Excerpt from Bruce Daymond’s diary
AN INNOCENT ABROAD: OF SUBMARINES AND SPIES
Diary Of Bruce Daymond DSO DFC, an Australian Catalina Pilot with the RAF 1941 to 1945
Covering his service with 209 Squadron Coastal Command
Published privately by
Bruce Cunynghame Daymond
Copyright Bruce Cunynghame Daymond 2005
Except where the works of others are quoted, all rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without prior permission in writing from the author’s estate.
Squadron Leader Bruce Daymond DSO DFC
The captain of a flying boat is by virtue of necessity and training capable of undertaking the work of any member of the crew. He is as good a navigator as the observer and is capable of taking over the navigation and has to do so on long trips. He is an air gunner and capable of taking over any turret. He is a badly trained wireless operator, but capable of transmitting messages and has a full knowledge of procedure. He is capable of doing the flight engineer’s work and is responsible for mooring-up. Also he is the only member of the crew with a knowledge of seamanship, towing and taxiing on sea. No other member of the crew has these qualifications.
From “Duties of a Flying Boat Captain” by Air Officer Commanding, West Africa, November 1942.
INTRODUCTION TO THE DIARY
Parents are special to their children for many reasons, as my father is to me. Eric Saunders joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in August 1940 “For the duration of the war and for a period of twelve months thereafter”, and resigned in September 1967. Because of his service life, I was privileged to live on, or near, Air Force bases at Rathmines in New South Wales, at Momote on Manus Island (north of New Guinea) and Pearce in Western Australia. For a young boy this was a joy because there was always something exciting going on. As a result, I became interested in military aviation, but in discussions with my father found him reticent about his early life. He would rarely talk about the period before 1945 except in passing reference to something such as “Canada can be bloody cold,” “I don’t like baked beans because I was fed too many of them,” or “I joined the Air Force to travel.” I knew from his flying log that he had trained as a pilot in Australia, Canada and UK. He had flown flying boats for much of the war operating over the Atlantic Ocean from UK, over the Indian Ocean from East Africa, and as an instructor on Catalinas and Sunderlands in UK. It was only when he was in his 60s that he would provide more detail, but only if questioned.
As a young man trying to understand something of my father, I found a big gap in his background. In 1998 I lent him a copy of Ivan Southwell’s “Fly West”, an account of Sunderland flying boats operating during the Battle of the Atlantic. My father had been carrying out the same duties in the same areas during the period the book describes. He returned the book with the comment that he would rather not have read it as it opened up memories he thought he had put long behind him.
A French historian, seeking information on British operations in and off East Africa during the Second World War, contacted my father seeking assistance. My father had kept no written notes of the period, so he discussed the request with Bruce Daymond, with whom he had shared many hours in the noisy cockpit of a Catalina. Bruce had maintained a diary throughout the war. He provided my father with photocopies of entries for about 30 days, covering some of their transit from Wales to East Africa and some of the time they operated off the Comoro Islands, between Madagascar and the African coast. My father showed me the copies. So for the first time, I got a detailed account of some of that period, and a valuable insight into a formative period of my father’s life, over 60 years ago. Suddenly, what was a simple entry in my father’s flying log of “convoy escort in transit PD [Pembroke Dock] to Gib[raltar] sighted U-boat on surface” with a flying time of 20 hours 40 minutes, came alive in Bruce’s account of his adventures on 14th/15th June 1942.
Bruce and my father met in May 1942, when Bruce joined my father’s crew as co-pilot. They picked up a Catalina, then flew the aircraft to East Africa. It was my father’s first appointment as an aircraft captain. He was 22 and fresh out of his Captains Course at No. 4 Coastal Operational Training Unit. He had less than 300 hours on Catalinas and only about 110 of these were as First Pilot. He had flown eight operational sorties over the Atlantic, the longest of which was 20 hours and 30 minutes. Bruce was also 22 and, before their flight of nearly 21 hours to Gibraltar, had never spent more than three hours in the air in one flight. Reading of those 30 days opened a window into the past. So I tried to persuade Bruce to publish the diary for others to share the experiences of the times. He was initially reluctant to have the diary reproduced. He could not see that any more than 18 people would be interested in the contents, so long after the events he wrote about. I think the reader will strongly disagree with him.
This volume is based on a diary consisting of several annual volumes written by a young man who was 21 when he left Australia, at the start of a great and dangerous adventure that took him to Canada, UK, Africa and Southeast Asia, before he returned to Australia nearly five years later. It is worth pointing out that of the 50 young men who graduated with Bruce from No. 10 Course of No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School in April 1941 only 28 survived the war.
Bruce diligently maintained a record of where he went, what he did and what he saw. The diary has been transcribed as it was written over 60 years ago. Little has been altered with the exception of certain periods during Special Duties flights into Burma in 1944, which were top secret. Items added in editing or after the event are placed in square brackets .
The language of the diary is the language of the times. If some of the terminology gives offence now, the author regrets that. However, to edit the diary would be to lose the freshness and the enthusiasm, which still comes through more than half a century later.
James Mitchener wrote in his evocative Tales of the South Pacific;
“I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. The infinite specks of coral we call islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully towards the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description. I wish I could tell you about the sweating jungle, the full moon rising behind the volcanoes, and the waiting. The waiting. The timeless, repetitive waiting.”
Waiting was a feature of wartime life, and in order to put operational activities into perspective with other activities that made up life of the times, the diary has been reproduced in its entirety. The diary covers 1233 days, of which a period equivalent to about 83 days, or less than 7% of the total, was spent flying. So, much of the period was spent in activities that may now (and then) seem banal. The reality for many involved in the armed services was marking time between training and operational activities, and this diary illustrates how much of a serviceman’s life was spent marking time.
The diary consisted of annual volumes of the one-day to a page variety. Where possible, entries were written every day, and in some cases entries carried over several pages, with clear indications of where the entry for the next day began. One page of the diary has been reproduced as an illustration of how recordings were made. Bruce carried his volumes with him throughout his travels from and to Australia. As is shown in the record for Monday 15th June 1942, the diary was even added to while on operations, when the operations involved transit from one base to another. This was strictly illegal at the time, but fortunately for historians people are prepared to break rules.
This is a wonderful account of how one young Australian lived and worked through extraordinary times.
THE CONSOLIDATED CATALINA
The young men, who flew long hours over the ocean searching for submarines, dropping people behind enemy lines, and servicing the aeroplanes, are the heroes of this diary. They were ordinary men who, through the exigencies of the period, carried out extraordinary feats. Witness the author of this diary, who in one eight day period, spent 95 hours in the air in command, with one pilot as a backup. If these men were the heroes, the heroine was the slow, strangely beautiful, reliable, outdated, Consolidated Model 28-5 flying boat, known as the PBY or Catalina.
The prototype made its first flight in 1935 and the type entered US Navy service as a patrol bomber in 1936. The British named it “Catalina” after the island off the Californian coast. By the outbreak of war in 1939, it was considered to be obsolete. However, the Catalina was the “right aeroplane at the right time” and so it went on to serve throughout the war with the US Navy, the US Army Air Corps, the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Royal Australian Air Force, and the armed forces of a number of other countries. It was built in greater numbers than any other flying boat. Over 2000 are known to have been manufactured in USA and Canada. But the Catalina was also supplied under Lend Lease to the Russian armed forces. The Russians copied the design, and their production may have equaled the number built in North America.
The RAF evaluated the PBY-5 in July 1939 and, as a result of trials, ordered the type, with the first deliveries arriving in early 1941. These were Catalina Mk Is. Included in the early orders was Z2142 (WQ-Q) which the author of this diary flew to East Africa and operated in late 1942 and early 1943. In 1942 the RAF took delivery of Catalina Mk IIAs, which were built by Canadian Vickers and had serial numbers with the prefix VA, several of which feature in this diary. The Catalina served with great distinction in 21 RAF squadrons and they operated it from as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as the Indian Ocean, south of Cape Town, in South Africa.
The Catalina had a wingspan of 104 feet (31.72 m) and was 63 feet 10 inches long (19.52 m). It was 18 feet 10 inches (5.65 m) high with a wing area of 1400 square feet (130 square metres). Two Pratt and Whitney Twin-Wasp R-1830-92 radial air-cooled engines of 1,200-horse power powered it. The engines were mounted on the mainplane, which was supported above the hull on a pylon and braced with two struts attached to the hull. The airscrews were Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic constant-speed and fully feathering and were located either side of the cockpit. The long exposure to the noise of the engines and of the airscrews meant that many old Catalina pilots are partially deaf; Bruce Daymond and my father are no exceptions.
The fuel tanks could hold 1452 Imperial gallons (6,600 litres) and the maximum takeoff weight was 34,000 pounds (15,422 kg), although with operational aircraft this was sometimes exceeded. To illustrate the difference between then and now the following is indicative: the maximum take-off weight of a fully laden Catalina was the same weight of the fuel burned by a Boeing 767 flying between Sydney and Perth! The maximum speed of the Catalina was 196 miles per hour (315 km/hr), but the typical cruising speed was around 110 miles per hour (177 km/hr). The maximum range of the Catalina was over 3000 miles (4828 km) and it could stay in the air for over 24 hours. In fact the Catalinas used by Qantas to fly between Perth, in Western Australia, and Lake Koggala, in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), often spent over 30 hours in the air.
The Catalina normally had a crew of nine; two pilots, navigator, two flight engineers (whose compartment was in the pylon supporting the mainplane), three wireless operator/air gunners, and a rigger. While the Catalina was slow and noisy, it was well-liked by those who trusted their lives to her solid construction and the reliability of her engines.
RAF aircraft had an individual registration (or serial) number and each squadron had an identifying code consisting of two letters. For example, 209 Squadron aircraft were identified by WQ. In addition, a letter identified each aircraft in the squadron. For example, Catalina serial number Z2142 when operated by 209 Squadron had the Squadron code WQ and its individual letter Q. Hence it was referred to as 209/Q, or Q, or Q-Queenie. Aircraft being transferred to different squadrons retained their serial number, but their individual letter was changed. Pilots noted the registration number or the squadron letter in their log books when recording their flights. Later in the war the squadron code was deleted from the sides of the aircraft.
An account of the Catalina in service can be found in Andrew Hendrie’s excellent book “Flying Cats: the Catalina Aircraft in World War II” published by Airlife Publishing Limited in 1988 and again in 1995. An account of the Battle for the Indian Ocean, which much of this diary relates to, can be found in Arthur Banks’ “Wings of the Dawning. The Battle for the Indian Ocean 1939 – 1945” published by Harold Martin & Redman Limited in 1996.
INTRODUCTION TO THIS EXCERPT OF BRUCE DAYMOND’S DIARY COVERING HIS SERVICE WITH 209 SQUADRON RAF COASTAL COMMAND
This excerpt is a portion of the diary of Bruce Cunynghame Daymond which was privately published as a limited edition in 2005. This excerpt covers his service as a pilot with 209 Squadron RAF Coastal Command and has been posted on the website of Peter Baxter, a military historian, in conjunction with a number of images relating to Bruce’s service with 209 Squadron in East and South Africa. The complete diary covers the period from 6th January 1941 when Bruce joined the RAAF until he arrived back in Sydney, Australia on 16th April 1945. Copies of the diary were donated to the Australian War Memorial, RAF Museum in London and the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
Bruce joined the RAAF as an aircraftsman, the lowest level in the air force. He enlisted as a trainee in the Empire Air Training Scheme (known in Canada as the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan) to be trained as a pilot for service in the RAF which was then undergoing a period of very rapid expansion. His entry into the RAAF was at No. 2 Initial Training School at Bradford, New South Wales (NSW). He then spent the period from 6th March to 29th April 1941 at No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School at Narromine, NSW where he was taught to fly Tiger Moths, the basic trainer of the period and he topped the course. He travelled to Canada on RMS Aorangi to undertake further training at No. 7 Service Flying Training School at Macleod, Alberta (15th June – 1st September 1941). Here he learned to fly twin engine Avro Ansons. As he was destined for RAF Coastal Command he went to No. 31 General Reconnaissance School at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (13th September – 11th December 1941) where he trained as a navigator. He then sailed for UK aboard the Gdynia, going ashore in Liverpool on 1st January 1942. After a period at No. 11 Personnel Disposal and Reception Centre in Bournemouth he was posted to 209 Squadron RAF Coastal Command. He joined the squadron on 18th April 1942 at Pembroke Dock in Wales as the squadron was preparing for its movement to East Africa.
This excerpt covers the period from 18th April 1942 when Bruce joined the squadron until he arrived back in UK on 14th April 1943 in transit to take part in his Captain’s Course at 131 Operational Training Unit, Killadeas in Northern Ireland. After he completed the course he and his crew were posted to Redhills Lake, Madras, India. They left Pembroke Dock on 29th December 1943 by Sunderland which took them via Gibraltar to Lagos. There they took charge of a Catalina (FP304) which they flew to Madras via the Congo, Kenya, Seychelles and Addu Atoll, arriving at Redhills Lake on 31st January 1944. Bruce and his crew served with 357, 628 and 240 Squadrons (RAF) until his posting back to Australia in late March 1945. During his operations over the Bay of Bengal, Bruce was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. He returned to Australia as a Squadron Leader and was discharged from the RAAF in 1946.
SERVICE WITH 209 SQUADRON RAF COASTAL COMMAND
Saturday 18 April 1942 It was an effort having to get up at 6 am this morning and finish packing. Had arranged an early breakfast. Met the three RAF Pilot Officers at breakfast who are also coming to Pembroke. Fortunately they all seem to be matey sort of coves which is a good thing. We caught our transport at 7.30 am. There was no difficulty about my baggage not having been taken to the station yesterday as it should have been, had I not been on leave in London. The train left Bournemouth West at 8.35 and stopped at every footling little station to Southampton, where we left it. That part of the trip took one and a half hours whereas yesterday it had only taken three quarters of an hour. From Southhampton we caught another train to Cardiff, leaving at 10.15 am and arriving at 3 pm, almost an hour late. After half an hour’s wait there on the station, we caught our third train to Pembroke Dock. All three trains were very crowded. The countryside we passed through was incredibly green and luscious looking contrasting most vividly with the squalid, slum-like towns. The phrase “Welsh mining town” never has conjured up a much different idea to me. Had to ring up for transport on arrival. At first glance this Station looks wizard. It seems to be surrounded by an ancient looking city wall. Drove through the gate into more or less parklands. Entering the Officers Mess was more like entering a hotel than anything else. Were rushed with service. After a much needed clean-up we sat down to an even more welcome meal for we had had no lunch. Dining cars are practically non-existent on English trains these days. Had made do with an odd sandwich or two on the trip. During dinner, heard about a very gallant raid on Augsburg by 12 Lancasters – only five returned, but the cost seems to have been worth it for a diesel engine factory was attacked. This factory produces engines for submarines. Met Flight Lieutenant Grant’s brother. The projected move of 209 Squadron is official –it is going to the Indian Ocean but whether it will be based in Africa or India he didn’t know. He himself doesn’t expect to go. All recently qualified Second Pilots are forming another squadron and we new arrivals are taking their place and are to go overseas. Am billeted in with a Flying Officer Medical. The quarters are absolutely wizard.
Sunday 19 April 1942 Reported at 9 am to the acting Flight Commander who told us we would be going to the Indian Ocean soon; whether to India, Africa or Madagascar they do not know. Told us what we are going to do here. Among many other things, we have to learn Semaphore. They are not going to worry us with exams on ground subjects – so that’s one thing we’ve avoided by not going to an Operational Training Unit. We were shown over a Catalina – rather surprised to find them less roomy than I had imagined. Must admit they have the extra fuel tanks in. Also clambered over a Sunderland and they are huge. Saw a Sunderland being dragged up the slipway. The five of us from Bournemouth have been joined by another five who have been at an Advanced Flying Unit. We are to undergo medical exams for overseas service and are to have inoculations tomorrow. This afternoon was free and a Naval Sub-Lieutenant who is on the Station asked me to have a game of tennis with him and two WAAF Officers. Was a pleasant way of filling in the afternoon.
Monday 20 April 1942 There was a colour hoisting parade held at 8.30 this morning and, as far as we newcomers were concerned, we made a bit of a mess of it not knowing where to go or what to do. Still managed to get through it somehow. From 9-10 am we started to learn Semaphore as this comes into flying boat work when on the water. Should be able to get a message across one way or another when we learn it for we will have the options of Morse, Aldis Lamp, or Semaphore. At 10 am we were introduced to the Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Drew, a slightly built man of about 32. He told us that the Squadron is going overseas at about the end of May to the Indian Ocean. Exactly where to he said he didn’t know – may be to the east coast of Africa, or the west coast of India, or Ceylon. I dare say he does know but won’t tell for fear of information being given away. The ground staff sailed a week or so ago to be ready for our arrival by air. The prospect of the trip out is thrilling. Next saw the Flight Commander, Squadron Leader Barraclough AFC, a huge cove. He repeated much of what the Commanding Officer had said. Arranged for us to have any deficiencies of equipment made up. After lunch, we had a one and a half hour lecture on the Catalina, its engines, airscrews, etc, and then at 4 pm I had a full medical examination to see whether I am fit to go overseas. Had the mercury test – holding pressure at 40 pounds for at least a minute. I did 90 seconds. They say that one of main reasons for this test is to see if you have staying power – guts. Knocked off from 4.30 – 5.30 pm for afternoon tea and then had a two-hour lecture by the acting Flight Commander, Flight Lieutenant Fitzpatrick, on Airmanship as applied to flying boats – water handling, etc. The Canadian Henderson and I were having a beer in the Mess after dinner when the Commanding Officer and Squadron Leader Barraclough came up and bought us a few beers. Was to get to know us I suppose and it was a very friendly action. Although we are still under training, we seem to be regarded far differently than if we were at a flying school. Are treated as members of the Squadron. Have met now five of the Captains of the nine boats that are going east and so nice are they all that I wouldn’t care with which one I flew.
Tuesday 21 April 1942 Were excused parade this morning and were told to be down at the pier by 0830 hours. Our number has been reduced from eleven to nine, two Sergeants having been put off the Course as only nine are wanted to go east. It seemed a bit rough to take it out on the Sergeants though without even questioning the Pilot Officers. I know two of the Pilot Officers would rather stay in England than go east. Well, the remaining nine were split into groups of three and to each group was allotted an Instructor. Flight Lieutenant Fitzpatrick is in charge of the group I am in and it consists of the South African, Pilot Officer Barry, and the Canadian, Pilot Officer Henderson. We went out to the Catalina in a launch and Fitzpatrick took us right through and explained everything; mooring-up, starting-up procedure, cockpit check, etc. We then were started up and took-off. At last I was in the air in a flying boat! Did a couple of circuits and had a look at the landing area. When on the water, we each had a go at taxiing – aileron control is very efficient. This afternoon we did quite a lot of flying. One has to be very ham-footed and ham-handed in controlling these Catalinas. They are very heavy in the air. Flying around we saw a hell of a lot of ships anchored in Milford Haven. There seem to be some old forts, both in the water and on the shore – relics of older days. A more modern note is provided by all the bomb craters in the green fields. There is one immense hole where a 1000-pound bomb hit. From the air the country is very pretty at the moment – patchwork of ploughed fields and incredibly green ones. When on the water again, we did some approaches to buoys. Fitzpatrick said we all did well as it was a hard day today – no wind, tide only. A Sunderland from No. 10 Squadron RAAF dropped in here at lunchtime.
Wednesday 22 April 1942 It seems as if I have come to a very famous Squadron in 209. It is the Squadron which, in the last war shot down von Richtofen, and in this war, one of its Catalinas was responsible for sighting the Bismark after the Navy had lost her. A second Catalina picked up signals from the first, joined it, and took up patrol. This Catalina shadowed the Bismark for 24 hours. Four planes from the Bismark came up and attacked the Catalina and it was hit by anti-aircraft gun fire from the ship. But it stayed on the job until the Navy arrived [see pages 21-24 in Andrew Hendrie’s “Flying Cats”]. It was also a plane from the Squadron which guarded a German submarine all night after the submarine had been brought to the surface by a Hudson of Coastal Command – the first time an aircraft has captured a submarine. Spent both morning and afternoon doing take-offs and alightings. There is a very definite yank on the control column required to get the boat off the water. There was practically no wind today so the three boats were taking-off and landing in all directions. We were in the air for six hours altogether. This was followed by half an hour’s Semaphore and one-hour Airmanship lecture. Flying Officer (then Pilot Officer) Beaton, who was the Adjutant of our draft when we crossed the Pacific on the Aorangi, came into the Mess tonight. He is with 10 Squadron RAAF on Sunderlands. Got into another wild drinking bout with the Commanding Officer and the Flight Commander.
Thursday 23 April 1942 Was the first of our three to fly this morning and did not have a terribly successful morning in regard to landings. Did a couple of bounce jobs because I wasn’t descending at the correct rate of descent; 200 feet per minute over the last 200 feet of descent. But at last got them straightened out just before lunch. We are all to solo this afternoon.
Later. Well at last I’ve soloed in a flying boat and I must confess it did not give me as much thrill as I had imagined. The best feeling of all was the solo in the Tiger Moth last March (1941). Even the Anson solo had a little more excitement about it than this. Perhaps that’s the way things go – less excitement from every aircraft as you solo. After lunch, the three Instructors did a formation take-off which was rather grand and a bit of formation flying. Then each left the boat and we three pupils in each boat had two hours in which to go off. Pilot Officer Barry flew first in our boat, I was second and Henderson last. The Commanding Officer was in the launch with the three Instructors and we were told he was very pleased with the efforts of all nine pupils. There was not one bounced landing. Tonight was a dining-in night and quite a few beers were had by all. Squadron Leader Barraclough and Flight Lieutenant Fitzpatrick kept the whole Mess in fits of laughter most of the night.
Friday 24 April 1942 There was a bitterly cold wind blowing this morning and while waiting on the pier and going out to the aircraft we nearly froze. Most of the time in the air was spent being shown how to feather the airscrew if an engine packs up, the procedure for plugging in the Sperry Automatic Pilot in flight and single engine flying. And when on the water we were shown the water testing of the auto-pilot.
This afternoon, after each being checked out, we were sent solo. The water, due to the wind was very much rougher that it was for our solo yesterday.
Didn’t have any Semaphore but devoted from 6-7.30 pm to Airmanship – a lecture on night flying procedure and flare path layout for flying boats.
Sent the family a cable (13 words for 5/-) “Stationed operational flying boat squadron. Soloed Catalinas. Well. Love.” Also put a call through to Halfridge and spoke to Mr Bond. Vern Dyason, in 10 Squadron RAAF, dropped in here tonight.
Saturday 25 April 1942 Today is Anzac Day – just 27 years since that morning when the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli and wrote that glorious chapter in the history of Australia and New Zealand. But such is the way of things that only the very barest mention of the anniversary appeared in the papers here.
In flying this morning we were shown how to do glide landings. The technique is to descend to 400 feet, then throttle right back and maintain airspeed at 85 knots plus. Fitz said that the 85 knots is the dividing line – over 85 is the side men live on, under 85 the side they die! At about 50 feet, start checking and continue to check with short backward movements of the stick. You fly the aircraft right on to the water.
This afternoon I was first to fly. Did quite a bit of water handling before taking-off. It was a good day to practice it as a strong wind was blowing. In the air, we climbed up to 4000 feet and practiced putting in the auto-pilot, feathering and unfeathering the airscrew. While doing the latter, I pulled an awful boner. The last knob you have to push in is the feathering knob. I pushed the knob alright but the starboard one instead of the port. The starboard engine stopped dead, so there we were, with both engines dead. How the blazes I could have done such a bloody stupid thing I can’t understand. It was a momentary and humiliating lapse of concentration. Fitz was able to get them started again thanks to good generators. I was very subdued for the rest of the afternoon.
The lecture period was devoted to an oral exam on the Airmanship we have done during the week.
Sunday 26 April 1942 Flew all the morning as usual. Did single engine landings which are carried out in almost the same manner as glide landings. Were given the afternoon off so four of us walked into Pembroke and had a look at the famous old Pembroke Castle. According to the guidebook, it has had a very strong history – having been besieged I don’t know how many times. It is set on a rocky promontory and is surrounded on three sides by the river. The castle itself rises sheer off an almost perpendicular rock. The whole place looks very impregnable. Indeed it was regarded as one of the strongest castles in the country. However Oliver Cromwell took it in July 1648 but only after a two-month siege. Lack of provisions forced the defenders to surrender. The castle has a Great Keep over 100 feet high – is regarded as unique among the keeps of the great Norman Castles, both in this country and in France. The castle has a further claim to fame – it was the seat of the Earls of Pembroke in the 12th and 13th Centuries.
Monday 27 April 1942 The whole morning was spent doing solo. I was in the Flight Engineer’s compartment for the starting up of the engines and think that I have now got the procedure taped. Was the last of the three of us to fly. We each had to practice engine landings. Have to get these really buttoned up in preparation for night flying. This afternoon it was too rough for the dinghy to get alongside the flying boats. As our times are well up to schedule, it was decided to devote the afternoon to lectures. First had a film show on long range Air-Surface-Vessel [radar] and then enemy jamming of the ASV. Were shown how the Time Base Line and blip are distorted. The films were followed by our first lecture on Seamanship and after tea, we heard all about the constant speed airscrew. A test of Semaphore was also chucked in.
Have I mentioned that the Captain of a flying boat has to be au fait with the duties of the whole crew – more so than in land planes? We have to actually moor-up, throw out the drogues, start the engines from the Engineer’s panel, learn how to tune in the wireless and transmit, and of course how to fly the boat [see note on duties of a flying boat Captain on page 80 of John McCarthy’s 1988 book “A Last Call of Empire” published by the Australian War Memorial and reproduced at the front of this volume].
Tuesday 28 April 1942 Today was very definitely a bad day. We got out to the aircraft and found that the electric starter on the port engine had gone unserviceable. This meant climbing up on the mainplane, using the crank to energise the starter and then someone in the Engineer’s compartment to put the starter into “mesh” when she was wound up. Barry was helping the Fitter wind up, Henderson was in the Pilot’s seat and I was in the Engineer’s compartment. After numerous failures to get the engine going, a Wireless Operator and I went up on the mainplane to help the other two turn the starter; it is terribly heavy. Eventually she started and Henderson at the controls opened up the throttle and left it open. The blast of air was terrific from the 1200 Horse Power motor. Barry was picked up and blown over and over down the mainplane. I was sure he was going into the water. But he managed to land on the blister, put his foot through a panel and so saved himself. I was being blown but managed to grab on to the Wireless Operator and saved myself. Fitz blew Henderson up for this but not as much as he did later when we were trying to taxi away from the buoy only to find ourselves still moored to it! Boy, did he get mad, Fitz couldn’t stand it any longer and went ashore leaving the rest of us on board. This afternoon we did instrument flying. Tonight in the Mess, I saw Flying Officer White of 10 Squadron RAAF, our Commanding Officer on the Aorangi when we crossed the Pacific. We had a long talk reminiscing – showed him all my photos – groups of the Wings Parade, etc. He seems to have an amazingly good memory for he picked out and named a lot of the chaps. Tubby Fairway is White’s Navigator on the Sunderland.
There was a dreadful accident up at the fort “Defencible” on top of the hill. It appears there was a lecture going on about landmines. The lecturer was called away to the phone and nobody knows what happened but two of the mines went off. Twenty people were killed and ten injured. A shocking business!
Wednesday 29 April 1942 The strong wind continued today for about the fifth day in succession. I was up in the bow when we slipped moorings and again when we moored-up. Once your hands got wet with the seawater the wind almost froze them. Was both second and last to fly today. Was doing glide landings – and doing them badly too. When I levelled each time, I seemed to get in a down current and hit the water with a bang. Fitz decided conditions were too bad to continue flying and we packed up at about 11 am.
Spent the whole afternoon on lectures, the final one being by a Warrant Officer on knots and how to tie them. We have each been given a piece of rope and told to practice them. Received a letter from Peggy today in which she says to ring her tonight. This I have just done. Won’t be able to do as much on leave as I had planned for we were told today that all we can have is a week instead of a fortnight.
Thursday 30 April 1942 Sent straight up solo this morning. Climbed up to 3000 feet and the three of us played about with the auto-pilot. Were unable to do turns with it because, as we later found out, we did not continually keep on turning round the rudder control knob. After this, we all practiced landings, both engine and glide.
One of the other crews had not been able to fly this morning as their boat was unserviceable. So they had our boat this afternoon and we three had lectures and Aldis Lamp working.
A day or two ago, we were shown the International Code of Flags and today we learned the procedure for using them.
Rang Peggy again tonight.
Friday 1 May 1942 We seem to be having a bad week as far as flying times are concerned for not one day since Sunday have we flown a full morning and afternoon. The trouble with the boat this morning was that the Auxiliary Power Unit was unserviceable. A maintenance crew came out to fix it and after messing about for one and a half hours couldn’t get it to go. So we took-off without it, and did about 90 minutes of circuits and bumps each.
This afternoon we had a real bit of excitement. Fitz was in the aircraft and he told me to climb up to the cloud base which was at about 6000 feet. Had almost got there when it seemed as if suddenly, the stick had been pushed out of my hands. What in fact had happened was that the starboard engine had failed. Fitz absolutely flew into action – was onto the Engineer, had him cut off the petrol, feathered the airscrew and switched off in less time than it takes to tell. We headed back towards the water and when over the Base pooped off two Very lights. Fitz then executed a very nice single-engined landing. The cause of the trouble was found to be a broken fuel line. How the engine didn’t catch on fire with petrol being pumped out under pressure I don’t know. This is the first time in my brief flying career that anything of a serious nature had happened in the air. The three of us, talking it over afterwards, decided that we probably would have done everything Fitz did with the exception of firing off the Very lights. The main purpose of these was to have a power boat standing by when we alighted to immediately take us in tow and prevent the strong tide from drifting us on to a sandbank. Having only one engine makes manoeuvring on the water rather difficult.
Saturday 2 May 1942 The airscrew of the starboard engine having been left in the fully feathered position after yesterday’s engine failure, the first job of the crew this morning was to drain the oil out of the Constant Speed Unit. This took till about 10.30 am and then Fitz came out and flew a circuit to test the engine. When it proved OK he sent us solo to do Blind Flying for the rest of the morning. Mooring-up at lunchtime was very difficult – the tide was going out rapidly and there was a strong cross wind, the two forces acting at right angles to each other. Our line of approach was short because of the Sunderlands moored nearby. And there were three Catalinas doing mad circles on the water quite near to each other. The Flight Commander must have feared a collision for he came and took over the mooring-up. There certainly is something in this mooring-up business – different to a land plane where once you’ve landed you taxi into a hangar and that’s that. Intended to have a really early night but as I was writing up this diary, a batman came in and said that the Flight Commander (Squadron Leader Barraclough) wanted to see me. On finding him in the Mess, he told me that as it was both the Wing Commander’s and his own birthday to go and round up the rest of the crowd and bring them in. This I did and quite a drinking party ensued. I didn’t get to bed till 3 am. So much for good intentions! One Squadron Leader (Tim Belcham) who doesn’t seem to be at all popular with the old members of the Squadron made himself very unpleasant by throwing beer mugs around. Barra, at a late stage of the evening, got a headlock on him and when released this cove ran outside and came back with a bloody loaded revolver, threatening to blow Barra’s guts out if he ever did that again. And by God he meant it. Was a grim moment.
Sunday 3 May 1942 Were all feeling rather shaky after last night’s effort. Poor show, especially as we were up for a flying test with the Squadron Leader. But as he had been one of the party he was no better off. The three Instructors did some tight formation flying and then I had my test. Did glide, engine and single-engined landings. In the latter, I didn’t turn towards the water when the engine was cut, as I should have. Henderson had just started his test when there was some signalling from the fort. We were ordered to return to base. On arrival, found that there was a bit of a flap on. The Navy had reported that a submarine had been sighted just off St Anne’s Head. One aircraft was ordered to bomb up and go and investigate. The Squadron as a whole is not operational at the moment but it seems that exceptions can be made.
Monday 4 May 1942 Kicked off this morning with an hour’s signalling – both Semaphore and Aldis. It was rather lovely on the playing field in the early morning – the trees fringing the field are a soft shade of green. The gas practice the WAAFs were having seemed rather out of place in such a setting. While the other lads were cleaning the boats, Pilot Officer Barry and I were supposed to go with Flying Officer Murray to take over from a Flight Lieutenant Holmes DFC of 210 Squadron, a Catalina which had been brought down from the Shetlands. The Cat was supposed to arrive at 10 am but we were told that it wouldn’t arrive till 1.30 pm. I spent the remainder of the morning sorting out luggage, for the Flight Commander had told us that we could go on our embarkation leave tonight instead of tomorrow night. A good Show! The Catalina did arrive before 1.30 pm and I wasn’t there. Caught the pinnace across to Neyland where the train for Paddington left at 6.50 pm. Played bridge for an hour or two on the way up.
Tuesday 5 May 1942 The train was due in at 5.10 am but mercifully didn’t arrive till 5.50 am. Had it been an hour later still I should have been just as pleased. After having a wash and breakfast at a Lyons Corner House just off Piccadilly Circus, I rang Mable Rodwell. She was at home so I went round taking the box of tinned foods for which she was grateful. I have an absolute host of tinned food sent from home and shall have to give it away right and left to get rid of it before the Squadron leaves. The trip from Paddington to Henley was better than any other time I have done it. The countryside was in the full bloom of spring. Pink cherry blossom dotted amongst the seemingly endless number of shades of green trees, made a perfectly lovely picture. And then, on arrival at Henley, to see the river practically motionless with punts ready on the banks, all combined to give a perfect atmosphere of peace. War, with all its noise and horror, seemed in another world. One has always heard of the beauty of England in the spring but I never realised it would be as lovely as this. Wandering through the woods at Halfridge produced many lovely scenes and shades which I’m afraid couldn’t be caught by my camera.
Wednesday 6 May 1942 Slept in till 10 am making up for time lost during the train journey on Monday night. Lazed around in the sun for the remainder of the morning. Peggy had been unable to get the tractor going so Davis spent the day overhauling it. After lunch Aunt, Peggy and I tidied up a plot of lawn and at 4 pm, I drove them down to an afternoon tea at some person’s place. While they were there, I wandered along the towpath from Henley Bridge. It was absolutely delightful – the weather still remains super too. Took some snaps – one being of the cherry blossoms near the railway station.
Picked Uncle up on the 5.15 pm train, drove him to the Pig Farm and then called back for Aunt and Peggy.
Cocktails outside in the cool of the evening were very pleasant. At about 9.30 pm Peggy and I wandered across the field to that little one-roomed pub, The Carpenters Arms, we had a couple of beers by candle light which was rather fun and then a more than pleasant walk home.
Thursday 7 May 1942 Drove Aunt into Reading this morning to do some shopping. There seems to be nothing very outstanding about present day Reading although it really was a famous place. Memories of history came back to me and I hear the name of the Guild of Reading – one of the oldest of the Merchant Guilds, those forerunners of England’s commercial power.
Spent an absolutely delightful afternoon on the river at Henley. Hired a punt and rowed up along the course where the famous Henley Regatta used to be held each summer. I certainly have come to the country at the right time of year. The willow trees overhanging the river are a lovely shade of green. The white swans lazing in the water help to present a scene of perfect peace. Peace, peace, why does this keep coming into my mind? Could understand it if I had been through the mill but as I haven’t, what does it mean? Although I know that some strife is not far distant for me.
Peggy and I walked up to the White Hart for Aunt this evening. Had a quiet beer – the room was full of a bunch of RAF Officers evidently celebrating a night off.
Friday 8 May 1942 Walked down with Peggy to the field near the farm and started the tractor for her. As it was nearly out of petrol and paraffin, we drove it down to the Pig Farm and refuelled it. But could we get it to start after that? I’ll say not! Had to wait till Irwin came home for lunch – he seems to have the knack of turning it over.
Had a sandwich lunch in the fields and shortly after 2 pm, I came back to Halfridge, dressed and went in search of Mabel Rodwell’s cottage in the village of Appleford, near Abingdon. There was no bus for over an hour or so I had to resort to hitch-hiking. Not the procedure for an Officer normally. But I’m afraid a necessity in this case. Was eventually set down in a small village and had to walk literally miles before I eventually found the cottage. It is a lovely little place – very old, about the 16th Century. They discovered huge oak beams in the place, a bricked-in fireplace and part of the foundations are all Tudor bricks. Mabel has spent something like £2000 on it, making the place very comfortable – hot water system, sewerage, electric light, all other mod cons. It really is a delightful spot.
Saturday 9 May 1942 Were to have gone into Henley this morning but missed the bus. Peggy and I went for a walk instead, down to the farm, up past Millers to the main road, had a couple of beers at The Fox and so home to lunch through the woods. There are lots of bluebells and primroses out, and these form a lovely carpet in parts of the wood.
This afternoon went with Uncle and his agent on a tour of the estate. He likes to go round it once a week. After this, went to the Solomon’s for afternoon tea. They have a very lovely place on the top of a ridge, the next one over from Halfridge. The gardens are beautifully kept.
Uncle and Aunt were going out to dinner so Peg and I decided we would too. After dropping Aunt and Uncle at the Kelly’s we took the car to the East Arms Hotel, a place about four miles out of Henley on the Maidenhead Road. Had a drink at the White Hart in Henley and then one at a rather famous hotel, the Bell at Hurley, just near the East Arms. Had a lovely dinner and it promised to be an A1 evening only for the fact that we had to pick Aunt and Uncle up at 10.30 pm. This was very hard as we hadn’t left them till 8 pm.
Sunday 10 May 1942 Went for a very long walk around the farm with Uncle this morning. First to Otways, then via the bomb crater field to the Pig Farm, up to a field right at the top of the hill, down again to Bix Farm and so back to Halfridge. Took us just on three hours.
Whether as a result of the walk or just because of laziness, I had a sleep this afternoon. About 5 pm it began to rain and continued to do so till I went to bed about midnight. It made Uncle as pleased as blazes for unless rain had come within a day or two, the newly sown crops would have been in a bad way.
Mr Churchill spoke on the 9 o’clock news. Reviewed the war to-date, and issued a warning about the use of gas. He said that if the Germans used gas against the Russians, we would take it that it had been used against us and with our growing Air Force would carry gas warfare right into Germany. This warning sounds rather ominous to me. I’ve always thought that before Hitler went under, he would resort to every weapon available no matter what the consequences.
Monday 11 May 1942 Walked with Peggy down to the field, came back to Halfridge and then set off with Aunt for yet another walk. She took me over a part of the estate which I had not before seen. We eventually got down to the farm, picked up Peggy and all came back to lunch.
This afternoon, drove through Maidenhead to Windsor. They thought that I should see the castle before leaving England. First drove through the town, and saw lots of Eton boys walking about in their top hats and tailcoats. Typical “Mr Chips” schoolboys they looked, though perhaps they might resent Eton being likened to Brookfield. Drove through some of the Great Park at Windsor and saw the road along which the King and Queen drive when going to Ascot. On coming close to the castle however we found that we could not get in as it is now closed to visitors. However through the gate I took a snap of the most familiar part of the castle, the Great Round Tower. We had afternoon tea at the Nell Gwynn teashop. It is said that the King, (was it Charles or James?) used to ride from the castle to see Nell, when she lived in a house at Nettlebed which we passed in this morning’s walk. His route must have been run through part of Uncle’s estate. When he was coming he used to burn a beacon in the castle. This could be seen in the house at Nettlebed.
Tuesday 12 May 1942 Went down to the fields with Peggy this morning. Picked up the tractor and drove it to the Pig Farm and refuelled it. Then had to go up to the bomb crater field to pick up the drags which we then took up to Black Dean. By the time we had arrived there and assembled the drags it was nearly 1 o’clock so we ate lunch, talked and said what was our real farewell. I came back to Halfridge, dressed and went into Henley by bus to do some shopping. On arrival back for afternoon tea I twisted my right ankle very badly – haven’t done so for some months now. God it hurt.
I went down with Davis in the car when he went to collect Uncle at 6 pm. My train didn’t leave Henley until 6.45 pm but with the petrol shortage it would have been ridiculous to make two trips.
Arrived at Paddington at 8.50 pm, had dinner at the Railway Hotel, then a drink in the bar with some RAF Flying Officer Air Gunner who is on Beaufighters. I was in rather an awkward spot. Had only 5/- in my pocket before dinner and wasn’t able to cash a cheque. I explained this to this Flying Officer and didn’t want him to shout me. He said “Rot”! Just then Tom Eakins came into the bar and I was able to get some cash from him.
Wednesday 13 May 1942 The train arrived at Neyland at about 7.45 am. It hadn’t been a bad trip. Was able to stretch out full length the whole night. There was a hell of a draught in the carriage – there would be, because I didn’t have my greatcoat with me. I have left it at the Bond’s for storage till I return to England whenever that may be. There was little to do on the Station today. The main item was getting our issue of tropical kit – jacket, slacks, topee, shorts, shirts, etc. I was charged £3/1/-, a ridiculously small sum when one would pay four or five times as much if one bought the gear from a shop instead of Stores. We are to receive £5 allowance so I make a profit. £5 is to be paid to us when we get to our destination wherever that may be. We had to be issued with an emergency issue of clothing coupons to cover our tropical kit. Were given 138 coupons – all I required were 52. However, the others will come in useful if I can get near a shop. For I’ll need a decent shirt or two, with detachable collars.
Had inoculations this afternoon; 5 cc TAB and 1 cc of Tetanus. My arm is just beginning to stiffen up and I’m starting to shiver, so off to bed.
Thursday 14 May 1942 Came out in a hell of a sweat during last night. Violent bouts of shivering. Felt pretty poorly when I awoke so did not get up. A Medical Orderly came in about 9.30 am, took my temperature and later sent along the Medical Officer who has advised me to stay in bed all day. Have slight touch of post-inoculation fever. I’m not missing anything, for the rest of the lads have been given the day off.
Friday 15 May 1942 Had my breakfast in bed and got up about 9 am. Although I was excused duties, after reading the papers in the Mess, I got fed up and went over to the Crew Room to see what the rest of the fellows were doing. They were just sitting about reading odd books. This was all we did in the afternoon too. I took advantage of the time and copied out some notes. Rang Tubby Fairway at Mountbatten and asked him to send up some buttons and eagles for my tropical kit. Being with an English Squadron, Stores have no Australian kit which makes things rather awkward.
I love the story of the laddie who was flying an old Walrus amphibian. He saw a seagull formating with him so he gave his crate full throttle thinking “I’ll trick the bugger.” But no! The seagull kept perfect formation. So the pilot throttled right back. And the seagull stalled and spun in!
Saturday 16 May 1942 By getting the batman to wake me early, I managed to get on parade this morning. The hours have all been changed since we went on leave. Parade is now at 8 am instead of 8.30. After it, went and sat in the Crew Room for a while, then did some Semaphore and later went and put in half an hour on the Link Trainer – the first time I’ve been in a Link since August last year. Did a blind approach landing. Though I doubt very much whether we’ll need these when we go to the Indian Ocean. The latest guess as to where we’re going is Mombasa on the east coast of Africa. I wonder how right it is? Managed to get in some flying this afternoon but only a very little. A Fitter was messing about with the throttle adjustment till about 4 pm and we had to moor-up at 5.30 pm.
The Commanding Officer of the Squadron, Wing Commander Drew came back from leave tonight so it shouldn’t be too long before we shove off now.
Sunday 17 May 1942 Ticked up more “Crew Room Hours” this morning. Had been raining all the time and that made things rather miserable.
Peg’s husband’s brother, John Pammenter, rang me up yesterday. He lives at Haverfordwest, about ten miles from Neyland just across the Bay. He said that he had had a telegram from Aunt asking him to get in touch with me. Asked if I would care to go out with him and his wife this afternoon. We were supposed to be on duty but Flight Lieutenant Wylie, who is acting Commanding Officer of the Squadron, said it would be alright to go as we were doing nothing. Was unable to get across to Neyland in an Air Force pinnace and so had to walk a couple of miles around to the ordinary ferry. Had to wait for it for about 40 minutes – all to do a five-minute crossing. The Pammenters picked me up at Neyland and we went for quite a long drive. Jack is connected with Uncle’s company and is supervising the laying down of aerodrome runways. Had afternoon tea and tea at their place. I marvel at the custom of the decent English people when dealing with dogs. They let them eat off the plates which are used for ordinary meals. The Bonds do so, Peggy and now the Pammenters. They drove me back in time to catch the Air Force pinnace back at 8.30 pm – or so we thought. But the bloody thing left five minutes early and there wasn’t another till 10.30 pm. To make matters worse, the civilian ferry had just left too. It eventually came back but waited 45 minutes before leaving! All this time it was raining like hell and I got very wet looking for a telephone which I was unable to find. When I did land on the Pembroke Dock side, I still had a two-mile walk in the rain. Was pretty mad by the time I got to the Station. Rang up the Piermaster’s Hut and tore a strip off the bloody pinnace driver for leaving before time.
Monday 18 May 1942 Spent the whole day in the Crew Room reading anything from novels to navigation manuals. Did another half an hour on the Link – again was on Blind Approach. Had a whacko mail today. Seven letters from the family ranging from 19 th January to 24th March. A letter from Peggy shows that she is taking a bit of a hiding, the same as I took on leaving Halfridge last time.
Tuesday 19 May 1942 Got so browned off with sitting on my fanny in the Crew Room that I went up as a passenger while Kennedy and Millem were practicing low level bombing at Angle Bay. It was quite good fun – the low flying entailed being the best part.
This afternoon put in some more time on the Link – kept on with the Blind Approach exercise.
This evening, after posting a couple of letters I looked in at the ante-room and who should be there but Phil Davenport. After doing his two-week Blind Approach Training Course, he was sent back to Bournemouth and at last, after much agitation received his posting on to boats. He is a member of 461 Squadron, the all-Australian Sunderland Squadron similar to No 10 except that it is to be composed of Empire Air Training Scheme people. He is damned lucky to get Sunderlands – I wish I had. Although, with this trip to the East on Catalinas about to come off, I doubt I would change now even if given the opportunity. Phil is the only member of the Squadron yet here.
Drew a revolver today. I’ve always wanted to have one.
Wednesday 20 May 1942 Had to get yet some more stuff from Stores – revolver holster, ammunition pouch, belt, etc. Should also have got a water bottle but the ones they had to offer were in terrible shape – had been used for years by the looks of them. Will wait till I get to our destination before getting one. While in Stores Phil Davenport came in. He is off again. Another one of the RAF mess-ups. He shouldn’t have been sent here from Bournemouth at all but should have gone to Mount Batten. I thought it was funny his arriving here, for Dave Laurenti, who is also to go to 461 Squadron, went to Mount Batten.
