sea off the west coast of Wales

Circuits and landings

Coastal Command Gunnery

Lower height of cloud cover

“C” Flight
One of three smaller groups of planes that comprised the squadron – “C” flight at 115 Squadron had about 15 crews

Chief Ground Instructor

English Channel, body of water that separates England and France

Channel Islands
Group of British islands in the English Channel near France that were captured and occupied by the Germans during the war

Chedburgh / Ched
Home base of 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit, near Bury St. Edmunds, in Suffolk – Group 3 base

Home base of Operational Training Unit 12, near Banbury

Chipping–Warden Aerodrome

Planes that were shot down


Chute webbing
Parachute harness

Chief instructor

A camera in the plane aimed at the ground to capture the bombing results on film

Circuit people
Those scheduled to do circuits (take-offs and landings)

Pilot training exercise consisting of a series of touch and go landings

Civilian clothing

Clamp / Clamped
Heavy fog, no visibility – planes not able to fly

Cleaned up the route
Revised the planned route to make it safer or more direct

Clearance kits
Paperwork and approvals to be completed before one can be posted to another base

Paperwork and other details finalized, to allow for transfer to another base

Cloud base
Lower height of cloud cover

Commanding Officer

Cock A / Cock H
Switches used to control fuel flow between tanks

Cockpit check / drill
Pre-flight procedures, or practicing them

Type of coal used to heat the barracks huts

Small luxuries sent from Canadian organizations to military personnel overseas, such as soap, cigarettes, chocolate, and razor blades

Computer box
Device on a bomber in which data was entered, such as wind speed and direction, and the plane's air speed, direction, and height, and which then calculated the moment the bombs should be dropped

Plane was caught simultaneously in the beams of a number of searchlights, and then flak was concentrated on it

Contact lighting
A series of white marker lights on either side of the runway to provide a visual aid to the pilot in landing

Contact strip
Grass strip beside the runway, which could be used to land disabled planes

Con unit
Heavy Conversion Unit, for training on 4 engine planes (“converting” from 2 engine planes)

4,000 lb bomb, consisting of a steel tube packed with RDX explosive

Photo at right:
“Cookie” being loaded onto a lancaster

A flying maneuver to evade an enemy, consisting of a fast downward spiral

Corner House
Corner Houses were a chain of very large eating establishments, each with 4 or 5 differently themed restaurants on as many floors

Course picture
Photo of the crews, class picture

Crawling flat on the ground to avoid detection or being shot by the enemy

Crew bus
Transportation that shuttled the crews from their billets to the airplanes – a distance of anywhere up to 16 kms

Crew drills
Procedures to safely evacuate the plane as a team in the event of an emergency

Crewed up
Has a full crew

Cross country
Training flight across the countryside

Crowd in the circuit
Many planes waiting to take off or land

Constant Speed Unit, which kept the propellers rotating at the same RPMs

Canadian Women’s Army Corps

Daily Sketch
A national newspaper in England

Photo at right:
Daily Sketch - Sep 8/44

Audio call signal used to indicate an emergency

Daylight (show)
Daylight operation / mission

Daytona Beach
City in Florida on the Atlantic coast

“D” drill
Dinghy drill – procedures to safely evacuate the plane in the event of a water landing

The ground

Trousers worn when sloppy work was being done, in order to save battle dress trousers from being soiled

Home base of 84 Operational Training Unit, in Northamptonshire

Training flight

Distinguished Flying Cross – medal for exceptional service or bravery

Photo at right:

Slang for “flying” – from the perception of pilots that flying in wartime was gambling with death

French town on the English Channel that was the site of an unsuccessful Canadian offensive in August 1942, that resulted in a high number of casualties

Dispersal points
Areas adjacent to the runways, and connected to the runways by taxi strips, that were used for parking planes in widely separated positions to minimize damage during an enemy attack on the airfield

Dominion Officer's Club

Doodle bug
A German V1 flying bomb, gyroscopically guided and powered by a jet engine – also called a Buzz bomb

Photo at right:
“Doodle Bug”

DR compass
Distant Reading compass

Small parachute deployed to slow down the aircraft upon landing

Drogue shooting
Machine gun practice on a target towed by another airplane


DR repeater
Distant Reading repeater – the repeater allowed the compass information to be viewed from more than one station on the plane

