England, and 8 (O) AFU, Mona

Gerry disembarked in England on 21st December 1943 (probably at Liverpool).

The following day he arrived at No 12 PDRC, the RNZAF Personnel Despatch & Reception Centre at Brighton.

The PDRC’s were used as holding facilities for the large numbers of air crew arriving in the UK, using hotels to accommodate the men while awaiting postings to advanced training units. 12 PDRC was based in the Grand and Metropole Hotels in Brighton.

It was almost 4 months before Gerry’s first posting in the UK, so this was probably quite a boring and frustrating period, interspersed with short periods of leave, exciting opportunities to experience big city life in London. This may have been when he was introduced to his ‘adoptive’ family in the UK, the Buckleys of Wellingborough.

18 April – 21 May 1944: Course #35, No. 8 (Observers) Advanced Flying Unit (AFU), RAF Mona, (Heneglwys), Isle Of Anglesey, Wales.

The Advanced Flying Units for Pilots and Observers (W/Op’s and Navigators) were set up to enable aircrew who had been trained abroad to experience UK weather and flying conditions (blackouts, mountainous terrain, cloud cover, winter fogs, etc.), prior to their posting to an Operational Training Unit.

8 (O) AFU operated twin-engined Avro Anson Mk.I’s (photo above).

Gerry’s W/Op, Air Gunnery and Navigation course involved sixteen flights, in which his role was either “2nd W/Op” (13 flights) or “1st W/Op” (3 flights), a total of 25 hrs day and 22 hrs night flying. In his logbook these are all described as “Navigational Exercise Cross Country”.

He passed his courses, Ground WR with a 66.4% mark, and Air WR with 70.3%.

Gerry graduated the course and was promoted to the rank of Flight Sergeant (F/S) effective 22nd of May.

Gerry’s identity card, issued 18.6.44
– Gerry Newey collection, thanks to Phil & Bruce Newey
Gerry’s dog tag
– Gerry Newey collection, thanks to Phil & Bruce Newey

Gerry’s trade training as a Bomber Command wireless operator was now complete, and it was time to join a crew.