Spent one and a half hours altogether in the Link today. The morning’s half hour was just the ordinary Blind Approach but this afternoon I did an exercise of finishing an unknown QDM – measuring the beam is involved.
Thursday 21 May 1942 Today marks the first anniversary of my leaving Australia. This time last year the old Aorangi was carrying us towards New Zealand. What a lot has happened since then – the places I’ve seen and the things I’ve done. I wonder where I shall be on the 21st May next year?
The main feature of the day was that our crewing-up notice was posted. I am Ssecond Pilot to an Australian Captain – Saunders by name. He is the only one of the nine Captains I haven’t met. He has been away and just done a Captain’s Course. I would rather have been with an old hand like Fitzpatrick or Barraclough, for in this game experience counts. They could have taught me more and would be the right man to have in a tight spot. Still, everything will probably be all right. Our Navigator is a Flight Sergeant Vincent – an Englishman who has had a lot of operations. Our Wireless Operator Mechanic is Pilot Officer Field, a real gen man – knows his stuff inside out. He is the Squadron Signals Officer. In addition, we have two Wireless Operator/Air Gunners, two Fitters (Flight Engineers) and a Rigger. This is our normal operational crew. For the trip out however, we are carrying two maintenance people – so our crew will number 11. This is the goal of our training – to be crewed-up at last. We do seem to be getting somewhere now. I do hope this Saunders is a decent fellow. The other eight Captains are, so I should be unfortunate if I strike a dud. [October 2000 Eric Saunders probably thought the same thing about me].
Friday 22 May 1942 Had a full day’s flying today. Was up with Flying Officer Balfour DFC doing low level bombing in Angle Bay. At first, we had some trouble with the carrier – the bombs hung up but later found it was our fault in the way we were selecting the switches. We both managed to get one direct hit each in the day. One of the best parts of the whole business was the low flying it involves. Practiced three glide landings after bombing and every one of them was a beauty. Likewise the engine landings I did on returning to Base each time. Today I really felt as if I had got the feel of the Catalina. Seemed to be able to make it do just about what I wanted.
There was a 209 Squadron dance up at the military barracks – was not restricted to the Squadron. All types were present, Army, Navy, etc.
Received yet another letter from the family. This one was dated the 8th April, so that was very quick. Also received two parcels – one a cake from the family and the other odds and ends from the Mosman and Cremorne Comfort Fund.
Saturday 23 May 1942 At the Flight Office this morning I was introduced to Pilot Officer Saunders, an Australian, who is to be my Captain on the trip out to Mombasa. Yes, Mombasa it pretty definitely seems to be! We are the only crew that has not yet been allotted a boat. One is to come up from Calshot I believe. The crew itself is pretty good, excellent in fact. Our Wireless Operator Mechanic, Pilot Officer Field is a real gen man and the Flight Engineers and First and Second Wireless Operators seem to be a cut above the ordinary types. We should develop into a good crew. The Captain is the least experienced Captain on the Squadron – has only just finished his Captain’s Course. Nor has he very many operational hours up as a Second Pilot. We’ll be raw, but willing!
As I was going into breakfast an Orderly told me that a Mrs Pammenter had just rung off and would ring again at 12.15 pm. I didn’t worry much about it thinking that it would be Jack or Anita. Imagine my amazement and joy when it turned out to be Peggy down from Halfridge. It made me a different man. Could not meet her till 6 pm when I brought her back to the Mess for a drink. Mr and Mrs P., Jack and Anita later came in and then we all went off to a dinner dance in Tenby.
On entering the Mess about 12.15 am I ran into a party which kept going till about 2 am. The usual singing and drinking – damned good fun and excellent for really getting to know the fellows in the Squadron.
Sunday 24 May 1942 There was quite a big parade this morning to celebrate Empire Day – 209 Squadron exempted. On the newly mown grass of the parade ground with all the troops in their best blues, WAAFs included, it looked a pretty good sight.
Ken and his Captain friend, as arranged last night, came to Pembroke Dock about 11.30 am and I showed them over a Sunderland and a Catalina. They were both extremely interested.
I went to the Medical Officer for my second inoculation of typhoid – 1 cc this time. It began to catch up with me about 3 pm so off to bed.
Peggy rang at lunchtime from Haverfordwest. We are trying to organise some time together, but it seems pretty hopeless. A bloody shame when she’s travelled all these hundreds of miles down here,
Monday 25 May 1942 Again had a touch of this post-inoculation fever and it kept me in bed all day. Am lucky to be sleeping in the same room as the Medical Officer for he gave me a sleeping tablet when I was unable to get off.
At lunchtime there was a call from Peggy. The Orderly Batman came and told me but I was feeling too low to get up and go to the phone – so gave him a message to give her. He came back and told me that Peggy had to unexpectedly return tonight by the 7.14 train. So that means I shall not see her again before I leave England. What a bloody shame – especially as we were both within a few miles of one another.
Tuesday 26 May 1942 Got up just in time for lunch. A whole bunch of Australians from 10 Squadron are in the Mess. They are up here for night flying.
This evening was held a Mess Dinner which was really to farewell 209 Squadron. It was a damn good show followed by one hell of a binge afterwards. The usual singing and drinking. The 10 Squadron boys were called on to give a song or two and as there were so few of them Saunders and I joined them. However I did not stick with the party but made off to bed fairly early having been told, just prior to the dinner, that I was to leave for London at 7.30 tomorrow morning on special duty. I have to go to Coastal Command Headquarters to pick up some secret documents and purses. The latter I believe contain foreign money. They are to be issued to aircrew so that if we are shot down over enemy territory we will have the where-with-all to make our way around. Managed to obtain the Wing Commander’s permission to return by Thursday night’s train so that means I shall have a full night and day in London. Was just entering the telephone booth to ring Halfridge to see if Peggy could come to London for that time when the phone rang and it was Peggy. She is still in London, so I shall see her. Whacko!
Wednesday 27 May 1942 Was up at 6.15 am and had transport take me down to Pembroke Dock Station to catch the 7.35 train. It was a fast trip to Paddington, arriving there at 3.45 pm – just over eight hours. Went into a bit of a flap on arrival for Peggy was not there as arranged and when I rang the number she had given me I was told that they did not know her. Waited till the second division of the train came in and fortunately Peg was there to meet that. Had visions of being in London and not seeing her. However all was well. We went out to Coastal Command Headquarters at Northwood and I told them that I had 24 hours leave and would pick up the documents tomorrow afternoon. Back to town, picked up Peg’s luggage at the Club, and took her to the dressmaker. Then I went to Shepherds Pub in Shepherds Markets – a delightful little spot Peg recommended – and filled in the time waiting for her. She was over an hour late, being delayed by a strange event. Her lady Dentist friend who was to become a mother in two months time suddenly produced – great consternation!
This was the first time Peg and I have had an evening alone together – and it will be the last for ages. We went to the dinner dance at the Savoy and had a simply grand time – the Savoy, being a new experience for me. Dancing to Carol Gibbons’ band was something I wouldn’t have thought possible a year ago. Took Peg home and stayed an hour or so saying goodbye. She’s a grand girl – too nice! Stayed with Mabel Rodwell as I had been unable to book in at a hotel. Accommodation in London has to be booked well in advance these days.
Thursday 28 May 1942 Mabel had set up a camp bed for me in the lounge room. I needed it too for had been unable to get a taxi back from Peggy’s and had had to walk from Kensington to Sussex Gardens after 3.13 am. Didn’t get up till 9 am. We had breakfast and yarned till almost 11.30 when I had to dash off and meet Peggy at Harrods. We then went to the surgery of her Dentist friend while she phoned some of the patients and put off their appointments. While walking to lunch passed on the street Air Marshal Sir Phillip Babbington [Air Member for Personnel] who was on the Aorangi. After lunch we parted for an hour or so and then met back at the Cumberland from where we went and sat in Hyde Park for our last few minutes together. I wonder if this time it really will be the last? She’s a grand girl – and we get on with each other so excellently. In one way I hope this finishes it for if we keep on like this being so terribly fond of each other we will run into a nasty packet of trouble. The plain fact is I met her two and a half years too late.
Went out to Coastal Command Headquarters and picked up the bundle of stuff which proved to be rather big – the size of a kit bag. Carried this damn thing into the dining room of the Paddington Hotel. Felt a fool – still better that than losing it. Air Ministry secured a special compartment for me on the train so was able to stretch out during the journey.
Friday 29 May 1942 It was with some relief that I handed over the parcel of stuff on arrival back at Pembroke Dock at 8.30 am. Took it up to the Intelligence Officer who is located at the Defensible Barracks. Talking to Squadron Leader Barraclough he said that the boat in which I will be going, will not be leaving for at least a fortnight. Some of the lads are going this coming Monday, the lucky blighters.
Had a letter from Stewart Brundell in which he says that poor old Alan Ada is missing from an operational trip to Spanish Waters. He was with 58 Squadron at St Eval. How fervently I hope he is alright, that he may have been picked up and now be a prisoner of war. I can’t bear to think of poor old Alan being killed. We trained for so long together. It’s not too good when really intimate friends go. The list of them is mounting – Jim Unsworth, Rolla Cooke, Rex Marre and now Alan. Do let’s hope it is not true.
Had a spell at Duty Pilot after afternoon tea. Have to record all take-offs, landings and moorings-up in a book and inform the Operations Room.
Was Witnessing Officer along with some of the other 209 Squadron Officers at a pay parade. Heard that Stan Sismey, a NSW cricketer, was shot up badly in a Catalina off Gibraltar. He has six bullet holes in him. The attack was by French fighters.
Saturday 30 May 1942 Started off this morning with an hour’s Link Trainer. Haven’t been in the box for a week, what with inoculation fever and a trip to London. The rest of the day was spent just sitting about. We haven’t our boat yet. Those people that are leaving on Monday and Tuesday for the east are in a hell of a flap racing round and getting all the little odd jobs done. Spent some of my time laboriously typing out (two-finger style) crew drill in event of ditching. Then we gathered the crew together and talked it over. When we get our boat, this is the thing that will have to be rigorously practiced over and over. Can’t have somebody forgetting to bring water and rations into the dinghy or anything like that.
Because of all that has to be done prior to departure, the Squadron is down to work till 10.30, both tonight and tomorrow night. It is a bit silly for our crew as we have nothing to do, not yet having a boat.
There was a message in the Mess to say that Peggy had rung me at 7 pm. Rang back at 9 pm but she couldn’t say anything. Aunt it appears is coming down to Haverfordwest on Monday.
Sunday 31 May 1942 I thought I was through with injections last Sunday but not so. A New Zealand Medical wallah arrived in the Mess last night and today the whole Squadron has been inoculated against Yellow Fever. This has given rise to speculation as to whether our route will be down the west coast of Africa.
Managed to scrounge my first ride in a Sunderland [W4029] today. An Australian, Flying Officer Corrie, of 202 Squadron, had to go down to Mount Batten and Saunders and I went along for the trip. Our route was Pembroke Dock to Scilly Isles, then past Lands End, The Lizard and right over Eddystone Lighthouse and so into Plymouth. It was a lovely day for flying – bright sunshine and blue sky. The Scilly Isles looked perfectly delightful – the water around them was in parts a very pale green. There is a Sunderland of 461 Squadron wrecked on one of the beaches – the pilot landed and ran into some rocks. Was glad to be able to see, if only from the air, the other three famous places named. Mount Batten is the Base of 10 Squadron but all the lads I know there except White (our late Commanding Officer, Pacific trip) were on leave. Saw roughly where Drake played his famous game of bowls. Plymouth has the thickest balloon barrage I have yet seen and what is more, the balloons are flown at a very great height. Such was the direction of the wind that we had to do a steep climbing turn off the deck to avoid the cables. Arrived back at Pembroke Dock about 10.30 pm. Had a few dummy attacks on the way back – shooting up aluminium sea markers, etc. The first time I have seen tracer bullets. Was very pleased with the Sunderland and am more than sorry I didn’t get to them instead of Catalinas. They are extremely comfortable.
Monday 1 June 1942 The papers today are full of news of a tremendous RAF bombing raid on Cologne on Saturday night when over 1000 bombers were used. This must be the world’s biggest raid and is a most heartening sign of the RAF’s growing power. Let’s hope we bomb every city like this and give Jerry back some of what he gave this country.
Another rather startling piece of news is that Japanese submarines are reported to have entered Sydney Harbour. They were given a hot reception and did not do too much damage according to reports.
All 209 Squadron were briefed by the Intelligence Officer this afternoon. The personnel of the three boats that were due to leave tonight (but didn’t because of bad weather) were given purses of foreign money in case they were shot down en route to Gibraltar. We have been given an address in Marseilles to which we must make our way if shot down nearby. Very exciting.
Tuesday 2 June 1942 This morning we cleaned out the Navigation Room. The three boats which were unable to leave last night, took-off after lunch for Mount Batten. They were going to leave for Gibraltar from here tonight, but according to Meteorology, the weather is going to close down here, whereas it will be OK from Plymouth. The three to leave are John Wylie and Frank Henderson taking Wing Commander Drew, Fitzpatrick and Barry, and Ken Murray and Rolf Luck. The next three are to leave in a day or two. I am in the last three with Squadron Leader Barraclough and Hossent. I hear that we have to go and collect our boat from Beaumaris in North Wales on Monday. I also heard that we are to be given 48 hours leave beginning Friday night. From all accounts, Beaumaris is a really delightful spot so I think I shall go there. Saunders, my Captain, wants to go to London but I’ve had that place. Would only be a round of drinking and a hell of a lot of train travelling. I would have liked to have seen some shows in London but it hardly seems worth going there for these now. Went for a long walk tonight. It was a beautiful summer’s evening and most pleasant out.
Wednesday 3 June 1942 It appears that the three boats did not leave for Gibraltar from Mount Batten last night as planned. The weather closed in there too. There has been very little doing as regards work for our crew. Not having our boat yet makes things difficult. When it does arrive, we have a couple of days flat out I suppose, trying to get ready in time.
The Fight Commander told Saunders that our crew could have a 48 this coming weekend, reporting at Beaumaris on Monday. Ah! I see I mentioned that yesterday.
Jack Pammenter rang me last night about going over to Haverfordwest for dinner tonight. Aunt is staying with them. I caught the 5.15 pm pinnace having arranged to meet them at Neyland at 5.20 pm. They were held up and did not arrive till ten to seven.
Caught the 11.45 boat back. Getting out of the Mess for a night is a welcome break.
Thursday 4 June 1942 Spend my time when I am not reading library books in the Link Trainer. Have about ten hours on it here now. It’s damned good to keep your hand in at instrument flying. Have been doing the Blind Approach and measuring an unknown QDM.
At last I have had developed the photos I took on the Atlantic convoy. Had I had them done in a shop I probably would have been in trouble with the censorship people. Always intended to wait till I got on to a Station. Some of New York are also on the roll. Also had some enlargements done.
Went to the pictures tonight – the first time for ages. Someone had booked quite a few seats, a necessary procedure, if one wants to visit the one and only picture house in Pembroke Dock. Of course the night would be stiflingly hot and the pictures lousy! Cooled off back at the Mess in the usual way.
Friday 5 June 1942 Another sad happening today. The letter I wrote to Alan Ada on the 15th May was returned to me on Air Ministry instructions. This rather looks as if poor old Pop has “flown on” although I haven’t heard anything officially yet.
Did two hours and ten minutes in the Link Trainer today. It certainly is a grand scheme for blind flying practice.
The second batch of three boats is due to leave tomorrow so there was a minor bash in the Mess tonight. I pulled out of it quite early. The weather today has been really hot and humid. Ridiculous when only three days ago, I found it necessary to wear two sweaters.
Saturday 6 June 1942 I am supposed to be on that 48-hours leave commencing last night. However spent the morning doing some Link and generally messing about. Then this afternoon went out with Squadron Leader Belcham to his boat for the trip to Beaumaris. This boat is Z and it is the one that found the Bismark. She has an etching of the Bismark on the bow – also two submarines which she found. Quite a famous boat is Z (AH545) and she certainly added history to 209 Squadron. However she is now with 119 Squadron and has a whopping great searchlight (Leigh Light) slung under the starboard wing. This is part of some secret device for trapping submarines. The weight of the light keeps the starboard float under water. I was anxious to see how she would go in a take-off. Belcham hadn’t flown a Catalina for ten months and had me sitting in the Second Pilot’s seat to keep my eye on his circuits. We slipped the buoy and taxied around, but then it was discovered that there was a whacking great leak from the main fuel cock so the trip was off. Had we taken-off and had a spark from the wireless caught this petrol we would have disappeared in a sheet of blue flame. So then I had to catch a train to Beaumaris. Changed at Cardiff and as I had some time to spare, I rang up the Wakeleys and they came and picked me up at the Station. They seemed to have waited supper for me. This was most kind of them for it was about 11.15 pm before we reached the house in Soberton Avenue. Was able to see some of the fine public buildings in Cardiff on the drive from the railway station. They do something to improve my opinion of Welsh towns. The house at 20 Soberton Avenue belongs to Will Wakeley, his wife and daughter. Fanny who lives a mile or so away came over for supper but couldn’t stay very long. They were all pleased to hear news from Australia and recalled Mother and Dad’s visit to them in 1937. Was driven back to the station in time to catch the 12.55 am train.
Sunday 7 June 1942 Had to change trains at Crewe at 5.10 am and the other train didn’t leave for Chester till 9.30 am. Filled in these hours sleeping with a lot of Army troops in the Church Hut on the station. Had a shocking breakfast at a LMS hotel – and had to pay 4/6 for it. On the trip to Chester there was in the carriage a Second Lieutenant (Army) who had been on the train from Haverfordwest. Was at Cambridge before he joined. We had quite a long yarn about ‘varsity life and education. He told me that I had been unfortunate at Crewe for also on the station was a WVS Officers Room which was very comfortably fitted up. The train from Chester to Bangor was very crowded and it was quite some time before we got a seat. The trip passed right along the north Wales coast and was very pretty. Arrived at Bangor at 2.15 pm almost 20 hours after leaving Pembroke Dock. Oh, what a life when I could have flown up in an hour if only Catalina Z had not broken down. Raced around the various hotels looking for bookings. Saunders had sent a telegram to the Berkeley Arms at Beaumaris saying he had missed his train and would be arriving at 6.30 pm. Took a bus from Bangor to Beaumaris this afternoon while waiting for Saunders. It was a most lovely drive. A narrow winding road with grey stone walls on either side most of the way and big trees overhanging. The road runs alongside the river or Bay. Just near the ferry crossing from Bangor to Menai there is anchored a large sailing ship, the Conway, a training ship for “Middies.” Were told that this lot of scenery is very like that of the Lake District.
Monday 8 June 1942 Slept last night at the Castle Hotel in Bangor – the only place where we could get a room. (BBC people broadcast from Bangor). Came out to Saunders Roe works just out of Beaumaris in transport provided by the firm. Had a look at our boat Q [serial number Z2142, Squadron Code WQ-Q]. She is in a huge hanger which has four Catalinas in it. There was a regular army of people working on our boat – lots of girls cleaning out the bilges and all the cupboards. The boat looked like a new pin when they had finished. Asked one of the Saunders Roe men if they had an artist in the place as we would like a mascot painted on the bow. Decided on a Donald Duck with a telescope to his eye for a mascot and the laddie who painted it on made a whizzo job of it. Met Squadron Leader Ash in his office this morning – had already been introduced to him last night at his house when he provided some very excellent sherry. He organised accommodation for us at one of the houses occupied by Saunders Roe executives, a place called Brynllwyd (pronounced Bryncluen). After an enormous lunch at this place Saunders and I went into Bangor to the pictures there being nothing we could do on the boat. Had to hitch-hike in as the bus was full and didn’t stop. Saw George Formby in “South American George.” Came back and had a few beers at the Victory Hotel opposite Brynllwyd, then dinner and off into Beaumaris to The Bulls Head. Got into tow with a couple of lasses from London and spent a more than enjoyable evening. Missed the last bus (which was at 10.20 pm) so took a room at the Bull for the night as we didn’t feel like walking three and a half miles back to the hotel.
Tuesday 9 June 1942 Left the Bull early as we had ordered a 9 am breakfast back at Brynllwyd. Hitch-hiked back. After bath and breakfast Saunders Roe sent a car for us and so back to this works. Squadron Leader Barraclough and Tom Eakins arrived by Catalina about 11 am. John Inglis brought them up from Pembroke Dock. John is off to Gibraltar tomorrow night. Tom told me that the other three got away alright last Saturday night (rough water take-off) and have now teamed up with the first boats who haven’t yet been able to leave Gibraltar. There has been quite a mess up of accommodation but it has finally all been sorted out and now the four of us are all staying at the Berkeley Arms – a rather luxurious hotel and a very unexpected find in such an out of way place. Our boat came out of the hanger today so this afternoon was spent doing a compass swing on the O2, P4 and P9 compasses, running up the engines, etc. Starboard engine gave some plug trouble but this will be right by morning. The Auxiliary Power Unit was a bit ropey too. We will launch her and be away in the early part of tomorrow. The firm has here an amphibian Catalina [PBY 5A]. It is queer looking job with wheels out. The wheels however do not take up over-much room in the hull, except for the front tricycle which leaves no passage-way between the pilots’ seats.
Tom Eakins has his girl friend here at Beaumaris from London so we had a bit of a party at the Bull tonight.
Wednesday 10 June 1942 Squadron Leader Ash drove us out to the works from the Berkeley Arms Hotel. It was some time before the test people were able to run up the starboard engine but when they did so it proved OK. The special installation people lined up the Special Instrument [early Air to Surface Vessel Radar unit]. Launched about 11.15 but by the time we had checked over the inventory it was too near lunchtime to set off for Pembroke Dock. Were taken to and from the Berkeley by launch. Eventually took-off at 3 pm and arrived back at Pembroke Dock at 4.30 – one and a half hours compared with the 20 hours it took to get up there ! The boat has now flown almost 26 hours since its last major overhaul. However we had to hand it over to the Maintenance people for a 90-hourly inspection in order to cover the trip out. So after landing, brought the boat up the slip and stripped her of all moveable objects.
Thursday 11 June 1942 Spent the whole day messing about on the boat. The maintenance people were on board doing the 90-hourly inspection.
Collected £4 (£1 per night) covering the four nights I was away from Pembroke Dock and at Beaumaris. Amounts to having a paid holiday almost.
Managed to get in another hour’s Link today.
Started reading an amazingly funny book; Thorne Smith’s “Turnabout.”
Friday 12 June 1942 Cleaned out the boat during the morning and after lunch began loading her up with all the moveable gear we took out the other day. Our deficiencies are not too bad – most, though not all of them, are being made up.
Took the boat down the slip about 6 o’clock and then did a test flight. Saunders flew practically all the time. The boat is in pretty good order as far as the engines are concerned but the hull has a few slight leaks.
There was a dance in the Mess tonight. The dining room floor made an excellent dance floor. Decorations of lilacs and greenery around the lights made the place look very attractive. The band was composed of RAF Airmen and a couple of
Naval types. Met quite a nice lass, Mary Moore. She is a voluntary ambulance driver and is at Llanyion Barracks. Got horribly full.
Saturday 13 June 1942 Took off about10.45am and flew for an hour and 50 mins swinging the compasses and loop over Skokholm Island. This procedure consists of flying set courses over the island while Vincent, the Navigator, using the Astro Compass got our true courses and MaGuire, the Wireless Operator, took radio bearings. On completion we did a few circuits and bumps in Angle Bay. Had on board a Fleet Air Arm Lieutenant. Saunders let him do a take-off and landing and he made an excellent job of both considering that he has never been in a Catalina before. Is used to flying Walrus. He says that if we come up to the Fleet Air Arm Station up the river tomorrow morning he will give us each a go in a Walrus. Would very much like this but expect to be too busy to get up there. This afternoon we re-fuelled taking on 1100 gallons. This plus what we already had makes our fuel up to 1500 gallons. Came back on the step from Hobbs Pt to get the feel of a heavy take-off. We are taking out part of the beaching gear. The boat was fully loaded except for personal kit. She rode excellently and even with the additional weight we should not have much trouble with tomorrow night’s take-off.
Sunday 14 June 1942 Spent the morning clearing up odd jobs such as getting the Link (trainer) times entered in my log book, handing back battledress and so on. After lunch the crews of the two boats that were to leave tonight were briefed by the Intelligence Officer in the Crew Room. His lecture was much the same as he gave to the whole Squadron before the first batch of boats departed. Were given names of people in France and North Africa to whom we are to make our way if we happen to be shot down en route. Purses of French, Spanish and Portuguese money were also issued. They are to be handed back to the Intelligence Officer at Gibraltar when we arrive there. At Gibraltar we will be issued with further purses covering the trip through the Mediterranean. There was for a time some doubt about the weather but eventually we were told to put our personal kit on board. Pilots and Observers went up to the Operations Room after dinner for a final briefing – recognition signals, etc. And then a flap began. Group Headquarters rang up and said that the two boats were required to do an operational sortie – convoy patrol. Barraclough tried all he knew to get out of it but to no avail. And so with loads of intelligence data we took off at 11pm. Saunders did his first heavily laden take-off. We must have run nearly a mile before becoming airborne but nothing untoward happened. We set forth for the Scilly Isl. The convoy is approximately SW of Lands End and we expect to reach it about 6 am tomorrow morning. Well here at long last I am on operations. Flying along tonight is giving me a tremendous thrill. We are using “George” most of the time but even so a close check has to be kept. Saunders had a rest for a time – I flew for about two hours. During that time Vincent, the Navigator, came up into the “office” and took some star shots. The fix he obtained shows we are not far off track.
Monday 15 June 1942 Began scanning the murk for the convoy about 5.45 am but it was too dark to see very much. Began a square search for it. And then suddenly it happened – we saw a U-boat right on the surface about half a mile away on our port side. There was a swirl of water as he crash-dived. Saunders sang out to the gunnery to let him have it but they were too late. We circled round for some time but of course saw nothing further of the submarine. However not very far away we found a corvette and by Aldis Lamp told him the news. Circled round him passing messages for some time. As if a flight to Gibraltar is not a big enough thrill in itself! And seeing a U-boat into the bargain – some people have been on patrol almost since the war began and have never seen one. And here I on my first operational trip see one. We picked up the convoy [430 45’ N 180 27’ W] about 7.30 am and stayed with it till 10.30 am. During that time we investigated a small vessel sneaking along behind the convoy about 10 miles distant. Informed the Senior Naval Officer who sent a corvette to investigate. It was evidently OK for later we saw both the small vessel and corvette join the convoy. During the three hours did one long patrol away from the convoy. Did not sight the other Catalina at all. I believe their ASR was faulty so probably they couldn’t pick it up. I am writing this in the blister compartment of the boat as we head for Gibraltar. Expect to arrive there about 1700 this afternoon making 18 hours in the air. And what a change for me who has done no more than three hours in the air at one stretch. – LATER Sighted Cape St Vincent about 5.45 pm – my first view of Spain. The weather had cleared by now and we were going along in a clear blue sky with brilliant sunshine. The country behind the Cape looked very brown and bare. Left the coastline after Cape St Vincent and about an hour later on the horizon saw what we took to be the Rock of Gibraltar. However, it must have been Cape Trafalgar. The coast of Africa soon came into view and before long we were able to see Tangiers off the starboard bow. Through the binoculars it looked a most attractive place. And at last we saw The Rock. Had to approach it from Europa Point about ten miles out. Madly flashed the letter of the day and fired off the recognition cartridge to avoid being fired on. The landing Saunders did was very bouncy. I whacked my forehead on the tail trimmers. Were led into the harbour by a pinnace. We at last moored up some 20 hrs and 30 mins after slipping moorings at Pembroke Dock. First impressions of the place gained before we went ashore were of the barrack-like appearance of the buildings which are yellow in colour. The first gulp of beer at the Bristol Hotel (at which we are billeted since the RAF Mess is full) was most welcome. Despite the fact that we were nearly dropping with fatigue we wandered back to the Mess for a few drinks. Gibraltar has no blackout which is a very welcome change. And to see the lights of Algeciras across the harbour reminded me much of home. However there is a curfew on the Rock and you are supposed to be off the streets by 11 pm. There are no women about after 10 pm. They all have to go back into Spain by that time.
Tuesday 16 June 1942 Mosquitoes bit the hell out of me last night. Spent most of the morning on board cleaning up the boat. Were due to take-off at 3 pm for Alexandria. John Inglis who left Pembroke Dock three or four days before we did is still here as his boat is unserviceable. We were briefed in the Operations Room. Heard of a big British Naval Force comprising Malaya, Eagle, Argus, plus cruisers and destroyers making its way to Gibraltar. Got on board and found that the starting apparatus on the starboard motor would not work. By hand winding got the engine going. Then the spreader on the buoy got caught onto the rigger’s step and tore a hole in the hull. Water began to pour in. However patched up the hole with plasticine and taxied into the harbour. On the way out found that the autopilot had a leak in it. And that was the last straw. Couldn’t do an 18-hour trip without “George” so turned back. Squadron Leader Barraclough had gotten into the air by this time and had set course. We expect to leave tomorrow at 3 pm. Visited the Embassy tonight. It is a drinking café. A lot of the customers seem to be Army, Navy or RAF Officers. All the diners have a band playing and this one was no exception. A couple of pretty Spanish girls put on dancing acts at different stages during the night. They were the only women present. The place closed up about 9.30 pm. Then repaired to the Mess.
Wednesday 17 June 1942 Breakfast in bed this morning. What a war. Eric Saunders came in and said that we wouldn’t be leaving today after all. The boat has to come up the slip to have the hole repaired. The other jobs are being done on the water. That means we won’t be able to leave until 3 pm tomorrow. Must pass Malta in darkness. The only snag about waiting here so long is that we will have less time in Alexandria, which according to Vic Field is just tops. Walked around the town. Saw the Malaya come into harbour. Late this afternoon the Liverpool (Southampton Class cruiser) was towed into port. She has a hole in her side gained in a battle in the Mediterranean. I was rather surprised at her length. Had not realised that the Southampton Class were so long. Spent another night at the Embassy followed by a visit to the Mess for some of the usual songs when the café closed.
Thursday 18 June 1942 Were up quite early this morning but on arrival at the camp found that our boat would not be coming down the slip till about lunchtime. We had brought her up at about 10 am to have repaired the hole in the hull where the rigger’s step was torn away. While she was up the slip, the underneath of the hull was cleaned of all the oil that has stuck to it since we have been in Gibraltar. The water all around has a coating of oil on it. They say you can always tell when a boat has been to Gibraltar by looking at the hull. Came down the slip about 1.30 pm. Had been briefed for departure at 3 pm. I was on board for refuelling just prior to take-off when Saunders came out and said that we would not be leaving today after all. The weather was not favourable near Malta. Was not at all sorry to stay for I had one hell of a pain in my stomach and never felt less like flying.
Friday 19 June 1942 Did a taxiing test at 10.30 am to see that the engines and “George” have been repaired correctly. The notorious Gibraltar swell prevented our becoming airborne until the third attempt. And then only after a “greenie” came over the bow and windscreen, completely obscuring our forward vision, and thoroughly drenching us with water pouring through the inefficient seals on the overhead hatch cover. Airborne Gibraltar at 2 pm, after a take-off run of one minute and 20 seconds – and wet through at the start of the trip!
About 3.20 pm passed two Italian hospital ships with white hulls with a green band lengthwise – in line astern and about a mile apart – going east. They had left Gibraltar at 8 am and are repatriating Italian prisoners. Am writing this at 10000 feet off the Algerian coast at 7.20 pm.
John Inglis in Catalina S was ahead of us when we left but we have overtaken him and now he is almost out of sight.
We are only doing about 85 knots – going as slowly as possible as we do not want to be too near Malta, with its almost daily air raids, before nightfall. It is a perfectly lovely day – bright sunshine and a very calm Mediterranean blue sea. One of the old RAF “sweats” I remember saying “My boy, I used to take drift sights on the bottom of the Med.” I can almost believe him so clear is the water.
About 9 pm the elevator control of “George” went unserviceable. This was a poor show for it looked as if we would have to fly for 12 hours without “George.” However tried it out an hour or so later and it fortunately worked.
Passed Malta at 1 am some 30 miles to port and saw some flashes – another air raid? The island is under constant attack at this time.
Saturday 20 June 1942 Early morning scare – Venus looked like the searchlight of enemy aircraft so large did it seem. Quite some time before we felt at ease.
Something wrong with Vincent’s navigation for we made a landfall at Sidi Barani. However it was a fortunate mistake for us for we were treated to a grandstand view for an hour and a half of portion of the Desert Army. There were literally thousands of transport vehicles and tents. Could not fly for five miles without seeing them. Passed Bug Bug and Mersa Matruh which place looks fairly big. Seeing the conditions under which the Army is living makes one realise just what a hell of a time the lads are having. The desert looks absolutely forbidding – brown hard-looking sand, somewhat hilly. According to briefing instructions, we cut inland and flew five miles south of the railway line from Dhaba Station to Burgh el Aral. Passed numerous landing grounds in the desert. Wellingtons seem to be the most numerous type of aircraft. The fertile Nile Delta a brilliant green after the drab desert. Alighted at RAF Station Aboukir, which is on a peninsula some 17 miles from Alexandria. John Inglis had beaten us in by about five minutes. Found that Ron Roberts, who has Ted Taylor for Second Pilot, was still here. They had a forced landing at Mersa Matruh, sprung some rivets and have been here about ten days, while the boat was being repaired at Alexandria. Were billeted at the Victoria Hotel in Aboukir which has been taken over by the RAF. Was not a very marvellous place. Wogs for waiters and batmen. Had to walk down to the boat after lunch. The smell, passing the Egyptians’ houses was foul. Had a sleep in the afternoon and then all the 209 Squadron boys went into Alexandria. There were some really lovely buildings en route – flats mainly. Was really dark so we were unable to see much of Alexandria proper. Had a drink at a bar and were entertained by a most marvellous Wog slight-of-hand type (Gilli-gilli man). He was grand. I looked down inside my shirt at one stage to find a chicken and a snake, live crawling there!! Heaven knows how he got them there without my seeing them. Then went to the dinner dance at the Carlton Hotel – did not dance as we had no women. Saw an accident on the way home – a gharry (taxi – horse and cart variety) tipped over. Horse broke its back.
Sunday 21 June 1942 Slept till 10 am then went down to the boat for refuelling. Had swim in the bay – diving off the flying boat. That’s one way of mixing with history – Nelson’s battle of Aboukir Bay. Had to go into Alexandria for briefing. Were told that Tobruk had fallen and that we had lost about 25,000 men as prisoners.
Monday 22 June 1942 Were called at 4.30 am and took off at 6.13 am. There was a devil of a flap on when we left. The native air raid siren sounded twice and Operations told us that six enemy transports, laden with troops were reported off Aboukir. Boat guards, or rather emergency crews were being sent out to the Sunderlands in case they had to take the air to escape. The Middle East situation all round seems fairly grim. From Aboukir we set course for Cairo passing first over a portion of the fertile Nile Delta. The dividing line between the fields (which are as green as those of England) and the desert looks as if it had been cut with a knife. I took a snap hoping to show this. Nearing Cairo I saw my first pyramids. A road runs straight out to them from Cairo. I wonder if it was these same pyramids the family visited in 1937? Further along we passed quite close to some more and these I snapped. The desert over which we flew for the rest of the trip was even more terrible than that along the Mediterranean coast. Great brown craters, absolutely no life anywhere. And the temperature in the aircraft was 1130 F. Being a dry heat however we did not feel it as much as if there had been humidity. Landed at Wadi Halfa after five hours 47 minutes. Were met by Imperial Airways launch. Were taken to the annex of the local hotel for sleeping. This annex serves as an RAF Officers Mess for the aerodrome, seven miles away. Vincent, the Navigator, was taken ill with “Egyptian tummy”. The hotel itself was a very nice place. We ate in the Mess but had a drink in the cool of the evening at the hotel, set as it is, right on the bank of the Nile and surrounded by poplar trees and well kept lawns – a veritable oasis in the desert.
Tuesday 23 June 1942 To avoid flying over the desert in the heat of the day, we took off for Khartoum before 6 am. I did the take-off as the boat was not too heavily loaded – we had not refuelled at Wadi Halfa. The desert looked no more inviting than it did on the trip from Alexandria to Wadi Halfa. Vincent, the Navigator, did not look too well but was able to carry on. The trip was a short (three hours 55 minutes), uneventful one except for the sandstorm which we ran into about an hour before landing at Khartoum. It made locating Khartoum itself rather difficult – however we got down OK but had quite some difficulty in mooring up. The wind on the surface was very strong. Were taken into Khartoum (we had landed actually at Gordon’s Tree some 20 minutes from Khartoum) by RAF tender to the No. 2 Mess. Later in the afternoon I went back to the boat for refuelling. This was quite an event for it was done by a chain of niggers handing up 4-gallon tins of petrol. We needed to take on 912 gallons. One would imagine that it would have taken a hell of a while but it was done surprisingly quickly – equally as fast as the refueller at Pembroke Dock. On the return trip to town we had a look at Gordon’s Memorial – Khartoum’s only claim to fame I should imagine would be General Gordon’s famous stand. It has little else to boast of. I went for a swim at the Sudan Club on the advice of one of the Officers at Wadi Halfa. It was a lovely pool – surrounded by trees with a white eastern-looking wall around it. Seeing all the greenery about, it was hard to imagine that one was in the middle of the desert. That evening we went to one of the local cabarets and got in touch with some Army Officers who had interesting stories to tell about the Libyan campaign.
Wednesday 24 June 1942 Having become rather “pansy” on the last two trips, six and four hours respectively, we gained some of our self respect back today by doing almost 12 hours from Khartoum to Kisumu on Lake Victoria. Vincent, the Navigator, was very ill – slept on the bunk the whole way. Took off about 4.50 am and set course for Malakal, one of Imperial Airways stopping points on the Nile. Eric Saunders did most of the navigation. Were passed by one of BOAC’s boats.
Malakal to Juba – on this leg ran into some cloud. At last began to see signs of life below us in the form of grass and scrub – very welcome after hundreds and hundreds of miles of sand. At Juba circled around for nine minutes having a look at the layout of the place in case we had to return there while en route to Kisumu. The weather reports we had been getting were not good. However got through to Kisumu OK. It looked and was a lovely spot. Refuelled from a Shell Company boat. The whole crew and Officers stayed at the Kisumu Hotel – the best accommodation we’ve had on the trip – bathroom attached. Food excellent. As we do not have to do an early take-off, had a bit of a party. Vincent went to bed feeling low. Got a doctor to see him and he was ordered into hospital immediately with a suspected bout of typhoid.
Thursday 25 June 1942 Was able to have a look around Kisumu after breakfast. Had been looking forward to lying in till about 10 am and then having breakfast in bed. However had broken my watch and on waking was unable to guess at the time. Vic Field, our chief Wireless Operator, said he would find out. Came back and said it was 9.30 am and that breakfast was off. Hurriedly dressed and went downstairs to find the time even then was only 8.30 am.
From Kisumu sent home some postcards of Mombasa. On the final short hop, Kisumu to Mombasa, of our flight from England, I was the Navigator. Did the take-off however from Kisumu. The place is 3726 feet above sea level and to clear the mountains en route we had to go up to 8000 feet. On one large plain we saw a train. Dived down on it at a hell of an angle, had the mooring up horn blaring. The types asleep on the bunks came to wondering if their last moments had come.
Circling over what is to be our new base, Mombasa, saw the harbour full of ships. Overshadowing them all was the aircraft carrier Indomitable, of the Illustrious class. We are not all living on the P&O ship, Manela, as had been supposed. Most of the troops are, but the Officers Mess is at the Port Reitz Hotel some five or six miles up the harbour. Captains and whatnot are in the hotel proper but poor Second Pilots are in a cottage affair three, four and five beds to a room, no cupboards, no sheets, no pillows – altogether not so hot – especially after the luxury of Pembroke Dock. Still when you see the conditions under which those poor blighters in Libya are living, it makes one feel ashamed to grumble about such trivial things. Learnt that the dinghy situation is absolutely hopeless here, for the ship bringing all our transport and marine craft out from England was torpedoed. Some other is on the way but Lord knows when it will be here.
Friday 26 June 1942 Spent practically all day on board the boat. Transport from the Mess down to the buildings that are being used as Station Headquarters is very ropey. One leaves at 0830 hours and all Officers are supposed to catch this. As we still have 20 odd hours before due for a 90-hourly (aircraft maintenance inspection), we had been marked down for two daylight operational trips – 12 hours each – one tomorrow and the other on Monday. In preparation, I stayed on board while refuelling was done. The refueller had quite a lot of difficulty getting alongside. The rest of the day I spent with the crew thoroughly cleaning the boat. Took up all the catwalks and hosed out the bilges. To bed fairly early as we have to be up at 4 am.
Saturday 27 June 1942 It was dark on the drive down to the slipway. Managed to get Flight Sergeant Halford as Navigator as Vincent is still at Kisumu. Our course was south down to some islands north of Madagascar. Took-off at 6 am. At 10 am I went back to have a bit of a sleep having been flying since we took off. However had only been on the bunk about an hour when was summoned to the “office.” Eric said that the fuel pressure was reading high and that he expected the starboard engine to pack up. We turned for home, arriving there at 1.30 pm. The maintenance people think that it may only be a faulty fuel pressure gauge. We are due to go off again on Monday on the same patrol after which we come up the slip for a 90-hour inspection.
Sunday 28 June 1942 Woke this morning feeling violently ill. Must have a touch of the Gyppo tummy for had diarrhoea combined with dry retching. Stayed in bed all day – not the best place when one has to sleep without sheets or a pillow. There are none on this Station – nor any furniture in the rooms. Have raked up a couple of old kerosene tins for wardrobes. No batmen so have to polish our own shoes and do own buttons. The latter applies to RAF lads – thank God for RAAF black buttons say I. However these minor discomforts are largely made up for by the really excellent food we get – five-course luncheons and dinners. Being able to get fruit again is grand – it was the only thing I really missed in England.
Monday 29 June 1942 Stayed in bed all the morning. The Medical Officer came shortly after lunch and said I could get up. Read for a while – “The Round Dozen” by Somerset-Maugham – a collection of excellent short stories. Wrote a long letter to the family before dinner. To bed fairly early leaving quite a party going in the Mess.
Q came back from its operational trip. Nothing terribly eventful. Sighted a few ships.
Tuesday 30 June 1942 Went in by transport to Mombasa this morning. The town from the air looks rather delightful, cream buildings etc but when you get into it, it is full of natives. I saw two white women there. Seems to be nothing in the place of any interest at all. Lord knows how we’re going to exist if we’ve got to be here for a year or more.
The Intelligence Officer was cutting up rough about censorship so I thought it best to rewrite a large part of my yesterday’s letter to the family. Reference to our sighting the U-boat had to be cut out because it occurred on an operations trip and nothing must be written of operations trips. It seems silly in a way for we didn’t sink the U-boat and the Germans know that. Still I suppose the line has to be drawn somewhere.
Brought the boat up the slip this afternoon. She is up for a 90-hourly inspection.
Wednesday 1 July 1942 As our boat was up the slip we had little to do. Was sitting about reading when the Flight Commander asked me to do a job for him. It was to go out with two Sergeants on to the aircraft carrier Indomitable (Illustrious class) to see if I could get them to do some welding on one of our Auxiliary Power Units. Met the Officer of the Watch on the Quarterdeck and was eventually taken to the Chief Engineer Officer, Lieutenant Commander Morgan, who quickly got the job under way. He then took me along to the Wardroom for a drink. He is an Australian and was very glad to see another. He said that there were five Aussies on board – five of a ship’s company of 1600. Asked him if at some stage I could have a look over the carrier. He was only too glad to do so. He himself is going on leave tomorrow but introduced me to Surgeon Lieutenant Johnston, another Aussie, who he said would show me round if I came while he was away.
Late this evening a big fleet steamed into Mombasa harbour. Looking from a distance here at the Port Rietz Hotel it seems to contain two aircraft carriers. If that’s correct that makes three of these huge ships in port at the one time.
Thursday 2 July 1942 A system has been devised whereby the Captain and Second Pilot of each boat do 24 hours duty as controller. Really Duty Pilot, with the addition that you have to send in returns of the state of the aircraft (Form Yellow), briefing of crews, etc. It was Saunders’ and my turn today.
This afternoon Lieutenant Commander Morgan from the Indomitable came ashore in search of a copy of AMCOs and to have a look at a Catalina. He offered an invitation to Eric and me to go on board the Indomitable tonight for drinks and dinner. He was arranging dinghies both ways. It sounded like a good evening especially with a look over the carrier in the offing. However I later discovered that this Duty Captain’s job requires that I have to sleep down at the slipway all night. So was unable to go. Eric and Jim Mecklam were going but missed the pinnace so nobody got there!
Friday 3 July 1942 A very quiet day – down at the slipway hut all day just reading a book. The boat was not finished its 90-hourly inspection so there’s not much we can do. Was reading Galsworthy’s “Over the River” – read it some years ago. Part of the book is concerned with a car drive down from Oxford, past Abingdon, Benson, Nettlebed! and Henley. They refer to a wood just past Nettlebed and some five miles from Henley – could only be Halfridge. Certain passages of the book reminded me ever so much of Peggy and me – things we have done, places we have been – for instance a walk round Oxford Colleges is described.
Saturday 4 July 1942 Expected to go down the slip today but the starboard engine was giving trouble and we didn’t make it. Four Australian Observers arrived at the slipway – they have been in a pool at Gil Gil for 6 months! – almost as bad as Bournemouth. Two of them are attached to the Operations Room under instructions as controllers. The other two are attached to the Squadron – our boat has been given one to replace Vincent who is still at Kisumu. Two of the Observers were trained in Australia and two in South Africa. Marvellous as it seems, the latter two during their course were given no training in astro-navigation.
Went aboard the Indomitable this afternoon to apologise to Lieutenant Commander Morgan for Saunders and Mecklam missing the pinnace the other night. He however has gone on leave and I saw Surgeon Lieutenant Johnston. He invited us on board for dinner and drinks tonight. Was a damned good show – too good in fact for I really saw very little of the ship. Slept on board all night.
Going aboard was rather a joke. Were down at the Port Reitz wharf waiting for the Naval pinnace to leave for the ship when who should walk along but Captain Trubridge, captain of the Indom. He asked us if we were going aboard and then told us to come along with him. And so that is how I mounted the starboard aft gangway to the quarterdeck. This gangway is reserved for Captains, Admirals and whatnots. Odds and sods use the port gangway.