Fly a plane with an instructor

Dum Dum
Airport on the outskirts of Calcutta, India

Dummy factory
Useless or vacant building made to appear from the air as a legitimate factory, in order to create a wasteful target for opposing forces

Dummy parachutists
Three foot tall dummies attached to parachutes, dropped from planes to misdirect the enemy, and encourage them to unnecessarily redeploy resources

Photo at right:
Dummy parachutist

French port that was the evacuation point to England of 338,000 Allies retreating from the German forces from May 24 – June 4, 1940

Mechanical component within a Lancaster, exact purpose unknown

Home base of Operational Training Unit 12, near Banbury

Chemical toilet carried on some airplanes

Small town 20 kms north of Cambridge

Engineer leader
The lead engineer for the squadron

Entertainment National Service Association

Ground crew

Escape photos
Photos that could be attached to fake ID cards, to assist crew members in their escape if they were shot down over enemy territory

Fighter Affiliation – bombers practicing defensive maneuvers, such as corkscrews, against British fighters

French city 175 kms west of Paris, and just south of Caen

Align the propeller blades with the slipstream to minimize drag and prevent windmilling when the engine is shut down

Home base of 3 Lancaster Finishing School, near Thetford, Norfolk

Fighter affiliation
Bombers practicing defensive maneuvers, such as corkscrews, against British fighters

Fighter flares
Flares dropped by German fighters to make Allied bombers more visible

Base of 18 Operational Training Unit

Flying Instructor School

Town on the Welsh coast 300 kms west of London

Rearward–looking early warning radar mounted in bombers to warn of enemy fighters

Positions or locations determined by use of navigational aids such as GEE, H2S or astro

Flight Lieutenant

German anti-aircraft fire

Photos at right:
Flying through flak
Flak gun

Flat spin
A plane spinning out of control with its nose and tail horizontal to the ground – the plane's belly is “flat” to the ground in this spin

Fleet air arm
Operational group in the Royal Navy responsible for ship–based aircraft

Subdivision of a squadron – usually 2 or 3 (eg. A, B or C Flight)

Flight Engineer Leader
The lead flight engineer for the squadron

Flight lieutenant being due
Promotion to Flight Lieutenant being due

Operational offices and control centre for the squadron

Flying bomb
A German V1 bomb gyroscopically guided and powered by a jet engine – also called a Doodle bug or Buzz bomb

Photo at right:
Flying Bomb

Flying kit
Flying gear – clothing & accessories

Flying rations
Prepackaged meals and drinks taken on operations

Flying Scotsman
The 10 a.m. train from Kings Cross station (London) to Edinburgh – has carried this nickname since its introduction in 1862

Photo at right:
Flying Scotsman

Flying Officer

Forage cap
Hat worn by members of the armed forces

Flew in formation

Fort D’englos
A fort used to store artillery shells and munitions located in Lille, France, just inland from the English Channel near the Belgium border

Forth Bridge
World's first large–scale steel bridge, over 1.5 kms long spanning the Forth River near Edinburgh, Scotland

Photo at right:
Forth Bridge

B–17 Flying Fortress, an American heavy bomber

Forty-eight (hours)
Two day leave (48 hours)

Foxed the Hun
Outwitted the German defences

Foxy tactics
Tricky strategies or maneuvers

German city 300 kms southwest of Berlin near the French border

Weather system

Flight Sergeant

Approach lights in a funnel shape that directed planes coming in for a landing to the runways

Home base of 86 Operational Training Unit

Gas exercise
Drill where participants wore gas masks for a period of time, sometimes accompanied by tear gas or similar non–lethal gas

Gave the BA some dual
Gave the bomb aimer some instruction or training in other specialties, such as navigation

Radio navigation system with three transmitters in England – by timing synchronized pulses from the transmitters navigators could calculate their positions very accurately – it did not extend over the radio horizon, and the Germans jammed it, but it was a good tool over England and the North Sea – the same principles behind GEE are those that are behind today's GPS systems

General information, background

Genning up on dinghies
Studying lifeboat drills


Greenwich Mean Time

Good show
Excellent performance, well done

Got my tape
Tape was the braid that went on the sleeve of a uniform to indicate one’s rank

Got my times up to date
Updated his flying log, including calculating total hours flown

