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The Royal Air Force in Texas

Training British Pilots in Terrell during World War II

Tom Killebrew

Publication Year: 2003

With the outbreak of World War II, British Royal Air Force (RAF) officials sought to train aircrews outside of England, safe from enemy attack and poor weather. In the United States six civilian flight schools dedicated themselves to instructing RAF pilots; the first, No. 1 British Flying Training School (BFTS), was located in Terrell, Texas, east of Dallas. Tom Killebrew explores the history of the Terrell Aviation School and its program with RAF pilots. Most of the early British students had never been in an airplane or even driven an automobile before arriving in Texas to learn to fly. The cadets trained in the air on aerobatics, instrument flight, and night flying, while on the ground they studied navigation, meteorology, engines, and armaments–even spending time in early flight simulators. By the end of the war, more than two thousand RAF cadets had trained at Terrell, cementing relations between Great Britain and the United States and forming lasting bonds with the citizens of Terrell.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: War and the Southwest Series

The Royal Air Force in Texas

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pp. vi-vii

List of Illustrations

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p. viii-viii

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pp. ix-x

As a product of the British Flying Training School enterprise, I am delighted to have an opportunity to write the foreword to this splendid and intimate record of its unique history. In 1939, Britain and its Empire resolved to fight against the threat of European and world domination by Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Early studies showed that whereas raw and manufactured materials neces-...

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pp. xi-xii

I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the former British Royal Air Force students and the United States Army Air Forces cadets who trained in Terrell, Texas, during World War II. They gave generously of their time to answer my numerous questions. I am also indebted to the former members of the civilian training staff at the Terrell Avia-...

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pp. 1-3

The special train thundered southward through the chilly April night in 1942. The train carried Lord Halifax, distinguished, although sometimes controversial, member of the British wartime government, on a somber but vital mission. By the spring of 1942 World War II had raged for more than two and one half years. In Europe, Austria had been...

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Chapter 1: Inception

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pp. 4-22

At the close of World War I in 1918, the Royal Air Force (formerly the Royal Flying Corps) contained 185 squadrons, 291,175 personnel, and was the largest air power in the world. During the 1920s and 1930s Britain’s military power declined precipitously. By 1922 the number of squadrons had fallen...

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Chapter 2: First Courses

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pp. 23-44

Royal Air Force officials had been overly optimistic in anticipating that flight training in the new BFTS program could begin by the end of May 1941. Delays in congressional approval of lend-lease appropriations, further delays in negotiations with the civilian contractors, and the site...

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Chapter 3: The New School

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pp. 45-58

As soon as Major Long and Terrell city officials signed the agreement on June 14, 1941, construction of the airport got underway. At the same time, Terrell citizens launched a vigorous campaign to ensure passage of the countywide bond election to be held on June 28. More than one hundred...

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Chapter 4: Operations

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pp. 59-80

By the end of the first week in September 1941, work on the first hangar had been completed. Both hangars had distinctive curved roofs with low shed-type structures along each side for maintenance shops, parts storage, and offices. Full-height sliding doors at each end of the hangars...

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Chapter 5: America Enters the War

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pp. 81-102

On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered the war. The next day aircraft at the Terrell school sat idle as groups gathered to listen to the latest details of the attack and discuss the monumental events. Some buffoon, seemingly...

photo gallery

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Chapter 6: Expansion

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pp. 103-125

As the end of 1942 approached, the Allies took comfort in definite gains. Japanese expansion in the South Pacific toward Australia had been turned back in the Coral Sea. A month later, in June 1942, the Japanese navy suffered a crushing defeat at Midway Island, the turning point in the Pacific war, although few realized it at the...

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Chapter 7: Toward the End

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pp. 125-143

By the late spring of 1944, the Allies had amassed huge numbers of men, aircraft, and ships, as well as vast quantities of equipment, supplies, and support facilities in England. It was no secret that this massive buildup heralded the invasion of Europe, the long-awaited and much-discussed second front. On the morning of June 6, Terrell residents...

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Chapter 8 Epilogue

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pp. 144-159

One of the ironies of wartime RAF pilot training is that graduates of early courses from No.1 BFTS suffered heavy losses after posting to operational squadrons due to the intensity of the fighting, while many graduates of later courses saw little or no action. Bert Allam used both official and unofficial sources...

Appendix A: List of Fatalities

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pp. 160-165

Appendix B: The AT-6 Incident

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pp. 166-167

Appendix C: We’re the Boys of No. 1 BFTS

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pp. 168-169


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pp. 170-175


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pp. 176-182

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414233
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411690

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 25 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: War and the Southwest Series

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Subject Headings

  • No. 1 British Flying Training School -- History.
  • Aeronautics, Military -- Study and teaching -- Great Britain.
  • Aeronautics, Military -- Study and teaching -- Texas -- Terrell.
  • Terrell (Tex.) -- History, Military -- 20th century.
  • Great Britain. Royal Air Force -- Foreign service -- Texas.
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