Sunday 5 July 1942 After a morning of inactivity we at last got down the slip after lunch. Took off for Dar-es-Salaam but had not been in the air more than five minutes when the autopilot servo unit above the Navigator’s table burst and sprayed the occupants of the compartment. We had to return to base. Can’t have “George”, “our first pilot” unserviceable when we’ve to do a ten-day detachment at Dar. Are to take-off at dawn tomorrow morning. That will make tomorrow a pretty solid day for we are to do a night patrol (ten hours) starting at 3 pm.
Monday 6 July 1942 An early morning call, a drive in darkness to the slipway and a dawn take-off. So began today. Neill, the Australian Pilot Officer, was Navigator helped by “Bungey” Hart who is going to show him the ropes for the first few trips. To get some of my flying self-respect back I didn’t use “George” the autopilot but flew the Catalina myself. We had on board the Commanding Officer in charge of Dar-es-Salaam Station, the Station at which we stay while on detachment. En route flew over Zanzibar Island from north to south. Were a little too far inland to have a good look at the town of Zanzibar. Landed at Dar after two hours or so – 8.15 am. This place looked even more attractive from the air than did Mombasa. All the buildings of the town proper are cream in colour (as Mombasa), while the native houses are inland and laid out in a square. The RAF Station is composed of numerous little wooden huts 18 feet by 12 feet with four windows covered with wire, a concrete floor and electric light. Two men to a room – camp beds and a writing table cum cupboard affair – really rather more pleasant than our quarters in the annex at Port Reitz. There are only four or five permanent Officers here. The rest of the Mess is made up by 209 Squadron on detachment. Down here a few days ago Rolf Luck ran into a barge with a Catalina, ruined the float, airscrew and reduction gear. We brought an airscrew down from Mombasa (not knowing at the time that the reduction gear had gone). The Flight Commander this afternoon attempted to do a single engine take-off to fly it back to Mombasa. It has never been done before in the RAF with a Catalina although the Yanks claim to have done it. We spent the whole afternoon watching his efforts to get off. He had no trouble in keeping the aircraft straight but just couldn’t get enough forward speed to come unstuck from the water. He finished up right out in the bay, open sea almost and the aircraft had to be towed back. This evening all 209 Squadron Officers went into town to dinner at the Dar-es-Salaam Club – a few drinks first. The station provides a car continuously for our use here. Came home early as we have to do the night patrol tomorrow.
Tuesday 7 July 1942 Went into town for shopping this morning. Ordered a khaki uniform at one place – then walking further along the street came across a shop which had some material I liked better. So cancelled the first. Took off at 2.45 pm for our 16-hour patrol. We flew a couple of hundred miles down the coast and then did a creeping-line-ahead patrol of the Mozambique Channel between the mainland and the Comoro Islands. All we saw the whole night were two Merchant ships on which we homed using Special Equipment [radar]. I have been finding some difficulty when having taken “George” out to do a major alteration to course I try to put him back. The aircraft does the most amazing manoeuvres. I must admit I was shaken to the core at one stage of the night.
Wednesday 8 July 1942 Landed at 7 am having first shot up the camp. This shooting-up is the legalised procedure to let the Signals Officer know that an aircraft has returned from a patrol – or rather the time of return. It is always done at the commencement of a patrol. The regulations say “Fly over at 100 feet.” We rather think this is a misprint for 1000 feet but until such time as it is corrected, 100 feet and less it is going to be. John Inglis just cleared the palm trees yesterday. Slept all the morning and in the afternoon went for a swim at the Dar-es-Salaam Swimming Club. A part of the beach is reserved for Club members. Pontoons are anchored off shore – have springboard, slippery dips, etc on them. Had tea at the pukka Dar Club. We are honorary members of this club but have to pay at the other swimming club. The Dar Club is really a lovely spot. I found it pleasant sitting out on the terrace overlooking the bay.
Thursday 9 July 1942 The car that is provided for our use went unserviceable this morning so we had to be towed into town by a transport. The camp is some three miles from the town. After that went on board Q for refuelling and cleaning.
Took off at 2.45 pm on LD5 anti-submarine patrol. For this we fly further south than on LD4 before commencing the creeping-line-ahead patrol. Form White showed something like 39 ships in the area but the whole trip we only saw one. Had an hour’s sleep shortly after take-off and that was all I had until an hour before we landed. Flew quite a bit myself. Using “George” so much is not a good thing for one’s flying.
Flying along through the night at 3000 feet over the sea and hundreds of miles from land and calmly eating a meal in the blacked out Navigator’s compartment never fails to send through me a tingle of excitement of adventure.
Friday 10 July 1942 Landed at 8.30 am after 17 hours 50 minutes in the air. The trip back to Dar-es-Salaam from where the patrol ends is over 400 miles – quite a distance. Dawn was a lovely sight. First there was the gradual approach of light. At that time we were at 4000 feet. Could see ahead a vast bank of cloud, the upper limit of which was at our level. Looking over the top of it, one would almost believe that you could step out of the aircraft and walk on the surface.
Was really tired at the end of the trip. Slept till lunchtime. In the afternoon went down to town about 4 pm intending to go for a swim. However it seemed too far to walk round to the swimming club so Ken Neill and I pulled in at the Dar-es-Salaam Club for a game of billiards and afternoon tea.
Tonight I read the Penguin book “Night Flight” by Antoine de St Exupéry – the story of the mail trips in South America.
Saturday 11 July 1942 Aboard for refuelling after which a visit to the tailor to have a fitting for my uniform. So far it seems to be a whizzo job. Drifted into the bookshop – a fatal thing for me – and came out £1 poorer having purchased a copy of “Anzacs into Battle” and three other small books.
Late this afternoon Ken Neill and I went down for a swim – it was really delightful in the water.
This evening we all trooped into the Hotel Splendide – there was supposed to be a dinner dance on. Very few women there and those that were there were attached. One particularly striking looking lass was sitting not far away. After looking on for an hour or so we got a bit brassed off with the inactivity so I went up to the band and asked them to play a Paul Jones. Never did an action boomerang more. For as soon as it started all the RAF types present made a beeline for the floor and I didn’t manage to get a partner for ages!
Sunday 12 July 1942 Had my turn as Duty Pilot today. There is very little one has to do normally here so little traffic is there. All that was required was to send off Form Yellow (Serviceability Report) at 1200 hrs, and Flying Report at 1600 hrs. For the rest of the time I sat reading or writing letters.
We were Strike Boat today. That is, if any urgent job comes in we have to take-off immediately and deal with it. And so we had to stay on the Station all day so as to be immediately available. And so I write this in a little wooden hut that serves for the Officers Mess. The five Officers of Catalina Q are the sole occupants of the Mess. We chaff each other, wrestle, listen to the wireless, and derive great pleasure from the Sketch photos of provocative women. Why is it that women always seem to form the main topic of conversation when men are absolutely isolated from them? Pleasant and diverting.
A programme of dance music broadcast by Carol Gibbons from London did things to me. Reminded me of greatly of that glorious evening I had with Peggy at the Savoy Hotel. Couldn’t resist writing a letter of thanks to Carol Gibbons.
Monday 13 July 1942 Did the censoring of a whole lot of airmen’s letters first thing (10 am) this morning. After that the Officer content of Q for Queenie (Saunders, Ken Neill, Vic Field, Bungey Hart and self) took the old Ford into town. Bought up some rags for cleaning the aircraft and then went on board and set to work for an hour or so.
Spent a very pleasant afternoon. Went down to the Swimming Club arriving there about 3 pm. The water was simply grand, as was lying about on the sand. I’m sure this is the first time I have lain on a beach since leaving home. Then we all repaired to the Dar Club for afternoon tea.
This evening produced a visit to the pictures. Saw Dorothy Lamour in “Typhoon.” Had seen it years ago.
And so concludes a heavy day’s work in an operational squadron!!!
Tuesday 14 July 1942 Into town to have a few adjustments to my new khaki uniform. It is really a pretty good job – is made of Tootal Gabardine and cost only 45/-.
Was Duty Pilot again today so sent off the various forms – Yellow, Mauve etc.
Finished reading a long book “Quest” by George Dibbern – the story of a trip in a small yacht by a German from Kiel to New Zealand. It is far from being just a travel book. Contains quite a lot of thoughts about life.
When L took off on the routine patrol, we, Q, became Strike Boat and so couldn’t move off the camp in the afternoon.
Tonight went round to the Railway Club – a different place altogether from what I expected to find in a place bearing such a name.
Wednesday 15 July 1942 A very ordinary sort of day – a thorough cleaning of the boat’s bilges in the morning; followed by a swim off the aircraft to try out my Mae West. After lunch just passed out on my bed while reading. Slept till 4.30 pm.
Over the pre-dinner beer this evening conversation drifted around to Jerry’s bombing of Britain. As a matter of record I must mention how he directed his bombers so accurately over the target. He used radio beams and made them intersect over the objective. A Pilot would get on one beam, e.g., from Sylt to Liverpool and when near the target and having allowed for drift and so sticking on the beam he would switch off that beam and wait till he heard the equi-signal note of the intersecting beam sent from Norway. He would then release his bombs. This system worked amazingly well until our chaps found how to bend Jerry’s beams. Result was that he was bombing hell out of open countryside and, in one case, of Dublin. Coventry however was one case where we slipped up.
Vic Field told us that there is almost a gentlemen’s agreement between combatants not to jam each other’s radio. Jamming is such a simple process he says, that if one side went in for it wholesale, the other could do the same and thus radio would be practically useless for the duration.
Thursday 16 July 1942 Censoring, now a regular morning job provides quite a lot of amusement. Take the case of a laddie whom after a couple of paragraphs of making passionate love to his wife, begins the next sentence with “seriously ………….” The time some of the writers have taken to receive letters from England does not augur too well for our own mail.
Quite a crowd of us visited the beach this afternoon and followed the swim by a long walk up the beach. A few weeks of this and one should get really fit.
Once again we dined at the New Africa Hotel – dinner there is a pretty fair meal whereas the Mess meal leaves a lot to be desired.
Finished up by a visit to the pictures. Saw Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in “Holiday.”
Friday 17 July 1942 Got stuck into the letter writing today. This afternoon went down for the usual swim – if one could keep this up regularly for a few weeks one should get quite fit. The fact that no patrols have been required is rather a bind. It is now eight days since we last flew. Loafing about on the ground is not the way to get one’s hours up.
Saturday 18 July 1942 Were Strike Boat again today so as a crew we were unable to leave the camp till dusk. This is the rule. Again no signal for a routine patrol came through so this makes nine days with no flying. Bad show. At least it is allowing me to catch up on my correspondence.
Wrote a letter to Aunt (Nance Bond) asking her to obtain for me six watercolours of RAF aircraft. I will enclose the cheque when I get to Mombasa. The paintings are rather attractive and would look well on one’s office or room after the war – whenever the hell that is going to be.
Most of us dined at the New Africa Hotel tonight. There’s no doubt about it, that place puts on a pretty fair meal.
Sunday 19 July 1942 Had a long sleep in this morning. This life of inactivity is making me lazy! However when I did go into the Mess, I found that our little holiday is to come to an end for we are to go back to Mombasa tomorrow morning. I can’t quite understand why for we have only done about 30 hours since our last 90-hourly inspection. The other two boats that are here at Dar-es-Salaam are proceeding to a little island in the Comoro Group – it has recently been captured by the Commandos from the Vichy French. We are going to operate from there evidently.
Went for the usual swim followed by the usual afternoon tea at the Dar Club.
Spent a very quiet evening at the Dar Club sitting out on the open terrace slowly sipping a beer and listening to recordings played over the amplifier. It would be hard to imagine a more delightful spot than this club – extremely comfortable and having a superb position.
Monday 20 July 1942 And so our detachment (holiday would be a better word!) comes to an end. Took off at 10 am back to Mombasa. Since we have been at Dar we have heard so much about Zanzibar that we decided to have a look at the town on the return trip. We had flown over a part of the island on the way down from Mombasa, but had been nowhere near the town. It turned out to be most attractive from the air – as do most of the towns on this coast. On the waterfront, facing the mainland there seems to be one or two very impressive buildings – one probably Government House, while further “inland” the town presented a barrack-like appearance. Circled round a little, while Eric Saunders took some photographs. And so back to Mombasa! This place is becoming a regular Portsmouth. There are in harbour at present two of the latest aircraft carriers and three battleships – Warspite, Royal Sovereign and Resolution. It makes one think that if the Navy can spare such a formidable array for Mombasa; our Naval strength must be far greater than we imagine. Further it leads one to think that something must be expected in this part of the world. I hope so! I’m just busting for a bit of real action.
On arrival back at Mombasa we found out the reason for our recall. We are to have extra bomb carriers fitted to enable us to carry eight 250-pound depth charges instead of the present four-450 pounds. When this job is done, we are off to the little island in the Comoro Group. Flight Lieutenant Fitzpatrick came back today from Diego Suarez bringing an Admiral back with him. It is his second trip down there. He hates the place. Nothing but red mud, he says.
Accommodation in the hotel annex is a little better though still as crowded as ever. But now we have sheets and pillows on the beds and a chest of drawers for each person.
Tuesday 21 July 1942 Went into Mombasa to pick up my watch, which has been in dock there for three weeks since breaking the glass at Khartoum on the trip out. Did not get permission from the Squadron Leader before going and as a result got quite a large strip torn off. I told Eric I was going and thought that was sufficient seeing that there was no flying to be done. However as luck would have it Eric was sent up to do some photographic work and I wasn’t there!
Wednesday 22 July 1942 A morning of inactivity.
This afternoon went to Port Reitz aerodrome for some instruction in cypher – it seems a pretty tricky affair at the moment but like most things will probably sort itself out in time. The idea of some of us being shown how to do it is so that we can give a hand down at Pamanzi Island where we’re going tomorrow.
Came back to the slipway and loaded the boat. She is well weighed down – 1150 gallons of petrol, bags of equipment and we are to carry 14 persons!
Thursday 23 July 1942 A Group order has just come out that all private cameras have to be handed in. Mombasa area is a defended or prohibited area and it is forbidden to take photos around about. Am not too keen about handing over my camera. Will be unable to send the odd snap which are so much appreciated at home. However we are to get the cameras back when we go on long leave so will just have to make up for it then.
Squadron Leader Barraclough was on board so I imagined that either he or Saunders would do the take-off seeing the boat was so heavily laden. However just as we were about to leave the buoy he said to Saunders “Let’s see what sort of a cock-up young Daymond can make of this take-off.” Saunders piped up by saying that I had never done one and well he might too for he’s hogged the take-offs and landings ever since we’ve been together. Away we went and there surely is a difference between a heavily laden boat and the one I’ve been used to. Barra seemed reasonably satisfied despite the bounce. And so we set course for the little island of Pamanzi, off Mayotte in the Comoro Group, some 700 miles south. The trip was uneventful. We arrived there at 5.30 pm after eight and a quarter hours in the air. Jeep Balfour left Mombasa at the same time as we did but we beat him in by quite a bit. Stayed in the air to welcome him and saw oil pouring from his starboard motor – due to a leak he was losing five gallons per hour. The island looked lovely. A surf breaking on a reef which circled the place and a wizard sunset. The HMS Albatross (formerly HMAS) which used to lie in Sydney Harbour was there and it was aboard her we stayed the night. Two destroyers were also in the harbour – there to take part in the operation we expect to come off soon now. John Wylie and Bill Hossent had arrived here yesterday from Dar-es-Salaam but are sleeping ashore in some awfully primitive quarters.
Friday 24 July 1942 This morning a party of us went ashore and had a look around Dzaoudzi as the part of the island of Pamanzi on which we live is called. It seemed quite funny to see the French Tricolour flying in the square. Made us feel a bit like conquerors. The island is very small – can walk right across it in less than five minutes. The main building is Government House – now the Army Mess. The RAF Officers Mess is going to be in a small house on the top of the cliff facing south. It’s an absolutely wizard position – and if a lot of money were spent on the dilapidated old house it would make an absolutely super holiday spot. We went through the papers of the former occupant of the house – one Edouard Dupont, agent for the Messageries Maritimes. Was able to get some fine stamps, Madagascar mainly.
Refuelled Q from the stern of the Albatross using 4-gallon tins. Felt rather shaky crawling from the stern of the ship by means of a rope ladder into a dinghy. Tonight in the Squadron Leader’s cabin we were given a lecture by Barraclough on the purpose of our being here – the job to be done and the way of doing it. We are to cooperate with two destroyers. At present we are Strike Boat – from 1200 today till 1200 tomorrow.
Saturday 25 July 1942 During the morning read part of Edgar Wallace’s autobiography “People”, in the Wardroom. This afternoon I was going for a walk with Smithy, our present Navigator, to have a look at the old volcanic crater on Pamanzi. Have heard a lot about it from some other types who have been up there. However Barra wanted us to go up to the cottage and help get it ready for a Mess. Spent most of the time rigging up mosquito nets over all the beds. The idea at present is that only the Strike crew will sleep aboard the Albatross each night. The rest of the Officers will sleep at the cottage. Still we have all meals on board the ship.
This evening I had my first experience of “sailing under the French flag!” The Naval pinnace was not at the pier to take us out to the ship so we made the trip in a large motor boat flying the Tricolour and manned by wogs wearing parts of French sailors uniform.
Sunday 26 July 1942 We came aboard the Albatross by dinghy from Dzaoudzi at 7.30 am. After breakfast, went out to the aircraft while the crew did their Daily Inspections. There was little for me to do so dived off the aircraft and swam around. The water was beautifully warm. Then lay on the fuselage, stark naked, and enjoyed the sun until 11.30 when a Naval pinnace went around all the aircraft, collecting the crews and taking them back to the Albatross for lunch.
Spent the afternoon reading in the Wardroom. Slept ashore again.
Monday 27 July 1942 Exactly the same routine this morning as yesterday morning. My rate of reading has gone up – two books today. “The Devil beats his wife” and “I Hate Tomorrow” – the latter quite good – being an autobiography of a newspaper correspondent with his struggle to success. There’s one thing about these books that I don’t get. These fellows haven’t a penny to bless themselves with at one stage then in a flash and without an explanation they’re having lunch with Lord Beaverbrook, Lord Northcliffe and other newspaper magnates.
John Inglis arrived today and so our island base now boasts five flying boats though three are unserviceable. Slept aboard Albatross, as we are again Strike Crew.
Tuesday 28 July 1942 Well today is my birthday – am now 23 years old. I wonder where I’ll be this time next year. I remember 28th July 1941 quite well for by way of celebration drank some of that awfully gassy Lethbridge beer in the Airmen’s canteen at No. 7 Service Flying Training School, Macleod, Alberta, Canada.
This makes my second wartime birthday away from the family. I shall remember this day for I was sitting on some depth charges on the Quarterdeck watching the sunset and the stars come out. Then a large moon and its reflection on the water increased the illusion of a tropic paradise.
Down in the Wardroom bought drinks for all the Squadron Officers by way of celebration. Slept aboard again, as we are still Strike Boat.
Wednesday 29 July 1942 Squadron Leader Barraclough took off for Mombasa this morning. Frank (Trapper) Henderson went with him.
Aboard reading all the morning but this afternoon went ashore to help get the place ready for our occupation of it in a day or two.
The Captain of the Albatross asked if any RAF Officers would care to go aquaplaning with him in the afternoon. John Inglis and I were the only takers but only one of us could be taken. We tossed and I won. It was my second attempt at aquaplaning the first having been on a lake in the Canadian Rockies a year ago. This effort was slightly different from the other however. Did not take-off standing up but had to begin lying down and while whizzing along attempt to get into a kneeling position and finally stand up. I managed to get to my feet three times only but didn’t stay there long.
Tonight there was a cocktail party on board, Officers from the two destroyers, the tanker (British Energy) and a Dutch ship attending. Was a pretty willing do and the highlight was the passing out of the First Officer of the Dutchman and his having to be lowered over the side in a straight jacket.
Thursday 30 July 1942 Out aboard the aircraft this morning. Showed Sergeant Howell, our Engineer, how to take a sight with the bubble sextant. He seems to be very interested in navigation and it’s a damned good sign to see members of the crew taking an interest in other activities on the boat.
After this period of instruction, had my usual swim and sunbake. This afternoon more cleaning up and repairing of the house to make it fit for habitation.
Tonight there was a cocktail party given by the Officers of the Kings African Rifles (KAR). They have as their Mess what used to be old Government House. Caught the 8 pm boat back to the Albatross but en route delivered some types to the Dutch ship. Were invited aboard and being in the right mood after the KAR cocktails, we went. We had refused an invitation to go aboard the destroyer Griffin when we delivered some of her Officers.
According to the BBC the news from Russia is bad. An article from The Times envisages the possibility of Russia’s collapse before this new German assault.
Friday 31 July 1942 Bob Roberts came ashore 4.30 am and wakened the crews of K and N. Jeep is going out on an exercise with one the destroyers and Bill Hossent has been ordered to go to Diego Suarez to pick up some Officers and take them to Mombasa.
Fitz arrived today bringing bags of equipment. And what a job it was carrying it all up the hill. He also brought some mail and amongst it was a cable for me from Halfridge saying that the family had sent birthday greetings and also had sent £10 to me c/- National Bank of Australia, Strand London. This rather make me think that they could not have received my cable giving them the new address. Or perhaps they did not know to which bank in Africa to send it.
Jeep was late getting back and a flare path had to be laid. The flares have just been made by the Commander E. They consist of a raft supported by four petrol cans. On the raft is a petrol box on which is surmounted another petrol can containing paraffin. A gooseneck pipe leads into a casket containing cotton waste. They make excellent flares. This was the first night landing at Dzaoudzi.
Saturday 1 August 1942 Fitz left in P for Mombasa to bring down yet more freight for the Mess. Gave Barry a cable to get off to the family repeating my Army Post Office Nairobi address. Out on board again this morning and had an instruction period by Sergeant Wooley on all the radio equipment. Wooley is our new Wireless Operator/Mechanic from Catalina O in place of Vic Field who is doing the organisation of the wireless station at Dzaoudzi.
Late this afternoon we received a signal that the Squadron Leader was on his way from Mombasa. Roberts, Mangan and I went and laid the flare path for his arrival. Meantime however John Wylie had sent the aircraft a signal saying that the weather was unfit for alighting. A low haze obscured the little islands that are dotted in the bay. Eventually we found out that Barra had turned back so Ted Mangan and I had to go out and extinguish the flare path.
Sunday 2 August 1942 The Squadron Leader eventually arrived back from Mombasa bringing bags of equipment with him. After lunch aboard the Albatross all the RAF personnel came ashore with all this baggage. And so began our life on Dzaoudzi – 16 Officers living in a little cottage on the top of the hill, and 45 Airmen (of whom 24 are Non-commissioned Officers) are living in what used to be the old Administration building. Had a Mess meeting tonight to fix the prices of drinks in the Mess. It goes on a serve yourself basis.
I think a few words about the strategic position would not be out of place. Mayotte and Pamanzi Islands were occupied on July 2nd by a force sent from Madagascar. One only has to look at a map of the area to see what excellent bases they provide from which to carry out long range reconnaissance – how well they are placed to attack U-boats in the northern part of the Mozambique Channel being roughly 300 miles away from the Narrow, i.e., closest part of Madagascar and the African Coast. Flying boats can watch over the whole of this area including the Portuguese East Africa coastline where it is certain Jap U-boats call from time to time and meet Axis agents who arrange provisions and stores for the U-boats. This must have been so during the large number of Jap U-boat attacks on ships in the Channel in June and July. South Madagascar probably also provides bases.
Monday 3 August 1942 Soon after getting up this morning we saw HMS Albatross, the destroyer and the British Energy up anchor and pick their way through the islands and head out to sea. There goes our last contact with civilisation.
Barra held court this morning and allotted to each Officer a task which he has to supervise – e.g., some looking after Airmens and Sergeants Messes, others stores, others the water supply. I have the job of Sanitation Officer and as such come in for a lot of chaffing “Where’s Shithouses”. The job consists of organising the lavatory, ablution and garbage situations in consultation with the KAR Medical Officer.
Our food is pretty well iron rations – loads of bully beef and hard biscuits. However, when we have made contact with the natives we hope to be able to supplement it with local purchases of chicken, eggs and fruit. The system is barter, cigarettes being the medium of exchange. There is a supply of convict labour available, some of the prisoners being very tough looking. Whenever we want anything carried anywhere we just breeze out to the prison get a number of the convicts et voilà.
Night flying began tonight. Squadron Leader took up Saunders and Roberts for a brush up. They haven’t done any night landings or take-offs since their Captains’ Course. Jeep Balfour and Mangan were on the flare path and had great difficulty in keeping the flares alight. No sooner would they light the one at the top end of the flare path than the one at the bottom end would go out and they would have to chug back and relight it. Meanwhile the aircraft would have to go round again. It got so bad that they packed up night flying after a while.
Tuesday 4 August 1942 Took an inventory of all the furniture and utensils in the Mess, dividing them up into RAF equipment and other. This job finished I went around the island with John Inglis looking for the most suitable site for bathing. We were going to start bathing parades for the troops. Nowhere seems to be very good except off the piers at either side of the island.
Found a cupboard underneath the house. Had the wogs scrub it out. I papered the shelves and it now serves as a most excellent clothes cupboard for Robby and I. Up till now we have been living in suitcases.
In pursuance of my duties as Ablution Officer I rigged up a portable shower in the bathroom. Got the convicts to lump water up the hill to the Mess in petrol tins – a hill of a job! Typed an airgraph to Peggy. More night flying with the same crew.
Wednesday 5 August 1942 A pretty quiet day. Was down in the Stores this morning. Found a dartboard and some other similar games and wiled away an hour with Frank (Trapper) Henderson and Eric Saunders.
This afternoon refuelled L for night flying. This handing up of petrol tins from a boat lying alongside the aircraft is a laborious business but it’s remarkable how quickly it is accomplished. Did 400 gallons in half an hour. One of the empty tins got adrift, bounced down the mainplane and smashed a small hole in the blister.
Tonight made another attempt to play this game of bridge under Trapper’s instruction.
Thursday 6 August 1942 Some flying at last. Was sent up in L with Trapper Henderson and Sergeant Millem to do some circuits and bumps. Mine were pretty ropey not having done any since Pembroke Dock.
This afternoon Saunders and I rowed out to the flare path – was a hell of a hard row as we had the wind agin us. Had to lay a new flare and did some modifications on the other two.
We two were also on the flare path for night flying. It was absolutely lovely sitting in the Political Boat under the stars. There was barely a ripple on the water – no tide at all. We remained opposite No. 1 flare all the evening.
On what must have been almost the last circuit the No. 2 flare was knocked flying as the aircraft passed by. We raced over and had a look at it. Picked up what remained and managed to light it again sufficiently to get the aircraft down.
Examined the float but it seemed undamaged. It must have been the wash that bashed the flare although this seems hard to believe considering the bits into which the box was smashed.
Friday 7 August 1942 Went out to the aircraft this morning and did a taxi test. Saunders didn’t come out so there was I! ——
John Wylie left for Mombasa for his major inspection. Hall who is the Second Navigator on L is remaining at Dzaoudzi to carry on as Mess Secretary. The rest of the crew are going on leave.
Fitz arrived from Mombasa minus his depth charges. Reckons they got a blip on the Special Equipment. Homed on it and when almost over it, it disappeared. So away depth charges. His own firing switch failed so Barry pressed his. After talking about it for a while it was decided that the blip he got must have been John Wylie’s aircraft.
The latest news from Mombasa is the close shave that the crew of J had. They had taken off on a trip to the Seychelles and had gone about 20 miles out to sea when oil was seen to be pouring out of the port engine. They turned round, did a night landing without any flares and just as the aircraft touched the water the engine seized up and one of the pots blew off!
Saturday 8 August 1942 Was Orderly Officer today – really the first time I have been that since being commissioned. Not bad for 11 months.
Took the early morning parade and feeling a bit bloody-minded gave an “Open Order March.” Caught three types for non-shaving and gave then fatigues consisting of cleaning up the ground round the Officers Mess. Discipline hasn’t been too good lately and an occasional purge does no end of good.
Inspected all the Airmen’s meals and found that they are eating far better than we are. Have a couple of very good cooks and what is more they intercept the natives who bring the food, taking the best for the Airmen’s Mess and shooting the rest up to the Officers Mess.
Took the swimming parade – the water was as lovely as ever.
Bob Roberts took Fitz’s boat to Diego Suarez. Vic Field has to get hold of some wireless gen there. Eric Hall went as Navigator.
Fitz himself went over to Mayotte to pick up some vegetables.
Sunday 9 August 1942 Woke up to find it pouring with rain. As the shower water was very low, I stood out in the rain and soaped myself. Just as I was really covered in soap the rain stopped as suddenly as if it had been turned off at a tap, leaving me stranded much to the amusement of the grinning apes of the Mess.
Roberts arrived back from Diego in the pouring rain bringing some stores including very welcome white bread. Had a drinking party lasting till 4 am with the Army Medical Officer. At that time went downstairs to hear for the first time Diego Suarez coming through on W/T [wireless telegraphy]. During the session, Fitz had a “hate” re the French. He told us how, after France fell, we bombarded Oran and the French Commander said that unless the British warships were withdrawn he would bomb Gibraltar for a week. Next day 600 planes raided Gibraltar. We had no fighters there but shot down 40 with Anti-aircraft fire. The following day, another 600 came over. This story never got into the papers. Another tale of Fitz’s was that when France was falling the British were going to bomb Tunisia from a French ‘drome. The Commanding Officer informed the French Commander who refused to allow our aircraft to take-off and to ensure they didn’t he had lorries driven all over the aerodrome. British maintenance parties however drove them off and the raid took place. We talked about the future of the French Wireless Operator here on Dzaoudzi. He is definitely anti-British and could, if he wished, wreck the radio equipment. He could also send out the gen as to what we are doing – a state of affairs which can’t be allowed to exist.
There are two jokes about homing pigeons used as navigational aids. One was to paint their tails with luminous paint, release them at night and then follow the blob of light in the aircraft. (The Army Medical Officer was in two minds whether to believe this or not). The other joke was to release the pigeons inside the aircraft, let them circle till they took up a constant heading then point the aircraft so as to keep the pigeon in the fore and aft axis as a directional gyro.
Monday 10 August 1942 Fitz left for Mombasa this morning indulging in a most terrific (and prolonged) beat up of the Mess before setting course. As my sanitation jobs are fairly well under control have been given another task – that of Works and Bricks. Have got Sergeants Howell, Thomas and Nobes, all tradesmen, to help. The first task was getting the Operations Room into shape – hoisting availability boards etc. Also had made a table out of petrol boxes. It is to be used for holding the gramophone and records. It is remarkable how useful petrol cases and tins are in these conditions. Our first supply ship arrived today bringing thousands of gallons of petrol. We have invited the Army up to cocktails on Wednesday night so after dinner we all gathered round the table and tried to concoct a brew that will lay them cold. We used a locally made white rum. This process of tasting and testing went on for about one and a half hours – various opinions being voiced about the rum. At last someone put a match to a tablespoon full of raw rum and it burnt with a pale blue flame for two minutes! We then decided that it must be too like methylated spirits so went to bed with beginnings of a headache.
Tuesday 11 August 1942 I have been trying to persuade the Officers to come down for an early morning swim. We all went down this morning and it was grand. Shades of Balmoral! Sergeants Howell and Thomas were at the Mess putting up the fly proof netting around the kitchen. Our second supply ship (the Van Outhoorn) arrived bringing motor transport. When it was landed, the vehicle was the first ever on Dzaoudzi. There was a cocktail party at the Army Mess to meet the Officers of a new company which is to relieve the present KAR team who are going back to Diego Suarez. Among the new crowd is an Australian Medical Officer from Sydney. News came through late tonight that we are to do an escort for a battleship beginning tomorrow. The water pump has broken down, probably sabotaged by the convicts as a protest against carrying water up the hill.
Wednesday 12 August 1942 This morning we did yet another taxi-test to get the moths out of the engines. At the time we thought that we would be doing a night take-off in the early hours of tomorrow so ran her up to see how quickly she reached 65 knots with a heavy load. On returning to Mess however we found that a signal had come in delaying the escort to the battleship for 24 hours. Re-commenced our work of putting up fly-proof netting around the kitchen. Became Orderly Officer at 1200 hrs. The swimming parade is now held at 1530 hours instead of 1400 hours. The pier these last two days has been a veritable hive of activity for the wogs are unloading approximately 100,000 gallons of petrol from the supply ship. This is done to the accompaniment of much singing and chanting in true African style.
M arrived – Tom Eakins has been allowed to fly up to Kisumu from M’basa and now down to Pamanzi as Captain of the aircraft. That’s one good point about being Second Pilot to someone like the Flight Commander. However, a step in the right direction I was allowed to move Q from one buoy to another!
Major Kimble, Commanding Officer of the Kings African Rifles, came up for a drink and told us some stories of the Commando’s landing here. They, at one stage reported heavy machinegun fire, it turned out to be the cruiser Dorchester’s anchor chain going out. They were a very keen bunch and this was their first job. Backs to the wall and revolvers at the ready when they came to what is now our Mess and heard a piece of wood fall inside the house. The taking of the island was broadcast over the BBC. There has been a large safe in the Squadron Leader’s bedroom and we managed to get it open today. Contained no less than 36,580 francs (175 f to £ = £190 approx) at least that’s the amount we’re rendering to the Political Officer for from the correct amount most of us have taken a few souvenir coins. Safe also contained three handkerchiefs each with four of the most pornographic photos imaginable on them. Signal in to say Q is to leave for Diego Suarez and M’basa at dawn. In going to tell the crew, I sprained my ankle for the second time today.
Thursday 13 August 1942 Spent a very restless night. The ankle gave me a lot of pain and my right ear is becoming increasingly sore. We were awakened at 4.30 am and were down on the pier by 5 am. Were getting ready for a dawn take-off when a boat pulled alongside and we were told to wait as we would be taking a passenger to Diego Suarez. This proved to be an Army Captain, but judging from his dress, one would never have thought so. Shorts and shirt and a pair of dirty sandshoes. No socks. We didn’t get away till 7 am and then only after a phenomenally long run. The water was very smooth. Sighted the coast of Madagascar after some two hours. There are innumerable small islands on the west coast as one approaches Diego from Mayotte. The country round about is quite mountainous – forbidding looking mountains too. The soil is that awful red that sticks to everything. On circling the harbour at Diego we saw quite a number of sunken ships poking up from the bottom. We literally had to pick our way through them for landing. Only Eric Saunders went ashore and then only for a few minutes. I was sorry not to have been able to have a look around the place that was so very much in the news a few months ago. Who would have thought that when I heard of the British raid on Madagascar while I was at Halfridge that I would have been at the very place so soon after? We certainly do get around. For instance Jeep Balfour has just done a round trip from Mombasa to Seychelles Is and Mauritius. However to return to my story. Our passengers soon arrived and turned out to be “brass hats” of the highest order. A Lieutenant-general [R. G. Sturges], two Brigadiers [L. A. Dimilon and M. Lush] and a Foreign Office type [R. Hoskins]. We had taxied back for take-off when the General found that one of his dispatch cases had not been brought on board, so had to moor up again and collect it. He was most profuse in his apologies. The trip from Diego to Mombasa was some 760 miles and we accomplished it in only six hours 25 minutes. Quite a good effort for old Q. The brass hats took it in turns to sit in the Second Pilot’s seat and appeared to enjoy the flight. They were the most awfully jolly old birds. Sergeant Thomas turned on a wizard luncheon for them – something they didn’t expect for they had brought sandwiches. Just before getting to Mombasa some of us fired off a drum of ammo each. It is my first experience of air firing. My target was the aircraft’s shadow on the water. Got the odd few bullets into it. Felt absolutely lousy tonight what with the pain in my ankle, my ear and thoroughly tired. Slept in the hotel and not the annexe.
Friday 14 August 1942 Have been engaged on anti-submarine exercise all day with a tame submarine. Took off at 9 am and located the destroyers some 30 miles from the coast. They were circling a position and carrying out their part of the exercise. The submarine was submerged at this stage so after flying around for quite a while, we shot them up and returned to Mombasa. Took on some different passengers and left again at 11.20. From the destroyers learnt that the submarine could be surfacing at 12.15 so until then carried out a compass swing. Incidentally we have Flight Sergeant Vincent back as Navigator. It is about six weeks since we left him at Kisumu on the way out from England. When the submarine appeared we shot it up quite a lot before going out and carrying out homing onto it by ASV. Landed again at 1 pm. Had some lunch on board and off again. The submarine was again submerged and this time corvettes were circling the position. We carried out a square search, found the original two destroyers and played about with them. Returned to base and in doing so indulged in some wizard low flying. It is the first time I have done it myself. Skimmed the top of the waves for 25 miles. As soon as possible after we came ashore I went and saw the Medical Officer. My ear has become terribly sore. He found that I have a small boil right inside it, so no wonder. I also got him to have a look at my ankle. He rather thinks I have chipped off a small piece of ankle bone and I am to go into Mombasa tomorrow for an X-ray.
Saturday 15 August 1942 Work begins here now at 7.30 am as against 8.30 am when we went to Dzaoudzi. However I did not go down to the slipway with the first transport for I was due to see the Medical Officer at 9.30. As I was about to set out for the camp, Ken Neill told me that Q was leaving for Dar-es-Salaam at 10 am. Rang up Fitz who is acting Flight-Commander and confirmed this. Told him that I would like to be there on time. Cancelled the X-ray with the Medical Officer though I did have to go and see him to have a dressing put in to my ear. Eventually arrived at the slipway at 9.45 am only to see Q about to take-off. Was mad about missing it for I thought that Q was going to do an operational trip from Dar – this air support for a new battleship which is on its way up the coast. However, Saunders returned later in the day so I have missed no operational hours. This afternoon all the Second Pilots were given a navigation lecture – a brush up on astro really.
Sunday 16 August 1942 Up to Port Reitz Aerodrome to the Medical Officer for a dressing to my ear. It has much improved thank goodness and is far less tender. An ambulance was going out to Mombasa to Ruxton Hospital so I went in with it for an X-ray of my ankle. After passing two or three people I eventually had the job done. Was surprised to see that they didn’t have to darken the room while taking the photo. The plate was developed within seven minutes and showed that I have chipped off a small piece of ankle bone. According to the X-ray operator this may entail a local anaesthetic to put the bone back and then plaster. The Medical Officer however does not know the result of the X-ray yet.
Saunders and I were given our first official afternoon off since leaving England. Spent it sleeping.
A dozen of us got a transport on repayment tonight and went into Mombasa to the pictures. “Daytime Wife” was the show. I’d seen it before but can’t remember where.
Monday 17 August 1942 Spent a goodly part of the morning up with the Medical Officer. He doesn’t quite know what to do with the ankle and so sent me in to a specialist this afternoon. This worthy hummed and hahed about putting it in plaster. The problem is they don’t know just how recently the bone was chipped. If I did it in this last fall plaster would be the thing but if I did it some months ago, it wouldn’t do any good.
Eventually he wrapped my leg up in yards of sticking plaster and like that it is to stay for 12 days.
Was Duty Captain so had to sleep down in the slipway hut.
Tuesday 18 August 1942 Was awakened at 5 am by the telephone operator. Ken Murray and crew arrived down shortly afterwards to take-off for a compass swing. However it was pouring with rain and the take-off was delayed till nearly 7 am. Three Army Officers went as passengers when eventually J did take the air. They wanted to go up and see how their defenses appear from the air. Arrived back at the hotel too late to catch the 7.30 transport down to the slip. Set out to walk it but met Murray and company on their way back so returned to the hotel and came down to the slip an hour or so later in their transport.
This afternoon flew again on the submarine [she was O 19] exercise. When she was on the surface, most members of the crew had practice picking her up on the ASV. At one stage she submerged (to what actual depth I can’t say) but we could see her quite plainly when we were between the sun and the submarine.
Wednesday 19 August 1942 Ken Murray, Rolf Luck and Bungey Hart left in J for Pamanzi. The lucky blighters! This Mombasa Mess gives me a pain. Too much braid around. It’s in no sense of the phrase a friendly Mess. I’ll be damned glad when 209 Squadron move to their own quarters down at the slipway. At present these are being built.
Ted Mangan, Ted Taylor, I and six Non-commissioned Officers went out on the destroyer decoy today to get the Naval point of view on these submarine exercises. We were picked up by Naval pinnace at the Flagstaff Steps and taken to the destroyer which was lying alongside the aircraft carrier Formidable – out to sea at 8 pm. Going out of the harbour was quite a business. Each HM ship we passed the whole crew comes to attention on the blowing of the bosun’s whistle. And as this harbour is just chock-a-block with Naval ships, we had a busy time. Four battleships (Resolution, Royal Sovereign, Valiant, and Warspite), two aircraft carriers (Formidable, Illustrious), one Southhampton class cruiser and two or three Fiji class were the main components. At sea, firing practice at an aircraft drone was carried out and this lasted till about 11 am. For the remainder of the day Asdic hunts for the tame submarine were in progress. The destroyer has an automatic plot of its own course and the course of the submarine is judged from the Asdic readings. Plots of both are then kept. We went in and did many “attacks.” Another destroyer, the Foxhound (which incidentally was down in Pamanzi when we were there) was also engaged on the exercise. The submarine had tied on it three red floats to indicate its position. These were not terribly prominent from any considerable distance but did help as a means of checking up on the Asdic operators. Altogether it was a very interesting and instructive day. I hope some day next week to go down in the submarine and if it comes off I will be able to form a pretty complete picture of all that goes on in a submarine hunt from all points of view. Coming back into harbour, we went through all this standing to attention business again and finished the day by drawing up alongside a tanker for refueling.
Thursday 20 August 1942 As Rolf Luck, who has been in charge of the Marine Craft Section, has gone to Pamanzi I have been given his job. I can’t say that I’m terribly enamoured of it either. It’s really a full time job for one Officer and not just something for aircrews to dabble in. Besides, neither he or I know enough about marine craft to do the thing efficiently. Have to rely almost entirely on the Sergeant-in-Charge. At the moment the Squadron is taking over the marine craft from Flying Officer Parker and it is a hell of a business checking off the inventories. Bags of tools are missing.
Friday 21 August 1942 First thing this morning there was quite a flap on in the Marine Craft Section. The Commanding Officer wanted to get a dinghy and cradle by this evening. The dinghy needed a lot more than a day’s work on it to make it serviceable but that didn’t scan. A further difficulty was that a lot of materials necessary for its completion were not in Stores. I spent a most hectic morning roaming around in a truck, trying to beg, borrow, or steal the required items. Managed to get quite a number but was unable to obtain all the timber necessary for the construction of a cradle. The Royal Engineer Stores have some but are doing a job at the moment with the required size and will not know till Monday if there will be any timber over. The Commanding Officer just wasn’t able to get the dinghy away. Today is Peg’s birthday. I can only hope she has received some of the birthday wishes in the letters and cables. Celebrated the occasion in true style. In fact there were very few people who didn’t know by the end of the night that my-reason-for-living was having a birthday.
Saturday 22 August 1942 Got the section cracking with what materials we had been able to gather in yesterday’s sortie. Set out to the aerodrome myself and managed to get one of the pieces of timber that is required.
L arrived back at lunchtime from its major inspection at Kisumu. Was watching it when the Commanding Officer buttonholed me, said that as I was in charge of the Marine Craft Section to look after a job for him. He wanted some old tyres put around some petrol drums and sent to the Kings Harbour Master immediately. That seemed easy enough until I went down to the Section only to find that none of the stuff was available. Unable to explain this to the Commanding Officer as he had left for a conference. So grabbed a wagon, Sergeant, Corporal and two men and set on off another scrounging. Managed to obtain the tyres from the Salvage Depot but try how we would I couldn’t get hold of the drums. Eventually decided to take the tyres to the Kings Harbour Master. When we got there found that he was using his own drums for the job. Drove his assistant, a Lieutenant Commander down to the dock to see if the tyres would fit his drums when of all times to choose, our transport broke down. He had to walk back and the rest of us were stranded for nearly two hours. A cable in from the family saying that they had the first two I wrote on coming to East Africa so that augers well for our mail when things settle down to normal.
Sunday 23 August 1942 A 48-hours leave began for the crew of Q for Queenie this morning but not for this member of it! I was too thoroughly tied up with the inventory for the Marine Craft Section to be absent this morning. However I did stay at the hotel this afternoon and managed to get some sewing and darning jobs done. They have been worrying me for a long time. I can cope with sewing on buttons but when it comes to darning, I pack up. There ought to be some organisation around military camps that can cope with this sort of thing. Whether WAAFs do it in England I don’t know. The pile of socks with holes in them that had accumulated since leaving Australia I got Betty Sims to do in England but, as yet I’ve run in to no young lass in Kenya on whom I could wish this job.
Monday 24 August 1942 Spent the morning getting the Marine Craft inventory straightened out. At 11.15 am set off for the Royal Engineers Stores and was able to obtain the necessary quantity of wood for making the dinghy cradle. Have got three carpenters cracking on the job now.
Took this afternoon off as part of my 48-hour leave and went to town with Eric Saunders and did some necessary shopping.
Tuesday 25 August 1942 Went into the Dentist this morning to have that tooth permanently filled which gave me one night of hell in Bournemouth. The dressing has been there some four months now. While at the hospital I called in to see Major Sandell and told him to have a look at my ankle. I expect to go down to Pamanzi in a few days and as I was not to have seen him till Friday when the plaster was to have been taken off I snatched at the opportunity. He was fairly satisfied but wrapped the old ankle up in fresh plaster for another eight days.
This afternoon I spent playing around with the Marine Craft Section.
In the Mombasa area there began today a mock operation. We have to produce identity cards everywhere we go. Some of the Marine Craft Section blokes were “arrested”, as they were not able to identify themselves.
Wednesday 26 August 1942 For the first part of the morning watched Hosking making out the various forms that the Duty Captain has to. I haven’t been Duty Captain myself – Eric has always done the job. But tomorrow my turn comes as Eric is going back to Pamanzi. Have I mentioned that Q for Queenie has been handed over to Ron Roberts for the next 80 hours flying? Ron’s boat, O for Orange, has been unserviceable since arrival at Mombasa so the Wing Commander has decided that Eric and Ron shall share Q.
The rest of the day was pretty ordinary – just messing around in the Marine Craft Section.
Tonight Eric asked me to go with him to a party in town. There were supposed to be four lasses there. Jumped at it for it is too long since anything of that sort has cropped up. However it turned out to be a flop. There were only two lasses (pretty ordinary) and four of us!
Thursday 27 August 1942 Duty Captain from 0730 hours till that time tomorrow. John Wylie left for Pamanzi this morning. His boat L for London has just finished a major inspection. Eric Saunders has gone down with him to do some stooge job there – probably Adjutant.