Got up

General Reconnaissance

Great Barton
Small town near Bury St Edmunds

Greene huts
Where the flight officers (Women’s Division) were billeted at Chipping-Warden airbase

Small, imaginary creatures blamed for mechanical failures, excessive cloud cover, and other problems

Ground operational exercise

Ground bods
Ground crew, men who maintained and serviced the airplanes

Photo at right: Johnston’s crew (back), with ground crew (front) of 115 Squadron lancaster KO-W
Ground studies / Ground school
Classroom studies, as opposed to flying

A number of squadrons

Ground speed

Inertial device for measuring change in attitude (pitch, roll, yaw)

Radar navigation and blind–bomb aiming aid – a downward pointing radar scanner in the rear belly of the aircraft – it gave a reasonable “picture” of the ground below; apparently water, buildings and roads showed up clearly – it could not be jammed, but the Germans found their fighters could home in on it, so once the RAF figured this out, H2S was only used by bombers for very short periods – the popular explanation for the strange name was that a top brass air force officer upon being told of the new unit's expected performance, was extremely skeptical – “It stinks” he said bluntly, “call it H2S” (hydrogen sulfide, the chemical which gives rotten eggs their smell) – alternative nickname: Home Sweet Home

Halifax bomber – a four engine RAF bomber with a crew of seven, that could carry a payload of 13,000 lbs (5,900 kgs) – variations of this versatile plane were also used for special operations, reconnaissance, glider towing and paratroop transport

Photo at right:
Halifax bomber

German city 200 kms northwest of Berlin near the Baltic coast

Hang ups
Bombs that would not release

Harrow Wealdstone
Headquarters of Transport Command

Happy Valley
RAF nickname for the Ruhr valley industrial area in Western Germany

Hay fever
Allergic condition affecting the mucous membrane of the upper respiratory tract and eyes; most often characterized by nasal discharge, sneezing, and itching water eyes – usually caused by an abnormal sensitivity to airborne pollen

High level bombing

Home Guard
Voluntary part-time force in Britain during the war, established to back up the regular army in the event of a German invasion

The GEE box was used by the navigator to find the aircraft's position, but could also be used as a homing device


Hung up
(Bombs) would not release

RAF single–seater fighter plane

Photo at right:
Arthur's Seat

Hyde Park
Large park in central London

A situation where ice formed on the wings and other air surfaces, which made the airplane less aerodynamic, and in extreme cases could cause it to plummet uncontrollably and crash

Instrument flying

Small bombs, usually dropped in clusters, designed to start fires upon exploding

Incendiary cluster
Smaller bombs loaded into a larger canister

In the circuit
Preparing to land

German fighter aircraft flying over England, often trying to intercept and shoot down Allied bombers as they returned to base

D-Day – Allied invasion of Europe, June 6, 1944

Awarding of medals to those who had recently earned them

I won’t kick
I won't kick up a fuss, or get upset

Slang for Germans

Discard unused bombs prior to landing

Dodged, used quick turns to avoid danger

J type incendiaries
Small type of incendiary bombs mounted in canisters

Junkers 88 / Ju 88
German fighter aircraft

Photo at right:
Junkers 88

Port city in Pakistan on the Arabian Sea

German city near the French border

Kew Gardens
Home of the Royal Botanical Gardens, in London

German Baltic port 100 kms north of Hamburg

Flying gear – clothes and accessories

Dufflebag containing one’s kit


K of C
Knights of Columbus, who established subsidized canteens in London for military personnel

The four engine Lancaster bomber was the backbone of the RAF bomber offensive, flying 40% of all sorties during the war. Its extremely powerful engines allowed it to carry bomb loads of up to 22,000 lbs (10,000 kgs) – far more than any other bomber used during the war. Its seven person crew consisted of a pilot, flight engineer, navigator, wireless operator, bomb aimer, mid-upper gunner and rear gunner.

