Journey Together (1946)
Director: John Boulting.
Starring: Richard Attenborough (David Wilton), Jack Watling (John Aynesworth) Edward G. Robinson (American flight instructor).
In Britain, three recruits go through pilot training in order to join the RAF.
The guys on the ground want so see Corporal David Wilton, but Wilton at this minute is in the air flying in a bomber. He is learning how to fly.
When David gets back on the ground he gets balled out by the commanding officer. Why didn't he join the air crew? Because he only has an elementary school education. Why isn't he working with the education officer to beef up his education? David is already doing that. The CO dismisses David and another man, but tells the sergeant to set up an interview for Wilton for the air crew.
Wilton gets his interview and is accepted to train for the aircrew.
The commanding officer welcomes the trainees to the Royal Air Force. The trainees go through physical training.
Cambridge Initial Training Wing. David bunks with a fellow named John Aynesworth, who attends Cambridge when a war isn't on.
The fellows take a lot of classes in flight training. Aynesworth seems to have a problem concentrating and Wilton saves him sometimes from extreme embarrassment in class by giving him the proper answer. Aynesworth also copies off of Wilton's paper now and then. An instructor catches Aynesworth copying off of Wilton. He makes Aynesworth aware that he caught him, but doesn't take any action against him. One of the instructors puts Aynesworth in the front row so he can't cheat off Wilton. Eventually, Aynesworth gets called in and spoken to about his poor performances in class. The trainee tells the instructors that if they let him pass, he will catch up on all the material he didn't learn. So, they give him a chance.
Royal Air Force, Number 2 Flying Grading School. In this stage of training the men will receive 7 to 12 hours of flight time. At the end of the training, their flying ability will be graded.
A trainee named Smith is not paying much attention to his flight instructor while in the air. The instructor gets so tired of Smith looking more at the ground than at his instruments that he puts the airplane in a downward spin that is so fast that Smith almost has to throw up. The instructor gets pretty close to the ground before flying back up to their original altitude.
Wilton goes up and performs well, until he has to land the plane. His instructor mentions this to another instructor, who says he will see Wilton when he tests him. Smith is terrible so far and Aynesworth is reported to be "cracker jack" at it. In fact, Aynesworth can be tested for flying solo now.
Aynesworth flies solo and comes in for a perfect landing. Wilton congratulates him on his performance. He goes on to say that his own landings are just awful. Aynesworth tells him not to worry about it. His landings will come out alright. Aynesworth, Smith and Wilton all pass their tests and are to proceed now to Number 4 Air Crew Distribution Center.
Manchester Aircrew Distribution Center. Aynesworth learns that he will be a pilot. A fellow named Cartwright is a navigator. Smith learns he will be an air bomber. Wilton also is going to be a pilot. This group will now be shipped to the United States for more training. Another set is going to Canada.
The fellows reach Mesa, Arizona where the locals turn out to welcome them. They even have a band play music for the occasion.
Wilton and Aynesworth get a new instructor: Dean MacWilliams. Dean takes Wilton up in the air to test him. He tells the young fellow that he's just not getting his landings right. Dean seems to like Wilton because he is going to take David out to see his ranch and meet his wife. He even refers to himself as acting as a foster parent. Dean now tells Wilton to pick out another chap to come out to the ranch with them. He chooses Aynesworth. Dean doesn't like Aynesworth much. He asks: "Tell me. Do I get into that guy's hair as much as he gets into mine?" Wilton says the fellow is alright once you get to know him.
The students eat a good dinner at Dean's home. When it's over Aynesworth goes with Dean's wife to help with the dishes, while Dean and David go outside on the patio. Dean admits now that Aynesworth is a pretty good fellow when you get to know him. He adds that Aynesworth is a very good pilot, "But don't tell him I said so."
The instructors talk about Wilton's flight performances. One instructor, named Marshal, says Wilton has terrible landings because he thinks too much about it. He uses his brain too much and his instinct too little. Dean speaks up and says he will give a half-hour training period for Wilton and then he wants him to fly solo. The top instructor is nervous about this. Dean says the kid just suffers from a lack of confidence in himself. Dean gets his wish.
He tells David to fly solo now. Dean and Aynesworth watch from near the canteen. The other two instructors are watching from an office window. His take-off is good. His flight is good, but he bounces up and down when he tries to land. He recovers nicely and heads around for another try. On his second try the plane really bounces up high and David takes off again for another try. The emergency crew gets nervous and prepares for a rescue. On his third try David goes beyond the end of the airfield and crashes. Dean's superior is not too pleased with Dean and his hunches.
Dean tells David that he doesn't know the why of what's wrong with David's landings. He tells Wilton that he may have to resign himself to being something else than a pilot. David says: "I only want to be a pilot." Dean says if he had to do it all over again, he would like to be a navigator.
Wilton's name is crossed off the board. He is now be put on the train and will go to Toronto, Canada. Aynesworth says goodbye to him.
Canada. Number 3 Air Observers' School. Lecture 12, instructor D. R. Compass. David is a bit bored in class as he knows a lot of the information already. So he reads a letter he got from Aynesworlth. He says he passed his course and they are now being sent back to Britain. He has some leave and so will see David in Toronto. David asks to switch flight nights, but is told he can't. One of the instructors, however, will take him into town to explain things to Davud's pal coming in from Mesa, Arizona.