Ted Taylor relieved me for lunch and dinner. While the invasion exercise is on, someone has to be Duty Captain for the full 24 hours. All the way from the slip to the Mess, guards have been posted. And one has a very slow journey what with pulling out a pass every few yards.
Friday 28 August 1942 Spent an uneventful night at the slipway – no interruptions and no early boats to get away. Had to wait till all the lads arrived before I was able to go back to the Mess for breakfast. Sat with Major Rainey, the South African Air Force meteorology man, who was at Pamanzi for a day or two when I was there. As he had previously come from Diego Suarez I asked him if he had any gen on all the sunken ships that can be seen lying around the harbour. The tanker with its bows pointing skyward is a British ship, he said. It was torpedoed by a two-man submarine at the same time as the Ramilles was hit in Diego. This two-man submarine was sent from a mother ship and the idea was for it to go into Diego and do as much damage as possible and then for the crew to go down the coast and be picked up by a tender from the mother ship. The submarine did its damage – the Ramilles was so damaged it had to go to Durban for repairs.
But the Japs didn’t escape. Their submarine was found and Commandos searched for them and killed them with Tommy guns.
Another interesting fact is the French destroyer that lies beached – she was hit by 25-pounders from the Commandos.
Saturday 29 August 1942 Having a look around Q this morning I found that the First Pilot’s window has been cracked to blazes. Of course nobody knows how it was done, or who did it. It’s bloody annoying for I doubt if the special glass is available out here.
Finally got the Marine Craft inventory out of the way. Little of importance happened. It’s just a case of ticking up more crew room hours. Finished reading “How Green was my Valley”, by Richard Llewlyn, a story of a Welsh mining family.
Began Thorne Smith’s “Rain in the Doorway.”
Sunday 30 August 1942 Took my astro logbook down to the slipway this morning and copied up those sights which I had roughly scribbled out over the last week or so. To improve the shining hour took some more sights. Made an attempt at getting a fix from the sun and moon, but with little success. The moon was very faint and low in the western sky.
After lunch we were treated to a bit of low flying by two Hawker Hartbees which for half an hour or more, dived in and out amongst the ships in the harbour. Many times I wish I could get hold of a Tiger Moth and throw it about the sky. It would be such a change from the straight and level flying of a Catalina.
Q went down the slip late this afternoon after a compass swing. She is due to leave for Pamanzi some time tomorrow.
Today is the first anniversary of my Wings parade. How many of the lads who received their wings with me at Macleod, Canada, a year ago have been killed? I know of half a dozen.
Monday 31 August 1942 Went up in Q with Bob Roberts as Captain and Ted Taylor as Second Pilot, to do some photography for the Commanding Officer. He wants a part of Kipevu done. Flight Sergeant Vincent was the Camera Operator and I acted as Bomb-aimer or “guider” over the area. Were up for an hour and five minutes and it nearly proved to be the last flight for the 17 people on board. The first approach to alighting was ruined by a destroyer which was coming into harbour, so we went round again. Coming in a second time Ted didn’t throttle back enough and we sailed on just above the water for nearly a mile. When she did hit, it came with such a heavy thud that we bounced right off. I heard the engines roar madly and looked out to see the starboard float almost amongst the rigging of a hospital ship. Robby said afterwards he doesn’t know how we missed it. It was only by madly dipping the port wing that we got away with it. All’s well that ends well.
A terrific quantity of mail arrived today but not a single letter or airgraph for me. Q left for Pamanzi about 11.15 am.
Tuesday 1 September 1942 The Marine Craft Section had quite a lot of difficulty in bringing the refueller on to its cradle prior to dragging it up the slipway for an overhaul. When the cradling was finally accomplished, we found that the tractor by itself was not strong enough to haul the refueller. Then the Commanding Officer decided that he wouldn’t allow it to come up anyway as the great weight might cause the slip to crack. And so the scraping of the hull was started with the boat half in the water. The hull was in pretty fair condition as far as marine growth is concerned considering she hasn’t been out of the water for six months.
Had a second game of squash with Jim Mecklem. Am badly in need of exercise and enjoyed the good sweat.
Had dinner with two fighter operations DFC Squadron Leaders. A crowd of us went into the pictures – saw “Hired Wife” starring Rosalind Russell, Brian Aherne and Virginia Bruce. Very pleasant to see some lovely white women again after nothing but natives for so long.
Wednesday 2 September 1942 A day of tragedy. The morning had dragged on in its usual way. I was Duty Captain so had something to do more or less. At a couple of minutes to three I was sitting at the desk reading when all of a sudden there was a terrific bang. Looked up to see Catalina P [VA727] enveloped in a cloud of spray. The first was instantly followed by a second, a third and fourth explosion. P was hurled into the air as depth charge after depth charge exploded. She broke in half and my main recollection of her is seeing the tailplane poised in the air. Flames spread quickly and at one time reached from the moorings almost to the shore. Dense clouds of black smoke poured up. The whole station tore along to see what was happening. It wasn’t known if any personnel were on board at the time. A roll call was taken and it was discovered that Sergeant Dawson and Corporal Hughes of the Rigging Section were on board. A dinghy had taken them out and was going to wait alongside. However Sergeant Dawson told the dinghy driver he needn’t wait. The dinghy had gone some 30 yards from P when the first depth charge exploded. The fire died down after ten minutes but began again shortly after and burned for another hour. Things began to be washed up on the shore. The first items to be recovered were a Mae West and the mascot, a little black stuffed dog. Later on, navigation books arrived and, perhaps strangest of all, the Fitter’s chair. As this is all metal we rather think it was blown ashore rather than washed ashore. The two Riggers would not have known much. No trace of them has yet been found. I sent a seaplane tender on constant patrol around the area to keep any small boats from venturing nearer than 200 yards to the late mooring. There is the danger of unexploded depth charges. P was due to go to Pamanzi on Friday morning to take part in the coming operation. Rather messes things up a bit.
Thursday 3 September 1942 Today we enter the fourth year of the war. A service was held on the slipway this morning, the Padre officiating. Will the war be over this time next year, I wonder? At present it doesn’t seem possible but strange things can happen.
A signal was sent to Pamanzi yesterday for M (the Squadron Leader’s boat) to return to Mombasa. Everybody expected Barraclough to arrive on it but he didn’t. The signal couldn’t have mentioned that P had blown up otherwise he surely would have come. The Wing Commander went down to the slip to meet the dinghy and Barra when M landed and who comes ashore but Tom Eakins. After yesterday’s disaster, Fitz sent a signal to 207 Group for transmission to Air Ministry to ground all Canadian-built Catalinas having American bomb racks. These are faulty and were the cause of the explosion. Fitz talks about going back to England via the Belgian Congo to bring out another Catalina. How I’d like to get back to England!
Still no letters but a cable from the family saying that old letters received.
Friday 4 September 1942 Average sort of day. Main item of interest was that Flight Sergeant Wright’s commission came through and we had quite a party inducting him into the Mess.
A monitor sailed into the harbour this morning. Fitz was unable to identify it and got as mad as hell. It’s different from the Terror or Erebus in that it has a tripod mainmast. Can get no gen on it at all, either from General Reconnaissance Operations or the Navy. There is no mention of it in Janes.
The note at the top of the page (? May 5th Halfridge) refers to the first day of my embarkation leave at Halfridges. Sitting in the lounge after dinner I was preparing to write my diary and was flicking over the pages while waiting to start. Speculated as to where I should be and what I should be doing on September 4th.
Saturday 5 September 1942 The bodies of the two lads who were blown up in P were washed up this morning. Both had been killed by concussion and had died instantly. The funeral was held this afternoon. Was in reality two funerals as one of the lads was a Roman Catholic so we had to go through two services. Walking behind the coffins was not so hot as they stank to high heaven. Not surprising really as the bodies have been in the water for three days.
Mail at last. Received two letters from the family via England. Were written on May 14th and June 1st. They all seem to be well. Gives me the good news that Alex Tonkin and Margaret Savage have been married. Very funny! When Jeff, Alex and I all joined up at the same time we made a vow that none of us would get engaged during the war. Said it would be silly. Alex and Jeff were sent to Darwin and later came back to Sydney. Alex then got engaged. He was then sent to the Middle East and later came back to Australia where he has evidently made the whole grade – congratulations.
The troop ships that have been lying in the harbour put to sea about lunchtime. The show should not be far away now. Aircraft carrier Illustrious leaving tomorrow morning as well as the usual cruisers and destroyers. What bad luck it is that we have not got Q to be able to take part in the coming show – probably the best thing the Squadron will have done.
Sunday 6 September 1942 Catalina M took off at 0830 for Pamanzi. The Commanding Officer and the Flight Commander went down with it to be on the scene when the operation comes off. That leaves Jim Mecklem, Mike Barry, Des Hosking and myself as the only flying personnel of 209 Squadron still at Mombasa. And when the crew of P goes on leave I shall be the only flying bloke left. Shall be that way for a fortnight at least. The Wing Commander has told me to get the Naval people cracking on the salvage of P. There’s no chance of a diver going down for we doubt very much whether all the depth charges have gone off. If they haven’t there’s no telling how near the pins may be to coming out and setting off the charge. The engines have been in the water too long for them to be used again. However we should get some useful spares. Also the float retraction gear will be handy for O.
Monday 7 September 1942 Went into town this morning to buy a few items that I have been wanting for some time. Bought two pounds of tea which cost 3/8 and yet cost 4/60 to send home to Australia. This postage rate seems terrific for a parcel of similar weight sent from here to England only costs 2/30. The boot is very much on the other foot now what with me sending foodstuffs to Mandalong House. When I received all those parcels from home while I was in Canada and England, little did I think that the stream would flow in the other direction before very long.
As Jim Mecklem and Mike Barry are going on leave tomorrow leaving Des Hosking and myself here alone to carry on as Duty Captain for the next fortnight, I took advantage of their last day by taking the afternoon off. Slept and read. There’s really little else to do on afternoons off.
Hobby had a dinghy calling at the pier below the hotel so Jim and I filed into it and went for a swim over at the south trot.
Squadron Leader McDougall DFC, Barry, Mecklem, Hosking and I went into town tonight. Barry and Hosking speared off on their own. We remaining three had dinner at the Manor Hotel and then saw “Waterloo Bridge” – a wizard film.
Tuesday 8 September 1942 On arrival at the Operations Room this morning we walked into yet another tragedy. The best way of telling it is to quote from the signals from the Duty Captain’s log book for at present we know no more than as stated there.
- 0735 Message from Wing Ops from Pamanzi
- “L/209 crashed on take-off. No details.” T.O.O 0421
- 0907 To: 209 Squadron [R] 246 Wing
- From: Pamanzi Ref A 26 8/9
- Flying boat signal Catalina VA713 taking off on operations sortie at 0420C. F/Lt Wylie, F/O Rich, P/O Henderson, P/O Hall, Sgt Broomfield, Sgt Lamond, Sgt White, Sgt Aberley, Sgt Sheppard, Sgt Davies LS. All missing believed killed.
- Cause of accident not, repeat not, known. First addressee to dispatch casualty signal. T.O.O 0618 C/8 1215 209 Squadron
- From: Pamanzi Ref A 27 8/9
- Ref my A 26 8/9 Bodies of F/O Rich, P/O Hall, Sgt Broomfield, Sgt White recovered. T.O.O 0752
- 1640 Catalina VA713 Total loss.
Poor old 209 Squadron has struck a bad patch with the disaster to P not yet a week old. I gather that L was the first aircraft to be on this operation down there. They aimed to have seven aircraft for the job but as L and P are non est and Q is unserviceable, the remainder will have to do bags of flying.
The Adjutant, Intelligence Officer and I spent the afternoon gathering together and then going through the kit of the four Officers. It’s a pretty pathetic job looking through their old letters to see if there is any relevant service matter in them. In Ken Rich’s case, the mother of a lad with whom he trained wrote to Ken’s mother saying that her son had been killed and that she’d like Ken to know. Poor old Trapper Henderson had a letter from his mother – the same sort of loving letter we all receive from mothers – asking to take care of himself. It’s bloody awful! If the bodies of the remainder aren’t recovered they will be posted officially as “Missing, believed killed.” This is cruel to their families for it allows them to entertain false hope whereas the rest of us know that they are killed for certain.
Wednesday 9 September 1942 I left out quite a noteworthy happening yesterday. We had a visit from two Naval Officers from HMS Valiant. They had come in connection with diving operations on P. After telling them the full story of the explosion and telling them of the possibility of unexploded depth charges, they did not seem too anxious to recommend diving operations. Should a depth charge go off, they said not just the diver would be killed but the rest of the people in the diving tender – 14 in number. They did not consider the risk worth the salvage. However they were going away to talk it over with senior Officers.
Went to the pictures tonight. Saw “Saturday’s Children” – the story of a young married couple who didn’t have over much money. To see the husband going into the office day after day and getting nowhere rather makes one think. Here we are all hoping like hell for peace to come so we can go back to civvy days. But what have they to offer? In the majority of cases, nothing but a dull grinding routine that stamps out all initiative. Tied down by family responsibilities – not being able to do as one wants. Grouse as we do about Service life, there is no denying that it has excitements to offer not only in wartime either. Even in peacetime, squadrons are moved around the world. One would see interesting places. We’re doing that now – but are not really satisfied. I wonder if one will ever strike a happy balance? The old saying “distant fields look greener” is only too true. But perhaps this restlessness is something brought on by the war – or is it a phase of youth? I don’t know.
Thursday 10 September 1942 As Jim Mecklem and Mike Barry went on 14 days leave yesterday; Des Hosking and I are the only General Duty Officers left. Have most of the day cut out with censoring the troops’ mail. It’s a pretty large task for two of us.
Squadron Leader McDougall had told me a few days ago that there is in Mombasa, a Mrs McLeod, an Australian, who is very keen to get in touch with any Aussies who may be here. I rang her this morning and she invited any of us who were free tonight to go in. Alan Layden, Doug Colcough and I went and had a grand time – though quiet. Mr McLeod is manager of the Bank of India and he and wife live above the bank. The apartment is really a huge one. We were given a grand dinner. It’s most pleasant to get into a private home again after living in a Mess for so long. Were picked up by Squadron Leader McDougall in a different transport to the one in which we went into town. It appears the Squadron Leader sent the driver to the pictures and during the show the truck was stolen.
Friday 11 September 1942 I seem to be getting a little behind each day. Yesterday produced three signals which are of note. The first was from Pamanzi and related to L. It reads “Aircraft started take-off 0419 C/8 engines running smoothly. When aircraft passed last flare it appeared airborne. Tail light went out and engines cut. A few seconds later there were 5 explosions and petrol caught fire.” Then today we heard that the body of Sergeant Davies had been recovered.
The other signal of yesterday was from the Vice Admiral Eastern Fleet – “Investigations show that diving on sunken Catalina (P) involves considerable risk. I do not intend therefore to use naval divers for this purpose. As the probable presence of 3 unexploded depth charges is a menace, suggest counter-mining measures be taken.”
Saturday 12 September 1942 Great was my joy to receive mail from the family this morning. It is coming in rather erratically for last Saturday I had two dated 14th May and 1st June. Still as long as I get it I shouldn’t complain. It contains bags of interesting news. I shall be able to write a good letter back clearing up all their questions.
This afternoon we had a visit from some brass hats. Air Chief Marshal Sir Leslie Ludlow Hewitt, an Air Vice Marshal, and an Air Commodore, Group Captain and Wing Commander. Old Flying Officer Sage (the Adjutant) and I went out to meet them and show them around the camp. The Air Chief Marshal asked Sage if he had shaved this morning. He said “yes” though he hadn’t. So the Air Chief Marshal said, “ beards seem to grow quickly out here then? Why is it – do you think it is the heat?” “I think so, sir” said the Adjutant.
News in the papers this morning of our attack on Madagascar. No mention is made of our Cats but they are certainly on the job judging by the flying times I’m getting in. Went for a swim over at the south trot.
Sunday 13 September 1942 Had absolutely bags of mail to censor this morning but we managed to get through it all. I always try to, for mail is slow enough as it is without having any hold-up that can possibly be avoided.
Bloody phenomenal though it seems, I got some mail again today for the second day in succession. Peggy’s first letter has at last turned up – and how glad I was to get it. Whizzed off an airgraph immediately.
Reports continue to come in about the operation in Madagascar. Things seem to be going along pretty satisfactorily. Jove I’m sorry we didn’t have Q so as to be able to take part in that show. It would be my luck!
Monday 14 September 1942 Heard from Pamanzi that N and Q have gone across to Diego Suarez. I wonder what is in the wind over there? The attack on the island seems to be proceeding very favourably with few casualties on either side. I don’t know exactly in what region our boats are operating. A meteorological report gave its position as right at the very south of the island. It was thought before the Catalinas left here that the depth charges might be fused instantaneously and the boats turned into bombers. That would have been fun though with the Hudsons and Blenheims based at Diego, I hardly think it necessary.
Des Hosking and I were going into town to dinner and the pictures but at the time the transport left we were in the middle of a beer. Had dinner at the hotel and then managed to get a hitchhike into town. Saw Loretta Young in ”Second Honeymoon” – God, how lovely that woman looks! She has some perfectly charming expressions and mannerisms.
Tuesday 15 September 1942 Very little to report today. Late last night we received a message that S would be leaving Kisumu at 0500 this morning but up till 9 am she had not left. Then we eventually received a signal saying that she was delayed and would probably leave tomorrow.
Grabbed a transport again this evening and went to the pictures. This time saw “No Time for Comedy” with Rosalind Russell and James Stewart. Quite a bright show but I seem to remember having seen it before.
Wednesday 16 September 1942 Catalina S has at last left Kisumu, its major inspection being over. The signal of its departure came not through the RAF but from Overseas Airways. It was quite amusing ringing General Reconnaissance Operations Room and informing them, for they are supposed to let us know such things.
When John Inglis did eventually arrive, we questioned him about the ambiguity of some of the signals. He then asked us if we had received such-and-such signal. It referred to the reason for his delay yesterday, and it asked for an acknowledgement. We had not received this signal – I made enquiries to Cyphers Operations Room etc but no one seems to have received it.
S is not fully serviceable – “George” is unserviceable. However the urgency for her to get south to Pamanzi (and hence to Diego Suarez) is so great that she is leaving without an autopilot. I must say that I shouldn’t like to have to do an 18-hour patrol without “George.”
Did not sleep down the Operations Room but organised the duty runners to do the waking of the dinghy and transport drivers.
A letter in from Keith today. It is dated 19th June and is the first from Australia I have had with the A6987, C/- APO 1785 address. Tells of Bill Brand and Margaret Opie’s projected wedding on 11 July. As Uncle Jim was unable to get down,
Dad was going to give Margaret away.
Thursday 17 September 1942 Awakened at 5.10 am and after an early breakfast came down to get S/209 away for Pamanzi. She was eventually airborne at 7.15 am. Sat on and censored mail. When we did get away for lunch, we had spent six hours in this blasted Operations Room doing very little.
The afternoon was uneventful.
This evening Des Hosking and I had our “date” with 2 WRENS – sisters. One of them is a friend of Barry’s – she is also engaged to that Surgeon Lieutenant Commander who was on the Albatross when that ship was in Pamanzi and I was on board. Both lasses are very charming and it was quite a change to talk to white women again. All we did was to have dinner at the Palace. These two lasses had been in Singapore as WRENS and were evacuated to Ceylon, and again evacuated from there.
Friday 18 September 1942 Nothing! Just nothing to relieve the monotony. Letters, piles of them, continue to pour in for censoring. All this censoring takes away any scrap of desire to write letters myself. Just can’t be bothered.
This evening went out on board the RAF Depot ship Manela to dinner. Four 209 Officers live on it as well as all the troops. Should hate to be there myself – it’s as hot as hell.
This life surely is getting me down. Wandering into the Mess to find the only reading matter is months old English newspapers and stale periodicals that we’ve already looked through thousands of times. And then at night everyone gravitates to the bar to drink because there’s nothing else to do. And ending up by getting to bed in some stage of intoxication. And if one reneges on this drinking for a few nights, one is considered dull and not “one of the boys.” Oh, bugger everybody!
Saturday 19 September 1942 Were sitting in the Operations Room quietly doing the daily censoring when quite a fair sized passenger ship (she was the Indrapoera) anchored just off the slip. We looked at her though the glasses and found her to have loads of white women as passengers. Gazed through the binoculars for half an hour or more and then flashed by Aldis Lamp to ask the skipper if his passengers were allowed ashore. No reply. We then took a dinghy and circled the ship. The women seemed to be far less glamourous at close quarters – in fact they were decidedly moth-eaten. So we let the whole scheme drop!
The Governor-General of Madagascar has refused the British terms so the operation is continuing.
Sunday 20 September 1942 Absolutely nothing except censoring, more censoring. Honestly having to read a hundred or more of the troops’ letters every day is sapping up any desire to write letters of my own. I’m finding it exceedingly difficult not to begin with “hoping this letter finds you in the pink as it leaves me here at present well.” Ye Gods!
As we have a fair amount of spare space I’ll quote one little RAF anecdote. It relates to an aircraft on convoy escort. It is standard procedure that when an aircraft reaches the convoy it is to escort, it sends a “MET” signal. So that, if the convoy’s name is “APPLES” the signal is sent “MET APPLES” and Time of Origin. An aircraft was sent to escort a convoy with the name “CHILD.” Due to bad visibility, it couldn’t find the convoy for a long time and kept sending out “NOT MET” signals. At last a signal came through and all it said was “PREGNANT.” This had the cypher people baffled for quite a time, until some bright spark realised it meant “WITH CHILD.”
Monday 21 September 1942 At last my long projected dive-bombing trip has come off! Was due to be at Port Reitz aerodrome at 9.30 am so took advantage of the late hour and had a good sleep in. Had to walk up from the hotel to the aerodrome. Went into the Fleet Air Arm flight offices and met my Pilot, a Sub Lieutenant Richardson. Drew a parachute and then climbed into the back seat of a mighty Skua. This back seat faces aft and there is only a monkey chain (which clips on the parachute harness) to hold you in. Took off and immediately the R/T [[radio telegraphy] opened up. The dive-bombing opened the programme – did about nine dives in three quarters of an hour. They were from 4000 feet and we got up to 210 knots. The first one provided a queer sensation. The motor is throttled back, down goes the left wing and whizz! And there you are hurtling down backwards. The eventual pullout glues you firmly to the seat. The target ship, from my position seemed to be right underneath the aircraft before the dive was done. After three quarters of an hour, we went 20 miles up the coast and did low-level attacks on an Army camp to give the gunners practice in training the anti-aircraft guns.
Tuesday 22 September 1942 Although we had been told that Catalina N was returning from Pamanzi to Mombasa today we received no “airborne” signal. The first intimation that she was in the air was when we received, at 1350 hours, her estimated time of arrival at 1455.
When she did land she brought all the kit of the Officers who were killed in L. Bill Hossent and crew were unable to tell us much more of the accident than we already know. However we did learn that while searching for the bodies they did find Flight Lieutenant John Wylie. They grabbed his Mae West but it became detached and the body sank. Of those they did recover, the bodies had been attacked by fish.
L was taking off towards the reef so I expect that if the bodies came to the surface they would float over the reef and be lost.
N is the first boat to return since the Madagascar show. They didn’t see very much. Were patrolling down both the west and east coasts of the island, covering the various landings that were made. Still even though they had little excitement it would have been grand to have taken part in the campaign and gain whatever little kudos may have been floating about.
Wednesday 23 September 1942 During the morning Wing Commander Potter rang to know if we had an aircraft that could do an anti-submarine patrol off Mombasa tonight. Bill Hossent is unable to do it as all his hours are used up. However we had a signal sent off to the Squadron Leader in M asking if he could do it. The purpose of the patrol is to search for a suspected Japanese submarine from which it is feared midget submarines will be launched against Kilindini Harbour (Mombasa). A message came back from M saying that if inspection and refueling were completed before projected time of departure (1830 hours) M would do the patrol. When she landed the Commanding Officer came ashore and flap lasted until the aircraft left again. I was Duty Captain and so slept down at the slipway all night.
Thursday 24 September 1942 Up at 4.45 am, sent the runner to wake the duty dinghy drivers and had everything on the top-line for M’s arrival at 0550 hours. The Wing Commander arrived down at 0530 hours. Managed to get in a bit of star recognition. Orion’s belt is right overhead at this time of the morning.
M arrived about 30 minutes late. Had had no estimated time of arrival from the machine and the beacon operators could not hear the aircraft working the beacon. No Jap submarine had been sighted at all.
J arrived from Pamanzi. Mad activity – three aircraft in three days. Accommodation in the Mess was a bit of a problem tonight. So many new people have arrived since the Squadron has been away that all the rooms are full.
Another flap tonight. A midget submarine is supposed to be just outside the harbour. Between 8 – 9.30 pm there were a number of depth charge explosions. Have heard no results yet.
Friday 25 September 1942 Bill Hossent left in N for Kisumu at 0830 hours. N is due for its major inspection.
Fitz came into the Operations Room this morning and pointed out the Orion. She is now an armed merchantman; with its coat of dull grey looks vastly different from that lovely cream Orient liner that used to sail into Sydney Harbour. Oh, roll on the day when she can do that again!
It was in either yesterday or today’s Mombasa Times that mail which left here on 5th September must be presumed lost. I find that around that date I wrote to the National Bank re the £10 that Dad sent me for my birthday.
The Squadron Leader, Fitz and Vic Field left this afternoon for a weekend in Nairobi. It’s to be a three-day “blind” as far as I can gather.
Saturday 26 September 1942 Tom Eakins left in M for Kisumu. M has to have a modification done to the bomb racks. These are American type carriers and are bloody awful. They are unsafe. They were the cause of P blowing up. Two occasions have occurred where depth charges have fallen on the ground while the aircraft has been up the slip for an inspection.
Went into town in the mail van with “Bungey” Hart. We did a bit of shopping around the town.
Got stuck into some letter writing during the afternoon. Was talking to Rolf Luck who comes from Kenya. Got yarning about Mt Kilimanjaro which is the highest isolated peak in the world – 19,000 feet. He says that many people climb it. One is able to walk to the top. One does not have to be an experienced alpine climber to do it. In this it differs from Mt Kenya. The more we talked the more enthusiastic I became about climbing it when we go on leave after taking Q to Kisumu for its major inspection. Of course it means coming from Kisumu almost back to Mombasa by train but this should be fairly interesting. Rolf says that in doing the climb you would see far more of the country than those chaps who just muck about on leave. Those that have been to Nairobi don’t seem to be terribly thrilled with the place anyhow. Ended up by writing a note to the District Commissioner at Moshi (at the foot of the mountain) enquiring about bearers, tents, etc. As far as warm clothes go, Irvine jackets and flying boots fill the bill admirably. The only snag is if our leave should be too short. The actual climb up and down should only take four to five days but it’s getting from Kisumu to Moshi that’s the trouble. Trains only run twice a week and we would have to just click one. Still here’s hoping.
Sunday 27 September 1942 The Adjutant received a letter today from Headquarters Middle East saying that all Pilot Officers are to be promoted to Flying Officers after six months as a Pilot Officer. It is retrospective to those people commissioned as from 1st October last. As I was commissioned in September I have had to wait 12 months for my Flying Officer. A poor show. It also means that relative to all Pilot Officers commissioned anything up to six months after I was, I lose six months seniority.
Monday 28 September 1942 A Catalina of 205 Squadron arrived here this morning from Ceylon bringing some “brass hats.” It is returning in a couple of days time. The route was Karachi-Aden, which rather surprised us for we imagined it would have come via Seychelles. The Second Pilot is an Australian, McCallum. He knows Saunders and Roberts. He rather shattered my illusions re the amount of flying the Catalina squadrons in Ceylon are doing. I had imagined that there would be constant patrols in the direction of the Andaman Islands. But they seem to be sitting doing nothing the same as we are. In fact they have been led to believe that 209 Squadron was doing bags of flying – this Squadron is the envy of all the other Catalina squadrons in Middle East and India Commands.
McCallum tells me that the Dutch have 21 Catalinas at Trincomalee, 205 Squadron and 413 Squadron are at Koggala (Ceylon) and 240 is at Madras. The place where he is, is right in the jungle – they take-off from a lake with only a 2000-yard run.
Tuesday 29 September 1942 Duty Captain for a change!! Main item was organising rations for the crew of this 205 Squadron Catalina.
Was having a further talk with the Australian Second Pilot. He was mentioning about the Jap fleet which was sighted off Ceylon and reported by Catalinas. A Squadron Leader was the first to see the fleet. He managed to get off his First Sighting Report and was never heard of again. [He was Squadron Leader Leonard Birchall and he and some of his crew survived the war as prisoners of the Japanese. See pages 51-67 in Bank’s book “Wings of the Dawning”]. Another boat was sent off but no message at all came in from it. Yet another boat was sent out and it managed to get only half of the First Sighting Report off. All three Catalinas were shot down by fighters from the Jap carriers. Should we ever be fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to see the Jap fleet we have been told what to do. However these Catalinas did their job so that when the Japs had a smack at Ceylon the defenders were ready for them. When the fleet was leaving Ceylon area, another boat was sent to shadow it. The Catalina remained at maximum visibility distance – could only just see the foretops of the ships. So it is impossible that the Catalina could have been sighted visually. Suddenly a salvo from the main armament of the fleet landed in the water just 200 yards to the starboard of the aircraft. The Catalina immediately turned in to where the salvo landed. A few seconds later a salvo landed right where the aircraft had been. This seems to prove that they must be using Radar Direction Finding fire control. It is a favourite trick of the Japs – this using of the main armament of warships against aircraft – especially torpedo bombers. The Navy is not in too good an odour with the RAF in Ceylon. It appears there were some shadowing exercises in progress and Catalinas were engaged. The fleet knew this. Fighters were sent off and instead of saying BOGEY, the control officer said BANDIT and the fighters shot up the Cat. The gunners were killed and the rudder controls shot away. The captain did a marvelous job to get the boat back – had to use throttle control to steer the aircraft. It is thought that he should get a “gong.” The only thing that might be agin it is the citation – would not do to show the Navy up in bad light. The Navy hasn’t been too anxious to join battle with the Japs either. There was a case where a cruiser was some 40 miles south of Ceylon. We had vastly superior Naval forces but did not attack.
Wednesday 30 September 1942 The Navy, after quite a few days work has succeeded in dragging most of Catalina P into shallow water. They have the port wing which is split in many places, and that portion of the hull aft of the bunk compartment. As yet the Navy has failed to carry out the task they set out to do, that is, to make the mooring safe for shipping, for they have been unable to recover the starboard wing on which the unexploded depth charges are thought to be. It was a regular Airman’s picnic with scores of them climbing over the wreckage – people from the various sections seeing what could be salvaged.
Thursday 1 October 1942 Fitz began a series of lectures on ship recognition today. We went right through the British Navy. It provided a very good revision. I’m all in favour of having something definite to do during the day. This hanging around in the Navigation Office is very brassing.
Had a wizard mail today. The most recent letter is one posted on 3rd July to the APO 1785 address. It looks as if it is beginning to come in regularly now – a good thing. Went into the pictures tonight. Saw “49th Parallel.” All about a U-boat crew who get loose in Canada. Saw some wizard shots of the Rockies including some of Banff and the famous hotel.
Friday 2 October 1942 Ken Murray left in J for Kisumu – going on a major inspection. Had a test on British Navy from a series of aerial photographs.
M arrived back from Kisumu after her bomb rack re-fit. She is doing a round survey flight in a few days time, the route being Mombasa – Pamanzi – Diego Suarez – South Madagascar – Mauritius – Rodroguez – Seychelles – Mombasa. How I’d love to do that little jaunt. The Group Captain is going.
Received parcel No. 16 from the family – contained two tins of pineapple juice and three cakes of soap. There still are anything up to ten parcels missing. In the family’s letter yesterday they said that poor old Rod Archer has been posted missing. He was on Beaufort torpedo bombers. Was awarded the DFC only a few months ago for his attack on the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau (see 30th March 1942).
Saturday 3 October 1942 Despite the Flight Commander’s threat that he would test all Pilots and Observers today on the Jap fleet recognition, nothing eventuated.
However that did not prevent most of us from madly learning it up. Now have it fairly well wrapped.
Received a letter from Mrs Marre and also one from the family enclosing several snaps of “Bomber” the new cocker spaniel.
Mike Barry has lent me a book called “The Last Enemy.” It is written by a fellow who was at Oxford with him, one Richard Hillary. This chap is now in the RAF on Spitfires. Writes of his pre-war existence and the change in the RAF.
Sunday 4 October 1942 Gave those members of the crew who are still at Mombasa some Semaphore practice this morning. The Flight Commander has issued an order that all aircrew will be severely tested on certain subjects in the near future. We are to take advantage of the lull in operations to brush up on all these things. This afternoon went out to M with Squadron Leader Barraclough and did some anchoring practice – the first I have done on flying boats. Afterwards did some circuits and bumps – my first for weeks and weeks. The boat was fairly heavily laden with equipment and petrol. My effort must have been reasonable for after it he told me to bring my logbook along to him and he would qualify me as First Pilot day. I’m the last of the Second Pilots who joined the Squadron at Pembroke Dock to be qualified. But that is just due to bad luck re machines and not, I’m glad to say, through any lack of ability. Some important messages came in today. Pamanzi reports an unidentified aircraft flying around just above broken cloud. General Reconnaissance Operations are checking up to see if any of our aircraft were in the vicinity. Remember my Photo Reconnaissance Unit (Japanese) plane that I imagined when I was at Pamanzi early August?
The Commander-in-Chief wants to recall all Catalinas from Pamanzi to Kilindini. There’s probably work to do up here – chasing submarines which are in the Aden area I hope? Was Duty Captain again so slept at the slipway.
Monday 5 October 1942 Up at 0430 hours getting things under way for M’s take-off at 0630 hours. Was barely out of bed when a Brigadier arrived. Had been misinformed of the time and instead of getting here at 0600 hours he arrived at 0500. While standing talking to him one of the RAF guards walked past, rifle slung on his shoulder. Made no attempt to salute at all. Let the RAF down badly. Later on tore a strip off him.
Although I seldom seem to jot these things down, I often have discussions with some of the lads (Barry, Mecklem, Roberts, in particular) about the war and its aftermath. Suppose, for instance, that peace were declared tomorrow and that we were all home within a month. After the joy of being with parents, wives and friends was over, how long would it be before we all became as dissatisfied and restless as hell? Wanting to get back to the companionship of the war? I don’t think it would be very long – say about six weeks. And what is one going to do with the rest of one’s life, once peace comes? Going back to ordinary, humdrum, everyday jobs is going to be very difficult for many thousands. The idea of going back to a desk in the Accounts Department of Qantas just fills me with horror. I couldn’t stick it. And there would be thousands like me. What are we all going to do? Of course such situations arose after the last war – the problem was there but the solutions were not always happy. These things make one think and think deeply. In fact they’re rather terrifying. The future is not bright.
Tuesday 6 October 1942 Felt pretty lousy all day today – must have got a touch of the sun I think, for I have had a most nagging headache. Will have to give up my peaked cap and take to a topee.
Spent a part of the morning giving Sergeant Howell a lesson in Morse. First on the buzzer and then on the Aldis Lamp.
I don’t think that I’ve ever mentioned about the box they have on the bar at the Port Reitz Hotel. It’s marked “Shoppie Talkie” and anyone who talks shop in the bar is forced to contribute 50 cents or a shilling, according to the gravity of his offence.
Wednesday 7 October 1942 Felt pretty lousy when I wakened this morning – headache and general ‘flu feeling. So stayed in bed all day.
Following the Commander-in-Chief’s instructions Q and S returned from Pamanzi today. All the types seem to have grown moustaches while they’ve been down there this time. Bob Roberts has a beauty but Eric Saunders’ is a pretty weak effort.
The whole team went into town to the “flics” tonight. Incidentally Eric tells me that our Navigator, Flight Sergeant Vincent, has again contracted fever badly and has had to be left at Pamanzi.
Thursday 8 October 1942 We have now got Q back from Bob Roberts. Was on board with the crew cleaning it up this morning. Really was filthy. Felt like an A1 bilge rat when I had finished. While we were on board, a message came out to say that we were to be at half an hour readiness. However nothing came of it during the day and it was decided that we should take-off at 6 pm. Tried to sleep this afternoon in preparation for the flip. Incidentally did a test flight this morning of 45 minutes. I did the take-off for the trip when we left. The job was to search for a submarine which had been sighted by a motor vessel not far from Mombasa. We were to do a creeping-line-ahead patrol with a mean line of advance of 1100, commencing five miles off the coast. Des Hosking came along as Third Pilot and it was as well that he did for when we plugged in “George” the aircraft did a violent dive. Twiddled the up knob but this only resulted in steepening the dive. Tested it a few times, always with the same result. And so it meant we had to fly the bitch all night, taking an hour each at the controls. During the night I tried to take some star sights but each time I went out to the bow turret clouds came and obscured the sky. Got a number of blips on the Special Equipment but they were only ships. At about 10.30 the Special Equipment packed up. There was a strong smell of H2S. Left it for half an hour and then tested it again. Same result. Madly whizzed through the code-book to try and find a group for “SE unserviceable.” Couldn’t find one there but eventually located the group in the X Signals. Eventually received a message back from the Operations Room to cease the patrol and land at Dar-es-Salaam. Set course and crossed over the island of Zanzibar. Eric pulled off a pretty fine landing by the flares. Landed at 0215 hours. Only three flares had been put out – instead of placing them widely, there were only 200 yards between them. Ran 500 yards past the end of the flare path. Stayed at the New Africa Hotel but before going to bed had quite a few beers with the proprietor and his wife. In bed at 0330 hours.
Friday 9 October 1942 Up and breakfasted by 0930 hours. First thing to do was to find a barber’s shop and have a shave. For we had landed without any pyjamas, toilet kit or anything of that nature. The original idea was for us to have landed at Mombasa at dawn this morning. Wandered around looking at the shops for a while. I had not brought my wallet with me on the flip – had left it in the drawer just before we took off. Got a transport and went out to the Air Force camp where we drew some money intending to return to the town and buy a host of stuff – shirts, socks, shorts, etc. However at the camp we met all the lads from 35 Flight SAAF and drank many beers. By the time we did get back into town the shops had shut for lunch break of two hours. Lunched at the New Africa and went out on board at 1330 hours. Smithy (WWW Smith) had bought a beautiful topee – cost him 12.50. On the way out in the dinghy the wind blew it into the drink. Poor Smithy. The dinghy driver turned smartly on the step to retrieve the hat and in doing so a wave came overboard and drenched poor WWW – you know. Took-off at 1400 hours for Mombasa, shot up the town and camp. Brought the two SAAF chaps back – they are going on leave. On arrival I received 12 letters – whizzo. Some of them as far back as March. As our trip last night was Des Hosking’s first operational one we gave him a bit of a party before all going to the “flics.” Pseudo-eulogistic speeches – ended up by Jim Mecklem and me carrying old Ferret Hosking shoulder high out of the Mess to the truck.
Saturday 10 October 1942 First thing this morning I was given the task of showing three visiting Officers over a Catalina. From there I went aboard Q while refueling was done – filled her right up. It’s just possible that we may have to go out on a job near the Seychelle Islands. A Jap battleship has been reported. Are standing by any case.
Later: were released at dusk. The scare has evidently passed. Was thus able to go to my first party for ages. Mrs Macleod, the Australian woman in Mombasa, invited Doug Colcough, Alan Layden and me. When we arrived the first question was – “where are your masks?” Were soon given some. On going upstairs to the dance floor found most of the lasses in fancy dress. And some pretty wizard lasses they were too. I knew that somewhere in this town there must be women. Although I was a bit like the ass between two piles of hay – didn’t know which to go for and ended up with none. Or almost. Right at the end managed to get hold of one lass who should be worth following up.
Sunday 11 October 1942 Whizzo! Received four parcels from the family today Nos. 6, 9, 14 and one which was unnumbered. One contains my pansy dressing gown. I had given that up for lost. Another had in it a pair of long white tennis slacks – but they were Keith’s and not mine! The rest of the lads thought that was a bloody fine joke, the sods.
The news broke today re the submarine campaign off South Africa. The Commander-in-Chief Eastern Fleet requires three Catalinas immediately at Durban. What a grand trip that will be for those that get it. And what bloody awful luck it is for us on Q which is due for a major inspection. Alan Leyden told me that seven of our ships were sunk in one day. So the quicker the Catalinas get there the better. Was Duty Captain today so slept at the slipway to get S off early in the morning. She is landing at Pamanzi tomorrow afternoon and then going on the same evening after refueling.
Monday 12 October 1942 Up at 5 am to get S off to Durban – the lucky blighters! May they have good hunting and bring back many U-boats.
Eric is still in bed with a touch of dysentery so I moved Q from the BOAC to the Strike Boat Buoy. The north trot is now serviceable again since the dragging operations for P have finished. Did a water test for “George” but it is still unserviceable. When we moored up (and a cup of tea was being made!) Maguire came out on board and said that Q was to leave for Kisumu for its major inspection tomorrow. This means leave for all the crew. It’s a damned nuisance coming this week for there is a dance in the Mess on Saturday next. Got out a Snag Sheet with Flight Sergeant Gill of Maintenance. Another nuisance about going on leave at this time is that Wednesday all the Squadron Officers are leaving Port Reitz Hotel and moving to Kipevu into our own Mess. Spent the whole afternoon gathering up all my kit and putting it in one place so that it can be moved while I am away. At Grog Time tonight had news through the Seychelles that M which is on the round survey flight has torn her bottom out on a reef. The signal doesn’t say whether it was done while landing or whether she just broke her moorings. Personally I think it’s the latter for the signal added that the damage was repairable. A nice job for a boat to fly spares from Mombasa to the Seychelles Islands!
Tuesday 13 October 1942 It certainly looks as if there is a jinx riding with the Squadron. At 5 am a message came through from S flying to Durban that it may have to force land due to a storm. Then shortly afterwards, another signal began, but after getting out the priority IMMEDIATE there was silence. It looks as if they were trying to send a position signal for their forced landing. Things looked pretty bad for a time but at about 0900 hours another signal was received saying that she was still in the air at latitude 250S and had fuel for two hours remaining. It was good to know that they were still OK but two hours fuel would not get them to Durban. If they were forced down in Portuguese East Africa they would be interned. Lately whenever the Squadron is called upon to do a job it seems to pack up. However we couldn’t wait for any more news but took off ourselves for Kisumu. Had no Navigator so I looked after that department. Climbed up to 12000 feet right away and set course to have a look at Mt Kilimanjaro. Could see it from nearly 100 miles away – a solitary peak rearing high above the sea of Cumulus cloud. It looked magnificent. Going on leave our cameras have been returned to us so I was able to make good use of mine on the mountain. We flew within a mile or so of it. Truly a grand sight with its snow-capped peak. It is the highest isolated mountain in the world rising over 19300 feet. Landed at Kisumu after a trip of three hours 30 minutes – quite a fast trip. At times we had a ground speed of 140 knots. Were met by Flight Lieutenant Pearson, the Engineering Officer, and taken ashore. In the hanger was J undergoing its major – with it was a Blenheim, and it was remarkable to see how the latter was dwarfed by the Catalina. Being with a large aircraft one gets used to its size but on a comparison like this, one really sees just how big they are. Sent a cable to the family; also a telegram to a Mrs Ryan C/- Post Office Molo. She is an Australian woman who entertains Aussies on leave. I was given her address by Squadron Leader Turner, the Medical Officer.
Wednesday 14 October 1942 Had a late breakfast and then caught up on the old diary which was a few days behind. Also whipped off a letter to the family and one four-page airgraph to Peggy. Pearson brought in a whole bundle of mail for us to censor – no matter where I go I don’t seem to be able to get away from that. Also had news that S had come down in Vichy Territory and not Portuguese East Africa. Another boat is supposed to have picked the crew up only to be ordered to take them back again for internment. That certainly puts a spanner in the operation.
Had a session with the crew tonight.
Thursday 15 October 1942 As Q had been granted a 10-hour extension and as we had not used it all up we did some local flying around Kisumu this morning. Eric was showing me the technique for night landings – into wind at 1000 feet, cut the throttles and glide to 300 feet when you get the nose up (and keep it up) having a rate of descent of 200 feet per minute. Even if she bounces with the nose up she’ll come off, whereas if the nose is down there is the danger of going in. Got my take-offs pretty well taped – stick hard back till 40 knots on the clock then forward gently till 60 knots shows up when you start easing back slightly to let her fly herself out.
A mad rush to pack our bags to catch the 2 o’clock train for Nairobi. Have decided to have a couple of days gonging around there before going to Molo. It was as hot as blazes in the train for the first few hours but then we began climbing. There were a hell of a lot of stops en route and at each station there were hundreds of wogs to see their brethren off. One place, Fort Terran, was exceptionally interesting. There was quite a gathering of native women with their children. As soon as I pointed my camera to get some snaps, all the mothers gathered up the children and hid behind a tree. There was one little kid with the biggest pot-belly one could imagine. It was simply huge. There was also a baby – it looked only about two days old, if that, being nursed by a boy. Soon after leaving Fort Terran we saw one of the loveliest sunsets I have ever seen – the pink colouring was absolutely indescribably beautiful. And how it contrasted with the mountains which were as blue as our own Australian Blue Mountains. I’ll remember that beautiful sunset for many a day. Stopped for dinner (all restaurant cars have been taken off the Kisumu-Nairobi line) and all the Europeans filed up to the refreshment room where we sat down at one or two large tables – “all family like.” As soon as we got back on the train I went to bed. There were three of us in that compartment, the third chap being a SAAF type from 35 Flight – name of Pinnea.
Friday 16 October 1942 The approach to Nairobi reminded me very much of the Australian countryside – there were a lot of gum trees around. On arrival we sought the authorities to whom all Officers have to report in Nairobi but couldn’t find them. So booked in and had breakfast at Torr’s Hotel, a nice five story brick building. After a bath I got dressed in a white shirt, grey slacks, suede shoes, and a topee. With a camera over my shoulder I lacked only a guidebook to make me a perfect Cook’s tourist. Just as we sallied forth from the hotel we met the two SAAF types whom we brought up from Dar to Mombasa last week. Teamed up with them and had a session from 12 – 2 pm. They arranged some women for us tonight. Went out to the WAAF Mess for a few drinks before coming back to the dinner dance at Torr’s Hotel. Incidentally during the day Eric and I hired a car and this helped things a lot. The lass I was with was a WTS – the answer to months on a desert island, thank God!