Photo at right:
Lancaster bomber

Lancs II
Lancaster Mark IIs

Landing Distance Available – relates to the weight of the aircraft at take–off, and the speed and length of runway required to get the plane in the air – this would be impacted by last–minute changes to the bomb load

There were people at the base in charge of each function, such as bombing, signals, navigation and engineering

French port on the English Channel

French city 200 kms north of Paris near the Belgium border

Lancaster Finishing School – a short course to familiarize the aircrew with the Lancaster bomber

Liaison Officer
Officer from one part of the armed forces who worked to coordinate efforts with another group - for example an RCAF officer working with the RAF

Liberty bus
Bus that transported airmen on leave between their base and nearby destinations

Libs & Lib VI
Liberator, type of American four engine bomber, also used for transport

Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Location of RCAF Headquarters

A pilot trainer which consisted of just a cockpit – early pre-cursor to the modern flight simulators in which most pilots are trained

Photo at right:
Link trainer

Control cables, chains or rods that in this case allowed the turret to rotate

Link Room
Room containing the Link (pilot trainer)

Lion Squadron pass
RCAF 427 “Lion” bomber Squadron, based in Leeming, was adopted by MGM studios, whose mascot was a lion – each member of the squadron received a hard plastic coin that allowed free admission to any of MGM's theatres anywhere in the world - it also allowed the bearer to bypass any lineup and go straight to the front

Photo at right:
Lion Squadron Pass

L’Isle Adam
Small town just northeast of Paris

Truck, often used to transport troops

Shot down, did not return from a mission

Lost the stream
Could not keep up with the rest of the bomber stream

RAF base 100 kms west of London, near Swinton, that was used by Transport Command

French city 350 kms southeast of Paris

Mag switch
Magneto switch, used to turn on and off the engines

Main Force
Main operational battle group

Island in the Mediterranean Sea 100 kms south of Sicily

German city near the French border

French town near Caen and the English Channel, 100 kms northwest of Paris

Marshalling yards
Railway yards

The Miles Martinet was an aircraft designed for the RAF for use in towing targets in the air on which crews could practice gunnery – over 1,700 were built between 1942 and the end of the war

Photo at right:
Miles Martinet

Master bomber
Specific bomber that remained over the target area advising crews exactly which previously dropped marker flares to bomb, and which flares were German decoys

Home base of 75 Squadron

Room where meals were eaten

Mess bill
Charge for being a member of the Officers’ Mess

Messerschmitt 109 – German fighter aircraft

Photo at right:
Messerschmitt 109

RAF airbase near Thetford, Norfolk – Group 3 airbase

Met wind
Meteorological conditions, or forecast – in this case, windy

Mid–upper gunner

Home base of 15 & 622 Squadrons, Group 3, in Suffolk

Mk 1
Mark one

Town in Holland on the Waal River, 20 kms south of Rotterdam

French city 75 kms north of Paris

Mosquito bomber – the “Mossie” was a versatile RAF twin engine plane, with a mainly plywood construction that made it both agile and faster than any fighter - it was durable, could fly to altitudes above 10,000 metres, and had exceptional combat range – these features made the two person plane invaluable not only as a bomber, but as a fighter, a Pathfinder, and for photo reconnaissance

Photo at right:

A company that put out films of news and current events for moviegoers

Motor or mechanical transport

My flight officer was through
His promotion to flight officer was complete


Nav lights
External navigation lights

Supporting airfield with no permanent squadron, and eventual home of the Bombing Development Unit


Theatres, often located in train stations, that showed newsreels on a continuous loop

Night flying

Code name for a graduation exercise at the end of training that involved flying over enemy territory for the first time, and dropping leaflets

Night effort
Night time operation / mission

91 Group
RAF bomber group consisting of squadrons based at several airfields 75 kms northwest of London

Nissen hut
Shelter consisting of a sheet of corrugated steel bent into a half cylinder, with masonry walls at each end

Photo at right:
Nissen hut

City in central England 100 kms northwest of London

No soap
It won't happen

French town 50 kms southwest of Paris

Nuremburg Show
Bombing operation on the German city of Nuremburg, March 30/31, 1944, during which many Allied planes were shot down

Home base of 7 Squadron, in Cambridgeshire

Officer, Commanding - same as Commanding Officer (CO)

Small simple flute-like wind instrument shaped like a sweet potato

Occupied territories
German–occupied countries, such as France, Belgium and Holland

I (One)
Mark 1 bomber

138 Squadron, which conducted “special duty” operations behind enemy lines, including dropping agents, arms, explosives and radios to the Resistance, and sometimes landing and picking up passengers for return to England

Operational meal
Substantial, better than usual, meal that aircrews received before going on an operation

Operational Training Unit
An OTU was a training unit attended once one left the Advanced Flying Unit, that specialized in molding airmen into aircrews, who could work as a team