The officer goes into the hotel with David. He tells him that he has arranged for his friend to sleep at the camp tonight. David is happy about that and thanks him. The guys sit down to have a coke. Johnny comes over and David is glad to see him. He introduces Johnny to the officer. When the officer has Johnny alone, he asks him if he could give his friend a good swift kick in the ass. David has the worse case of failure-to-be-a-pilot blues he has yet seen. He's hoping Johnny can get David on the right track instead of thinking of navigating as sissy work. John say he will try his best. The officer invites John along for the ride tonight with him and Johnny accepts. Smith is going to also be on the plane.
At his navigator's desk on the plane, David is bored and near sleeping. The pilot asks him for a re-call signal and for David to give him a coastal base (whatever that means). The bad weather is closing in on them. The navigator tells the pilot the air course and the estimated time of arrival. When they get close to the time David tells the pilot to start lowering the plane to prepare for a landing. But all the pilot can see are a lot of rocks. David has to go back and find out what went wrong and find a right way out of this. The pilot tells David that they only have 45 minutes of fuel left.
On the ground they have to contact all airports within 100 miles of the original destination and tell them to prepare for a possible crash landing. And now it's 20 minutes of fuel left. The pilot starts reviewing the steps a navigator goes through. He keeps going until he reaches the wind factor. They had a re-call signal and the winds are now different. David sweats it out trying to figure out what to do. 15 minutes of fuel left. David tells the pilot what course to set. Five minutes of fuel left and they see lights of an airfield straight ahead of them. And now David has to run get a bag because he is going to throw up.
Later that night after the plane landed alright, John deliberately picks a fight with David by saying that the pilot's job is much more important than the navigator's on a plane. David gets insulted and asks what does a pilot really do? He takes off, he lands, he stays on course. Anybody could do that. The pilot comes in and listens to David's defense of the job of navigator. David sees the officer and apologizes about going on about the importance of the navigator, but Johnny was going on about the pilots. The officer says it's good for a man to be proud of the job he does. He then tells David he is wanted in interrogation.
After David is gone, the officer explains to John just how he fooled David into thinking they were about to crash. John says, yeah, he noticed that they still had a half-hour of fuel left when they landed. The officer knew where the destination airfield was all the time. But David certainly didn't. He says David will make a good navigator, as now he knows the great importance of the job.
David heads back to England on a ship. Then he takes a train to London.
B522 Squadron, Bomber Command, England. David sees Johnny passing by and he shouts to him. They shake hands with big smiles on their faces. Johnny says he tried to hang on to the group, but the navigator they have has had much more experience. They agree to meet at the pub for some drinks. There David sees one of his old instructors.
The commanding officer has to tell David that there are no open posts at the moment for navigators. David will just have to continue on with more training. Wilton is very disappointed. The officer says: "You can take it from me, Wilton. Training's only over when you're dead. Not one second. before."
The bombers fly off on a mission. David waits impatiently for their return. He sees in the news that over 1,000 heavy bombers dropped an incredible number of bombs on Berlin. By day they dropped 3500,000 fire bombs. On another day the paper says that there was another double attack on Berlin by the R.A.F. last night. David gets so tired of reading and hearing about the great accomplishments of the bomber crews that he turns the radio off.
David gets the news that he is flying with Aynesworth tonight. He is thrilled. The old navigator was slightly wounded by shrapnel and has to be out of it for awhile.
When Ayneworth finds out about it, he is not thrilled. He tells the other members of the crew and they too are not thrilled about having David as navigator. The superior officer stands up for David, saying he's a fine navigator. The men say, yeah, but you don't have to fly with him. The officer says actually he is flying with their crew tonight and he has no qualms about the navigator. The crew members, however, are still not convinced and David overhears the negative talk.
The planes are all in the air. ETA at Danish coast 01:22 hours. The crew has to watch out for possible enemy planes in the area. The navigator gives them a new course. The men can see Berlin already burning and anti-aircraft shells exploding in the air. A German fighter plane attacks their plane, but the gunner takes it out. They drop their bombs. The bombardier goes unconscious from a bad head wound. The left engine catches fire. They get down to only two engines. They head for home. Since they are low on fuel, it's crucial that David makes no mistakes.
45 minutes of fuel left. The crew has to prepare for a possible ditching of the aircraft. David is told not to make any mistakes. The pilot calls for "Ditching Stations". The plane lands on the water. Everybody gets out of the plane as fast as they can. They all climb into a life raft. They even get their wounded man into the life raft.
The men hear the sound of an airplane overhead. They fire off a flare gun. The plane sees them. In Morse Code it signals that there will be a pick up for them in two hours. They also indicate that the navigator was spot on for their location. Now the guys thank David and say they better keep him on their team.
British war-time film. It is dedicated to those men who teach other service folk how to fly and navigate properly. A lot of the film is about the training that the two friends, John and David, go through. The instructors are very important people to the young trainees. The instructors are also more personable with the students. They are not the drill instructors that beginning soldiers usually face. These are good men with good hearts and they care about their students. And they worry about them when they are having problems with the course of study. The teachers provide both educational and emotional help for the students. Not everyone can learn to be a successful pilot. Some guys wash out of the program. They are encouraged to take other jobs involved with flying: navigation, being a bombardier, etc. The loss of a dream and having to take on another job in the air force really upsets a lot of the young trainees and they get the blues. It's then that the instructors have to coax the trainees out of their depression to transform them into extremely valuable members of an air crew (in this case for the bomber planes). But in the end, each trainee has to prove his own worth in action. Some succeed, some don't.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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