Saturday 17 October 1942 Surfaced about 10 am this morning – too late for breakfast. Jack Mouat, the SAAF type, was with us so contented ourselves with morning tea. Drove out to 207 Group Headquarters – Jack to see his Colonel and Eric and I to get the latest gen on S. Saw a Naval Lieutenant Commander who told us that S is down in Portuguese East Africa and not in Vichy territory as we heard. She is holed and in five feet of water. All Special Equipment has been destroyed. John Inglis and the crew were picked up by a BOAC boat which was on a test run and have been taken to Durban. There has been a bit of a stink about that I believe. We heard the good news that when Q is finished its major there is a 50-50 chance of us going south too – there’ll be bags of work to do. M won’t be able to go for she’ll only be temporarily patched after her scrape at Seychelles. This afternoon drove out to Eastleigh. Saw a number of aircraft parked around including a Savoia, Douglas and Baltimores. There was one Baltimore lying pranged on the aerodrome – had tried to land on an uncompleted runway. Eric rang up some people called Williams – we got their address from Surgeon Lieutenant Johnston of the Indomitable. They came to dinner with us. Had one hell of a row with the hotel people about letting our table go – eventually got it back.
Sunday 18 October 1942 At about 1 am this morning when the dance at Torr’s had finished, I came to bed but Eric went out on a drinking party and didn’t get to bed till 6 am. Result was that we were very late in getting away on our trip out to Brackenhurst, a country hotel some 20 miles out of Nairobi. The car we had hired came in very handy in this regard. Took Vicky Williams and Alf Lehrue. The drive out was very pretty – we enjoyed it despite the awful condition of most of the road. Arrived at about 1.30 pm and went into a sumptuous dinner. Afterwards wandered out to the first tee of the golf course and lazed about in the sun. Two fairly old Army Lieutenants were trying to get hold of some clubs and balls. Balls seem to be very scarce items these days. Eventually raked up three clubs (a driver, a No. 2 iron and another wooden club about three quarters its right length) and the Army types asked us four to join them. So off we set for a round – six people, three clubs and three balls. Played an “international” match but Eric Saunders and I had no success. Back in Nairobi by 6 pm and officially opened the bar as usual. In bed quite early.
Monday 19 October 1942 Left Nairobi by the 11.50 am train for Molo which is on the way back to Kisumu. At Molo we are going to stay with this Mrs Ryan, an Australian woman about whom Squadron Leader Turner, the Medical Officer at Port Reitz, spoke to me. The early part of the morning was spent in buying a few items of clothing, packing, taking back the car, etc.
The train trip is really a bloody slow one – 12 hours to do a little over 120 miles. Of course there is a devilish amount of climbing and descending done. Some marvelous scenery was provided especially coming down the escarpment when we overlooked the plains. Many views were reminiscent of the Australian countryside, even to gum trees which have been imported. Saw Gil Gil about which we’ve heard so much from Alan Leyden. It’s the Pool for people waiting posting and what a desolate spot it looks. Had dinner at Nakuru, the site of No. 70 Operational Training Unit. Spoke to two Australian Sergeant-pilots who have just been posted there. These lads were at Bournemouth when I was there and came out east when volunteers were called for. They were told that they would be immediately sent to an Operational Training Unit and would be on operations very quickly. In the frame of mind we all were in at Bournemouth this sounded wizard so they came. Poor buggers! Just going to an Operational Training Unit now – nearly 12 months after leaving Service Flying Training School, which incidentally in their case was Macleod (Canada). We reached Molo at 0005 hours – and were met by Mrs Ryan who seems a very bright and charming soul. Had some hot soup by the fire and so to a very welcome bed in a little cottage affair near the house.
Tuesday 20 October 1942 Mrs Ryan unfortunately had to go to Nairobi today and will be away until about Friday. Spent the morning lolling about playing gramophone records and reading. The house here is in an absolutely wizard position – is about 8500 feet and is pretty well on top of a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. There is a very long drive up to the house, flanked on each side by tall gum trees, making the place seem very much like Australia. This afternoon Eric and I walked into Molo and back. The altitude of the place is such that by the time we got back we were extremely puffed.
Wednesday 21 October 1942 Drove down into town with the lord of the manor, Tony Ryan, a six foot four inch Irishman and a bloody fine bloke. His tractor has been giving trouble and he had to go to the garage to see about it. Returned to the house and finished off the book “Guests of the Unspeakable” by T W White. The author was my Commanding Officer, Wing Commander White, when I was at Bournemouth. The book tells of his experiences as a prisoner of war of the Turks during the last war and his subsequent escape. Lord, what he went through.
Coming up in the train the other day I read Philip Gibbs’ latest “The Long Alert.” It tells of a Canadian soldier’s life in England while waiting for the invasion. He falls in love with a married woman though married himself. Many of the situations remind me only too vividly of my lot. Darling Peggy, God knows she’s never out of my mind for an hour. How soon will I forget her, as forget her I must?
Thursday 22 October 1942 Sat around reading “The Story of San Michele” till about 11 am when Eric and I decided that it was about time we had some exercise. So out and marked the tennis court and then played till about 1 pm. As was expected, we were pretty awful but had quite a good knock around. After lunch we were both so exhausted that we fell asleep while reading.
A neighbour of Tony’s arrived for afternoon tea bringing with him a Polish Flight Lieutenant. This latter has had some amazing experiences during the war. Flew against the Hun when Germany invaded Poland, escaped to England when Poland fell and joined the RAF. Then went to France and when she collapsed, he flew around picking up fellow countrymen and putting them down in Spain. The Spaniards however gave them away but eventually they escaped to Gibraltar. He is now supervising the Polish refugees who have come to Kenya. Formerly he was Minister of Agriculture in Poland. I often think that people who have been through the war as he has, losing their homes and having to flee their country leaving a wife and children behind them (as he has done), must look very intolerantly on our easy going way of waging the war. And who can blame them?
Friday 23 October 1942 Spent an awfully lazy but pleasant day just lounging about and reading “The Story of San Michele.” Seem to have lost temporarily the inclination to be up and doing but I must admit that at 5 pm Eric and I went out and marked the court and played tennis for an hour or so.
Molly Ryan, the lady of the house, arrived back from her four day visit to Nairobi at about 9.30 pm. She brought with her an Australian Sergeant-pilot, Mick Woodham, who is instructing at No. 70 Operational Training Unit, Nakuru.
Saturday 24 October 1942 The whole household went down into the village of Molo this morning, Tony to see how the repairs to his tractor are progressing and Molly to deliver the cream to the Creamery and to buy some stores. Back at the house “Garryowen” in the hour before lunch, four of us had a game of poker. Each bought 5/- worth of chips. Hadn’t much luck at first but toward the end my luck changed and helped by a few jackpots and acepots I succeeded in cleaning up the whole pool and then some. Won 27/- I think it was.
This afternoon played quite a few sets of tennis. Although very shaky still, there has been quite a bit of improvement in the few days we’ve been playing.
It was decided that we would all go to the pictures at Nakuru tonight. Joan, the other lass from the Creamery, came too. Saw a wizard silly symphony called “The Circus. “ Main film was “In Name Only. “ Drove Mick out to the aerodrome which is some seven miles out of Nakuru and then home. I drove on the return journey.
Sunday 25 October 1942 Not getting to bed till about 2.30 am this morning, no one was in a tearing hurry to get up. As a matter of fact I was about the first to surface and I didn’t make the grade till nearly 10 am. Were still at breakfast at 11 am. Just before lunch the Ryans received some bad news. The son of a neighbour of theirs was killed in an air crash – he was only 19. Everyone was very cut up about it and I felt very stupid sitting there saying how sorry I was. One gets to take these things as a matter of course, even when those killed are really friends like Jim Unsworth, Rob Cooke, Rex Marr, Alan Ada, Frank Henderson and John Wylie. One could go on listing names in decreasing order of friendship.
Lazed around as usual. Finished reading “H. M. Pulham Esq” by J P Marquand. I remember reading “The Readers Digest” synopsis of this book when I was in hospital at Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), Canada.
Monday 26 October 1942 Went down into Molo with Tony this morning and sent off a cable to Dad for his birthday on November 1st. The Ryans went over to see the Trenchs, the people whose son was killed. Settled down to some letter writing – the first time I have been in the mood for it for a long time. I don’t think I shall be able to post them until I get back to Kisumu for although Officers are allowed to censor their own mail, it still has to bear the unit stamp. Court martial and all sorts of things await anybody who posts letters in a post box without their going through the unit.
Late this afternoon a Mrs Lewin, daughter-in-law of Air Commodore Lewin, came in to see the Ryans. Brought with her three lads she had staying with her – pukkah Englishmen of the type I can’t stand!
Tuesday 27 October 1942 Coming over to breakfast this morning found that a minor tragedy had hit the house. During the night an operation Molly had had done six months ago had come unstuck. After doing some preliminary shopping in Molo I drove her into Nakuru. En route called at the Molo branch of the Red Cross. It is situated right next to a German internment camp. This latter, at the moment is holding the German Consular Staff from Addis Ababa. They are shortly to be returned to Germany in exchange for some of our people. Did the 33-mile trip to Nakuru in 50 minutes, which was fair going, the roads being what they are. Had lunch at the Rift Valley Sports Club, a very nice spot reputed to serve the best food in Kenya. Molly’s appointment was not till 3.30 pm so to fill in the time drove out to No. 70 Operational Training Unit and met the Medical Officer Offley Evans. Picked up Mick Woodham and Johnny Johnson, another Sergeant.
Wednesday 28 October 1942 This morning I intended to write some letters but was sidetracked by Molly and Eric who wanted to play poker. Molly by the way is staying in bed under doctor’s orders. It was a disastrous game for me for I lost 14/-.
Late this afternoon, Eric, Piglet and I went for a ride. The nag I had had tremendous acceleration – just touch him and he was into a gallop in a couple of strides. Rode over the top of the hill behind the house, along the road and around a big wheat paddock – about four miles in all. Quite enough for a start for even with this short ride, I began to get a sore tail and chaffed legs.
After dinner had another game of poker – equally disastrous for me for I again lost 14/- – 28/- in one day.
Thursday 29 October 1942 While I was dressing this morning I said to Eric that a game of golf would go down rather well. He agreed but we could not see how we could get over to the links which are about four or five miles from the house. However on coming over to breakfast the first thing the Ryans said was that we should go and have a round of golf! Transport difficulties were solved for Tony was going out to a flax demonstration a mile or so beyond the links. The links are attached to the Highlands Hotel. Played nine holes only. Had a caddy each and another to go ahead and watch the balls. They cost (the caddies) 20 cents for nine holes. The fourth tee on the links is reputed to be the highest tee in the British Empire – must be almost 9000 feet above sea level. We took quite a number of photographs of ourselves hitting off from it. The round over, went to the bar for a drink and found two Sergeants from the crew of O were staying at the hotel. Had a few beers then went down to the other hotel, picking up en route two more of O’s crew and so a nice little session developed. I slept during the afternoon, a silly thing to do for when I awakened I felt really lousy. Pussy Trench and her young sister came over here for dinner and stayed the night. She is going down to Nairobi early tomorrow.
Friday 30 October 1942 Definitely had a writing purge today. Everything is now up to date, thank goodness.
Molly asked me which I’d rather have as her share of the picture money, 10/- or a party (10/- worth of Denise as she put it. Denise being a woman she’s invited up for dinner). It was quite a bright dinner party with plenty of low cracks flying about.
Just prior to dinner had another game of poker with the same terrible result.
Saturday 31 October 1942 Were up bright and early this morning getting the packing done. The room had to be cleaned out as two Fleet Air Arm people are taking our place at “Garryowen.” Molly took us down to the station but en route called at the Red Cross place which is located next door to the Internment Camp. Saw some of the German internees – the Consul from Addis Ababa was walking along the road out of the camp. They seem to be allowed a good deal of freedom. I went and asked him if he objected to my taking his photo. He didn’t so I took quite a few of him and his small son. He asked me if I would send him some. He has none of his son. I promised I would, only to find out later that it is not allowed. I shouldn’t even have brought a camera into the area. Too bad! The train left about 11.45 am. On board was that Aussie Cypher Officer who was in the Port Reitz Mess. Also in the compartment were two Army Officers going home to Rhodesia after being in the Abyssinian campaign. They told some ghastly stories of that affair. It is only Haile Selassie’s tribe that are in favour of the British – the rest of the wogs would far prefer the Italians who treat them as black brothers whereas we treat them as black bastards. What the eye doesn’t see ——-! One of the horror stories is this: In an Italian administrative building there was a poster showing an Abyssinian strung up by the neck underneath a caption to the effect that “This is the only treatment they understand.” When Haile Selassie’s warriors saw this on entering the city they grabbed the nearest Italian and pinned him to the poster by sticking a crowbar through his guts and then cut his balls off. The Army Officer had the job of taking the unfortunate Eytie down from the wall.
Had lunch at Lumba, afternoon tea at Muhoroni and arrived at Kisumu about 6 pm. The crew have had a lousy leave – spent four days at Kisumu. It was so bad they complained and Pearson recalled them and they have spent the rest of the time at Kisumu Hotel. An Engineering Officer, Ken Willis, was at the hotel when we arrived. He used to be on 240 Squadron but has come out here to be Engineering Officer of a Catalina Squadron which is forming, No. 259 Squadron. In all there are seven Catalina Squadrons coming out and Kisumu is going to do all the major inspections. Pearson has made a b-fool of himself by running around with a married woman and telling her that his wife was killed in London. His story has got back and he is being taken away from Kisumu, reduced in rank and God knows what else.
Sunday 1 November 1942 Dad’s birthday. I hope he got the cable I sent a few days ago. Were up early and over to the slipway to do a check swing on the compass. While doing this, a signal came in from Mombasa asking us to get back there as soon as possible. It looks like a good sign for our getting south to Durban or Cape Town but when we did arrive, this was quickly squashed by the Commanding Officer (now a Group Captain incidentally) who said we have sufficient boats south in N, J and K.
But about the trip back. Took off, found “George” was unserviceable, flew over the lake [Lake Victoria]. Fired 700 rounds off into the water, beat up Kisumu and then set course for Molo. Arrived there, we beat up the Ryan’s house for quite a time and threw a message to them, then set course for Mombasa. Had reached Lake Naivasha when a hell of a bank of cloud rolled up. Circled for a while, picked our way through gaps in the cloud, climbed to 13,000 feet but it was still another 10,000 feet above us. About then it began to get terribly bumpy – so much so that we had to strap ourselves in. Were altering course and height every tick of the clock going where the cloud wasn’t. Would have given a Navigator a headache if he’d been on board. There were some very nasty looking mountain peaks looming up now and again. At one stage it took two of us to hang on to the controls. Eventually arrived safely at Mombasa to find no one around at the slipway except the Duty Captain. They have started this early rising racket and knocking off at 2 pm. Found a huge wallop of mail for me – 20 letters, five cables, three parcels and six newspapers. Whizzo! Are living in the new Mess at Kipevu. Jack Mouat rang up from Port Reitz – later came down for drinks and dinner.
Monday 2 November 1942 Since the Squadron has moved down to the Kipevu Mess, they have been doing this early rising business. Up at 5 am, breakfast at 8, lunch at 12, and stop work at 2 pm to avoid the heat of the afternoon. It’s good I suppose but I’m not too keen on having to get up at 5 am. On arrival last night the Commanding Officer told us he wasn’t going to send us south to Durban or Cape Town. This rather dashed the hopes that we had been building up while on leave. However quite early this morning a call came through from Operations to know how soon we could leave for Durban!! Raced into town to pick up the money sent to me by Dad for my birthday. Saw Mrs Macleod who invited me there for New Years Eve. Did a test flight this afternoon to check up on the Special Equipment – took up with us the RDF [radio direction finding] expert from the Illustrious. Went up to Port Reitz Hotel tonight and had dinner with Alan Leyden and Doug Colcough. Gave me some gen about the shipping losses down south. There were two ships torpedoed in 20 minutes yesterday. Also got some addresses from them for Durban.
Tuesday 3 November 1942 Took off at 0645 hours. Tom Cairns came with us as Third Pilot. He is to do a recco of St Lucia Bay when we get to Durban. Sergeant Lenehan from M’s crew is acting as Navigator. Pilot Officer Swann was a passenger and is a Cypher Officer proceeding to Pamanzi to take up duty there. The trip to Pamanzi was quite uneventful apart from the fact that we did it in just over six hours instead of eight hours. The winds have become more favourable. Landed around the opposite side of Dzaoudzi to which we did formerly. There is a Flying Officer Rhoades in charge there now – a sort of permanent Commanding Officer. We are due to leave for Durban at 2.00am tomorrow so turned in early. Late this afternoon while moving the boat from the refueling buoy, I had an awful fright. There were only four of us on board, Tom Cairns, Sergeant Howell, a maintenance type and me. We missed the buoy on the first approach but on trying to get the drogues in prior to another approach they couldn’t do so – the trip lines were well and truly wound round the main line. The boat was heading for the shore fast and full port engine was only just enough to counteract the crosswind and the drogues. I thought at any minute the drogues must break but fortunately they didn’t. Out in the open water it took us nearly quarter of an hour to get them in.
Woke up at 11 pm to hear the Cypher Officer say that our departure has been delayed for 24 hours. I wonder if this is a prelude to our not going to Durban at all?
Wednesday 4 November 1942 The delay in our departure gave us an opportunity of going on board and cleaning up the boat a bit. Revived the old Pamanzi days by using the aircraft for a diving platform. The water was as lovely as ever it was – so beautifully clear. Had a sleep during the afternoon. Four of the French people came up to the Mess for a drink tonight. We again met them when we called in at the Army Mess for half an hour or so.
The RAF Mess has acquired a wireless since I was here before. It makes one seem much closer to civilisation. Heard a program from London.
Thursday 5 November 1942 Were up at 0030 hours and were most relieved to find that no further signal had come in to prevent our departure. However there was one to say that another ship has been torpedoed down south. Were out on board by about 0115 hours. Flight Sergeant Vincent is coming with us. He has not been improving in the hospital at Pamanzi (such as it is) and a stay in a big hospital at Durban plus a change of climate should fix him up. The flare path had three flares 700 yards apart – we went almost the length of it beyond the last flare before turning to take-off. Eric did the take-off which was his first fully laden night take-off and my first in a flying boat. Were airborne by the second flare, circled back over the island, set course and climbed to 5000 feet. I stayed in the cockpit for two hours and then went back to the bunk for a sleep. There is not much to tell about the trip except that at 0700 hours we were approaching a storm. I began to climb but Eric stopped me. Eventually we circled it but only after some severe buffeting. Made a landfall about an hour’s flying north of Durban. The country looked very green and in from the coast rose up in tablelands. Durban at last hove in sight and what a pretty place it looks. My first impression was the red-tiled roofs of the houses and it made me think it looks more like an Australian city than any I’ve seen since leaving home. There was quite a big convoy waiting outside to come in the narrow harbour entrance – it appeared to contain some very big ships. In the harbour itself were two now familiar battlewagons – the Revenge and Royal Sovereign. We circled the city (passed right over an aerodrome in doing so) and landed in what we thought was the correct channel. On alighting, a launch whizzed up alongside, threw us a towline and told us to switch off our engines. They told us that where we had landed there was only three foot six inches of water at the moment and it was then high tide. At low tide the sandbanks are well out of the water. Were towed to the BOAC moorings. On going ashore we saw four Sergeants of the ill-fated S – they haven’t been interned as we thought. Got a graphic description of the hellish storm they went through. How the kite didn’t break up in the air our Lord alone knows. We three Officers are billeted at the Royal Hotel in the centre of the city. Had a quick roam around the town trying to find somewhere to change my East African money for South African. On returning from this tour I felt thoroughly fagged out and aching in many limbs. A hot bath and few beers made me forget this. Found a wizard hotel, The Edward, in Marine Parade and from there started phoning up some of the addresses we have been given. Eric clicked first and the lass he got hold of promised to produce two other girls for Tom Cairns and me. We meet the blackout once again. We called round at The Canteen for them. The one I landed, an Elsie Evans, is an Australian and knows Paul Magee, Pat Macdonald and a whole host of ‘Varsity people that I do. From then on we got on famously. Ended up at The Stardust, a fair sort of nightclub.
Friday 6 November 1942 Transport was very late calling at the hotel for us and we didn’t get to the boat until nearly 10 am. The first job was to unload all unnecessary kit from it to enable us to take eight depth charges if possible. The crew then did a 40-hour inspection on her. After lunch we made an endeavour to get some money for the crew but the Accounts people here don’t want to be at all helpful. Eric says the same about the other Air Force people he’s struck so far – they’re more interested in paper work and bloody forms than coping with the operational trip. Then out to the marine airport and cleaned the boat in readiness for an early take-off tomorrow. We are to fly for four days solidly dawn to dusk. A good thing – it’s about time work came our way. The midday papers came out with the news of a complete victory in Egypt. Things seem to have gone our way all of a sudden. Tonight I went out to dinner at the Evans’ flat but couldn’t eat much as I was feeling very seedy – a touch of “the shits” seems to be coming on.
Saturday 7 November 1942 “The shits” – and how!!! I spent most of last night and early this morning on the lavatory. Felt thoroughly exhausted at dawn and just couldn’t go out on operations. Bloody hell!! Everything happens to me. The first Catalina operational trip to be done from Durban and I miss it. [Eric, Tom Cairns and the rest of the crew went on an eight and a half hour creeping-line-ahead patrol off Lourenço Marques.] A Medical Officer came to see me about midday and immediately bunged me into Addington Military Hospital. And there I’ll be for God knows how long.
Sunday 8 November 1942 A grand piece of news on the wireless this morning was of the American landing in North West Africa at Oran, Algiers and Casablanca. Is this to be used as a base for a Second Front coming up through Unoccupied France, Italy or Greece? The rest of the news is very encouraging. Stalingrad still holds, 8th Army continues to advance in Egypt, the Aussies are driving the Japs back in New Guinea, and there have been two big RAF raids on Genoa from Britain. It would be grand to think that the war was entering its final stage.
Elsie Evans and Pat Tyrrel came to see me this afternoon and brought me some magazines – all of which was very kind of them after such a short acquaintance.
A sandy-haired ancient little Sub-lieutenant, who sleeps in the next bed to me, has just come in the ward after a day aboard his ship. He is as full as a goog – had put his false teeth in his pocket for safekeeping.
Monday 9 November 1942 Nothing terribly exciting happened. Not much can happen to one in hospital.
I hear Q take-off on her patrol and return about 1730 hours. Yesterday however she was only out for four hours or so, returning at 1130 so I was told by Sergeants Thomas and Richardson who came to visit me this afternoon. They brought me some “presents” which they said I must not open till after they had gone. They turned out to be a toy rattle, aeroplane and pipe!
Elsie Evans dropped in for three quarters of an hour at 7 pm. The news still continues to be good – progress everywhere.
Tuesday 10 November 1942 About midday they asked me if I would care to be moved into the next ward as I would be able to get a view from there. In I went but it seemed a bit of a hoax for they placed my bed with my back to the view and the windows have blackout covering nailed over them anyhow.
Had a regular stream of visitors this afternoon. An Aussie Pilot Officer Observer named Trevor Harrison came. I didn’t know him, or he me. He is being invalided back to Australia because of eye trouble. Hard luck, because he hasn’t done any flying since leaving there 13 months ago. He expects to leave Durban any time. I gave him a telegram to send to the family when he lands. Then came Howell, Wooley and Lenehan together. They told me that the crew is going to do the 80-hour inspection on Q – no maintenance staff is available. Will take three days. Also told me Staniforth had gone to pieces during yesterday’s flight [a nine and a half hour anti-submarine patrol and shipping recco off Lourenço Marques.]. Sergeant Millem then called, closely followed by Elsie and Pat.
Wednesday 11 November 1942 [A newspaper cutting posted in the diary states “German Army marches into Unoccupied France”]
Armistice Day – bringing with it startling news of German troops crossing into Unoccupied France, a term which now becomes a misnomer. Startling perhaps, but really not surprising for it is the logical German counter to our occupation of North West Africa. The tempo of the war should speed up very quickly now. Air battles on a hitherto undreamed of scale are prophesied.
The weather here today has been absolutely filthy – driving rain all day. No visitors came nor did I expect any. As matter of fact I believe Eric and Pat were going up to Maritzburg to see Ethel Campbell.
Thursday 12 November 1942 Lying in hospital there is very little to write about. The most one can do is comment on the news. Old Admiral Darlan is an interesting problem. Reports say that he is in North Africa. What is he up to? Is he turning on the Vichy and the Germans thinking that they have no chance of winning? Or has he, since the fall of France, been playing the arch-patriot and now thinks the time is ripe to show his hand? Arch-traitor, or arch-patriot? Only one of the many perplexing problems that only time will solve.
Had a visit from Tom Cairns this afternoon and later from Eric Saunders who tells me that Sergeant Millem has been rushed off to hospital with a burst appendix.
Elsie Evans came about 8 pm. She says it looks as if they will be leaving for Asmara on Wednesday next.
News that the convoy which brought the American troops to North Africa consisted of 500 Merchant ships and 350 Naval units.
Friday 13 November 1942 Have been feeling much better today. The pain in my stomach has subsided quite a lot. Finished John Buchan’s “Three Hostages” and read most of Cedric Belfrage’s “Away from it All”, a book which began in fine style and trailed off into just another travel book from an escapologist looking for a South Sea paradise.
It seems that each patient who is fit enough to drink is allowed an alcohol ration each evening. I was given a tot of rum and ginger ale tonight.
Mrs Evans and Elsie came tonight. I’m afraid I can’t write much about my fellow patients. There is a Royal Navy Reserve Lieutenant suffering from sugar diabetes who has had some weird experiences in the war – picking up torpedoed seamen and eventually being torpedoed himself. Most people he says, mark down a few articles that they’ll take with them if they have to abandon ship. Strange as it seems, they always seem to end up bringing something totally different. He cited the case of a man whom he had picked up – the chap was last to board the ship from the lifeboat. In his hand he had an old alarm clock. The waves were monstrous and this chap couldn’t get aboard. But he wasn’t going to sacrifice the clock. The thing went on for so long that eventually the skipper told him to chuck the bloody thing aboard. He did and it fell on the deck, springs going everywhere.
Saturday 14 November 1942 We had a new night nurse who believes in waking us very early. One bloke protested loudly – said it was too much of a shock to his system to be wakened at 5.30 am with a strident voice saying “Here’s the bottle. Hurry up I want a specimen.” The funny part of it was that the specimen was inadvertently thrown out and the nurse had to come back and ask for another – which he found great difficulty in raising!
A new Medical Officer came round this morning and gave me the good news that I could get up and wander around. I told him how urgent it was for me to get out of hospital as soon as possible. I may make it by Monday all going well.
This day, twelve months ago saw the culmination of Bill Clarke’s and my efforts to have leave in New York, in neutral USA. I recall our second phone call to the US Consul in St Johns, New Brunswick, arranging an urgent appointment for 11 am the following day. But could we make it? Could the Trans Canada plane leave Charlottetown as the weather was foul – blowing a gale and raining – and the airline didn’t fly if the weather was bad. However we did depart, arrived at Moncton and then on to St Johns to get our visas from the American Consul. What a hassle it was – and only one year ago. So much water has flowed under the bridge since then.
Sunday 15 November 1942 Church bells, silent since Dunkirk, rang throughout Britain today to celebrate the victory of our forces in Egypt. Since Dunkirk the ringing of church bells in UK was to proclaim that German troops had landed on British soil. There doesn’t seem much hope of that at present and please God it will never come to pass.
The new Medical Officer on his tour of the wards this morning seemed to think that I should be discharged tomorrow. Hope it comes off.
Tom Cairns visited this afternoon bringing my uniform from the hotel. In the pockets I found some letters that have just been sent down from Mombasa. The one from the family is dated 23rd August. That leaves a gap in mail from the family from 13th June – 23rd August.
Other visitors – Elsie, Pat and Eric. There is talk that Eric, Tom and I should leave the Royal Hotel (£1 a day) and take a service flat. Seems a good idea for they have very few meals at the pub. Went to a film in another ward – old one, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr in “Green Hell.”
Monday 16 November 1942 The Medical Officer on his rounds this morning found me fully dressed and with bag packed and ready to leave. He said I could be discharged alright but all the paper work that had to be done made it impossible for me to leave today. However I was allowed to go into town and stay out till 11.30 pm as long as I came back to the hospital to sleep. Took Elsie to the Balmoral Hotel for lunch after which we went around the town in her car while she fixed up passports etc for her trip to Asmara. Left her and did some of my own shopping – bought cigarettes and tobacco for Christmas presents for Dad.
The Tyrrels gave a small farewell cocktail party tonight for Pat and Elsie. We ended up by staying to dinner. After all the day’s dashing about my ten days in hospital began to make itself felt. Couldn’t raise the energy to go dancing so returned to the hospital about 11.30 pm.
Eric and Tom have been out on a job all day [11 hours] escorting a torpedoed ship, the SS Advisor. There have been three U-boat sightings, the first since 3rd November. SS Advisor proceeding five knots stern first.
Tuesday 17 November 1942 This morning Admiral Sir James Somerville, Commander-in-Chief Eastern Fleet, paid a visit to the hospital. I have not seen him before. He is quite a small man but with a very keen face and enough gold braid to keep Gieves [a famous London men’s outfitter] going for a month.
Got my discharge papers OK and a lift back to the Royal Hotel by the RAF Medical Officer. Spent the afternoon on an extended shopping tour. Got most of my Christmas presents away to the family. Can only hope now that the ship on which they go doesn’t get sunk by one of the many submarines haunting Union of South Africa waters at present.
Met Elsie and Mrs Evans at 4 pm and went for a drive until Elsie remembered something that she had still to do in connection with her trip.
Stayed at the Evans for dinner then the four of us (Pat and Eric) trooped off to The Stardust and I didn’t get back to the hotel till 3.30 am. Elsie and Pat are off on the flying boat early in the morning.
Wednesday 18 November 1942 Did a spot more shopping this morning while waiting for Tom Cairns to move out to the new RAF Mess at Congella. He had been sent across to Salisbury Island for gen. However when he hadn’t turned up after two hours waiting, I packed my own stuff all ready to go out. Ran into Ken Murray with two of the Mess Officers. Had a drink and a terrific lunch at the Playhouse before going out to Congella.
Q is still unserviceable – has to have a plug change. We are going to run up the engines during the morning. Spent a goodly part of the evening on the telephone ringing up all the girls’ addresses I had been given. Tried to get a lass to go out tonight but they all were busy. Most of them are free tomorrow night but I expect to be over on Salisbury Island as we will probably be Strike or First Available Aircraft.
Five of the lads went into the pictures. Saw “Captains of the Clouds” – all about the Air Training Scheme in Canada. Came back to the Mess and knocked over a bottle of champagne, out of cups!!
Thursday 19 November 1942 Spent most of the day on the aircraft waiting for the Engineers to locate and repair the cause of the large drop in revolutions in the left hand magneto of the starboard engine. Ran the engine up while we were still moored to the buoy à la BOAC – that is a rope tied from the tail of the aircraft to the shore. Changed the plugs but that didn’t fix the drop in revolutions. Then checked all the leads. Two in the distributor block were loose, also two main leads. When these were fixed – hipana (Swahili for “no”) drop in revolutions! All the crew of Q came across to Salisbury Island by cutter tonight. It was too late to bring the aircraft around when we left. This island is in the middle of Durban Harbour and used to be a sort of holiday resort. All the RAF types are billeted in what must have been quite a nice beach house in the days of peace. The aircraft are moored outside the back door of the cottage which faces out across the harbour to the city. The Squadron Leader is in a little doll-like house which serves as an Orderly Room as well, with Bungey Hart as Adjutant. Sat around sharing the odd beer (drinking out of a bottle) and picked up a few bits of gossip:-
- That the only two virgins in Durban are Maydon [maiden] Wharf and Maydon Channel!
- While 209 Detachment was operating from north of Cape Town the Squadron Leader had at least seven blips on the Special Equipment which he swears blind were U-boats. However when he began homing on them, the blips disappeared. Seems to indicate that the enemy is able to tell when we are using Special Equipment.
- An amusing story – a Catalina Pilot on patrol in the Bay of Biscay came across at dawn one morning two U-boats signaling to each other by Aldis Lamp. A lucky bullet from one of the U-boats put the bombing circuit unserviceable and he could not drop his depth charges. The U-boats finished their signaling at their leisure then slowly submerged.
Friday 20 November 1942 Was compiling a list of Q’s flying times since leaving Mombasa when an order came through for us to take-off immediately and to proceed to a position off Lourenço Marques to search for a ship which may have been torpedoed. Arrived at the position, did a square search, but found no ship wreckage or anything. Approached quite close to Delagoa Bay – saw one ship aground but it has been there for some time, but also another ship entering the bay. Could not identify it without getting too close inshore and infringing Portuguese territorial rights. J had quite a good day. Had gone out on an anti-submarine patrol and had come across a large patch of red oil and wreckage and four rafts – three with survivors. Two rafts were tied together. They dropped their aircraft’s rubber dinghy as one of the rafts appeared to be in a bad condition. The dinghy landed 20 yards from the raft but the survivors failed to reach it. Also dropped seven Mae Wests, biscuits, and a two-gallon tin of water which the survivors reached. This is the first bit of joy the Squadron has had for ages.
Saturday 21 November 1942 Q was supposed to be Duty Crew – to provide a refuelling party, Orderly Officer and Orderly Sergeant. I had two aircraft to refuel – Q and J. Had a hell of a job getting the refueller alongside because of a very strong wind and current. Eventually got the job done and we were about to commence on J when we were ordered to take-off immediately and search for survivors from the torpedoed SS Scottish Chief (although we did not know the name of the ship when we took off). We were airborne 20 minutes after being ordered to take-off! The position we had to search was southeast of Durban. Came across a convoy about one hour out going on a course of 1200 True. It was not till after 1527 hours after doing many legs of a square search that we at last sighted the two rafts tied together. The survivors waved like blazes and all appeared to be quite fit. They were moving from one raft to the other. Fortunately the convoy was only eight to ten miles away at this stage so we were able to signal the position of the rafts to the escorting corvette. Flew back and forth from the corvette to the rafts to give moral support to the survivors and to lead the corvette to the rafts. How relieved the survivors looked. Photographed them when they were picked up. Back to base after 7 pm. Taken to Congella Base. Rang some women to go out tonight but as it was so late I was not really surprised that they couldn’t come. So had a hot shower and went to bed myself. Very pleased with the day’s work. Feel that we have done something worthwhile in this flying game at last.
Sunday 22 November 1942 Slept in till after 10 am then managed a meal in the Mess. We’re supposed to have the day off but about 11 am Jeep Balfour told me that Q’s crew had to report back after lunch to Salisbury Island. I decided that in the hour or so left, I would do a bit of visiting – called on Jean Williams, a lass whose address Des Hosking had given me. Proved to be quite an attractive girl. Rang the Squadron Leader from her place and found that we don’t have to report back till tomorrow. Stayed for lunch and till 5 pm with the Williams and then went out to the Durban Country Club and met two other girls. This club is a wizard place – golf links, tennis courts and squash courts. We are honorary members there so will try to work in a game of golf.
Monday 23 November 1942 Were due to move over to Salisbury Island for our next tour of duty, by the 8.15 am dinghy. But no dinghy arrived. I rang for one but by the time it reached here, transacted some business, it was about 12.30. Before leaving I had to chase around and get hold of two international code signal flags, T and E, to bring over to the island.
Spent a goodly portion of the afternoon making up our Sortie Reports with our Navigator, Flight Sergeant Vincent. After that, as there was a typewriter handy, I labouriously got off a letter to the family.
Wandered down to the Sergeants Mess tonight and had a drink with the crew. Chatting away to them, I found out quite a lot. Sergeant Thomas, the Second Engineer, used to be an RAF champion boxer and Stoner was married three weeks before we left England and is to become a father in February. Vincent used to work in Ospreys in London. Has been married for some time but neither he nor his wife believes in having children.
Tuesday 24 November 1942 Squadron Leader Barraclough took off in K this morning to do a recco of St Lucia Bay, 100 miles or so north of Durban. Group Captain Shenton, the Commanding Officer of RAF Congella Station, went with him. If the place is suitable for a flying boat base, the idea is for us to move there eventually. The immediate idea however is to have it as an emergency night landing ground. At present we can only do day patrols from Durban because it is impossible to lay a flare path here with all the shipping and the narrow channel. As things stand, it is really a waste of a Catalina altogether using them on daylight patrols only.
A spot of sleeping and letter writing filled in most of the afternoon. Q was First Available Boat today but no job came in.
Wednesday 25 November 1942 We were First Available Boat again today – nothing seemed to be doing. We were sitting in the “Glass House” (the watch office – cum Operations Room in our cottage “Cottonwood” on Salisbury Island) when at midday, got a call from John Inglis who is Air Liaison Officer at Naval Headquarters for an aircraft to take-off immediately and to proceed to a position 250 miles NE of Durban and search for survivors from the SS Dornington Castle. Took extra water cans which we were to drop if we sighted them. Well, off we stooged and searched but saw bugger all but sea – not even a ship. After an hour in the air we received a signal from Base telling us that we were to land and spend the night at St Lucia Bay. This would give us an extra hour in the search area. Was wild in one way for about 20 minutes before we were ordered to take-off, I had arranged to take Jean Williams to dinner and dance. Was unable to cancel it before we left. I landed at St Lucia Bay on the lake. It is a deserted looking spot but should make a good operational base. There are bags of room for take-off though the water was inclined to be rather choppy when I landed Q. Incidentally there are flocks of flamingos all around. There are no moorings yet so we had to anchor. This means a Pilot and some of the crew staying aboard all night in case the boat comes adrift. I was elected. That’s what Second Pilots are for! So while the others whizzed off to the hotel some 12 miles away, Thomas, Maguire, Richardson and I stayed aboard. Took watches of an hour apiece. Listened direct to London before going to bed. Heard the popular tune of the day “Jingle, jangle, jingle” three times in the hour I listened. We certainly do get into some spots we boat people. Can’t imagine the family a year or so ago seeing me anchored on a flying boat in the middle of a lake in Africa!
Thursday 26 November 1942 Did my second watch from 1 – 2.30 am. The anchor was holding all right. Read a couple of detective stories to pass away the time. Was awakened by Richardson at 6 am to say that the launch with the other types aboard was putting out from the shore. Took-off at 6.30 am and when airborne, sent a signal to Base asking for instructions and telling them we had fuel for six hours remaining. Eventually returned and continued yesterday’s unsuccessful search but still no joy. Arrived back at Durban about 1.30 pm to find that Ted Taylor had come down by BOAC from Mombasa with a huge load of mail for us. I scored 31 letters – the most ever at one time. News from Mombasa is that Jim Mecklem has been made an acting Flight Lieutenant. K was going up to St Lucia Bay late this afternoon to work off her last few hours before her major, in night flying instruction for two of the Second Pilots, Kennedy and Mangan. But the weather closed in and K didn’t leave. As a result Q’s crew were allowed ashore. Rang Jean Williams and fixed a date in lieu of last night’s failure. Eric and I went to the Edward, had a few drinks, a lovely dinner, picked up the women and went along to the Cosmo, Durban’s other night club. The band consists mainly of a Hammond Organ and gave out great rhythm. Jean is the most marvellous dancer I have ever been with – as light as a feather.
Friday 27 November 1942 Slept the night at Congella. Awoke to find the place a veritable bog-hole. Had been raining all night and the mud was terrific. Went into Naval Headquarters this morning. We had to give an account of the W/T [wireless telegraphy] fading we had noticed around St Lucia on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. It looks as if our days in Durban are numbered. The wilds of St Lucia Bay are to be our lot shortly – only sensible too, for it will allow us to operate at night. Was on board J while she was beached late this afternoon for her 80-hour inspection. Finished reading all the letters from the family. Poor old Wal has been rejected by the RAAF again because of one leg being 1 5/8 inches shorter than the other. Is trying the Navy now but doesn’t want to go in until he has finished his second year Medicine – at the end of the year. I can understand how he feels but it would be better for him to stay at the ‘Varsity. Jack Davenport has been awarded the DFC – why they don’t say. Ian Thomson (Colquhoun) and Bill Campbell have both been killed. Joy Goldsmith is engaged to Ken Rothwell, Gwen Ross and Nan Lane are in the Services. Bill Brand and Margaret Opie were married. Ian Morse, Barney Parsons and Murray Hall are back in Australia.
Saturday 28 November 1942 Were First Available Boat again today. About 11 am got a hell of a shock to find that Q had no fuel aboard. It had occurred this way. When we landed on Thursday night the refueller went alongside to do its stuff but it began to rain so operations were abandoned. No word was sent to the Duty Captain to this effect. It would have looked bloody funny if we had been ordered off. So I went out and filled her up. There was a hell of a wind blowing. We came adrift from the buoy at one stage and began to race towards the shore dragging the refueller with us. Fortunately the refueller went full ahead and everything was under control.
Eric and I went over on the Liberty Boat tonight. Drank and ate at The Edward and then went to the Playhouse to the picture “Man in her Life.”
Sunday 29 November 1942 Up at 0430 hours and airborne at 0540 hours on anti-submarine patrol and shipping recco off Lourenço Marques. The scheme was to do three legs of a creeping-line-ahead patrol northward just south of Delagoa Bay, then pick up a convoy at 10 am off Inyack Island and then do a creeping-line-ahead anti-submarine sweep ahead of the convoy, returning to Base by 1900 hours. We were to report if the convoy was not of the expected composition of seven ships. A couple of hours after we were airborne, received a signal from Base asking us to tell the ships to keep together as there would be a destroyer meeting them before dark. The convoy proved to be of six ships only and it was a hell of a time before they would answer our visual signal by Aldis Lamp. They were quite close inshore, and in circling while signaling, we flew well inside Portuguese waters and at one stage were over land – infringement of territorial rights. Met the destroyer Inconstant off St Lucia Bay at about 1600 hours. She was going flat out and looked a lovely sight. Shortly after this, came across a Portuguese sloop of 3000 tons, making very little way. She was painted white with their flag on the hull. Seemed to be towing two lifeboats. Was it lifeboat drill or was she preparing to refuel these bloody submarines that are eluding us? When we arrived back the Navy knew nothing of this sloop. It was a 13-hour trip today, giving me a total of 466 hours of which 113 are on operations. Went across to Congella tonight but have to return to the island early in the morning.
Monday 30 November 1942 Brought back to the island a SAAF Radio Observer, Jimmy Burt, who is on Venturas at Port Elizabeth. He wants to see our installation of Special Equipment for they are putting it in their aircraft. Refueled Q before lunch. The Squadron Leader arrived back in K with Jeep Balfour. These two have been giving Jack Kennedy and Ted Mangan night landings and take-offs at St Lucia Bay these last two nights. They are the first of the new Second Pilots to get it. Neither of them soloed however.
Talking of the Squadron Leader, this afternoon he said that there has been more U-boat activity off Cape Town so I shouldn’t be surprised if some boats are sent round there.
A story about one of the sinkings off Lourenço Marques – a survivor tells that the submarine was an Italian, manned by a German crew. The commander was most polite – apologised for sinking them, asked if they were alright for food and water and almost offered to send a distress signal for them!
Tuesday 1 December 1942 N came in quite late last night and was due to be refueled right away. However a devilish strong wind sprang up and it made the aircraft swing so much that it was out of the question to get the refueller alongside. I had to get up at 0630 hours this morning to do the job then. The refueller set out for Congella after this to fill up to its capacity. Was about 1400 hours before it got back and before I could start refueling K, which was due to go back to St Lucia Bay for night flying. Squadron Leader is going to Naval Headquarters to act as Liaison Officer while John Inglis goes to St Lucia. While on board K, got a message to add another 100 gallons or so to Q. It turned out that both N and Q were to leave at 1800 hours on an anti-submarine sweep to look for the U-boat that torpedoed the Llandaff Castle, laden with troops. The idea of two kites leaving on a job together gives me a bit of a thrill – similar to what lads in Bomber Command must feel. We took off along Maydon Channel, turned on the step along Maydon Wharf – over a two-mile run and two and a half minutes approximately. Passed J returning to Durban after patrol. Passed over on St Lucia Bay at 2000 feet and saw K on the lake so signalled by Aldis “Bung ho” and received back “Good night.” Began our square search off Delagoa Bay. The Navigator found on about the second or third leg that an astro fix put him nearly 60 miles from his dead reckoning position. God knows what had gone wrong. Altered course, trusting his fix and eventually came out exactly where we should have been. Only had the elevator and aileron control of “George” so that meant ever-constant attention to the rudder.
Wednesday 2 December 1942 Not a bloody thing did we see all night – not even a blip on the Special Equipment. The moon came up in the east about 0200 hours and provided a damned good light (when looking up moon) for seeing the silhouette on the water. After the square search we continued up the coast for about 40 miles and then began a creeping-line-ahead patrol southwards till dawn. No joy at all. Arrived back at Durban about 0800 hours only to find cloud right down on the deck. After stooging about for some time, eventually landed outside the boom in the open sea. There was quite a swell running and boy, did we bounce – five times I think it was. Taxied in through the boom, moored up and so to bed till 4 pm. Then sallied over to town with the SAAF Radio Observer. He took me to a cocktail party with some friends of his people named Parker. The wife Dot is one of the brightest and loveliest girls I’ve seen for some time. We got on remarkably well, no doubt helped by many brandies, especially as I had had no breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dot couldn’t come out to the Stardust as her husband, Ginger, was writing an exam tomorrow but they raked up another lass for me (also married), one Denise Mann who lives in some very “swep-up” flats – Grosvenor Court. We had a damned good night and 4 am saw me sleeping on the floor in Jimmy Burt’s room at the Federal Hotel, after having a difficult time with the wog lift driver who reckoned I couldn’t stay there. A couple of bob eventually sent him away.
Thursday 3 December 1942 A bloody wizard hangover on waking, but a good breakfast and a headache powder from Dot (when we called at her flat for Jimmy’s coat) fixed me up. We dithered about waiting for a boat to get us back to Salisbury Island. When it did eventually arrive, Jimmy couldn’t get past the guard on the wharf. Bungey Hart tells me that he has been talking to the captain of the troopship Llandaff Castle. He says the U-boat that torpedoed them off Delagoa Bay surfaced and its hull was green with slime; it was about 100 feet long, and 1000-1500 tons and made off after the sinking at 15 knots, in a southeast direction. No wonder we didn’t have any joy the other night. The bloody thing was probably out of our area before we began the patrol. These things come to try us.
Friday 4 December 1942 Last night a letter came from the Captain of the corvette which rescued the survivors on 21st November.
FROM: COMMANDING OFFICER HMS JASMINE
DATE: 29 NOVEMBER 1942
TO: STAFF OFFICER AIR INTELLIGENCE Ref No 78/12
Very many thanks for the photographs you sent me of Jasmine rescuing survivors. They are of great interest to the ship and I would like to say how grateful we were for the magnificent assistance given by the Catalina aircraft and would ask you to convey our congratulations to them for their fine work in finding the rafts.