Operational mission(s)

Ops time
Total amount of time spent on operations / missions

Verbal (not written) test or exam

Circling the target awaiting instructions from the Master Bomber

French city 100 kms south of Paris

Operational Training Unit – a training unit attended once one left the Advanced Flying Unit, that specialized in molding airmen into aircrews, who could work as a team

Touch down on landing too far along the runway to come to a stop before the runway ended – if the pilot realized it in time, he could get back up in the air, to come around and try again

The “Ox Box” was a three person twin engine RAF plane developed exclusively for a variety of training purposes, including bombing

Photo at right:

Oxygen cock
Oxygen supply on / off valve

Oxygen height
Planes were not pressured, so supplementary oxygen was required above a certain height

Magnetic hand–held compass

Paddle props
Type of large propellers that gave better performance at high altitudes


Pat Bay
Patricia Bay, British Columbia, home of 3 Operational Training Unit

Bomber loaded with incendiary bombs and flares that preceded the main bomber stream to mark the target

Pay parade
Payday, where everyone was paid their wages

Serial number of new “Willie” delivered to 115 Squadron at Witchford September 9, 1944 – was eventually lost when it crashed in the sea during H2S training on November 26, 1944

German town located on the island of Usedom just off the Baltic coast directly north of Berlin – during the war there was an important V rocket testing and development facility located there, surrounded by heavy flak defences

PFF Pathfinder Force
Group that preceded the main bomber stream to mark the target with incendiary bombs and flares PI Port inner – engine closest to the fuselage on the left side of the airplane

Piccadilly (Circus)
Traffic junction in central London, near the entertainment district

Picket post
Sentry station, or guard station

Seat for a second person on a motorbike

Pilot bombing
As a back–up, the pilot could drop the bombs from his position in the airplane, if necessary

Pilotless effort / plane
German V1 bomb

Photo at right:
Pilotless effort

Pitot head
Air speed indicator sensor

Plot of Canadians
Cemetery for Canadians

Pilot Officer

Port outer – Engine furthest from the fuselage on the left side of the airplane

Port ear
Left ear

Port fin
Left tail fin

Port gen
Generator on the left side of the plane that provided power for specific components

Port inner
Engine closest to the fuselage on the left side of the airplane

Port outer
Engine furthest from the fuselage on the left side of the airplane

Posted / postings
Assigned / assignments

Postings Officer
Officer in charge of processing orders sending personnel to other stations and/or responsibilities

Prisoner of War

Crash a plane, usually on landing or takeoff at the airfield

Paperwork for the mission, such as the flight plan and bombing instructions


Physical training

Physical Training Instructor

Genuine, real, accurate

Poor, bad, or sick

Course necessary to reach a base or given point, obtained by calling up a ground station, giving the specified code letters or numbers, and pressing the morse key for a long dash – the ground station would take a bearing, and transmit the magnetic course in compass degrees to reach the destination

Royal Air Force

Range orders
Bombing range procedures

In order, from most senior: Wing Commander (W/C or Wingco), Squadron Leader (S/L), Flight Lieutenant (F/Lt), Flying Officer (F/O), Pilot Officer (P/O), Warrant Officer (W/O)

Royal Canadian Air Force

British city 50 kms west of London

Real McCoy
Real thing or genuine article

Rear fin
Airplane’s tail section

Term normally used to indicate a plane being recalled to base, but sometimes used to refer to crews on leave being recalled to the airbase

Preparing armed forces personnel for returning to civilian life

Display ribbons that are worn to represent specific medals awarded to the wearer

Rich mixture climb
Refers to adding more fuel to the pistons of the engines in relationship to the amount of air used – increasing the fuel added to the engine’s performance, but used more fuel – a “rich mixture climb” therefore used up more fuel, but gave the added performance required to climb more steeply

Right hand circuit
Fly a right turn to line up for landing

Rocket ack ack
Rocket propelled German anti-aircraft fire

Rocket bombs
German V2 rocket-propelled missiles with 2,200 lb warheads

Flares, verey lights

Crazy, mixed–up

French city 75 kms northeast of Paris near the Atlantic coast

An American airbase near Bury St Edmunds

Radio transmitter, for voice communication


Industrial centre in western Germany

German town located 350 kms southwest of Berlin near Frankfurt

Sandra (lights)
Three search lights positioned around an airfield and directed skyward to form a cone, the glow of which could be seen by planes trying to find the airfield