(Sgd) Cecil D. B. Coventry
Lieut Cdr RNR Rtd
This morning a very big ship came into the harbour. At first we thought it was the Queen Mary but on getting a complete view of it saw that it was an Empress ship – Empress of Scotland in fact.
N for Nuts returned from St Lucia today. She had gone out on patrol when we did on Tuesday night but had been unable to land here on Wednesday morning because of low cloud. She reports having seen rafts and 12 dead men, their bodies in part eaten away by fish, in the water nearby.
Eric and I were to have gone out to dinner tonight but again we kept the midnight watches on the island.
Saturday 5 December 1942 J’s crew arrived at 10.15 am to relieve us so once again back to Congella for a shower, change and into town with Bungey Hart. Met Eric and went to the Marine Hotel where we met two of the lads off Albatross. The inevitable few beers followed by lunch at the Playhouse. Met Bob Roberts back from Cape Town. By the time this was over, it was about 3.30 pm so Eric and I went to Tirrells and while he dressed for dinner I paid my weekly visit to the Evans. Met there one of the survivors from the 10,786 ton Llandaff Castle. He has just finished three years overseas and was on his way back to England loaded with expensive cameras, binoculars and gifts of all sorts (not the least being clothing) for his family. He lost the lot. He said the reason why the ship’s position had been sent from a lifeboat and not from the ship itself, was that a shell from the U-boat had wrecked the ship’s wireless.
Eric and I went to Denise Mann’s flat at Grosvenor Court for dinner. Met Denise’s sister Charmaine Brookes, a most attractive girl, and all trooped off to the Stardust. I slept at Tirrell’s place, self-invited, at 2.30am.
Sunday 6 December 1942 The Tirrells got quite a surprise to see me in the spare bed this morning. Were very kind and said I was most welcome to go there after a party any time I pleased. Went with Mr Tirrell for a swim and did 300 yards. The pool is one of those “killers” with 100 yard laps. A few beers at a friend of the Tirrrells followed by a very heavy lunch put me just right for a couple of hours sleep this afternoon. At about 4 pm, Eric and I summoned up enough energy to go out to Windsor Park and play nine holes of golf. Played rather better than I had imagined getting the tee shots well away though some with a wicked slice. Called in at the Country Club for a couple of Haigs (must be the last left in Durban) and so home (i.e., to Tirrell’s) where once again I stayed the night.
Monday 7 December 1942 Up at 0545 hours and down to the baths with Mr Tirrell for a couple of those killing 100 yard laps. Driven into town and from there caught a taxi out to Congella where I arrived at 0815 hours. Rounded up the crew and set off for Salisbury Island in the very smooth and newly acquired RAF pinnace. This has a lovely cabin in it. A three-engine job and at 1800 revolutions on each engine she makes 16 knots. Cost £15,000 but as it uses diesel at the rate of eight-gallons per hour it can’t be too expensive to run.
And so once again installed on the island waiting for something to happen.
The Squadron Leader left for St Lucia in the Walrus that the Squadron has had loaned to it. He is supervising the laying of buoys.
Tuesday 8 December 1942 Eric, Ted Taylor and I were the only ones sleeping here on the island last night. Rose very late this morning – a good night’s sleep is what is wanted after a couple of days on the mainland!
The Squadron Leader arrived about 11 am and Ted and I were told to grab crews and take Q and J on a taxi test. J however refused to start so I was solo in Q. When mooring up, or rather turning to moor up, the starboard float crowned a buoy. No damage done but the affair took place in full view of everyone.
J was made serviceable after lunch so Ted went out to test her. He had a hell of a time trying to moor. Another aircraft prevented him having a very long approach to the buoy. Besides there was quite a strong cross wind.
The Squadron Leader was doing more circuits and bumps in the Walrus. Bill Hossent was beaching N. She has only 70 odd hours to a major so they are grounding her for a time. If lucky a couple of we Second Pilots may get our night flying on her.
Wednesday 9 December 1942 Went ashore at 10 am – bathed and into town where I met Eric for drinks at the Playhouse. He told me that he had four Australian nurses coming. He had seen them on the street and had noticed their uniforms. As he looked at them, they looked at him seeing his RAAF cap. And so they came for a drink. They are off the hospital ship Oranje which is in port at the moment. I can remember seeing her in battleship grey lying in Circular Quay [Sydney] in 1940-41. Now she is all white with a green band along the hull and the Red Cross insignia all over her. These nurses were in Australia a little over five weeks ago. They say the place is full of Yanks. Sydney is all barricaded up, the Post Office especially. On the beaches the people hang their clothes on the anti-invasion wire!
Eric and I went to the pictures in the afternoon. Saw “The Man Who Came to Dinner” a most amusing comedy with wizard repartee. Called to see Dot Parker at 5.30. She was looking as charming as ever and I cursed my luck at being ordered back to the island tonight for the person she was going out with hadn’t turned up. And she had a wicked look in her eyes.
Thursday 10 December 1942 Rather feared, from reports we have heard, that Eric and I were going to have a strip torn off for leaving the island before J’s crew arrived yesterday. However the rocket didn’t arrive.
J came in at 8.40 am after an all night patrol. She had gone out on the usual anti-submarine sweep acting on a report that a U-boat had been seen in an inlet between Torres Pt and Cape Santa Maria. It was left to Ken Murray’s discretion as to whether to enter Portuguese territory. This he did and remained there for nearly six hours but no joy.
Refueled J and took a lot of “line shoot” photographs. A South African major came across and I had the job of showing him over a Catalina. Spent the afternoon reading Galsworthy’s “White Monkey.”
This evening the crew managed to get two dozen beer and we passed the time killing these.
Friday 11 December 1942 To get rid of a hangover I went for a swim before breakfast this morning. I really must do some more exercise again as this drinking cum late night life is hipana mzuri (Swahili for “no good”).
Squadron Leader came across to the island for an hour or so to clean up a few matters before leaving in a Walrus for Cape Town this afternoon. I was on my bed and heard the Walrus engine in the distance. Anticipating a “shoot-up” I took my camera out on to the wharf and got a snap of the Walrus about 50 feet up, just as she was passing over a Catalina. Hope it comes out. I’m using this whole reel on forbidden subjects and we’re to have the film developed officially.
Ashore at 5 pm and I took up my abode in the Mayfair Hotel – in Bungey Hart’s late room. Have decided that it is almost as cheap to live here as to get taxis back and forth from Congella. John Inglis, Bungey, Eric and I organised an impromptu party at the Stardust. Mad ringing up all over Durban for women. I got Gillian van Delden who lives at Durban north – a hell of a way out. A good night. Bungey and I slept in the same room – in the mattress-on-the-floor style.
Saturday 12 December 1942 Did most of my outstanding shopping this morning. Eric went mad and bought himself a typewriter, an exposure meter and a filter for his camera.
Our hopes of having a wizard night out at the Caister House Hotel and the Stardust to follow were smartly hit on the head at lunchtime when John Inglis told us that we were to fly tonight. A U-boat has been D/F’d [direction – find] north of Lourenço Marques and is proceeding southwards. It is thought that he is moving down to intercept a convoy leaving Lourenço Marques tomorrow and to get amongst one leaving Durban on the 14th. Venturas are to cover the whole transit area by day and Catalinas do it at night. We took off at 1845 hours and set the now familiar northerly course. Since our last night flight, we have had the “George” rudder control fixed so that makes things easier. Had just about reached the patrol area when both generators packed up making it impossible to carry out the Special Equipment sweep, use W/T [wireless telegraphy] and last, but not least, the stove. By starting the Auxiliary Power Unit we used W/T to get a message to Base. While waiting for a reply, began the patrol. Coming down the coast close in just north of Lourenço Marques saw three fixed lights on the shore. Off shore there were two lights about two to three miles apart on the water. It could have been a U-boat approaching a depot ship but Eric was inclined to think them fishing boats and so we did nothing about them. Later on, saw a hospital ship, brilliantly lighted. Received a signal back from Base telling us to discontinue patrol (it was a waste of time without Special Equipment) and to land at St Lucia Bay. Had to wait at St Lucia for quite a while before the flare path was ready. Threw out two flares – both failed to go off. The inter-comm went unserviceable just to help things. The floats had to be wound down by hand and that left the red warning light on in the cockpit. Even by covering it up with my hand, it was still hard to prevent any light getting through. We all slept on board.
Sunday 13 December 1942 Awake at 0530 hours and took-off immediately. After taxiing back on the step for take-off, I closed the throttles, let her swing into wind and then opened up for take-off. The engines roared but we didn’t move. Were stuck on a sandbank! On an even keel must have had just a few inches clearance, but when pulling the stick back and opening the throttles the tail went down and we stuck fast. However by letting her come back on an even keel we were able to taxi off. Got back to Durban very quickly in one hour three minutes. Took us two hours to get up to St Lucia last night. Our ground speed back was 140 knots. “Moored up” and a few minutes later found ourselves drifting gently towards the shore. The pennant had become detached from the buoy. Saved by the bomb scow. As we are now on an 80-hour inspection, we later beached the aircraft. It was all too simple. A very light wind was blowing so we just taxied her right up on to the beach.
Have decided to live in the Mayfair Hotel. Slept all the afternoon. Met Eric about 8 pm and took a couple of lasses to the Stardust – a very quiet and an early night.
Monday 14 December 1942 Met Mrs Tirrell in town and she helped me choose an afternoon tea cloth for Peggy. We bought it at the Eastern Caravan and I was rather surprised to find that I got half a crown discount for being in the Service.
Eric and I golfed at the Country Club this afternoon but got drenched after ten holes and had to stop. I was playing much better – have practically ironed out the slice now. Not having gone out dressed we had to travel home in our wet clothes. Went to the pictures tonight. Saw “The Affairs of Martha”, a very amusing comedy.
Tuesday 15 December 1942 [A year ago today I began the Atlantic Crossing] Had breakfast in bed, read the paper and didn’t get up till 10 am. Eric came in shortly afterwards and lay on the bed while I wrote a letter to the family. At lunchtime we heard that we all had to go back to the island – a low trick as we had been promised four or five days ashore this time. However after a lot of arguing on the phone it was decided that most of the crew would have to go back to help with the 80-hour inspection.
It was pouring with rain again all day so there wasn’t much to do. We both went shopping all the afternoon. Invested in a book called “Aviation Medicine” which looks rather interesting. Also was able to get a pair of Polaroid glasses to replace those of Vincent’s which I broke.
Had cocktails at a lass’ flat in Grosvenor Court. Met three newly commissioned RAAF Pilot Officers just down from their training in Rhodesia. Had arranged to meet them later at the Stardust but the women that Eric had lined up for us stood us up.
Wednesday 16 December 1942 Being unable to contact Dot Parker all day yesterday either by phone or by calling at her flat, I was only too ready to accept her 8 am phone call to go round and have morning tea with her ce matin. Norman Wiseman, a friend of the Parker’s, came in and we all trooped off for a bathe in the pouring rain. This I think is the first surf I have had since leaving Australia.
This afternoon I intended to sleep to be in form for a late night tonight but a phone call from Eric with an invitation to go driving with a lass fixed that. It was the woman at whose place we had cocktails last night. Drove out to Isipingo, a small beach some 14 miles south of Durban. Had a clamber round the rocks then some drinks at the Royal Durban Golf Club. From here up to yet another woman’s place for cocktails, back to the Mayfair for a quick bath and dinner. Collected Dot and brought her back to the hotel to see the kangaroo mascot which I collected at the Stork Club in New York last year. At one stage, there was a grave possibility of our never getting to the Stardust. However we made it and had a wizard night which didn’t end till 5 am.
Thursday 17 December 1942 Was to have had morning tea in town with Dot this morning but a 9.15 am phone call (which broke my slumber) put the tea off. I then had breakfast in bed, read the paper and generally luxuriated till 11 am. Then just prior to lunch went out and did a bit of cabling, letter posting, etc. Came back to find my room invaded by Bungey Hart, Ted Taylor, John Inglis and Rolf Luck.
A small expedition sallied forth to buy up a few remaining pairs of Polaroid sun glasses that I’d discovered in a shop yesterday. Back to the hotel I bathed and dressed and went along to the Parker’s for cocktails at 5 pm. Two Pongo types were there and they succeeded in carrying off Dot and Marj Driver to the Stardust. Eric had already arranged to go along so that left me out. Although earlier in the day I had said that the last place I would be ce soir would be the Stardust, 10 pm saw me swinging. Had a very good night too – “no ties and no connections” and able to leave just when I wanted to [“no ties and no connections” were words of a song in the Fred Astaire movie “Top Hat”].
Friday 18 December 1942 Didn’t surface till 12.15 pm. Awakened by Ted Taylor and Bungey Hart who then joined me for lunch with John Inglis. John is leaving tomorrow morning by BOAC to return to Mombasa and collect M and take it to Pamanzi. There are boats from another squadron there but not enough of them. About the end of the month we are going to have bags of work to do in convoying the first South African Division back to Durban. They have been granted leave in the Union by General Smuts after two years in the desert. So everything is being made ready. Shall probably spend New Year’s Eve in the air.
Another piece of news is that aircraft which need an engine change have to go right up to Port Tewfik on the Suez Canal for it. I should very much like to see Cape Town before we leave this part of the world, but the chance of getting way up north and the possibility of being able to get into Jerusalem appeals very much. Although by the time Q is ready for her engine change (another 120 flying hours) they will have probably sent the engines down to Kisumu. It certainly is bloody ridiculous having to go so far north – over 100 flying hours from Durban to get there and back. We were recalled to the island this afternoon so my little sojourn in the Mayfair Hotel is over. Not really sorry for I’ll be able to get some sleeping hours in now.
Saturday 19 December 1942 Q had been drained of oil during her 80-hourly inspection and so I had to go out and put 90 gallons into her this morning. We did not put petrol in too as we were going to test fly her in the afternoon and this harbour is not the best to do unnecessary heavy load landings and take-offs.
Went out to do the test flight after lunch but no joy. The washer on the priming pump had gone and they have to send to Pretoria for another. With no washer, it was impossible to get any juice on to the cylinder walls for priming. Came ashore and had a swim. Eric meanwhile had got hold of a cork from a beer bottle top and made a temporary repair so were able to get off an hour or so later. Diced around for an hour or so. Did a bit of low flying over the water. The crew fired off 100 rounds out of each gun. Refueled her up to 1000 gallons on returning. She was bombed up too so we are now First Available Boat. Wing Commander Barraclough, now Commanding Officer of 209 Squadron, arrived back from Cape Town and Group Captain Drew, late Commanding Officer of 209 Squadron, arrived here from Mombasa.
Sunday 20 December 1942 An uneventful sort of morning. Bob Roberts took over J from Ken Murray. He is to have it until its major is due in about 100 hours time. He took J on a test flight, found something unserviceable, so intended to go on another test flight after lunch. I was ringing up Port Captain, Naval Headquarters, etc, warning them of this second test when was told to hold everything, as a special job was coming in. Q was First Available Boat so we got it. The “Form Green” stated that a suspected convoy of 30-38 ships had been reported southeast of Port Elizabeth. We were to go and investigate. Shades of the Jap Fleet and the shooting down of the Catalinas off Ceylon! From the time we received the “Green” till we were actually airborne was 21 minutes – the record. Set course south overland. The country was rather lovely – huge gorges, every so often from which up-currents tossed the aircraft around no end. Had been out about an hour when we got a “Recall to Base” signal. Turned for home at Point St John – a place on the coast. From there on we were out for pleasure. Gave a couple of members of the crew some duel and then we indulged in some low flying up the beaches, being waved at and waving to everyone we passed. There look to be some delightful seaside resorts on that coast. About a mile north of the ammunition factory there looked to be a really lovely golf course. Base didn’t know exactly why we had been recalled but it looks as if someone in Naval Headquarters has “boobed” badly. We all guess that the “enemy” convoy is one of ours which some clot has forgotten to check up on while it is in his sector.
Monday 21 December 1942 The daylight hours were totally wasted. Just lounged around the Mess and our rooms doing sweet FA [Fanny Adams or F… All]. Tonight is the night of the party at Lieutenant Commander Phillimore’s house to celebrate the promotions of Group Captain Drew and Wing Commander Barraclough and the birth of infants to Bill Hossent and Jeep Balfour’s wives. The whole thing was a bit of a cock-up. No one knew whether it was to be a booze-up or a mixed party. At last, heard that one or two women were going and a frantic SOS was received for six more gals. Under these circumstances, wasn’t very keen on taking anyone so went solo as did the majority of the other lads. Shortly after arriving there, who should turn up but Dot Parker in company with Eric and another lass. “Take-off, I say take-off.” From then on everything was organised. During the course of the cocktail party I had a long natter to Jeep to get things straightened out. The Stardust followed the cocktail party but Ted Taylor and his lass, Dot and I soon had enough of this and left for a night at the Cosmo. Ted and I got back to Camp at 6 am. Taxi ran out of petrol en route! Shortage of beds so I ended up sleeping on the table in Ted’s room at Congella.
Tuesday 22 December 1942 An hour’s sleep only and up at 7 am. Got the crew totally released all day provided they checked with the watch office at 1200, 1400 and 1700 hours to see that they weren’t required. Eric Saunders sprained his ankle badly during the course of last night’s “do” and so Robby and I got hold of a car to bring him back to Congella from Tirrells for inspection by the Medical Officer. However, before picking him up, we chased all round the electrical shops in Durban looking for some 60-amp wire. It is for the lead (burnt out on J) from the generator to the voltage regulator.
Rolf Luck and I attempted 18 holes at the Country Club but got caught by the rain on practically the same holes as Eric and I were a week ago. Played the same ten and got thoroughly drenched but this time I had brought a change of clothes with me.
Had dinner at the Mayfair and then, with the rest of the Squadron Officers, we trooped off to see the show “Mrs Miniver” – a study of English family life during wartime. And excellent it was.
Wednesday 23 December 1942 Q’s crew had to remain in camp all day to stand-by for the unloading of a bomb scow which was bringing a load of equipment over from Salisbury Island. The Squadron detachment is now remaining at Congella and the aircraft are to be brought across from the island tomorrow morning and moored in the Basin. The whole idea is a good one for it will save this to and fro existence.
At about 5.20 pm Rolf Luck and I went to the Sergeants Quarters to warn crews of Q and N to be on the pier at 5.30 to unload the scows. En route I met Flight Sergeant Vincent and I passed the order to him. Rolf and I then set course for the pier. No bomb scow was sighted at 5.30, so Rolf rang the island to find out what time it would be arriving. While he was doing so, Flight Sergeant Vincent joined me and said that they (meaning I took it, the crews of Q and N) were not coming. They said they knocked off at 5 o’clock. He should have put them on a charge; but didn’t. I told him to tell both crews to be on the pier at 6 pm otherwise there would be trouble. At 6 pm Q’s only arrived. Bill Hossent then put N’s crew under Open Arrest.
Rolf Luck and I went to see Mickey Rooney in “Yank at Eton.” After the show, we had some difficulty in getting a taxi and eventually shared one with a Naval Officer and a woman. Came to Congella first and as we were getting out the woman asked if we were on Salisbury Island. If so, would we mind looking at her house there. She is not allowed to go across, as the island is a prohibited area and for ten months she has been trying in vain to get some satisfaction from the Air Force. The fact that she seems extremely pretty lends enchantment to the recco.
Thursday 24 December 1942 Have been buggered around all day over this charge business – getting evidence, etc. The charge was at last heard by Wing Commander Barraclough at 6 pm. Result – remanded for hearing by the Group Captain. The Sergeants’ point of view is that they have for months been asked to do manual tasks such as unloading boats, etc while Airmen are doing nothing. In this there is some truth, for in not many places would one see a sight like the unloading of the scow last night when six Officers and eight senior Non-commissioned Officers humped stuff around while a Leading Aircraftsman sat in the front seat of the truck!
Rang Dot after dinner – found she and Jean relaxing after a 5-7 pm do. Ted Taylor and I went up to see them.
Friday 25 December 1942 A whole lot of invitations have poured into the Adjutant from the surrounding countryside, wanting Officers and Airmen to spend Xmas Day in private homes. A day or so ago, we drew names out of a hat as to whom should be on duty Xmas and Boxing Day. I scored the latter and so was free to race off somewhere today. Mathew (the Cypher Officer) and I accepted an invitation of some people named Taplin, who live at Illovo 20 odd miles down the South Coast. We left Camp in time to catch the 8.40 train to Winkle Spruit (that name sounds if it comes direct from the Alps!) Were met by our host who is Secretary to the Big Sugar Company down here. Picked up his wife and family from the little church and went to their home – a lovely place on a hill, a mile or so inland but overlooking Illovo Beach and the river running into the sea. Various friends of the Taplins dropped in and a really merry time was had by all. I most thoroughly enjoyed myself. Both daughters, Joy and Florence, played the piano very well – so bright music was the order of the day. About 6 pm we went further up the hill to the home of the manager of the Sugar Company. He has an even lovelier home mit tennis court. Seemed to do nothing but eat all day but felt very good on it. Caught the 11 pm train back to town.
Saturday 26 December 1942 My day on duty today with Bill Hossent as Captain and Flight Sergeant Vincent as Navigator. No job came in so it was just a matter of sitting around. However the charge against the crew of N was brought up again this time before the Group Captain. Had to repeat my evidence again. The Group Captain decided that a Summary of Evidence should be taken and this filled up the afternoon. My part consisted of dictating my evidence to the Administrative Officer in the presence of the accused Sergeants. The total Summary of Evidence is to be sent up to the big wig legal department to see if it will be sufficient to hold a court martial.
Rolf Luck and I accepted the invitation to a drink from the lass who was with the Naval Officer the other night when we shared a taxi. We went up to their home at 6.30. Her name is Daphne Findlay and she is a pretty wizard looking woman. They asked us to supper and after this I went down to Kangelani; picked up Dot, Ted Taylor and Eric avec femmes and we went to the Cosmo. Came home reasonably early.
Sunday 27 December 1942 Nothing of importance this morning. Late this afternoon Flight Lieutenant Forgham, Eric and I went out to Q to run up the port engine after the carburettor had been refitted. The settings had been messed up so it was a hell of a job to get it right. When it was eventually OK, we found the throttle still sticking so the carburettor had to be taken off again. The Fitters have to work all night on it for we are to leave for St Lucia for the big operation at 11 am tomorrow.
Monday 28 December 1942 Wing Commander Barraclough has introduced morning parades for the Squadron detachment and these began this morning.
Was down at the slip quite early to see how Q’s port engine was running after the carburettor had been refitted. She was OK so we left for St Lucia at 11 am. Jeep Balfour flew with us and he had me do the heavy load take-off out of Durban. It was quite a fair one and he was pleased with it. My landing at St Lucia was far from good though. We “did up” the Estuary Hotel at the entrance to the lake and then flew at zero feet up to the moorings, 13 miles north. En route we saw two lots of hippos wallowing in the river. Rolf Luck looked after the refueling of Q while I did the nightmare drive back to the hotel over the world’s roughest track. A late lunch, a sleep and then back to the aircraft to do an all night anchor-watch with Sergeants Howell, Stoner and Richardson. N was due to leave at 2300 hours on the first sortie, but owing to bad weather she didn’t get off. I was up most of the night feeling the anchor cable to see that we hadn’t come adrift. The wind swung 1800 during the night.
Tuesday 29 December 1942 Was up at 0645 hours, took a quick, very quick, plunge into the lake to freshen up and then sat down to await developments. According to the original schedule we, Q, were to leave on the second sortie at 0900 hours but as N didn’t go off last night, I thought that perhaps she would go, and that we would do the third sortie. However the bomb scow put out from the shore at 0810 hours and Eric and crew were aboard so we got the job. Lost our anchor when the cable broke. Had a full operational load of eight depth charges and 1450 gallons of petrol. There was very little wind and our take-off run was one minute 45 seconds. We set course at 0900 hours eastwards to meet “our boys up north.” They were nearly 500 miles out to sea and we expected to contact them at 1430 hours. However the convoy was not in the position given and it was almost 1600 hours before we sighted them. I was first to see them some 16 miles on the starboard bow. The convoy had come round the east coast of Madagascar and not through the Moçambique Channel. There were only two motor vessels, but how they were escorted! Two cruisers Gambia (Fiji Class) and Frobisher, two destroyers and one corvette. Received a message from Gambia to look out for two other corvettes but we didn’t see them. Did our anti-submarine patrol around the ships until 2330 hours when we set course for home. There would be some very happy people in the Union if they knew how close to home these lads of the First South African Division are. The Division has been fighting up in the desert for two and a half years now. Ran into very dirty weather on the way home – lightning everywhere. And then we received a message from Base to stay up till dawn (instead of our scheduled estimated time of arrival of 0330 hours) as it was unfit to land at St Lucia. So then we really started to conserve fuel. Jettisoned our depth charges from 5,000 feet – or rather seven of them. One depth charge hung up and we just couldn’t get it off. With 27 inches of boost and 1650 revs, we hung in the air at 75-80 knots but were using only 41 gallons of petrol an hour – not bad for a big flying boat. A few hours later received another message from Base to say that St Lucia was now OK for landing. So we set off for there and landed at 0525 hours after 21 hours exactly in the air. But we had a spot of fun before touching down. Got mixed up in an electrical storm. Lightning and driving rain. Had St Elmos fire off the end of the Special Equipment aerials – a purplish glow. Went up to 11,000 feet and damned near got frozen.
Wednesday 30 December 1942 On landing, went ashore and once more did the nightmare drive to the Estuary Hotel to get our kit and have a quick breakfast before returning to the aircraft to fly her back to Durban. A battery had burst during last night’s flight, we needed more depth charges and also a piece of perspex for the blister. So Durban was indicated as there are no facilities at St Lucia – only a shed and a mud hut on the lake shore. Are due off at 0600 hours so slept this afternoon. Was awakened by Mathew at 6 pm to move the aircraft as the buoy to which we were moored had sunk. The marine craft people wouldn’t move the aircraft without there being a Pilot on board. Did this job, had a quick dinner and so back to bed for what I hope will be an uninterrupted sleep. A late bulletin says that we will not be doing the final convoy escort so will not have to be up at 6 am.
Thursday 31 December 1942 Slept till after 9 am – just the bare 13 hours. Came down to the slipway, went out with Flight Lieutenant Forgham, the Station Engineering Officer, to have a look at Q’s starboard float. She is rattling badly as the bushings are worn. Forgham thinks she is safe enough for flying for the time being but he doubts whether the boat will get to its next major inspection (about 130 flying hours away) without our having some trouble from the float.
Rang Dot at quite a late hour to ask if she would come out to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Rather to my surprise, she wasn’t already going out so that was fine. There was Ted Taylor and Joanne, Robby and Jo Thorpe and a few others of us. We had dinner at the Mayfair Hotel, champagne and all and then tried to get to the Stardust. However there was a huge mob trying to get in and after milling around for a time we gave up the idea. Robby, Jo, Dot and I went back to Jo’s flat, Aspley Court, Musgrave Rd, on the Berea and saw the New Year in from there.
Friday 1 January 1943 At about 3 am we made yet another assault on the Stardust and this time were successful. Here Robby, Jo Thorpe, Dot and I danced till about 5.15 am when the powers-that-be turned on those two shockingly bright lights as a signal for everyone to go home. Dot and I went back to the flat, woke up husband Ginger, and the three of us had a very welcome bacon and eggs. I picked up Robby at the Mayfair and we reached camp about 8.15 am. Spent the morning in the Operations Room and aboard the aircraft.
Two o’clock in the afternoon and I had “had it” so I diced off to bed. The whole New Years Eve was quite a contrast to last year’s when I went to bed at 10 pm aboard the little Swedish ship Gdynia anchored just off Liverpool. Just 12 months ago today was my first day in England.
Saturday 2 January 1943 Out like a light till 7 am – just the bare 17 hours sleep. Must be my all time high, I think.
This morning went aboard Q with all the crew and we gave her a thorough cleaning out. She was terribly dirty – as bad as she has been for ages. However had the catwalks up and cleaned out the bilges so she is now much better.
As the buoy to which J was moored had sunk, the aircraft had to be moved around into the BOAC basin. In towing it, the starboard float cracked into the wall and so at the moment we have no serviceable aircraft.
We were released and Eric and I went out to the races – my first since leaving home. Didn’t arrive there till about the 6th race. Met a few people we knew. My first bet I had 10/- for a win and 10/- for a place and the wretched horse came home. Collected £2/13/- for my £1 but promptly lost it in the remaining races.
We had dinner at the Mayfair and then I rang up Dot Parker and she, Eric and I went to see the film “Hellzapoppin” – a crazy show. There were absolutely no taxis available and we had to walk all the way back to Kangelani. Still that was quite pleasant. Eric meanwhile had gone to the Stardust while I took Dot home. I called for him there but he wasn’t then in favour of coming. So I diced back to Congella, solo.
Sunday 3 January 1943 On board Q for Queenie doing the bilge-rat act. In other words giving the old kite a thorough cleaning after the flying she has been doing lately. It’s amazing how dirty they get.
Began reading a queer sort of book – “Soldiers Pay”. Tells of an American officer who flew with the RAF in the last war and who returns home badly scarred about the face. The attitudes of his family and friends are all portrayed.
Monday 4 January 1943 The Second Pilot of the First Available Boat has been detailed to act as Flight Commander, No. 4 Flight, on the Station parade. My turn came round today. That over, I then had to deal with the Squadron Non-commissioned Officers’ parade.
An hour’s Semaphore practice with the crew of Q followed. We have all been getting a little rusty on this lately. The Wing Commander has made me Officer-in-Charge sports. He is keen to get all the types fit and so I have been chasing around all the sports organisations seeing what facilities they can offer us.
Were released tonight. Eric and I went into town, intending to go to the pictures. However were unable to get in at the show we wished to see, so spent a very quiet night visiting the Tirrells.
Saw Tommy Cairns in the Mayfair. He is not actually free from the hospital but is allowed out on parole.
It is Mother’s birthday today. I intend to cable her some flowers but have been unable to get into town during the day to get to the shop.
Tuesday 5 January 1943 Took the crew out on board to give the boat a final clean up as the Wing Commander was supposed to be inspecting all aircraft this morning in company with the Station Engineering Officer.
At 9.30 am the first of the lecture series began. It was given by Pilot Officer Green the 262 Squadron Intelligence Officer. He showed a number of slides of French coast ports. The photos had been taken by Photographic Reconnaissance Units.
We all had a bit of a session in the Mess at lunchtime as Bill Hossent and the rest of N’s crew are leaving today for St Lucia to do a spot of night flying practice and then go on for a major inspection. Bob Roberts is to accompany N for night flying. He may go on to Mombasa and pick up O if that aircraft is serviceable.
Ted Taylor and I went out tonight. He brought Jean Williams along and the three of us went to see the film “Rio Rita” – it is not the pukkah film but has a few of the old songs in it.
Wednesday 6 January 1943 My first job this morning was to go out and move Q on to the nearside buoy so we could put a tail line on her and give the engines a run up. “Blowing the moths and cobwebs out of the manifold” as we call it.
Then to the Mole Hole (our underground Operation Rooms) and listened to a lecture on engines given by Sergeant Howell. I diced into the Wing Commander to give him all the gen I had got about these sporting activities. Have organised a swimming parade for the maintenance personnel for this afternoon.
We of Q were supposed to have been released, as from 1200 hrs today till 1200 hrs tomorrow but it didn’t come off. We went back to First Available Boat. Group Captain Drew, late Wing Commander of 209 Squadron, arrived down here this afternoon. He has been made Senior Administrative Staff Officer and has just returned from Cape Town on his reorganisation tour.
I was to have played squash at the Country Club with the Wing Commander at 5 o’clock but we didn’t leave Congella till 5 minutes past 5. Drove madly through the city and managed to get on to the court at 5.25 pm. Had 10 minutes dash round before giving way to the next players. In the bar we met some SAAF types and had quite a session on excellent White Horse. I met Dot at the Cumberland Hotel with Ted Taylor and Jean Williams and after dining there we four went off to the Cosmo.
Thursday 7 January 1943 There was some frantic dashing around the camp last night although fortunately I didn’t get mixed up in it. The Wing Commander was to have gone north today to do a survey of Kosi Lake just south of the Portuguese border. However during the night this was called off and we in Q for Queenie left this afternoon for St Lucia where we were to spend the night before going on to Pamanzi. At Pamanzi we were to do an escort job to a battleship while she was refuelling. Brought a SAAF Lieutenant up with us. His name is Robson and he is on his way to Mombasa. N when it is finished its night flying here is going to Kisumu for a major inspection – Robson is going up on it. On arrival at St Lucia, we were told that the battleship escort job was off. They have decided that the total transit flying to do the job (24 hours) doesn’t warrant the time we are to stay in close escort with the ship (six hours). A fine time to tell us this when we have already done part of the trip. So here we are at the Estuary Hotel, St Lucia, Zululand. Intend to return to Durban tomorrow morning.
One or two points of interest before we left Durban. First, our batman didn’t turn up this morning and I was prepared to tear him off a strip until I heard that he had been attacked and beaten up by four men last night while walking along Maydon Wharf Road. All Officers went in to Tribune House this morning to hear a lecture on Radio Direction Finding. Some of the future developments of it were discussed and they are, to say the least, truly amazing.
Friday 8 January 1943 Woke up too late to get any breakfast so a cup of morning tea at 11 am had to tide us over till lunchtime.
This St Lucia is a fisherman’s paradise. Rolf Luck and I took a boat around to the estuary to do some shark fishing. On the way we saw quite a large crocodile waddle off the mud flat into the water. He stayed there with just a portion of his head above water and fixed us with a glassy stare. Within five minutes of this episode we encountered a hippo. He surfaced quite near the boat and remained nearby for the rest of the afternoon. We landed right at the estuary mouth and on walking round the point saw a number of dorsal fins cutting the water on the calmer side of the breakers. Tried casting, but couldn’t throw the bait out sufficiently far. We then came back to the boat and rowed out right among our finny friends. One swam so close to the boat that it would have been nae bother at all to have leaned over the side and touched him as he swam by. We couldn’t tempt them at all with the bait. Tomorrow we intend to take out a harpoon and see if we can have a spot of fun. Rolf and I then wandered a couple of hundred yards up the beach and had a surf. Wasn’t a good surf for the beach was too steeply sloping. We both got terribly sunburnt and shall no doubt spend a most uncomfortable night tonight.
Saturday 9 January 1943 There is an absolute dearth of reading matter in this hotel so the time hangs pretty heavily. Read and re-read the two magazines that do exist. News came through that we shall probably be flying tomorrow night so my afternoon was taken up by refuelling Q for Queenie up to full load. That meant that I missed the shark harpooning expedition that we had planned for today.
Left the hotel for Eastern Shores at 1515 hours and arrived there exactly an hour later. An hour to do 12 miles over what must be the worst road in the country. You are bumped about from start to finish and my sunburnt back rubbing against the seat didn’t improve matters any. The “road” consists of two wheel tracks only, running over swamp-like ground. Proceeding from the hotel and East Shore, there is a range of hills on your right hand side and these are pretty well on the coast itself.
The refuelling arrangements are not quite so primitive as, say, Wadi Halfa where we used four-gallon tins. Here we load the bomb scow with ten forty-gallon drums and get the fuel into the aircraft by two hand rotary pumps. They do the job quicker than one would imagine. The natives do the pumping. They almost fight to be allowed on the scow to come out to the aircraft (or to the “bomb” as they call it).
Sunday 10 January 1943 Just lazing round the hotel reading this morning. G for George, the 413 Squadron Catalina that is attached to us, arrived up from Durban at midday bringing all the gen on this job that we are to do. Q for Queenie is to take-off at 0930 hours tomorrow, pick up the liner Nieuw Amsterdam just south of Madagascar and escort her for seven or eight hours. We’ve had no news but I should guess that this is the second lot of the South African First Division returning from the desert.
Sub-lieutenant McIvor also arrived up here today in the Walrus that has been allotted to the Squadron for ferry duties. A few of us were having a quiet before dinner drink when an old bloke came up and told us that there was a vessel lying eight miles off the estuary and he thought we should know of it. With a not too thorough look for McIvor, Jeep Balfour, Eric Saunders and I went down aboard the Walrus to go out and investigate this ship. However, before we could get off the water McIvor joined us. The ship proved to be a fishing smack apparently on its lawful occasions. However we are going to check up on the number it bore.
Monday 11 January 1943 Flying to work on Monday morning! Shades of things to come. We were due to take-off at 1000 hours from St Lucia to go and escort the Nieuw Amsterdam. To save that terrible drive from the Estuary Hotel to Eastern Shores where the Catalinas are moored we were flown up there in the Fleet Air Arm Walrus. Jim McIvor, the Fleet Air Arm Pilot, came with us on patrol. I think Jeep’s suggestion that he should do so was a very cunning ruse on Jeep’s part to gain control of the Walrus for a few hours. It is like a new toy to him.
I did the take-off – my first I think with 1450 gallons of petrol on board. Apart from a rather shaky period when the starboard wingtip looked as if it might go into the water it was more or less OK. The convoy’s position was some 550 miles straight out to sea – in fact they were only about 70 miles south of Cape St Maria, the southernmost point of Madagascar. On the way out I saw a huge shark on the surface. Later on we had a scare. I was in the First Pilot’s seat when suddenly a huge air bubble appeared on the surface. This was quickly followed by a long brown shape. For a second or two we thought it was a U-boat and on went the bomb selector switches. However we soon saw that it was only an extremely large whale. Found the Nieuw Amsterdam at 1815 hours whilst doing the first leg of a square search. She was by herself – no escort and was doing about 22 knots. She was fairly packed with troops – they were standing nine deep on the deck. We commenced our close anti-submarine patrol and continued with it until about 1 am when we set course back to St Lucia.
Tuesday 12 January 1943 The weather for the whole time we were up was absolutely wizard. Dawn came up about 5 am. It was very lovely. The dark first changed to grey and then quickly through pale pink to bright red – more like a sunset, than a dawn. Or is it just that we’ve not seen many dawns? The horizon became a definite mark and with its familiar murk, the routine continued. Droning on and on and on. We landed at 0630 hours after just 20 hours in the air. We hadn’t been down long before the Walrus arrived. It dropped Robby who then took off on patrol in J to replace G/413. After that and before picking us up the Walrus did some terrific shooting up. Came down over us many times – once the float cleared our heads by no more than 18 inches. We had previously resolved not to duck for we knew that’s what Jeep and Barra were trying to make us do. Three ferry trips were required to get us all back to the hotel. Thank God we have been spared that nightmare drive. Breakfast and so to bed. Up again about 6 pm – an early dinner and once more the Walrus ferry back to Eastern Shores. This time a night take-off at 9 pm in Q for Queenie and there we were back on patrol. It almost seemed as we hadn’t gotten out of the aircraft at all. Found the convoy (the Nieuw Amsterdam had been joined by two destroyers acting as escort) two hours out from St Lucia. It was a lovely moonlight night. The silhouettes of the ships were very plainly seen. Some cumulus cloud came in after a time and we went up to 4500 feet to do the patrol. The same scheme as last night – left and right hand circuits (each circuit took 40 minutes) above the ships. Even from this height the wakes showed out quite clearly.
Wednesday 13 January 1943 Stayed with the convoy all night, in fact brought it right into Durban. It was a bit brassing when, from 1000 feet we could see the Bluff and yet here were the ships belting along as if they were still hundreds of miles out. We left them at one period, came in over the Bluff at zero feet, went along the beach at the same height and then over Snell Parade aerodrome, the home of 22 Squadron SAAF. The SAAF hadn’t been let in on either the first or this second batch of the First Division for it was feared that they would start organising parties for the soldiers and so give the show away. Back along the beach at zero feet and out once again to the convoy where by this time it was light enough to take photos. We landed at Congella at about 0815 hours and so to bed.
This afternoon J, G/413 and the Walrus returned from St Lucia. We in Q were the only aircraft to fly twice on this job. Picked up thirty-one and a half hours altogether.
Fitz has arrived down from Mombasa. He is now a Squadron Leader and Flight Commander of 209 Squadron. Most of the blokes went out tonight but I felt so teased out I went to bed at 10 pm.
Thursday 14 January 1943 Got the idea yesterday to go down the south coast 39 miles to Scottburgh to see Dot. She is down there helping out a friend of hers in a hairdressing saloon. This friend has gone to see her husband who is in the First Division and who has just returned.
Scottburgh is quite a popular seaside resort. Has surfing and golf and a couple of decent pubs. A very youngish crowd was at the hotel I was staying at, the Southern Cross. Dot had lunch with me but was on duty from 2 – 5 pm at which time we went down for a surf. The terrace just above the sand had lots of those big coloured beach umbrellas stuck in the ground. All looked very colourful and reminded me of the beaches at home. This Scottburgh is the place I saw when we flew up the coast after the false alarm enemy convoy job. It looked very bright then and ever since.
Dot came to drinks and dinner but had to be back home quite early as the woman with whom she was staying was waiting up for her.
Friday 15 January 1943 This morning was very sticky and I very much regretted having to come back to Congella. I left it too late to go for a swim before the train left. Arrived back at Rossburgh station and rang for a taxi. They said it would be a quarter of an hour before they could send one. Waited half an hour and then rang again. Was told that Mr Jackson, the taxi company proprietor wouldn’t allow a cab to go that far out of Durban for so short a run. The telephone operator said she had rung back to the station to this effect and had asked the stationmaster to get someone to let me know this. I had no joy at all – only half an hour in the sweltering sun. Eventually bummed a ride right back to camp.
Spent the afternoon down the Mole ‘ole doing sweet Fanny Adams. Went into town ce soir and saw “Yankee Doodle Dandy” with James Cagney – the life of George M. Cohan.
Saturday 16 January 1943 The maintenance party was still having some trouble with the cowl gills on the starboard engine. The cable broke just before we took-off on the last 20-hour trip. However they claimed to have fixed it at about 1130 hours so we took old Q for Queenie up on a test flight after the 80-hour inspection. Only went out over the ships anchored off the Bluff to test her. Saw a Ventura, gave chase, but couldn’t catch it. Then a Walrus heaved up and we had a dog-fight with it. Round and round in circles, 600 of bank on and centrifugal force just about pushing us through the catwalks. However the Walrus never succeeded in getting on our tail.
Just languishing in the Mole ‘ole all afternoon. Dot came back from Scottburgh by the 5 pm train. Went in to the flat tonight to see her. Ginger was there – we all had a long natter. However he had to go on duty at the wireless station at 10 pm.
Sunday 17 January 1943 Still First Available Boat so the usual seat-warming down at the Mole ‘ole. Caught up on quite a bit of my correspondence. Airgraphs to Peggy Halfridge and Mabel Rodwell and a letter to the family.
This afternoon the three officers on Q (Jack Whitaker has recently joined our crew) tossed up to see who would stooge in the Operations Room for the afternoon. Jack was unlucky. I lay on my bed and read “Bomber Command Continues” until I fell asleep.
This evening Eric and I went into the Tirrells to meet their son, Ian, who has just finished his training as a Wireless Air-gunner in the SAAF. He is a famous South African swimmer and holds quite a few records.
Monday 18 January 1943 We came off First Available Boat at 1200 hours and were then released. Eric, Jack Whitaker and I went up to Caister House Hotel, situated on the Berea overlooking Durban. It is a very “swep-up” place with a swimming pool, a couple of squash courts, tennis court, etc. We spent the whole afternoon in the pool. There were quite a few young lovelies there too and they lent colour to the surroundings.
Jack and I got talking to a South African Captain of the newly returned First Division. Had dinner (an excellent one too) with him and then many liqueurs afterwards. Were joined by Jo Thorpe at 8 pm. Arrived at the Stardust about 11 pm and spent a very enjoyable evening till about 3 am.
Tuesday 19 January 1943 A busy morning. First ran up G for George with a tie line attached to the shore. Later was towed out into the middle of the harbour to drain the oil out of the engines. She is on an 80-hour inspection. This over, I went and ran up Q to ground test a new “George” unit which we have been loaned by BOAC while ours is being overhauled. Had a seaplane tender tied to our tail on this occasion instead of attaching the line to the shore. It is not a good idea for unless the coxswain is wide-awake (and ours wasn’t) there is a chance of pulling the bottom out of the flying boat.
There was a chance of our having to go up to St Lucia at 2 pm but it fell through. Probably come off tomorrow.
Went up to Caister to swim again late this afternoon. Rang Jo Thorpe and got her to come along. Had the odd drink afterwards and then went back to Jo’s flat for dinner. Had her playing the piano for most of the evening.
Wednesday 20 January 1943 Orders came through this morning for Q for Queenie to take-off for St Lucia at 2 pm. Bags were packed and out we went. But although we tried for nearly an hour, the starboard engine just wouldn’t start. There seemed to be water coming through the carburettor. Eventually tried switching to cross-feed to locate the trouble (had got rid of the water by this time) but still she wouldn’t start. We had to give up the trip to G/413. They were mad as hell at having to go. Bill Brandt, a New Zealander is Captain, Peter Rumbold is Second Pilot, Hawk Walsh is the Navigator and a Canadian, and Wireless Operator is Kid Loomer, also a Canadian.
Our carburettor was taken off and found to be badly corroded inside. This is due to the strainer cock not having been drained regularly. With tanks only half full there is a lot of condensation and the water must be run off. The strainer cock has been stuck for months and despite it having been put on the snag sheet on the last two 80-hourly inspections.
Eric, Jack and I then diced up to the Caister Hotel and had our swim. Jo, Captain Tunbridge and I had dinner there after which Jo and I went for a drive. I had a hell of a wait for a taxi to bring me back to Congella.
Thursday 21 January 1943 Went out to the aircraft at midday to run up the starboard engine after the carburettor had been put back. However we had exactly the same trouble as yesterday – the engine would start but would only run on the fuel from the priming – no petrol from the carburettor was getting through. And so the carburettor had to be taken off again (a slow job) and sent into the workshops to have the trouble located. They had it all to pieces at 5 pm and thought they had found the cause of the trouble – the poppet valve sticking closed. We of the crew decided to tear off to Caister for a quick swim while they were replacing the carburettor and then we would run up the engine tonight and take-off at 0600 hours tomorrow. However when we got back from the swim we were told that further defects had been found in the carburettor and that the aircraft couldn’t possibly be serviceable for a dawn take-off. Problem – will we be allowed to take G/413 when she comes back so as to carry on with the convoy escort? The Wing Commander is not keen on the idea of our taking her as she belongs to another squadron.
Friday 22 January 1943 The old diary is three days behind – I’ve had a mild pre-lunch session in the Mess and can’t remember much of what happened on this Friday. However I do remember that we went out aboard G for George at about 1800 hours, all set for a 1830 hours take-off to do an air escort to yet another batch of South African First Division. The weather looked pretty bad and it was doubtful for a time whether we would go. However the Wing Commander sent us off. We got as far as running up the motors and were all set to get airborne when Jeep Balfour did a very smart 220 yard dash from the Operations Room round to the edge of the basin to stop us taking off. Squadron Leader Fitzpatrick cancelled the job.
Had quite a few drinks in the Mess with Lieutenant Boulton RN, an Officer from one of the latest destroyers, Quilliam. He was coming with us on the trip. After getting fired up, we went down aboard his ship and proceeded to get even more so. Nae bother at all: he was producing bottles of John Haig from the bar – almost unheard of these days. Went off to the Stardust at about 2 am with Flight Lieutenant Mackenzie, the new Senior Intelligence Officer.
Saturday 23 January 1943 A little late in surfacing after last night’s solid do. A morning of little activity. This afternoon Jeep Balfour DFC, Jack Whitaker and I trooped up to Caister for a swim. Spent practically four hours in the pool. It was more crowded than it has been all during the week but nevertheless I got in more training than I have been able to do so far. We came back into town, had a really good meal at the Playhouse Grill and then Jeep and I went to see Bob Hope in that very amusing show “Caught in the Draft.”
This afternoon saw the wedding of Madge Driver the woman who runs the Stardust Club. All the Squadron’s Officers were invited but a few of us found it too hot to go – Caister pool appeared far more attractive.
Sunday 24 January 1943 As far as spending this 48 hours goes, I remained in the Mess all the morning (after surfacing at 9 am) and read the Penguin book “Now East, Now West” by Susan Ertz. It is the story of an American couple who go to England. She is a highly emotional, selfish and snobbish woman and he is a simple, steady and sincere man.
Rang Jo Thorpe quite early and arranged to play golf with her at the Royal Durban this afternoon. Called up at Apsley Court for her and we hit off at 2.30 pm. It was a delightful afternoon for golf – the sun was out but a lovely breeze was blowing and this kept us from getting too hot. Played a game called Sunningdale – the essence of which seems to be that if one person gets two up or more on the other that person gives a stroke a hole until the loser becomes better than two down. I was no less than four down with six holes to go but managed to square the match. Jo plays a good game – is the lady champion of Isipingo course – now closed down by the Military. A few drinks at the Clubhouse then home to the family for dinner. About 10 pm I started ringing for a taxi. At 10.45 pm I was still trying to get past engaged signals – so the Thorpes very kindly had me stay at their flat for the night.
Monday 25 January 1943 Jo brought me down to the city in her car on her way to work. I then raced around the town for a couple of hours buying a lot of things that I have been needing for some time. All khaki stuff is becoming increasingly difficult to get. One is allowed to purchase one shirt and one pair of shorts.
Back to Congella by midday there to become involved in a session with the Wing Commander, Squadron Leader and the rest of the types.
About 5.30 this afternoon Eric, I and some of the crew went across to Salisbury Island to launch Q. She has been beached across there for the last two days having an inspection done on her starboard float as well as having the hull scraped.
The quantity of barnacles they took off the hull must have been slowing our take-off runs by seconds.
Was going out to the Stardust with Jo after a late arrangement of the date, but it fell through. I was just as pleased for I was pretty tired.
Tuesday 26 January 1943 The usual haunting of the Mole Hole. A morning of sweet Fanny Adams allowed me to catch up on some letter writing. This time last year I was in London and went to Australia House to see a show put on by Cyril Ritchard, Madge Elliot, Leslie Hewson, etc. By way of celebrating Australia Day this year we were the guests of the Australia and New Zealand Society at the pictures. The show was “Grand Central Murder.” Seemed to be developing into a good show but I left early to go and pick up Joy Taplin and went on to the Cosmo. I have been promising to take her out ever since I was at their home on Xmas Day. We had a very pleasant night.
Wednesday 27 January 1943 A rather interesting morning. A day or two ago the Wing Commander gave me a signal from Mombasa. The Group Captain there wants us to buy £20 worth of books here and take them to Mombasa when we go. He wants biographies, Shakespeare, Everyman, Penguins. I was given the job of spending this money. Went into Adams and really enjoyed myself. The first £5 just slipped away but surprisingly enough, the remaining £15 took some getting rid of. However I eventually arrived back with a grand collection. Bought some of van Loon’s books, “Story of Mankind”, “Home of Mankind”, “Ships”, and “Story of Pacific.”
Our two days of First Available Boat came to an end today and so this afternoon we resumed our swimming at Caister. Had three hours there. Took Joy out to dinner at the Edward and then we again went to the Cosmo. Had quite an early night.
Thursday 28 January 1943 That wretched southeast wind was blowing fiercely all day, and so all the camp was smothered in that red dust that comes across from Clairewood.
Was out on board Q this morning with the Engineering Officer. The carburettor that was sent down from Mombasa was the wrong type so what they did was to take the rubber diaphragms out of this new one and put them into the old one. We went out to tune it in and then were going to test fly Q at 1430 hours. However the old bitch still refused to go. Forgham thinks that the plugs have probably oiled up so he had those in the lower cylinders changed and then we tried again at 1600 hours. Still no joy and what is more, there was no fuel pressure. All the plugs are now going to be changed. In the morning we intend to run up the engine using the port motor fuel pump so we can get the carburettor adjusted. After that, the starboard fuel pump will be dealt with.
Stayed in camp ce soir and wrote a few letters, and read.
Friday 29 January 1943 Out aboard Q this morning after all the new plugs had been fitted. Ran both engines – used the port fuel pump to get the starboard engine going. The carburettor is now adjusted correctly and it is only the fuel pump that is giving trouble. This was taken off and pulled to pieces after lunch. The vanes were found to be rusted – probably causing the sticking which broke the drive shaft. I believe the shafts are so constructed that they break first allowing no damage to be done to the engine. The rust has come from that strainer drain cock that couldn’t be turned.
A few of us went to see “Dangerous Moonlight” tonight. It contains that lovely Warsaw Concerto. I saw the film in Bournemouth early last year.
The Mess entertained some nursing sisters to afternoon tea.
Saturday 30 January 1943 Down in the Mole ‘ole with Squadron Leader Fitzpatrick awaiting reports of the first bunch of Catalinas that are due to arrive here in Durban this afternoon.
Eric has made arrangements for our rubber dinghies to be serviced by the SAAF. I suggested that we should do a dinghy drill before we send them away. After lunch saw the crew of Q for Queenie stripped into underpants or bathing togs, aboard the aircraft. The “abandon aircraft” signal was given and we all grabbed those articles which we should and went back to the blister to prepare the dinghies. Maguire unfortunately turned the air bottle on before we had our dinghy over the side. Result was she inflated while still inside the aircraft and practically jammed the blister. Had it been necessary to have left the aircraft because it was sinking, I’m afraid many of us would have been trapped inside. Experience teaches! Paddled, or rather were towed ashore and left the dinghies. I swam back to the aircraft – a hard swim as the wind was whipping up the waves. While we were still aboard, the first of the Catalinas arrived – a Dutchman from Ceylon. Later on I went out on the seaplane tender to clear the Channel for the remaining two boats – both of 205 Squadron.
Dot arrived back tonight but wasn’t feeling too well so I didn’t go in to see her.
Sunday 31 January 1943 Went across to Salisbury Island this morning to refuel the two 205 Squadron boats. As there were two refuellers available I thought I would be cunning and get the job done in half the time. The Warrant Officer Pilot of one of the boats was available. However by the time my refueller got alongside he was finished. Then my refueller went unserviceable so nothing was saved. There were thousands of maintenance people swarming all over the boats getting them ready to leave for Langebaan tomorrow.
Felt an attack of the flu coming on so went to bed ce après midi. However got up to go and see Dot tonight.
Monday 1 February 1943 Felt absolutely off this morning so stayed in bed. The Medical Officer came over and said it was an attack of flu. After a while I felt better so went into the Mess. Someone was wanted to go up to St Lucia and stand by the flare path for the next few days. I got it. Went up with Jimmy McIvor in the Walrus – flew it most of the way at zero feet. The Walrus was to return to Durban right away with Flight Lieutenant Wood who has tick fever. But he was feeling too bad to go back with Jimmy, so stayed overnight.
Before leaving Durban I had an absolutely wizard mail in. As I’m writing this on 20 February I’ve forgotten who they were all from.
Was annoyed to have to leave Durban without my diary. I had left it in the Operations Room for the last few days. When I went to pick it up as I was leaving for the aerodrome, I found the Operations Room locked. It was lunchtime. Despite the bloody great staff of stooges who have just arrived to man the place, it was locked over lunchtime!
Tuesday 2 February 1943 Again felt bloody awful on waking. As there was no need to get up, I stayed in bed to see if I can’t get rid of this wretched cold. Or rather I stayed there till I heard the Walrus engine. Then had to get up and ring Naval Headquarters to advise them of its departure.
This hotel is terribly short of reading matter. What is here (three or four magazines) I’ve read from cover to cover. However I find that there is a library over in the so-called Orderly Room so I must investigate.
Wednesday 3 February 1943 The library produced only one reasonable looking book – “Above Suspicion”, a rattling good spy story – 1941 vintage. Why is it, when people are asked to give books to the forces, they make a point of cleaning out all the rubbish from their bookshelves? “The Child’s Life of Christ” was one.
Wrote a letter to the family this afternoon but couldn’t number it as my diary was still in Durban. Went for a walk this afternoon and saw the native punt in action. This is just an iron arrangement fixed to some overhead wires. About a dozen wogs are required to haul the thing along. It moves painfully slowly especially when there is a cross-wind or a strong current. Takes about 20 minutes to go 300 yards, if that. As Jack Whitaker would say “After 2000 years of progress it comes to this!”
Thursday 4 February 1943 For a change of scenery I went into M’tubatuba this morning – a town about 18 miles west of St Lucia and across the river. Had to cross by that native punt and I cursed my inquisitiveness search for experience yesterday for I had to cross the thing twice today.
M’tubatuba is only a tiny little village. There is an aerodrome, a few miles out of the town – or rather an embryo ‘drome. No buildings are up yet and the runways are only just being laid. Saw the wreckage of a Ventura which crashed a month ago. Took quite a few snaps of it. The driver I had told me that he used to be some Group Captain’s personal driver. In the conversation it was always me and the Groupy did this or that.
Friday 5 February 1943 Felt so stuffed up again this morning that I decided to spend the day in bed to try and get rid of this bloody cold. Everything was going according to plan till about 1015 hours when I had a phone call from Durban to say that Squadron Leader Fitzpatrick was on his way to St Lucia and would be here at 1130 hours. He arrived on time bringing with him the Commanding Officer of the Dutch detachment and a Canadian Squadron Leader. The purpose of the trip being to show these two types the alighting area.
I managed to talk myself into going back to Durban on the Walrus – a good show. Took off about 1450 hours but landed at M’tubatuba areodrome to refuel as the trip back looked like being a long one owing to a strong headwind. There we found some of 22 Squadron (SAAF) boys with their Venturas – there to do some night flying. It’s a desolate looking place – not a building anywhere. They are under canvas.
On the trip to Durban we went way out to sea to avoid a storm and on coming back to the coast couldn’t recognise it as being north of Durban. Twice they turned round to go back but eventually Fitz saw a building he recognised and established our position as well north of Durban.
Dot and I went to the Stardust – a farewell performance there I should think.
Saturday 6 February 1943 A walk in the dawn’s early light to the Hotel Edward to pick up a taxi.
Out on board this morning running the starboard engine. Apart from a large magneto drop which can be quickly fixed, the engine seems to be going OK. Eric took her up on a test flight this afternoon and everything is on the top line.
Went into town, booked some seats at a show and then went out to Springfield Hospital to pick up Flight Lieutenant Wood. Saw Tommy Cairns – seems well enough although his wound is taking a long time to heal. Had some zizz before dinner and after it went and picked up Dot. Saw the film “Somewhere I’ll find you.” Clark Gable and Lana Turner – a show full of clinches.
Sunday 7 February 1943 Sent the crew out on board to clean up the aircraft as we are expecting to take a Wing Commander up north with us. Raced around getting all the odd jobs cleaned up – paybook, etc.
Took-off at 2 pm, but not without some trouble from the starboard engine – she spat and coughed a lot before finally picking up. Beat up the Mess and said farewell to Durban. Went up to St Lucia by the coast route. Avoided going overland to dodge the bumps. The refuelling was done from the new pipeline that has been installed. We didn’t wait for the refuelling but set out for the hotel. The trip in the troop carrier took only an hour for the 12 miles and was by far the most comfortable journey we have yet had over that route. The main reason for this is that the types have cut a new cross-country road.
Monday 8 February 1943 Up at 3.30 am and began the drive to Eastern Shore at 4 am. It proved to be the worst trip I have done. The driver couldn’t find the cross-country track in the dark. Took-off at 6 am (first light) and set course for Pamanzi. Farewell to the Union of South Africa – in which we’ve spent a very happy time for the last three months.
Ran into heavy rain for the first four hours. The wind was doing a merry-go-round stint. Started off at about 0900 and then swung round through north to 1800. We saw absolutely nothing the whole trip and landed at Pamanzi at 1800 hours – just 12 hours out from St Lucia. Squadron Leader Turner the Medical Officer from 246 Wing was there. Had some drinks in the Army Mess on arrival – there are only two Officers there now.
Went to bed quite early – tired after the early rising and long daylight trip. Flying during the daytime on the one track I find very boring. The only things we passed were the atoll, Bassas da India, just a large ring of sand jutting up out of the ocean. Then came Juan de Nova, the most deserted looking tiny island I have ever seen. Two wrecks of ships lay stranded on it.
Tuesday 9 February 1943 The view from Pamanzi Mess was delightful – a beautiful day with the water looking its bluest. We took off at 1100 hours and ten minutes out passed the BOAC boat heading for Pamanzi. The company has just started a new service to Diego Suarez via Mayotte. Eric and I read books the whole way – except that after five hours out I got thoroughly brassed off and went down on to the deck and indulged in a spot of low flying for a quarter of an hour or so. I did the landing at Mombasa and bounced – to a gallery of the Wing Commander who asked “if the Wireless Operator had landed it.” We find that we are to be sent on a major inspection immediately although in fact we have 80 hours to do before the major is due. Something brewing methinks.
It was good to see all the blokes again. We left here on November 3rd and laughingly wished the chaps a Merry Xmas, little thinking that we would be away that long. But here we’ve been gone over three months.
Wednesday 10 February 1943 The Mess has improved considerably since the two days we spent in it at the beginning of November last. Even runs to sheets on the beds now! The bed I have has a “mattress” made of strands of rope knotted together. There are lots of new types here. The first arrivals of 259 Squadron – the Catalina crowd who are to be based at Mombasa also. 230 Squadron of Sunderlands (late of Aboukir) is now at Dar-es-Salaam. One of the boats left here this morning for Dar.
The morning parade still flourishes. However the 5 am rising has been cut out and the working day now begins after the parade at 0800 hours.
Went out and unloaded all the junk off the aircraft – it’s marvellous the amount of stuff that we carry. Then a session with the Accountant Officer getting my paybook brought up to date. Incidentally I had to shell out £4 in respect of our stay at Gibraltar last June. It appears Rate 1 subsistence is not allowable there.
Thursday 11 February 1943 Took off at 9.15 am for Kisumu for our major inspection. For the first hour we ran into low ragged cloud but after that we went up to 10,000 feet and then saw Mount Kilimanjaro rising in all its beauty through the fleecy white cloud. Took some more photos of it, for when we passed it October last the film I had in my camera was old and I got no results. Landed after three and a half hours, the quickest time we’ve done for this journey. We are no longer accommodated at the Kisumu Hotel but in an Officers’ Mess, newly opened in the Marina Hotel. Quite nice it is too.
Slept this afternoon and then went down to the Kisumu Hotel for drinks before dinner. Jack and I then went to the pictures and saw a terrible bloody show “Down in San Diego.”
Friday 12 February 1943 Over to the slipway to bring old Q for Queenie up for her fourth major inspection. This beaching was accomplished without much difficulty. Collected £7 from the Accountant Officer for leave. This is at the rate of 10/- a day and is granted to Pilot Officers only on leave after operations. Flying Officers do not get it so that’s one advantage of my promotion to Flying Officer not having come through yet. Non-commissioned Officers on aircrew get 5/- a day whilst on leave.
Caught the train at 2 pm for Nairobi. We have to go there to organise leave for the crew. It cannot be fixed at Kisumu through the Kenya Women’s Emergency Organisation now but has to go through the Welfare Officer at 207 Group. Didn’t take too much notice of the trip as I was reading most of the way. Afternoon tea at Miwani and dinner at Lumba. Was in my sleeper by 8 pm.
Saturday 13 February 1943 Reached Nairobi just after 8 am and tried to book into the New Stanley but to no avail. Finished up at Torrs (where, after last time I swore I’d never stay again) and bugger me if I didn’t get the same little garret-like room on the fifth floor as we had in October.
After shaving went out and hired a car. Couldn’t get one from the old Colonel but he was decent enough to give us a couple of gallons of petrol which allowed us to line up an old shagbat from another firm who had run out of petrol. This afternoon we went out to 207 Group and saw Air Commodore Lewin about leave for the crew. His step-daughter Ann Stanning of wide repute, was also there. We drove out with the Air Commodore to Eastleigh and watched him take-off in his little Puss Moth. I then looked up Dot’s friend, Doris Burt who is in the Army Post Office. She invited us up to the WAAF Mess for drinks tonight. After this Jack, Eric and a WAAF and I went for some dinner at The Lobster Pot. Was in bed by 10 pm.
Sunday 14 February 1943 Spent a bloody hell of a night for I was bitten to blazes by bed bugs. I remember now that when I was in this room before I was bitten. We were picked up at 11 am by Mrs Schulter, daughter of Mrs Montgomery whose address Mother has given me by letter. However I forgot to bring the letter away with me and yesterday had a mad chase around the town to see if I could locate Mrs Montgomery’s address. Eventually did, only to find that she was away at Brakenhurst, but her daughter, Mrs Schulter, kindly asked us out to their home for the day. She had another girl with her (pregnant – horribly embarrassing – I was scared to look at her). Had to look at a lot of old HOME (Australian) magazines during the afternoon. Went over to the local club with the two women afterwards. They took us there to see if they could get somebody who was going back to town to give us a lift. Petrol is pretty scarce.
Jack and I got back but Eric didn’t until much later. Jack and I went along to the pictures. Saw a film “Get Away.” I had seen it before. However it was quite a good film. The newsreel had some wizard shots of Catalinas in Ceylon.
Tried to put a trunk call through to Molly Ryan at Molo but that exchange has been shut since noon.
Monday 15 February 1943 Out on a shopping tour early as we hoped to catch the midday train for Molo. However as the morning wore on, our chances of leaving Nairobi today diminished for we couldn’t get the trunk call through. At 11.10 am we decided to leave Nairobi anyhow and spend the night at Nakuru from where we intended to ring. A mad rush to pack bags, pay hotel bills, book seats on the train and then catch the train at 11.50 am. It was some going. However we made it. Didn’t pay much attention to the scenery this time as I was reading. However the little glimpses of it I did get reminded me again very much of home – the views of the Blue Mountains around Megalong Valley.
Booked in at the Stags Head Hotel at Nakuru – a nice pub. Our private bathroom was bigger than any I’ve seen all over the world. Simply huge. Pussy Trench whom we met once before at Molly Ryan’s was in the dining room. She is going down to Nairobi for a day or two. Rang Molly who was very surprised to know that we were back in this part of the world. Told us to come along immediately. The first train we can catch is a goods train, leaving at 8 am tomorrow so an early night is indicated.
Tuesday 16 February 1943 Up early as we had to catch the goods train leaving Nakuru at 8 am. We rode in the guard’s van – quite an experience, and a smelly one. The train absolutely crawled along – took three and a half hours to do the 30 miles to Molo. However we at last arrived to find Tony and Molly Ryan waiting to welcome the three of us – Eric Saunders, Jack Whitaker and me.
And so here we are once again comfortably installed at “Garryowen.” Conditions have changed a lot. There has been no rain to speak of for five months, so everything is looking very dry and withered. Shortage of water for baths, etc. Food is becoming a problem too. The natives are facing a definite famine. Their mealie has all but run out. The long rains are not expected for another month and it takes four months after they have fallen before the mealie is ready for eating. Tony doesn’t know what is going to happen.
Wednesday 17 February 1943 As in October last I find it very, very difficult to get up of a morning out of the comfortable beds. Went into the village with Tony to do a few odd jobs this morning and then came back and began sticking into my album some of the many loose snaps I have collected. Did about 60 of them and then got thoroughly fed up.
A spot of zizz after lunch before four Army types came here for afternoon tea. These are Anti-Aircraft chaps from Mombasa in Molo for ten days leave. All Privates except one who is a Sergeant. At 6 pm we went over to Eileen Lewin’s place for drinks. She is Air Commodore Lewin’s daughter-in-law. The house is very nicely furnished – there’s no doubt about it, wall lighting is very effective. Stayed till 8.45 pm. One of the reasons being that Molly and Eileen were making arrangements for a party to be held on Friday night.
Thursday 18 February 1943 Jack didn’t put in an appearance for breakfast this morning. He has a temperature and a sore throat. Reading and writing filled up my morning. This afternoon Tony left with three friends to go out on a four day fishing expedition. All the people gathered here and it was from “Garryowen” that the expedition left. I drove out in one of the cars. We passed through some really lovely country, looking a bit dry I’ll admit but glorious looking country nevertheless. There were huge patches of forest completely untouched. I was told the road petered out after some 22 miles. Here all the camp kit was unloaded and the fishermen set off.
On the drive back Molly told me that the old saying “Are you married or do you live in Kenya?” has a hell of a lot of truth in it. We called upon a couple. A Mrs F who is living with some married man. Mrs F’s husband is still alive. The whole thing is done quite openly and this is by no means an isolated case Molly assures me. Far from it. I wonder if this is peculiar to Kenya or whether it goes on in all communities but owing to the larger numbers of people in other communities it is not as noticeable?
Friday 19 February 1943 Molly left very early for Nakuru. She has lots to do there. We took advantage of her absence and stayed in bed quite late. All except Jack Whitaker who seems to be suffering from insomnia or something. He was up at 8.30 am. He and I drove down to Molo to do a couple of odd jobs for Molly. We then came back and had a gen session on the electrical equipment of a Catalina. This afternoon I began reading Quentin Reynold’s “Only the Stars are Neutral.” Later in the afternoon made another attempt to catch up on my correspondence. Molly didn’t get back from Nakuru till very late.
Saturday 20 February 1943 This morning I stayed at home reading “Only the Stars are Neutral” while Jack and Eric went down with Molly to do the morning’s shopping. They were away for a hell of a while. This afternoon settled down to more letter writing. There’s no doubt about this spell at Molo – it does let you catch up on your correspondence. Pussy Trench came over here this afternoon. I gave her all our accumulated mail to give to some Air Force chap at Nakuru to have the censor’s stamp put on them. Hope they don’t get lost.
Joan Wilton, the lass who works in the Creamery with Piglet Hewson, came here to dinner tonight. Her husband was the first casualty in the East African campaign.
Sunday 21 February 1943 Sunday – a day of rest. Stayed in bed till 10 o’clock. Began reading Susan Ertz’s book “Madame Claire.” Good but I find it a bit lavender and lacy. Rain began to build up quite early in the afternoon and when Tony and his fishing party arrived back at about 4.30 pm, they were drenched. However they brought home a lovely catch of fish – something like 120 between them. Tony and Jim Ryan had caught most of them yesterday by going some 12 miles down the river. Left at 8 am and didn’t get back until 11.30 pm – thoroughly exhausted and with legs cut to pieces by the bush in the dark.
Molly and I drove Mr Millington home – he was one of the fishing party. He lives across the other side of Molo. While going there I saw scenery which if the wog huts had been absent would have been Australian. A huge valley with blue mountains on the other side of it, reminded me very much of places like Megalong Valley.
Monday 22 February 1943 I decided last night that it’s about time we began doing something a little more active than lying on the sofa all day reading books or writing letters. So I accompanied Tony on a ride round the farm on horse-back this morning. It’s the first time I’ve been on a horse since I was here last in October. Rode over a lot of rough fields to get to a tractor which has broken down.
Slipped back to the old scheme of things in the afternoon by reading part of James Hilton’s “Random Harvest” – a yarn about a man who lost his memory in the war and can remember nothing from Armistice Day till December 1919, when he slipped and fell and recovered his memory.
Molly, Jack and I went around a few of the neighbours – Bellhouses and Tryons. After the Ryans had gone to bed we three yarned about the early days of the war – the keenness to get to Canada for training, the trip to New York. Even though it is comparatively recent, I find that I have forgotten various names of places already. However there’re safely tucked away in my diaries which therefore are already proving their worth.
Tuesday 23 February 1943 While at breakfast this morning there was a phone call from Eileen Lewin to say that she had all the crew of Q for Queenie at her place. Pursuing my health campaign, I rode over to her place on Garryowen – about four miles. Arrived there I found that Flight Sergeant Vincent and Sergeant Maguire were the only two there – the rest having already been distributed around the district. Three are at Highlands Hotel and the remaining two are with some people called the Mews. They also brought the news that Q will not be finished her major for another month – the new engines haven’t arrived. A signal had arrived from Mombasa to the effect that on completion of the crew’s 14-day leave all of us have to go back to Mombasa by train. We are really the luckiest crew still flying; the number of things that have happened to Q, either on the ground or discovered on inspections. They have discovered on this major that both fuel pumps were on the point of seizing – a fine thing to have happened on our way up from Durban or in the air anywhere for that matter.
Had some difficulty in saddling up the nag so had a quick bite of lunch at Eileen Lewin’s before coming back home. All the Molo people are going down to the Officers Mess, RAF Nakuru for a cocktail party tonight. Tony, Eric, Jack and self went down to the travelling picture show which was scheduled to be here tonight, but it hadn’t arrived. Molly arrived back at about 10.30 pm with three lads from the ‘drome, Mick Woodham was one of them – he was here when we were here before.
Wednesday 24 February 1943 Eric, Mick Woodham and I went over to the Highlands and played nine holes of golf this morning. Two others went out riding and Jack went round the farm with Tony. Our golf was of a pretty awful standard – three pars amongst the three of us was all we collected. Took no “line-shoot” photographs from the highest tee in the British Empire this time. Saw Fulton and Howell who are staying at the Highlands Hotel. Stoner is also there (all members of Q’s crew).
One of the chaps who went out riding came off the nag and hurt his back. After a sleep this afternoon, four of us went out for some tennis. Molly and I versus Mick Woodham and Tony. We lost the first two sets 6-2, 6-4 but took the last one 6-4. After dinner had an hour’s poker. Within the first quarter hour, three four-of-kind had turned up. I started the rot by hanging on to an ace and buying the other three aces!
About 10.30 pm we set off in the car to take the three Non-commissioned Officers back to the Operational Training Unit at Nakuru. I drove half way there. We had a drink at the Rift Valley Club in Nakuru before going out to the ‘drome. We arrived back at Molo dead on 2 o’clock. I was as tired as blazes – had done far more today than the rest of the leave.
Thursday 25 February 1943 Received a cable from the family today (though Lord knows how it got to Molo) to say that Keith is continuing his medical studies. This is damned good news for I’ve tried to persuade him by cable and letter to go on with them. It would be silly to throw it up to go into the forces now that he has gone so far and done so well. Besides he couldn’t get into the Air Force and would probably have to go into the Army and do some stooge job.
We all went out to a farm called Keringet today. Before the war it was run by some Italians who are now interned in South Africa. However both the wives are still here and they proved to be very charming. One of them, Mrs Vincinzinci, is a woman of very good birth according to Molly. The house is one of the most tastefully furnished places I have ever been in. Silver ware and crockery were super. The lounge room (the only room we saw apart from the bathroom and lavatory) was furnished in what I should imagine an Italian style. If so, I like it. Molly tells me these people were millionaires before the war. They used to spend one year in Kenya and one year in Italy.
Of course talk drifted to the war inevitably – in fact that was the main topic the four hours we were there. Mrs Vincinzinci said that she was sure that 70% of Italians had not the slightest inclination to be in the war. She hated the Germans like hell and rejoices when they suffer a reverse. All she hopes for is the war to be over soon so as her husband can come back.
Eric caught the train tonight for Kisumu. He is going there for a few days to see how the major is going. He will be back in a few days.
Friday 26 February 1943 Were down at the post office this morning posting off a lion-skin wallet to Keith for his birthday when a phone call came through from Kisumu. It was Eric. He tells me that Jack and I have to catch the midday train back to Kisumu tomorrow and that the three of us are to go back to Mombasa by BOAC boat on Monday. The crew can stay here until the end of their leave and then they have to go to Kisumu. The boat should be ready about a week after they get there. We presumably will then come up from Mombasa to pick up Q.
Jim Ryan, Tony’s cousin, was taken very ill this morning – something to do with his gastric ulcer. Flight Lieutenant Eliott, a Medical Officer from RAF Nakuru who is staying with Eileen Lewin, went up to see Jim this afternoon. In fact we all went. He advises Jim to go down to a hospital in Nairobi as soon as possible. Tonight we went over to Eileen Lewin’s place for a party. There were about a dozen there altogether. Pulled back the carpet and had a spot of dancing. Eileen was in fine form – a bloody good night.
Saturday 27 February 1943 Did both Eric’s and my packing this morning. Left “Garryowen” about 10.30 am and delivered a small cocker spaniel dog of Jim Ryan’s to the Tryons. They are to look after it while Jim is in hospital. The train left at about 11.20 am bringing to an end our second bout of leave in Molo. Jack and I could only muster about $1.50 East African between us. It looked as if we would be doing without lunch at Lumbwa but we managed to talk the steward into taking South African money of which we had about £1. Reached Kisumu at 5.30 pm. Went down to the hotel and proceeded to deal with the limited beer supply. There happened to be a dance on there from 9 pm until midnight and we filled in the evening there. About 12 o’clock the Shell representative whom I had met here when we passed through in June last, took me home to his place for a drink. We then got into his car and drove round the shores of the lake looking for hippos and crocs. He had a spotlight on his car so it made the searching easy. However we couldn’t locate the hippos but saw the eyes of a number of crocs glistening in the beam of light.
The Wing Commander and Ken Willis went back to Mombasa this morning by BOAC. We are to go on Monday. Mike Barry passed through here the day before yesterday on his way to England for his Captain’s Course. Tom Eakins I believe has gone to the US Forces. It cheeses me up no end to see the Second Pilots off for Captains Courses. I wonder how long before my turn comes?
Sunday 28 February 1943 Felt a bit groggy after last night so didn’t get up till 10 am. Dressed and then we all went down to Kisumu Hotel to weigh in our baggage and selves at the BOAC office there. Lay about reading all afternoon.
Monday 1 March 1943 Up at 6.30 am and had our bags put on the 7 o’clock transport. We got down to the Kisumu Hotel at 8 o’clock but did not leave there for the aerodrome. Our BOAC aircraft was the Canopus [G-ADHL]. Jack, Eric, Cypher type and self were the only passengers. Slept part of the way and then went up to the control cabin for a time. These aircraft have variable pitch airscrews. The blades can be turned in flight but cannot be fully feathered, [i.e., turned so that they are at right angles to the slipstream in the event of engine failure so the engine can be stopped. If the blades are not stopped, they are rotated by the slipstream and “windmill” creating considerable drag. If the engine seizes the airscrews may break off with unpredictable results.]
The trip down took three hours and 20 minutes. The cabin was blacked out as we approached Mombasa. The Navy object to it being otherwise.
We find that the training programme is in full swing. There have been changes in crew and Eric and I have been separated. I have gone to Bill Hossent’s crew and Jack Kennedy (Bill’s Second Pilot) goes to Eric. Sergeant Howell from Q goes to N.
Tuesday 2 March 1943 Began our training programme this morning; lamp photography and navigation. I’m not quite sure yet how serious the powers-that-be are about this scheme. When we get to the flying training I’ll be happy – low and high level bombing and some night flying.
Lectures over, we went swimming around in the creek, from 2 to 4 pm. Jim Mecklem, Bob Roberts and I had a long natter session while dealing with some tins of salmon which I had received from home. Argued till about 1 am about Lord knows what.
The bloody wogs have burnt a hole in my good khaki tunic. Blast their eyes!
Wednesday 3 March 1943 Lectures – Semaphore and ship recognition. This afternoon Eric and I went down to the range with the Defence Officer for a spot of shooting. Had 15 rounds of rifle and a dozen with a revolver.
Jack Milligan and I went for a swim off the slipway just before dinner. Swam round the bomb scows and pinnace. Tonight there was a gramophone recital of “The Mikado” at the 246 Wing Mess. Some of us went up there but didn’t get past the bar until the recital was almost over. Had dinner at the Mess before coming back to Kipevu. Arrived there we proceeded to “do up” all the rooms.
Thursday 4 March 1943 Lamp, navigation and engines. I was late getting to the latter lecture for I had just had to have a haircut this morning. Have been looking as shaggy as blazes for I haven’t had my wool shorn since about ten days before leaving Durban.
About 2 o’clock, another two 259 Squadron boats arrived from England. And there are still more to come. Lord alone knows where the crews are to be put for the Mess is pretty packed now. I can’t see the need for two squadrons here in Mombasa considering the little flying that has been done from here in the nine months we have been out here. It will probably mean, as I hope it does, that we shall move on – Seychelles? Who knows?
There was a supper dance held in the Mess tonight – about 50 or 60 officers and a dozen women. Still it was quite enjoyable. They are to have these “dos” every second Thursday I believe.
Friday 5 March 1943 The usual bunch of lectures this morning. Was unable to go swimming this afternoon as Jack Milligan and I were marked down on Daily Routine Orders to act as Witnessing Officers on today’s parade. Went up to the new camp first. This has just been built on the second hill towards Port Reitz from our own Mess. It is to accommodate all the Squadron Airmen who up to now have been living aboard the Manela. We had to sign about 440 pay books.
Decided to have an early and grogless night. I wrote a two-page airgraph to Peggy having already written to the family and Dot between afternoon tea and dinner. It is just a year ago today since I met Peggy and Nance Bond on Henley Station. What an emotional shaking followed for “Gnomie” and me. It hasn’t died down yet by any means and would flare up I’m sure if ever we see each other again.
Saturday 6 March 1943 Buzzer, navigation and ship recognition. Fitz didn’t turn up to give the scheduled lecture on the Japanese fleet so Bill Hossent ran through the British Navy again. Had an hour period on the theory of sighting straight after lunch. And then went swimming.
The Squadron was playing the Army at soccer at 5 pm. Have never seen a soccer match played so went along. The RAF scored first but the Army equalised just before the end of the game.
Bob Roberts, Bill Hossent, Jim Mecklem, Eric Saunders and I went up to 246 Wing Mess ce soir at the invitation of Uncle Tom Hobley, late Intelligence Officer of 209 Squadron. He has just been made Flight Lieutenant on becoming Wing Intelligence Officer. Quite a bright little party. Was wakened at 2 am by a couple of 259 Catalinas leaving for Durban – the lucky blighters.
Sunday 7 March 1943 A signal came through late last night ordering Ted Taylor to proceed by BOAC to Cairo as soon as possible. He would have been the third to have been on his way to England for a Captain’s Course. However old Ted is still in Madagascar somewhere so he has missed it. There are three of the original Second Pilots here at the moment, Ted Mangan, Gordon Millem and self. Ted Mangan has done his night flying and is regarded as a Captain already so if they are going to send anyone in Taylor’s place it should be Gordon or me. Jack Kennedy is in Pamanzi and Rolf Luck is still in Durban.
The usual run of lectures and a swimming parade.
Monday 8 March 1943 The proficiency test in ship recognition (British Navy) came off this morning. Each Pilot, Observer and Wireless Operator went into the Flight Commander’s office and was given a set of 13 Air Force photos of ships. I fancy I did fairly well. There was a Mess meeting after lunch – it was decided to construct a partition around the bar. I’m not in favour of it myself.
Bill Hossent had me go and do a taxi test on N. On return I was summoned to the Flight Commander’s office and had a strip torn off for passing sufficiently close to O to cause the wash to rock the dinghy moored alongside the float. A wee bit of a session in the Mess ce soir.
Tuesday 9 March 1943 Found out I had scored full marks in yesterday’s ship recognition test – 130/130. Bill Powell, the Observer, was the only other one so to score. Fitz was pretty mad about the results and said that he was going to continue the tests until everyone got 90% on the British fleet.
Had a visit this morning from the new Air Officer Commanding. He popped into the Navigation Room for a minute.
Tonight was dining-in night. Dinner was OK but the Mess emptied quite quickly afterwards.
Bill Hossent is as browned off as blazes with all this Operational Training Unit rubbish going on in the Squadron at present. And tonight he had his boat, in which he takes such a pride, given to Ted Mangan. Whether this is to be permanent or only temporary he doesn’t know.
Wednesday 10 March 1943 Had a lecture from the Commanding Officer this morning regarding the procedure to be adopted when placing people on charges or under arrest. The rest of the day followed the usual programme – ship recognition and Morse.
Eric got a signal today to say that Q is now ready to be collected from Kisumu. He, Jack Whitaker and Des Hosking are going up there by tomorrow’s BOAC boat to pick it up.
There is a system going round the Mess whereby each officer has a nickname pertaining to his trade or some personal characteristic:
- Wing Commander Barraclough is called Wing Commander Mole (shades of the Mole Hole in Durban);
- Squadron Leader Fitzpatrick = Squadron Leader Barrel;
- Flight Lieutenant Mecklem (gunnery Officer) = Flight Lieutenant Stoppage;
- Flight Lieutenant Balfour = Flight Lieutenant Dwarf;
- Flight Lieutenant Hossent = Flight Lieutenant Bald-as-a;
- Flying Officer Powell = Flying Officer Coot (Bandicoot) alias Flying Officer Astro Dome (because of his bald head).
- Flight Lieutenant Willis (Engineering Officer) = Flight Lieutenant Ratchet; and
- Pilot Officer Daymond = Pilot Officer Feathering (known as Fully to his friends – shades of that awful day in Pembroke Dock during my boat conversion course).
Thursday 11 March 1943 Two more proficiency tests held today – buzzer and Aldis Lamp. Did fairly well in each. Another administration lecture by the Commanding Officer and a British ship recognition lecture by means of a series of photos.
Was about to board the bomb scow to go swimming when, from the Duty Captain’s hut, an Aldis Lamp signal was flashed “is Mangan there, strike alarm.” Ted is Captain of the Strike Boat on which I am Second Pilot. I tore up to the Flight Commander’s office and was told that there was a suspicious motor vessel off the coast and that we were to investigate. Further instructions would be flashed as we were running up the engines. We gathered the crew together and slipped moorings. Received an Aldis message to do an anti-submarine patrol off Mt Kilimanjaro and to return to Base at once! It was a test to see how quickly we could get organised.
Went into the pictures tonight – saw “Tortilla Flat.” Eric, Jack and Des didn’t get away to Kisumu today. The BOAC boat on which they were to go didn’t arrive till late in the afternoon. Will go tomorrow.
Friday 12 March 1943 I never was lucky. The Commanding Officer called Millem and me into his office first thing this morning and told us that the Squadron had to send someone to England on Sunday next for a Captain’s Course. Both of us wanted to go and so we had to toss for it. As I say, I never was lucky. Millem flies to Cairo by BOAC and then catches a ship all the way round South Africa. I should think it will be a good three months before he arrives in England. The Commanding Officer says that I will probably be the one to go next month – (at the moment it is on a monthly basis). But I have my doubts. For by that time Ted Taylor and Rolf Luck should be back here in Mombasa and one of their names may come down from Group. The Squadron is not in favour of the scheme at all and is doing its best to squash it. I only hope they don’t succeed before I am down to go.
A Semaphore test and another lecture by the Wing Commander on administration. We were dealing with investigations and an hour or so after the lecture the Commanding Officer called me into his office and asked me to carry out an investigation into the following allegation “that the artificial horizon gives an incorrect indication of climb at the moment the aircraft leaves the water, due to acceleration.” Spent the rest of the day getting gen for this.
The three blokes going to Kisumu to pick up Q didn’t get away again today.
Saturday 13 March 1943 Handed in my typed report on the investigation the Commanding Officer asked me to carry out on the Artificial Horizons. He read it through and seemed very pleased with it. It’s a change to get a pat on the back, usually a trip to his office means a strip torn off.
The Pilots were down to have a period of physical training first thing after lunch under this intensive training programme that is in progress. There were only four of us and there we stood on the beach going through it like clots while all the other Aircrew, who were on swimming parade, stood and watched (and laughed).
There was a hockey match against the WRENS today. An RAF Officers’ team played them. I’ve never played the game but was down to play. Raced around getting all the gen. However I stood down at the last moment in favour of old Mathews (who arrived up here from Durban yesterday, incidentally) as he has played before.
Sunday 14 March 1943 Saw Gordon Millem leave for England by the BOAC boat and was able to remark “There but for the grace of God and the flip of a coin goes B C Daymond.” I was saying to John Wright that I should be the next to go if Rolf Luck and Ted Taylor don’t come back to complicate matters, when who should enter the Mess but Luck himself. He has been on G/413 as Second Pilot. G has now gone back to Ceylon via Tulear, Diego Suarez and Seychelles so Rolf came back to Mombasa by BOAC. Whether his return is going to stop me being the next to go to England I can’t say. However the Flight Commander has told him that he has to do his night flying this week and yet nothing has been said to me about night flying. That’s a good thing for it may mean that I will be doing mine in England.
At last, at long bloody last, my promotion to Flying Officer has come through. And what is more it is back-dated, not to September but to 1st March 1942! That means that I am due for 12 months back pay and that I was only a Pilot Officer officially for six months instead of the 19 months actually. It also means that I became due for promotion to Flight Lieutenant just 14 days ago. I’m glad to see the overseas RAAF officers are only having to do six months as Pilot Officer, the same as RAAF officers in Australia.
Monday 15 March 1943 Didn’t go on parade this morning as I had to go on board N to defuel her from 1200 to 800 gallons. Bill Hossent and I took off at 0930 hours for some flight cooperation. The drill was that two Hurricanes would make attacks on us and we would do turns to give our Gunners some practice. We took no violent evasive action – just Rate 2 turns in to the attack. Bill Hossent was down in the blister during the whole affair and he acted as Fire Controller telling me to turn either to port or starboard. The whole show was bloody good fun and I hope we get lots more of it. However our clots of Gunners forgot to switch on their camera guns and so we have no idea how good their aim was.
This afternoon we had our oral administration test – three Officers at a time into the Commanding Officer’s office. It seemed to me that I was able to answer the questions put to the other two chaps but was not able to deal with my own so well. Also had our Special Instrument exam with which I was able to cope reasonably well.
Tonight my legs feel quite tired from chucking N around the sky.
Tuesday 16 March 1943 Was told yesterday that I am to go to Kisumu with Ted Mangan to bring back K. We were unable to get passages on BOAC so will have to do the trip via Nairobi by train. Results of the Special Instrument exam came out – scored 74%, highest being 77%. Also passed the administration test.
Went up to the Dentist at Port Reitz. He can find nothing wrong. If he has been thorough, my teeth are doing OK, not having needed attention since September last.
Caught the 4.30 pm train from Mombasa. The scenery leaving that place is really rather pretty. Have never done the train trip Mombasa-Nairobi though I have done the Nairobi-Kisumu job four times and it’s a fair bugger. The former service is far better that the latter. There is a restaurant car on the train whereas on the Kisumu line you have to jump out at odd spots for food. Met the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshall on the train and finished his whisky for him. I had previously struck him at Kisumu.
Wednesday 17 March 1943 Keith’s birthday. Breakfast on the train was the best breakfast I have had for the last 16 days. Food at the Mess is pretty ropey. It’s impossible to get potatoes now. Arrived in Nairobi at approximately 9 am and reported to the Railway Transport Officer. He sent us all out to the transit camp at Eastleigh. However Ted and I were able, on seeing the Movement Control type there, to get permission to live in town for the one night we have to spend here. The Non-commissioned Officers have to stay at the camp however and a bloody awful bleak-looking place it is. Ted and I managed to book in at the Norfolk which is the best hotel in town. This afternoon went on an extensive shopping expedition.
Thursday 18 March 1943 Tore around the town this morning doing the shopping we had not had been able to get through yesterday. Picked up my uniforms on which I have had the Flying Officer braid put. The wog tailer had made a whizzo job of my khaki tunic which had a hole burnt in it. Had just got into a cab at the New Stanley Hotel to go to the Station when a cracking fine wench walked up to us and said “I have an empty car. Are you going to the Station?” Pity we couldn’t have met her earlier.
The trip Nairobi-Kisumu was just as bad as ever. Read H V Morton’s “In Search of Wales” and this helped me endure the trip. At Nakuru whilst we were having dinner, I put a call through to Molo. Tony Ryan answered the phone and I nattered with him for quite a while. Told me that Molly was at the War Memorial Hospital in Nakuru, nursing. I rang the hospital and then went to the Rift Valley Club but couldn’t contact her in either spot.
Friday 19 March 1943 Wakened out of a deep sleep at 6.10 am to find that we had just reached Kisumu. Booked in at the Mess and found that Eric Saunders, Des Hosking and Jack Whitaker were still there waiting to pick up Q which is not quite ready yet.
Ted and I went out at about 10.30 am to do a test flight in K but found the main pennant on the buoy and the aircraft pennant firmly wrapped around the cable of the buoy. Try as we could, we couldn’t get loose. No one was very keen on diving into the murky water because of the fear of crocodiles. After lunch got a power-boat to tow the aircraft round the buoy a couple of times to get free that way. The test flight turned out OK. Both Ted and I did a landing and take-off.
Saw all Q’s crew in the hotel – all except Flight Sergeant Vincent who acted as Navigator on a 262 Squadron boat which left Kisumu this morning. Had quite a willing party at the hotel this evening.
Saturday 20 March 1943 Refuelled and took off for Mombasa at 0930 hours. Our navigation was of the crudest sort. Had no protractor to measure off the track – merely guessed it. Also had no deviation card for the compass. However Mt Kilimanjaro provided a damned good landmark two hours out and we found ourselves to be dead on track. Just after we landed the port engine cut out. Started it again, but when she got down to 500 revs it again cut out and continued to do so, making mooring up rather a game.
Refuelled K this afternoon. The lecture system is still in progress.
Sunday 21 March 1943 Today was officially a day off – the first for God knows how long. The purpose of it was to allow people to go and see the War Office film “Next of Kin.” This shows the results of careless talk as a way of helping the enemy.