Scattered cloud

Bombers exploding in flight, usually as a result of the bombs on board being hit by enemy fire – to preserve morale, crews were told that these were enemy explosive devices designed to look like planes blowing up


A person who had completed their tour, and often assisted new crews in their training

Relieved from duty, usually because a tour has been completed

Planned flights were cancelled

Scrub game
Pick–up game

Single engine – Depending on the context, either a one–engine plane, such as a fighter, or practicing flying a two engine plane on one engine, to simulate emergency situations

Second detail
Second of two scheduled training flights

Second dickey
Second pilot, often accompanying an experienced crew on a mission to see how they worked together, before starting operations with his own crew

Self help (scheme) Manual labour projects designed to keep the crews occupied during down time

Service Flying Training School

Sgt’s billets / quarters
Lodgings for the sergeants

Airbase in Iraq, 450 km south of Baghdad near the border with Saudi Arabia

Location of the RAF Aircrew Refresher Centre, a disciplinary base where aircrews were punished by being subjected to exhausting physical exercise

Shooting a real line
Telling a story, explaining oneself

Bombing range located close to the town of Shotteswell, near Edgehill

Starboard inner, engine closest to the fuselage on the right side of the airplane

Sick parade
The daily military formation by which individuals report as sick to the medical officer

Sick quarters

Single engine
Depending on the context, either a one–engine plane, such as a fighter, or practicing flying a two engine plane on one engine, to simulate emergency situations

664B form
Form required to obtain a replacement piece of flying kit equipment, for which the crewman was then charged

Sky marker
Multi–coloured pyrotechnics that descended under a parachute and served as an aiming point while still in the air - often used to identify bombing targets when clouds or smokescreens hampered visibility of the target

Squadron Leader

Slip crew
Second crew that went along on very long flights, and relieved the original crew about half way through

Snapshots, photographs

Flew a plane by oneself

Service Police

Bullet–shaped faring over the nose of the propeller, that smooths the airflow around the propeller hub

Spitfire, RAF fighter aircraft

Photo at right:

Squadron / Squad
Usually consisted of 12 or more airplanes

Stand down
Operations are not scheduled, or have been cancelled

Starter acc
Starter accumulators – a set of batteries on a cart that was used to power up the airplanes without draining the plane's internal batteries

Star Weekly
Week–end Toronto Star newspaper, with colour pictures

St Elmo’s fire
Electrical discharge resembling a flame associated with electrical storms

Polish port city on the Baltic near Germany, now called Szczecin

Control in an airplane for altitude and direction

Several bombs dropped together or in immediate succession, rather than in series

Stirling bomber – the RAF’s first four engine bomber, it was hampered by its relatively narrow wingspan, which gave it limited speed and climbing ability. First introduced for night bombing, it was soon replaced by more advanced bombers, and relegated to less hazardous duties such as carrying troops, towing gliders and laying mines

Photo at right:

Stoodged around
Flew slowly over an area, and delayed landing

Group 3 airbase, 17 kms outside of Bury St Edmunds

Unbroken sheet of low–altitude clouds

Bomber stream – concentrated group of airplanes heading to the same target

St Tudwals
Town on the north side of Cardigan Bay on the west coast of Wales, 275 kms northwest of London

German city near the French border

Army position below that of captain

Sun bath
Sun tan

Sun ray treatments
Exposure to a mercury vapour lamp, which gave off a high level of ultraviolet radiation

Photo at right:
Sunray lamp

Training on the specialties of other crew members, such as navigation and bombing

Swanton–Morley base in Norfolk

Sweet rations
Candy provided to the crews, often before missions

Loudspeaker system

Taxi point
Area to which aircraft moved from their dispersal points around the airfield, to await instructions from the control tower

Light meal in the late afternoon or evening

Ten pounds, six shillings, six pence

10/10 cloud
Measure of cloud cover, ranging from 0/10 (cloudless) to 10/10 (completely clouded over)

Third Reich

III (three)
Mark III bomber

Threw out both trunks
Dislodged both trunks, corrugated rubber hoses used to jettison fuel in an emergency

Firecracker that exploded with a lot of light and noise, to simulate a bomb blast