Went round swimming this afternoon and damned fine it was too! Have at last started to get a decent tan on my bod. Quite a crowd of Officers went out on board the Adamant to a film ce soir but I felt far too weary for some goddamn reason.
Monday 22 March 1943 Spent early part of the morning going around the harbour watching the Marine Craft Section types service buoys. This was part of our practical seamanship instruction. The rest of the morning I spent tying knots. At 1150 hours I became Orderly Officer for the following 24 hours. First duty was to inspect the Airmens’ lunch.
Got caught for refuelling Q this afternoon. I thought that we would be having the seamanship test but it hasn’t come off yet.
Tuesday 23 March 1943 Kicked off with an Astro-navigation theory exam. This has been hanging over my head for some time so I decided to have done with it. To pass the Squadron proficiency test Pilots have to score 75% but need only 60% to be awarded the Astro qualification for the log books. We’re also entitled to the Second Class Navigator’s Certificate too – i.e., those who have done a General Reconnaissance Course. In the afternoon did a Photography exam – also an Engines effort. Leaves me only two or three to do.
- Number of runs = [G multiplied by F] divided by [W multiplied by H] where W is the effective width of film – 3½ inches in this case.
- Number of exposures = [G multiplied by F] divided by [W multiplied by H] where W is 2 inches.
- Working out number of runs and exposures for an area – you use width of area for former and length for latter.
- Time interval = [W multiplied by H] divided by [V multiplied by F] where W is 2 inches and V is velocity of aircraft in feet per second. To convert miles per hour to feet per second multiple by 3/2.
- Scale = F divided by [H multiplied by 12]
Wednesday 24 March 1943 Had a struggle to get myself examined in seamanship. Old Flight Lieutenant Bibb seemed to be very busy racing around and I couldn’t pin him down. However got some gen on laying a temporary mooring: 30 hundredweight sinker, seven eighths of an inch chain, two and a half inch cable for a pennant which is to be two fathoms in length. The shackle from the chain to the sinker has to be bigger than the cable i.e., one inch. The rest of the shackles (i.e., to buoy and oil swivel) can be seven eighths of an inch. The length of the cable must be two and a half fathoms greater than the length of water at high tide.
Had a session on the Jap fleet today. There are lots of Catalinas here now. What with 259 Squadron, those of 262 Squadron in transit to Durban and now the new boats posted to 209 Squadron.
Thursday 25 March 1943 All Pilots spent the morning in the Commanding Officer’s office having a lecture on the Wing Manual of Operational Control. After which this digressed on to tactics for attacking U-boats. It was a very instructive session – and I hope we have many more of them.
This afternoon I went on bombing practice. There is a fixed target right up at the western end of Port Reitz harbour. It is representing the swirl made by a U-boat when she dives. The drill was to fly along when suddenly the type in the Second Pilot’s seat (Bill Hossent in my case) would call out “Submarine on the starboard quarter” or whatever position the target was in at the time relative to the aircraft. You then dived down, and at some time the stooge would shout “Sub submerged”; at that you would press the stopwatch and when over the course the submarine was assumed to take you would read off the “yards ahead of the swirl scale” which is on a circular card pasted around the outer circumference of the instrument panel clock.
Friday 26 March 1943 Went on a test flight in Q this morning. Only lasted three quarters of an hour. Then came back and did a Gunnery exam for Jim Mecklem – Browning and gas-operated gun. Haven’t had anything to do with the Browning since Service Flying Training School.
Pilots of A Flight were to have had another lecture from the Commanding Officer this afternoon – this time on “Applied Flying.” However all apart from myself appeared to be flying or engaged in some other duty. The lecture was thus washed out and I went bombing with Bob Roberts. Were on the same practice as yesterday. It’s damned good sport and the more we can get of it the better. Jim Mecklem was plotting the results from data from the quadrants and from course and distance given by the stooge in the aircraft.
Saturday 27 March 1943 This morning was down for practical “bombing up” of an aircraft. So first Robby and I went over to the Armoury and got some gen on the depth charge pistol. Took one to pieces. Then went out with the armourers and bombed up one of the new aircraft [FP273 P/209] – the one that Eric Saunders is getting in place of Q.
These new boats have come out with ten bomb racks on board. We are only carrying four depth charges from Mombasa at the moment.
Pilots were down for dinghy drill this afternoon but most of them were flying. Those of us who weren’t went to the Rigging Section and blew up the practice dinghy. Just before dinner, a terrific rock fight developed amongst the types. People going to the showers were in No Man’s Land.
Went up to the New Camp to the Airmen’s Contest; the first that has been held. Was a damn good effort.
Sunday 28 March 1943 This morning the Wing Commander, Squadron Leader and Jeep Balfour went up ostensibly for “formation flying.” In fact it was some legalised shooting up in answer to an effort of Wing Commander Bisdee’s yesterday. I was on board the pinnace to see the formation take-off which didn’t eventuate because of a couple of ships which cluttered up the take-off path.
Just before lunch I went up to the Port Reitz moorings to taxi one of the new aircraft to the north trot prior to its coming up the slipway. Arriving at it however, I found that the Fitters had already started on an 80-hour inspection so we had to be towed back. The new Catalinas vary in a few details from the old ones. There is an opening window in the front windscreen which I imagine will rather obstruct take-off views. It has a Dead Reckoning Compass and the Pilots’ instrument panel is rearranged.
Swimming this afternoon – the first organised party for some time. Took a few star sights ce soir.
Monday 29 March 1943 The Commanding Officer’s parade this morning was held over from Friday last.
There arrived a Canadian lad up from Dar-es-Salaam this afternoon, name of Doug Dolphin. He is a Second Pilot of 230 (Sunderland) Squadron there and he is on his way back to England with me. He told me that my name had been sent off by Wing this afternoon as the Second Pilot from 209 Squadron. The Commanding Officer and Squadron Leader later confirmed this and told me that I should be going about the 5th April. Dolphin however expects to go on Thursday next. As the other two from 209 Squadron (Barry and Millem) left at such short notice, I have started packing just in case.
New Second Pilots have been posted to 209 and new crews have been made up. Ted Mangan, Rolf Luck and Jack Kennedy each get their own boat. Eric keeps Vincent as Navigator, Stoner as Wireless Operator, Howell as Engineer, and Richardson as Rigger, so his crew is an experienced one.
Tuesday 30 March 1943 Eric went aboard HMS Gambia early this morning with his crew. The ship is one of the three or four engaged in a 24-hour air cooperation exercise.
Went into town with Doug Dolphin. Went to BOAC to get all the gen re baggage allowance, etc. Our time of departure is still uncertain – either Thursday or Sunday depending on the bookings. At least that was the way it stood till late tonight when I heard that we were definitely down for Thursday.
Aviating this afternoon with Bill Hossent and Des Hosking. They were up swinging the Direction Finding Loop so I went along to get some gen on it. The two and three quarter hours we were in the air make me just six hours from my 600.
A bunch of us went into the cinema to see “Hudson’s Bay.” Only an average film I thought. Rolf Luck was doing some night flying with Jeep. A 262 Squadron boat pushed off for Durban. I asked the Flight Commander if I could accompany Ted Mangan on this night exercise with the fleet but he wouldn’t let me. Wants Ted to do the job by himself for the experience.
Wednesday 31 March 1943 Most of the day I have been hareing around handing-in equipment and getting my clothing card cleared. A couple of visits to Flight Lieutenant Leuton, the Accountant Officer, to get things up-to-date in that line as well.
Into town about 10.30 am for the Adjutant. Handed in important documents from the War Office for onward transmission to Mr Casey, Minister of State in Cairo. Persuaded Jim Mecklem to come in with me and introduced him to Mr Macleod, the manager of the National Bank of India. The Macleods I’m sure will give him a good time. They were always asking me to come in whenever I liked but I was away on detachment too often. Said farewell to Mr Mac. His wife however is still away on holiday at Brackenhurst.
Got official confirmation that I was to go tomorrow but late this afternoon it was postponed till Sunday. However I’ve got everything on the top line – log books, etc. Have also gathered in many addresses for England and Scotland.
Went into town with Rolf Luck ce soir. We took two WRENS out to dinner at the newly opened Nelson Restaurant. Daphne Hickeman and Esmé Barr, both very charming. Tis a pity I didn’t meet them earlier.
The Commanding Officer caught the train to Nairobi this afternoon. He is to go into hospital to have his tonsils out.
Thursday 1 April 1943 Had quite a long yarn with John Bull, the RAAF Captain of the 262 Squadron boat. He gave me a few addresses in England. I reciprocated with quite a few Durban jobs. This afternoon I went up with Eric in the new aircraft P. Did a loop swing at Pemba Island. I was flying and Eric was back in the Navigator’s compartment. Gave Howell a bit of dual on the way back – steep turns, etc.
Friday 2 April 1943 Got some gen on lining up bomb sights, astro compass, etc this morning from W. W. W. Smith. He was getting Bob Roberts’ new boat on the top line. Was caught for Witnessing Officer on pay parade this afternoon. Signed the old name umpteen times.
Went up to the Port Reitz Hotel late this afternoon to hear a very interesting lecture given by Admiral Tennant on E-boat alley – that narrow strip of water between Crete and the North African coast. He described a convoy which he and Admiral Vian tried to get through in June last year. It had to turn back a couple of times and never succeeded in getting there – at least not on that attempt.
Quite a do in the Mess for no reason at all. John Bull took off for Durban at 11 pm but returned 25 minutes later. Reckoned he couldn’t control the aircraft – wrongly rigged.
Saturday 3 April 1943 Woke up this morning to find a terrific storm in progress. Rained heavily for a couple of hours and made the camp a veritable bog. The big rains are now due.
For the next few days the two squadrons are going to take over the Anson patrol off Mombasa. [The Anson was an obsolete land-based plane]. Why I don’t know. The patrols last four hours – is a creeping-line-ahead job. Fitz worked out that with our endurance we could go round five times. A 259 Squadron boat did the morning patrol taking off in lousy weather, and 209 Squadron did the afternoon one. Eric was doing it so I went along to get the four hours that I need for my 600 total. We went in the new boat [P/209] so I was able to see in action the two new drift recorders – the Astigmatic and Pelorus. The new Navigators swear by them. However our Navigator pulled a boner and fucked up the patrol by giving us a completely wrong course.
Had a hell of a piss-up in the Mess for a send-off. Had jugs and jugs of water poured over me and looked like a drowned rat. It completely messed up my nicely organised laundry arrangements. We all ended up in the rafters of the Mess singing like blazes.
Sunday 4 April 1943 At long last I have set course for England. Said farewell to all the types – 90% of whom are bloody wizard blokes. Jim Mecklem, Bob Roberts, Jack Whitaker, Jeep Balfour, etc. Into BOAC for weighing at 9.30 am. Hung around all the morning and didn’t take-off till 12.45 pm. Had quite a quick trip to Kisumu – three hours from buoy to buoy. There was huge floating island drifting past the slipway. These are a feature of the lake around Kisumu and a menace to flying boats. Came ashore and had afternoon tea on the jetty. A stop of half an hour and then on to Port Bell. Is quite a pretty trip across the top of Lake Victoria. After one hour and ten minutes we arrived. Hopped in a bus and were driven to Kampala (seven miles) where we are spending the night. Staying at the Imperial Hotel, a wizard place. The town, on first sight, looks grand. Everything is very green all around.
Went for a walk before dinner. There seem to be some very lovely houses around the place. By far the nicest spot I’ve struck in East Africa. Dinner was sumptuous. Wouldn’t believe there was a war on. And our room is one of the most “swep-up” (as Vic Field would say) that I’ve struck in my travels. The bed was a seraglio of white mosquito net.
Monday 5 April 1943 Were called at 5 am from our luxurious bridal suite and left for Port Bell at 6.20. The dawn was a lovely sight – a beautiful golden flush. My Catalina suitcase has had the handle broken off since I parted with it in Mombasa. This is most annoying. I expect one of the bloody wogs was carrying it when it came off and he just couldn’t be bothered putting it back on. I’ll not be able to get another like it. Shall have to buy straps I think.
Took off at 7.10 am and landed an hour or so later at Laropi. All passengers got into the BOAC launch which just circled around while the aircraft was refuelled. There appeared to be no sort of habitation. Just the river running through jungle. Off again. Soon the country lost the green, fertile look and became just a brown waste with small, stunted bushes. Saw a couple of river-boats making their way. The journey I should imagine must be terribly slow for the river winds terribly. Between Juba and Malakal the aircraft suddenly dived down to about 100 feet and as we circled round we could see a herd of elephant in the swamp adjacent to the river – the first wild elephant I have seen. Lunch at Malakal. The sun absolutely zizzed down – terrific dry heat. Put our watches back an hour so they are now two hours fast on Greenwich Mean Time. After a stop of an hour we were on our way to Khartoum which we made in three hours. Here we received a shock for instead of going to a hotel, all the Air Force people were taken to the No. 2 Transit Camp – the place where I stayed when passing through Khartoum bringing the Catalina out last June. We were sent there as I believe there is some doubt our going on in the boat tomorrow. Somebody has to come off. And because the RAF had something to do with our accommodation we were buggered around no end. It was over an hour before we left Gordons Tree (the boat base). The drive into Khartoum still was as depressing as ever. Flat, dusty ground with the odd low, mud barrack-like buildings, big men astride little donkeys and the heat is as great as before. Installed in the Mess another RAF type and I went off to the wizard Sudan Club for a swim. This place is definitely an oasis in the desert. Back to the camp and changed some of our East African money for Egyptian and – joy – found out that we were some of the lucky ones to go on the boat tomorrow. Met a Canadian Flight Lieutenant who is on his way to Lagos. If we have to go there it means we will have to fly all the way to Cairo and then back again to Khartoum. And so to bed to spend a very hot night.
Tuesday 6 April 1943 Called at 5.10 am and off down to Gordons Tree by 5.50. Sat in the bloody dinghy for 35 minutes waiting for the types who stayed in the hotel to arrive. Have some new passengers, a Colonel, and two Americans. A dust storm was beginning as we left Khartoum. Practically the whole of the town was obscured even at that time of the morning. Stopped at Wadi Halfa for morning tea. In direct contrast to when I was here last June there was a bitterly cold wind blowing today. When I was here before I don’t think I have ever felt hotter. From Wadi Halfa on, the starboard inner engine began to give trouble due to the oil leak which has been present since we came aboard and we were forced to land at Luxor. Roamed around the town for a few minutes and had time to see the ruins before taking off again. We’re certainly back in Egypt if the beggars who pestered us are any guide. Circling Cairo to land I could see three Catalinas on the water but I couldn’t find out to which squadron they belong. Through the customs and so out to No. 22 Personnel Transit Camp at Almaza. We had rather dreaded going there for Doug Dolphin had heard some pretty awful tales about it. We are living in tents – no beds available! Fortunately some Squadron Leader had left his camp kit in the tent and we raided this getting one camp bed out of it. Washing and lavatory arrangements are most primitive. One doesn’t mind pigging it when it’s really necessary but from all accounts this camp has been open for nearly 18 months now and apart from the Mess itself, very few improvements have been made. The RAF doesn’t seem to care a bugger for transit personnel. We were surprised to find Gordon Millem and Tod Slaughter (the 230 Squadron type) are still here. They have given us all the gen and they are off on Thursday for Lagos via Khartoum by BOAC. It appears that Headquarters told them weeks ago that they (Headquarters) were coping; yet when the two lads went in to check up having heard nothing for a week or so, they found that bugger all had been done.
Wednesday 7 April 1943 This appears to be a bit of a bullshit station – parades, lectures, etc. However the other two lads haven’t attended any so we are doing likewise. Went into Cairo by the 20-minute RAF taxi service and had an interview with Flying Officer Scott, the laddie that handles the movements. Got cracking immediately getting photos for passports, applications for passports. We also have to get a suit of civilian clothes for which the RAF pays £8. This is to enable us to land at Lisbon without being interned. On my passport I’m down as a Government official. The whole thing is a bloody ramp, for the Portuguese Consul here in Cairo must know that the passports are for the RAF.
There appear to be some wizard buildings in the city and lovely houses in the suburbs. We’re already beginning to cope with street names such as Shari Soliman Pacha. Went to a flic this afternoon – Conrad Veidt in “Nazi Agent.” Veidt himself died a day or two ago I saw in the paper. Met Millem and Slaughter at about 6 pm and we toddled off to the famous Shepheards Hotel and did some drinking in the equally famous (though disappointing) Long Bar. Dinner at some American café and then a night club crawl with the usual hostesses trying to wheedle money out of us. Forty- four piastres for two glasses of orangeade!! The two places we went to were the Dolls Club and the Bardia. The latter had a continuous cabaret show going – women doing solo dances the whole time. Most of them seem to be Greek.
Thursday 8 April 1943 There’s no doubt about this town. Luxurious cars rolling around – lovely women in a good percentage of them. Went into Headquarters this morning to get the Stores Warrant Officer. He took us down to the firm who make these civvy suits for the RAF. I chose a grey flannel job which should look reasonably respectable. I believe when we get to England we are given the chance of buying this stuff if we want it.
In search of bags Doug and I set off down into the Mooqui Quarter. The Warrant Officer had told us that we might get some good cheap ones there. Hadn’t gone very far into the Quarter before two slick looking types attached themselves to us offering to guide us around. And no matter what we said or did we just couldn’t get rid of the buggers. So made the best of a bad job and let them lead us in search of bags. At one stage we were getting from one narrow alley to a progressively narrower one. Thought we had had it for a time. Quite an experience when it was all over. Had lunch and a bath at the Junior Officers Club – quite a decent meal for 18 piastres. Afterwards went out on a shopping expedition. I am in two minds whether to buy myself a good watch. They are reasonably cheap here and I want one with a sweep second hand for astro navigation. We’ll have to see how the money lasts.
Friday 9 April 1943 The usual early morning trip to General Headquarters to see how things re departure were progressing. Lunch at the Junior Officers Club and went to a film this afternoon – “Johnny Eager” with Robert Taylor and Lana Turner. After this down to the tailor for a fitting of our civvy suits which we have to get to pass through Portugal on the flying boat.
Then to General Headquarters where we heard the awful news that they will not give us authorisation to take excess baggage. Shall have to get cracking on this early in the morning. I can see myself going down this time for £10 to £15 for excess baggage.
Saturday 10 April 1943 After breakfast, while glancing at the Mess notice board I saw Doug’s and my name down to report to the Movement’s Officer at 0900 hours. On going there we were told to pack all our kit and take it to BOAC for weighing-in immediately. At BOAC I got a hell of a blow. We are down to go on the hush-hush Liberator service and are allowed to take only 44 pounds of kit. I had damned nearly 100 pounds – having got authority to bring a lot of extra stuff from the 209 Squadron Adjutant. However BOAC wouldn’t hear of any excess at all, so I had to unpack and repack then and there. Am sending my Catalina case by sea with the stuff I have thrown out. I do hope it turns up OK for they’re jolly fine cases. Have addressed it C/- Bond, Halfridge, Nettlebed.
From BOAC we had to go to General Headquarters to get a pass from a Medical Officer to say that we’re fit to fly. This was a bit of a farce for all he asked was “had we been flying recently?” Presented this chit together with a civilian passport to BOAC, had lunch and returned to camp. A terrific dust storm has been blowing all day and the tents were fairly covered, beds and all. Squared up with the Accountant Officer – handed in Middle East Pay books. I have £30/15/- to come. When my account is closed off, this amount will be transferred to England. Back into town, collected civvy suit and packed it. Then took my Catalina case down to General Headquarters for dispatch by sea.
Sunday 11 April 1943 Into town by the mail truck, took Doug’s kit that is going by sea to General Headquarters. Thanked Flying Officer Scott very much for the way he has pushed this posting of ours. Funnily enough, we should arrive in England before Millem and Slaughter even though they left Cairo four days before we did.
Turned up at BOAC office at Shepheards Hotel at 12.45 pm and quarter of an hour later were in a RAF bus bound for the aerodrome. There was a woman Traffic Clerk (BOAC) who held the bus up while she dealt with some manifest. Then with a “Sorry if I’ve kept you waiting gentlemen. A pleasant trip and good luck” – we were off. Drove along the Pyramids Road to the Pyramids (my first close-up view of them), turned right and then passed through some awfully desolate desert country. Two or three camps are in this God-forsaken spot. Pity the poor types in them. We have a Naval Captain, Commander, Lieutenant Commander and Lieutenant (Fleet Air Arm), a Wing Commander, an Embassy bloke, another civilian, Doug and myself. After an hour’s drive we arrived at the aerodrome and were immediately told to change into civvy clothes. Algiers in the morning, Lisbon tomorrow night. Were issued with flying boots, inner and outer suits. And so into the Liberator. Taxied out on to the runway, ran up the engines, turned into the wind even – and then back to the hanger. The cowling gill motor on the port inner engine had packed up and there is a 24-hour delay!! What an anticlimax!
Stayed in the National Hotel in Cairo – bugger going back to that Personnel Transit Camp. Passed a lorry on fire on the way back to Cairo.
Monday 12 April 1943 Checked up at the BOAC office at 10 am to see whether we would be leaving today. At that stage they didn’t know. However later I rang up one of the crew and he tells me that they miraculously have been able to obtain another gill motor so everything should be OK.
Later :- Away at last!!! Sitting in the BOAC bus at Shepheards Hotel, waiting for the final documents, the Wing Commander said that if the woman Traffic Clerk again wished us “Good luck”, we’d have had it. However all she said this time was “Pleasant journey. God bless you all.” So felt reasonably sure of getting away. Out past the Pyramids again, picking up the Royal Navy Captain at Mena Hotel opposite the Pyramids. The pub looks a very pleasant place. And so to the aerodrome, the name of which is Cairo West. The sign “VIPAS” over the Mess door “Stooges by invitation only.” Into the aircraft and began taxiing out on to the runway. The passengers’ cabin is right aft and while taxiing, because of the tricycle undercarriage you felt most unstable. The aircraft feels if it is about to fall back on its tail any moment. Ran up the engines on one runway and then turned as if to taxi back to the hanger. Oh God! Is it off again? But the panic was only momentary. Changed runways and were off. Had no dinghy, oxygen or parachute drills as the printed form has led us to expect. In fact we’re not carrying oxygen so can’t be travelling very high. There was quite a dust storm blowing (always is in the middle of the day someone told me) as we set course for El Adem, the aerodrome some 20 miles south of Tobruk. Journey was very uninteresting till we came to the coast. Saw the coast road with lots of traffic on it. Halfaya (Hellfire) Pass looked bloody grim. Huge ravines with a tortuous road winding its way up the steep hill. Bardia in the distance. Tobruk was flying quite a balloon barrage which gleamed brightly in the sunlight indicating its presence when we were miles away. Altered course south of Tobruk, circling El Adem a few minutes later. Getting out of the aircraft we found the weather quite chilly. The outskirts of the aerodrome were littered with wrecked aircraft and pieces of aircraft. A Junkers close by and a Stuka tail sticking high in the air in the distance. Live rounds of ammunition around the place, also the odd hand grenade. “Look out, don’t kick that or you might get your leg blown off” said Flying Officer Chart as we passed a grenade. The last time I saw Chart was in Kisumu. He has been posted from there to El Adem. Walking over to the Transit Mess saw lots of Jerry graves and Jerry and Itie writing on the walls of the buildings. Most walls were bullet-splattered. A bottle of beer and dinner and then before it got dark I had a roam around the crashed aircraft. Picked myself up a piece of Stuka. It’s not often we on flying boats get near enemy stuff. Were doing a night take-off so went to sleep in the aircraft till 11 pm when went over to the NAAFI [Navy, Army, Air Force Institute] for a cup of cocoa. Some of the types bought up butter and other stuff to take back to England.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE GUIDANCE OF PASSENGERS ON LONG
DISTANCE FLIGHTS IN R.A.F. COMMUNICATION AIRCRAFT.
1. The following notes have been compiled for the guidance of passengers about to undergo long journeys by air, sometimes at high altitude and in very cold conditions.
2. Many passengers will be making their first long distance flight and indeed, some their first flight.
3. Flying at high altitudes in severe cold for long periods exposes the human frame to a considerable degree of physical stress. If there is any doubt as to a passenger’s ability to withstand such stress, it is advisable, before a long journey by air is undertaken, for him to undergo medical examination.
4. The information with which long distance passengers should be familiar is indicated as briefly as possible below.
Self Discipline before the Flight.
5. The following advice is based on past experience on long distance flights:-
(i) A good meal will be provided within two hours of take-off.
(ii) Intoxicants should not be taken within 12 hours of the flight. (Alcohol is a potent contributory factor towards frostbite and air sickness).
(iii) Tea, water and other drinks should be taken sparingly within 4 hours of the flight to reduce to a minimum visits to W.C. while inconvenienced by heavy flying suits.
(iv) The bowels and bladder should be evacuated immediately before take-off.
(v) As much rest as possible should be obtained during the 24 hours immediately proceeding the flight (in order to avoid sleeping while flying at oxygen heights).
(vi) Fountain pens and containers of fluids tend to leak at high altitudes. The former should be emptied to avoid spoiling clothes and the latter should be only partly filled and securely closed (corks are liable to blow out).
6. Parachute harness and drill, oxygen equipment and drill, and the use of lifebelts and dinghy will be demonstrated before you emplane.
7. Passengers must make sure that they know their oxygen, parachute, lifeboat and dinghy drill, because their lives and those of others may depend on that knowledge. Most certainly their mental comfort throughout the trip will be enhanced by so doing. Do not hesitate to ask questions of the Instructing Medical Officer.
8. The accommodation in the aircraft which has been allotted to passengers will be indicated to them and they will be issued with a set of Royal Air Force outer flying clothing and with oxygen masks.
9. Passengers should move about in the aircraft as little as possible during flight as change of position upsets its equilibrium and (at oxygen heights) necessitates disconnection of passengers’ oxygen supply.
10. Smoking is allowed in the crew room or passengers’ quarters but is under the direct control of the Captain and permission and information on this subject must be obtained before take-off. Great care must be taken in disposing of cigarette ends, pipe dottles and used matches.
11. The above are general instructions and there are many points which need more detailed explanation. These points are amplified below.
12. As stated above passengers will be provided with a suitable meal before departure. Rations in the form of readily handled food, thermos flasks of hot soup, tea or coffee will be provided for consumption during flight. In addition emergency hard rations and water for use in the event of forced landing are carried. The Captain will detail one of the crew to be responsible for issuing rations to passenger during flight.
13. Passengers should ensure that they are suitably clad. They should not wear restrictive bands such as armlets and suspenders, which interfere with the blood circulation and so contribute to frost-bite. The clothing should be loose, preferably in multiple layers of woollen clothes, two pairs of socks, plenty of undergarments and pull-overs.
14. Flying clothing in the form of lined warm overall suits, gloves, oxygen masks, helmets and flying boots will be provided for passengers by the Royal Air Force and they should be sure that they know how to get into and out of these suits and how they can be opened up for urination etc.
15. In recent years considerable research has been done on the physiology of high altitude flying and one of the most important factors has been found to be the supply of additional oxygen to personnel flying at altitudes in excess of 10,000 ft.
16. On the ground, the atmospheric pressure ensures that human beings have all the oxygen needed when breathing the natural air. At altitudes above the ground the air pressure (Barometric Pressure) falls and as a result of this reduction of pressure the air expands and becomes rarefied. Breathing this rarefied and expanded air supplies the lungs with less oxygen than breathing at ground level. To maintain health and a clear mind when flying at 10,000 ft. or higher for any length of time, it is essential that oxygen should be added to the air breathed. If this is not done the effects of oxygen lack will be experienced. A person who is suffering from oxygen lack behaves very much like a person who is drunk, he becomes irresponsible, he may become hilarious, or even pugnacious and soon becomes unconscious.
17. Unconsciousness through oxygen lack is very dangerous. It may come on in the space of a minute or two at 20,000 ft., particularly if the person is moving about. Oxygen lack makes a man more liable to cold and frost-bite. For all those reasons, therefore, oxygen must be used continuously at all heights above 10,000 ft. A passenger should never remove his mask to smoke nor should he move about the aircraft when flying above this height except when taking the precautions mentioned under the heading of Sanitation (para. 20 below). One should not be foolish about the use of oxygen because one sees someone else being so. Individuals vary a great deal in their reaction to oxygen lack; one may be more susceptible than the other.
How to use the Oxygen Equipment provided.
18. Sufficient oxygen will be provided in the aircraft to last the crew and passengers for the whole period that they will be flying at oxygen height. The oxygen equipment and correct delivery is carefully examined by competent people before take-off. It is the responsibility of all passengers to make themselves thoroughly conversant with their oxygen apparatus, and also with the position of the oxygen plug-in points in the various parts of the aircraft with which they are concerned. To aid them in this, before emplaning, passengers will receive a demonstration in the use of oxygen and will be shown how the oxygen apparatus in the aircraft works and, after emplaning, where their bayonet socket oxygen connections are located. Passengers must immediately carry out all instructions that may be given to them concerning the use of oxygen by the Captain or any member of his crew.
19. It is important that passengers do not underestimate the importance of the oxygen supply and they should make sure that they have a good working knowledge of their oxygen equipment by the time the aircraft leaves the ground. It is not safe to leave the ground without this oxygen knowledge, as occasionally cases of passengers losing consciousness from lack of oxygen have occurred through failure to use oxygen.
20. An Elsan closet and urine funnel are provided aft of the passengers’ compartment. It is essential that passengers know the situation of the oxygen plug-in point for this part of the aircraft. If it is necessary to visit the W.C. while using oxygen the following procedure should be adopted. Take about 5 deep breaths before disconnecting from your oxygen point, hold your breath, move deliberately to the W.C. and at once connect to the oxygen point there. You must take the greatest care to ensure that your oxygen mask is connected before using the W.C. The importance of knowing where this oxygen connection point is, and of using it, cannot be over-emphasised.
Protection against Cold.
21. This has been largely dealt with in paras. 13 and 14. The aircraft may have some form of heating but even so passengers should make sure of having plenty of warm, loose woollen clothing under their flying suits. “Oxygen lack” is often a cause of feeling cold. Should passengers feel cold, and have been told to use oxygen, they should make sure that their oxygen supply is working properly.
22. Passengers should keep their gloves and helmets on.
23. It is much better to take off clothes if too hot than to put clothes on if too cold.
24. It is not safe to sleep while using oxygen as the mask is liable to slip off and the transition from sleep to unconsciousness, and perhaps to dangerous coma, may not be noticed by your companions. A member of the crew will be detailed to see that all passengers are awakened when the aircraft ascends to oxygen height.
The Ears in Flight.
25. The inner part of the human ear consists of a tiny cavity within the bones of the skull which opens to the outside only through a narrow tube leading to the back of the throat. When the air pressure falls or rises as the aircraft ascends or descends, the pressure within this tiny cavity must follow the outside air pressure if damage to the ears is to be avoided.
26. As the aircraft ascends these changes occur quite automatically. An occasional “clicking” sensation in the ears will be noticed. This sensation is quite normal.
27. When the aircraft descends the pressure changes in the ear do not occur automatically. The first sensation to be noticed is one of fullness in the ears and the engines will be heard less distinctly. If nothing is done about this sensation, pain may follow and damage to the ears may occur. The correct procedure is quite easy. Nip the end of the nose between the fingers so as to close the nostrils; keep the mouth shut; then blow strongly as though trying to blow off the top of the head. A clicking sensation in the ears will be noticed and the hearing return to normal. This can be done quite easily even when wearing an oxygen mask. If the aircraft continues its descent the feeling of fullness may return. If so, the procedure must be repeated.
Parachute, Lifebelt and Dinghy Drill.
28. Parachute harness will be provided and passengers will be shown how to put this on and also how to attach the parachute onto the two spring hooks on the harness. This harness is to be worn throughout the flight. Passengers should make certain that they know where their parachutes are stored and that they are thoroughly conversant with the attachment of the parachute to the harness, how to cause the parachute to open and how to release the harness after landing. If by any misfortune baling out is necessary, it should be done through the trap door head first, pulling the parachute release gear as soon as clear of the aircraft. An easy was to remember this is to count three after leaving the aircraft and then pull. The hand should be held on the release ring while leaving the aircraft. Baling out will only be done on the order of the Captain of the aircraft.
29. Lifebelt and Dinghy Drill will be demonstrated. Normally if the dinghies have to be used they will be dealt with by the crew.
30. Should passengers feel ill on the flight it is probably due to:-
(i) Lack of oxygen.
(ii) Air Sickness.
31. A member of the crew should be told, and one of them who has had instruction in first aid will render assistance. It should not be worried about; to feel ill in the air is not uncommon even with airmen who have had hundreds of hours of flying experience.
32. Remember it is better to be safe than sorry. For safety and comfort, passengers must know their oxygen, their parachute and parachute harness drill and they must be adequately clothed to face severe cold. A half hours instruction may make all the difference between the flight being comfortable or akin to purgatory.
[THIS IS A COPY OF THE SET OF SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN TO THE AUTHOR FOR THE FLIGHT IN THE LIBERATOR ON 12th APRIL 1943. CONTRAST THESE WITH THOSE GIVEN ON MODERN AIRCRAFT]
Tuesday 13 April 1943 Took off at 0045 hours in a blacked-out aircraft and dressed in flying suit and boots. Slept till dawn when I awoke while flying over the Algerian desert. Passed well south of the Tunisian battle area. The desert soon changed to grey green foliage and then to some very fertile looking hills. Around Algiers itself the country is very English in appearance. Beautifully green fields offset by ploughed ones. Two-storey white houses with red-tiled roofs (houses well scattered) made a very attractive picture in the early morning sunlight. There was lots of activity at the aerodrome. USAAF machines and RAF taking off all the time. Douglas DC-3s, Lightnings, Beaufighters, Airacobras, Hurricanes and Spitfires. Almost every aircraft imaginable. Even the French. Had tea and sandwiches in the newly furnished “Transit Headquarters.” Two hours after landing we took off again. Crossed the coast after an hour or so and then saw nothing for another hour till we could just discern the Spanish Coast. Passed the Straits of Gibraltar at 2000 feet. Visibility wasn’t very good. Lots of ships off Algeciras. Tangiers was practically hidden in low cloud. How attractive that place looked when I first saw it in the afternoon sunlight. Cut across land, missing out Cape St Vincent. Was amazed to see the cultivation on hills which looked to have a slope of 500 to 600. Lisbon from the air, though neat looks drab. It is situated on the northern side of the harbour. Looked to be one lovely avenue of trees with two monuments at each end. Didn’t get in on the first circuit. Taxied up beside a Douglas DC-3 belonging to the Huns. Huge swastika on the tail. The kite was pinched from the Dutch in Amsterdam I was told. Went through the Customs in the very smooth airport building. On the other side of the barrier were the Huns, also going through the Customs before emplaning. It was very amusing. Stared at, and was stared at, by a blond fraulien. Everybody saw the humour of the whole thing. Given cups of coffee by some attractive Portuguese waitresses of Cafe Colomid “on detachment” at the airport. Were driven through Lisbon to the Grande Hotel in the Estorial district. Took about 45 minutes. Some broad avenues and many winding narrow cobblestone roads. Drove along the waterfront most of the way. Saw the Sunderland which force-landed in Portugal on a transit flight to Gibraltar early in the war. It is up the slip and is now painted all white with Portuguese markings all over it. The huge statue commemorating Columbus’ voyage and the buildings for some exhibition were other highlights on the waterfront drive. The hotel was quite good. Surprised to find a party of English-women having afternoon tea. Talking to beat hell. God how they screamed. After scraping off a two-day old beard and having a bath, went for a stroll with the Fleet Air Arm Lieutenant Hanson. Pulled in at the January Café and had a John Collins each – 8/-!!! The most expensive drink I’ve ever bought. Then went up to the famous Casino Estoril. This is facing seawards and fronting it is a huge oblong set of gardens just ablaze with flowers. People were playing the tables and looking very grim about it. Had a beer which was far more reasonable at eight escudos for two bottles. Came back to this casino after dinner and went to the films. Hanson had to borrow a coat from the hall porter – was refused admission in his golf jacket. The tables, cinema, dance floor, dining room and innumerable bars make up this casino – it’s a wizard spot. Some lovely women about. Two of them tried to pick us up but we weren’t having any.
Wednesday 14 April 1943 Up at 6 o’clock and at the airport by 8.15 am. This time there was an Italian aircraft (SM 75) about to take-off. It’s so damned silly being mixed up with one’s enemies like this. But there was no animosity for we were respectable government officials clad in our best (and only) civilian clothes. The Huns and the Ities probably were service people too. We did boo however when they couldn’t get an engine to start. Off and away over the sea. The skipper had us doing watches in the tail turret for U-boats and aircraft while going through the Bay of Biscay but there was no excitement. Passed over Lundy Island and then flew east up the southern shore of the Bristol Channel. Over Bridgewater Bath. How green the country looks. There’s surely nowhere but England that has this patchwork-quilt landscape. Landed at Lyneham aerodrome some miles from London. Customs and censorship over after a couple of hours and so on to the London train. Changed back into uniform on the train. Passing through Reading was too much for me – too near Nettlebed. I got off there and caught another train to Twyford and so to Henley. Was so excited could hardly speak. Rang Nettlebed and Peg herself answered the phone. She is at Halfridge by herself, the Bonds being up in London for the night. Had a hell of a lot of difficulty getting transport up from Henley (which incidentally is looking a lovely as when I left it). And so to – Peggy. Please accept a “NO CHANGE” report. I’m still as much in love with her as ever. Couldn’t look at food. We sat talking and recalling our joys of 12 months ago till four in the morning. God it’s good to be back but things between us can’t go on like this. I just must stay away from her or I shall be putting up the most terrific “black.” We all but went over the edge as it was.
Aboukir, Royal Air Force Station, near Alexandria, 32, 33
Ash, Squadron Leader, Royal Air Force Liaison Officer at Saunders Roe works, Beaumaris, Wales, 28, 29
Balfour, “Jeep”, Flying Officer, Flying Boat Captain, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 23, 42, 44, 45, 49, 81, 83, 90, 92, 97, 100, 113, 118, 120
Barraclough, John, Squadron Leader, Flight Commander and then Commanding Officer, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 12, 13, 16, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 42, 43, 44, 45, 55, 64, 81, 89, 91, 92, 113
Barry, Mike, Officer, South African Air Force, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 12, 13, 15, 17, 26, 44, 56, 58, 64, 65, 111, 119
Beaumaris, Wales, site of Saunders Roe factory, 26, 27, 28, 29
Belcham, Tim, Squadron Leader, Flying Boat Captain, 119 Sqn Royal Air Force, 16, 27
Bismark German battleship, 12, 27
Cairns, Tom, Pilot Officer, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 95, 104
Catalinas, Royal Air Force
119 Sqn/Z [AH545], 27
209 Sqn/J, 46, 50, 51, 62, 64, 67, 74, 80, 82, 84, 85, 86, 90, 97, 98
209 Sqn/K, 44, 74, 81, 82, 83, 84, 115, 116
209 Sqn/L [VA713], 46, 52, 53, 57, 58, 61
209 Sqn/M [VA703], 48, 55, 61, 62, 64, 69, 89
209 Sqn/N [VA715], 44, 59, 61, 62, 74, 84, 85, 86, 91, 92, 95, 113, 115
209 Sqn/O, 44, 53, 95, 113
209 Sqn/P [VA727], 41, 55, 64,
209 Sqn/Q [Z2142], 28, 35, 38, 39, 42, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54, 56, 59, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 76, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 86, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 98, 99, 101, 102, 109, 113, 116, 117, 118
209 Sqn/S, 32, 59, 60, 65, 67, 68, 75
Comoro Islands, 41
Congella, Royal Air Force Base, Durban, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 85, 86, 87, 90, 91, 94, 98, 100, 101
Dar-es-Salaam, 37, 38, 39, 41, 66
Davenport, Phil, Pilot Officer, Second Pilot, 461 Sqn Royal Australian Air Force, 21
Dawson, Sergeant, Rigger, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 55
Diego Suarez, 41, 47, 48, 49, 59
Dolphin, Doug, Royal Canadian Air Force, Second Pilot, 230 Sqn Royal Air Force, 119, 122, 123
Drew, Wing Commander Commanding Officer, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 11, 20, 26, 89, 95
Durban, 67, 68, 73, 75, 84, 98, 102, 104
Dyason, Vern Officer, Pilot, 10 Sqn Royal Australian Air Force, 13
Dzaoudzi (town on Pamanzi), 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 74
Eakins, Tom, Pilot Officer, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force,28, 29, 48, 55, 62, 111
Evans, Elsie, 76, 77, 78, 79
Fairway, “Tubby”, Navigator, 10 Sqn Royal Australian Air Force, 15, 20
Field, Vic, Pilot Officer, Wireless Operator/Mechanic, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 22, 31, 34, 39, 40, 44, 47, 62, 66
Fitzpatrick, “Fitz”, Squadron Leader, Flight Commander, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 12, 13, 15, 16, 22, 26, 41, 44, 44, 46, 47, 50, 55, 62,98, 100, 102, 104, 113, 120
Forgham, Flight Lieutenant, Durban Base Engineering Officer, Royal Air Force, 92, 93, 102
Fulton, Sergeant, Rigger, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 109
Garryowen, property of Tony and Molly Ryan near Molo, Kenya, 73, 109, 110
Gibraltar, 30, 31, 32
Halford, Flight Sergeant, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 35
Halfridge (property near Henley, UK), 17, 18, 19, 128
Hall, Eric, Pilot Officer, Navigator, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 46, 47, 57
Hart, “Bungey”, Pilot Officer, Navigator, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 37, 39, 51, 62, 80, 84, 85, 87, 89
Henderson, Frank “Trapper”, Pilot Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 12, 15, 26, 43, 46, 57, 72
Hosking, Des, Pilot Officer, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 56, 58, 60, 66, 81, 113, 119
Hossent, Bill, Flying Boat Captain, 209 Sqn RAF, 26, 42, 44, 61, 86, 90, 92, 95, 111, 112, 113, 115, 118, 119
Howell, Sergeant, Flight Engineer, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 44, 47, 48, 65, 74, 92, 95, 109, 111, 119, 120
Hughes, Corporal, Rigger, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 55
Inglis, John, Pilot Officer, Flying Boat Captain, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 28, 31, 32, 43, 81, 84, 87, 90
Kennedy, Jack, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 21, 82, 83, 111, 112, 119
Khartoum, 33, 34
Kisumu, Royal Air Force Flying Boat Maintenance Base, 32, 59, 67, 68, 70, 73, 105, 106, 110, 111, 113, 115, 116, 120
Laurenti, Dave, Pilot Officer, Second Pilot, 461 Sqn Royal Australian Air Force, 22
Leneham, Sergeant, Navigator, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 74
Luck, Rolf, Pilot Officer, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 26, 37, 51, 62, 89, 91, 92, 96, 112, 114, 119
MaGuire, Sergeant, Wireless Operator, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 29, 82, 102, 109
Mangan, Ted, Pilot Officer, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 44, 45, 51, 82, 83, 113, 115, 116, 119
Mayotte (island in the Comoro Group), 42, 45, 47
McIvor, Jim, Sub-lieutenant Fleet Air Arm, 97, 103
Mecklam, Jim, Pilot Officer, Royal Australian Air Force, Gunnery Officer, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 36, 37, 54, 56, 58, 65,82, 111, 112, 113, 118, 119, 120
Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 12
Millem, Gordon, Sergeant, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 21, 46, 77, 112, 114, 119,
Molo, Kenya, 70, 71, 72, 74, 107, 108, 116, 122
Mombasa, 34, 35, 41, 46, 47, 48, 53, 61, 66, 74, 105, 111, 115
Mount Kilimanjaro, 62, 68, 105, 116
Murray, Ken, Flying Officer, Flying Boat Captain, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 17, 26, 50, 51, 64,89
Nakuru, Kenya, No. 70 Operational Training Unit, 70, 107, 108, 110
Neill, Ken, Pilot Officer, Royal Australian Air Force, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 37, 38, 39, 50
Nairobi, 62, 68, 69,70, 106, 107, 110, 115, 116, 119
Nobes, Sergeant, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 47
Pamanzi (island in the Comoro Group), 41, 45, 51, 54, 59, 60, 61, 62, 64, 67, 75, 89, 95, 105
Pammenter, Peggy, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25, 71, 99, 112, 128
Parker, Dot, 84, 86, 88, 89, 90, 94
Pearson, Flight Lieutenant, Station Engineering Officer, Kisumu, 68, 73
Pembroke Dock, Royal Air Force Station, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 13
Rich, Ken, Officer, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 57
Richardson, Sergeant, Rigger, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 76, 82, 92
Roberts, Ron (Bob), Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Boat Captain, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 32, 44, 45, 47, 53, 54, 63, 65, 66, 85, 90, 93, 94, 95, 97, 111, 112, 118, 120
Rodwell, Mabel, 17, 18, 24, 99
Ryan, Molly, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 107, 108, 109
Ryan, Tony, 70, 71, 72, 107, 109, 116
Salisbury Island, Durban, 79, 81, 86, 91, 101, 103
Saunders, Eric, Pilot Officer, Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Boat Captain, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 22, 23, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, 36, 37, 39, 41, 42, 45, 46, 49, 50, 53, 63, 65, 66, 69, 70, 72, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 82, 83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92, 94, 95, 97, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 116, 118, 119
Smith, W.W.W, Navigator, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 42, 66, 120
St Lucia Bay, 74, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87, 92, 93, 95, 96, 98, 99, 103, 104
Stardust Club, Durban, 76,79, 85, 85, 87, 88, 89, 90, 93, 94, 99, 100, 101, 104
Stoner, Sergeant, Wireless Operator, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 81, 92, 109, 119
Swann, Pilot Officer, Cypher Officer, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 74
Taylor, Ted, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 32, 51, 53, 54,82, 86, 89, 90, 92, 93, 95, 112, 114
Thomas, Sergeant, Flight Engineer, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 47, 48, 76, 81
Tirell, Pat, 76, 77, 78
Vincent, Flight Sergeant, Navigator, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 22, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 49, 54, 75, 81, 92, 109, 116, 119
Wadi Halfa, on the Nile River, 33, 121
White, Flying Officer, Pilot, 10 Sqn Royal Australian Air Force, 15, 25
Whitaker, Jack, Pilot Officer, Second Pilot, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 99, 100, 103, 106, 107, 108, 109, 113, 116, 120,
Woodham, Mick, Sergeant, Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Instructor, No. 70 Operational Training Unit, Royal Air Force, 71, 72, 109
Wooley, Sergeant, Wireless Operator/Mechanic, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 44
Wylie, John, Flight Lieutenant, Flying Boat Captain, 209 Sqn Royal Air Force, 21, 26, 42, 44, 46, 53, 57, 61, 72