Tiger Moth
The de Havilland Tiger Moth was a biplane with room for a student and instructor, that was used extensively by the Allies during the war as a trainer for pilots

Photo at right:
de Havilland Tiger Moth

Tin hats
Helmets used by the British army, and issued to their aircrews

Target Indicators – type of marker flare in different colours dropped by the Pathfinders that preceded the bomber stream, and used to identify a bombing target

Take off

Tonbridge Wells
Suburb in southeast London

Toronto Weekly
Toronto Star newspaper

Track miles
Round trip distance

Transport Command
RAF Command responsible for ferrying planes and delivering supplies

Trimmed full port aileron heavy
Adjusted the flap at the rear edge of the left wing to its fullest extent, in order to provide lift

Bombing missions


Home base of 90 Squadron

Turning point
The route to the target was not direct – this indicates one of the turns

Turn seven
Turns were the order in which returning planes were cleared to land – a plane given “turn seven” would land seventh

Transparent bubble in a bomber in which a gunner was located

Photo at right:
Rear turret in a Lancaster

Form 1250 Identification cards

Twin engine machine
German fighter aircraft

Twin engine airplane

Undercart / undercarriage
Wheel assemblies, landing gear

London subway system

#2 SFTS (Service Flying Training School) Uplands, in Ottawa, Canada

Unserviceable, or unusable

A German flying bomb gyroscopically guided and powered by a jet engine – also called a Doodle bug or Buzz bomb

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A German rocket–propelled missile with a 2,200 lb warhead

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French city 200 kms north of Paris, near the Belgium border

Verey lights
Coloured flares fired from special pistols

Small town in France near the English Channel, 100 kms northwest of Paris

Combination letter and envelope, similar to a blueform

Women’s Auxiliary Air Force

Wanganui Sky Marker
A radar-directed sky marker consisting of flares suspended under parachutes, used to mark a bombing target when the ground was obscured

Permission pass that allowed one to travel off of the base

Home base of 1 “R” Depot RCAF in Lancashire

Watch office
Control hub for all flying operations at an aerodrome

Home base of 514 Squadron, near Cambridge

French town 30 kms inland from the English Channel near Calais

Wing Commander - head of two or more squadrons

RCAF Women's Division personnel

A twin engine bomber with a six person crew, that carried out much of the RAF's night bombing offensive early in the war, until the heavy four engine bombers were introduced. Its success was due to a unique geodetic construction, consisting of a network of Duralumin-channel beams – this resulted in a combination of high strength and low weight, which also allowed it to survive terrific battle damage – it was nicknamed the “Wimpy” or “Wimp” after the Popeye comic strip character J. Wellington Wimpey

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Went for a Burton
Was killed on a mission – Burton was a popular beer in wartime Britain, and at the time, had an advertising campaign showing different incomplete jobs, with no one working on them – for example, a partially painted wall, with a ladder, paint can and brush, and no painter. The caption read: “Went for a Burton”. Airmen used this term to describe crews that had gone on a mission, and not returned.

20 Advanced Flying Unit, Weston–on–the–Green, in Oxford, where Johnston trained in September 1943

Wet dinghy drill
Practicing getting into life rafts, in the event of a water landing

Meteorological conditions, or weather forecast

Used for emergencies, such as for directing crew members to life rafts in the event of a water landing in the dark

Wellington bomber

Strips of aluminum foil of a set length jettisoned in large numbers from planes to cloud or jam enemy radar. There is evidence that the success of the Window caused the Germans to accelerate development and accuracy of ground radar, along with other improvements in airborne defences, which led to very serious losses for Bomber Command in 1944

Two or more squadrons

Wing Commander
Head of two or more squadrons

Wings Abroad
The official RCAF newsletter

Base of 115 Squadron, Group 3, in Cambridgeshire

W.O. 1
Warrant Officer, First Class

One of three RAF bases specifically designed to accept damaged or fuel-short bombers returning from raids over Germany

Woolfox Lodge
Home base of 218 Squadron, five miles northwest of Stamford, Oakham, Rutland

Home base of 18 Operational Training Unit, RAF unit near Retford, Notts

Wratting Common
Home base of 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit – Group 3

Wireless telegraphy, for morse (not voice) communication


© Bruce Johnston, Mark Johnston, Scott Johnston

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