Tony (second pilot to the Harrison crew) kept a diary whilst at Salbani. The text of the diary is unique in that it gives an almost day to day account of what it was like to be at Salbani. Except for the words in brackets, the text set down is a true and accurate copy of the contents of Tony’s diary.
Wednesday September 13th (1944): Up at 4 a.m. and to breakfast - fried bread, bacon and egg and not too bad. Usual rush to the ghari with kit and rations - but we didn’t fly. This is getting a bit boring - aircraft ‘D’. Went to village later in morning with Bob Postle (Australian with 356 Squadron) - interesting, and my first visit. ‘Evening in Paris’, 3.4 in one shop, 1.4 in another ten yards away - so Bob didn’t buy either. Looked round market - also a bloke with a skull liberally splashed with red paint and also a piece of white cloth splashed with red - he drew a crowd but what mysterious tricks he was up to I have no idea. Paddy fields are well under water and growing quickly. We took a gun out after lunch and walked across fields - what fools in the midday heat. I felt pretty sick so we lay beneath a tree after penetrating some bush; after we came back - a shower cools things down temporarily. Op’ was Moulmein South railway station - first combined 355 and 356, and a success.
Saturday September 16th: Up at 3.30 - usual hustle and eventually got off in ‘A’ - great speed going out, then No 4 engine trouble. Dropped bombs and returned. Combined effort again - Collins and a 355 kite collided in mid air - looks bad for them, Maymo. Bill Heathwood came back on three engines; ended up on his nose just off the runway. Beale’s box got the target; other two boxes attacked secondary. Our trouble was amplifier boost - it caused the deuce of a smell and loss in power. After Reggie changed the amplifier all was well, but rather too late in the day. Went to see Norman (member of Tony’s Wellington crew in England before they were split up) in the evening - the navigator in their kite that crashed had finished his tour and merely went on the trip as a favour. Apparently ‘Z’ of 355 hit our ‘S’ with his wing tip and knocked the complete tail off causing ‘S’ to stall, turn over and go down flat out. Someone reported seeing it hit the deck and inferno resulting. It seems that ‘Z’ was having engine fires when he hit, but what actually happened to him no-one seems to know. I don’t see much hope for any of them, because even if they got out, which is very doubtful, they were in open enemy territory, I would hate to be taken prisoner by the Japs.
(Harrison crew flew in EW120, flying time 5 hours 40 minutes. According to operational records EW114, the 356 B-24, was flying No 5 in the second box when it skidded in a turn and collided with EV902, the 355 Liberator, who was flying No 7. Tailpiece of EW114 and half of mainplane of EV902 were severed. Both aircraft crashed at 2034N and 9509E. Two parachutes were seen.)
Tuesday September 19th: Sandy (another member of Tony’s Wellington crew) came over two nights ago; very full of his leave. He had a very good time at Naini-Tal, was dancing and drinking quite a bit, but with typical self control has settled back to a sober life in this place. Norman spent his leave in Calcutta as he could not get accommodation in time; both of them meet Johnny (yet another member of Tony’s Wellington crew) who is fed up and far from home, and has extended his moustache to apparently magnificent proportions. They have messed our leave up a lot, but it is at the moment settled for 8th October and we have three reservations in Hakmans Hotel in Mussoorie. Let’s hope they don’t change the date when Tucker comes back from his course in Cal. I shall be glad to have this leave - been messing about since January and haven’t really got very far. The heat is getting boring and a change would be welcome, besides which we get mucked about so much.
Wednesday September 20th: The old argument is going on - who is a good pilot and who is not, and who is the best pilot in the squadron. A pretty futile argument. We flew on air test this morning, and as the cloud was low we kept below it.
I enjoy stooging around fairly low so that one can see every detail of the country-side. Went to see Grew in hospital last night and stayed there quite a time talking of ‘the good old days’. He expects to be out very soon. We were thinking how nice it would be to go to bed on a cold night with a howling wind and bags of rain; to get right under a pile of blankets and feel secure - but what hope at present! We keep taxing kites out in the mornings and back in the afternoons, but nothing has come off yet. This afternoon it has started to rain and looks as if it has settled for a day or so. What price a stand-down tomorrow if it stays like this? Or prehaps we have had too many recently. I hope the season has not ended in Mussoorie by the time we get there.
Our temporary bearer appeared shivering and miserable before me today - so he has gone home with the ‘fever’. He’s not good at all and I hope the old one soon comes back from Madras - somehow they don't seem to have any sense of cleanliness. Rugger match v. 355 - don’t think I will watch it as its pouring. Shall now have to wash my hands as this pen pours ink out.
Thursday September 21st: Lancaster (flight engineer with Harrison crew) produced a colossal tin of sweets this morning and the same sized tin of pineapple yesterday - given by one of the Yanks. Never thought I would stick on pineapple but did last night. The Yanks seem to get marvellous food - ours is not worthy of mention. It was reasonable cool to-day but it is hot again to-night. We had a lecture by the MO this afternoon on malaria - it is very prevalent now and casualties in the village are colossal. Tonight therefore I put on a pair of socks without holes in them and trousers with a pocket - not a gap where the pocket should be. New flight commander appeared today but know nothing about him. Grew is out of hospital and looking very well - hope it does not break out again. Have just been savouring piece of cake that Bob’s girl friend sent him - really lovely and to see icing again is a revelation. We wanted to go out shooting tonight but could not get the guns - it should be rather fun when we get the chance - what with rabbits, pie-dogs and foxes. The talk up the other end has come back to the subject normal - women. Despite all my precautions I am being bitten by these beasts.
Saturday September 23rd: Have just started a letter to Mrs Smith - despite the fact that I have not written for three months there is little news that is not censurable. It is impossible to convey to people just what things are like out here and what we are doing. And so much will be forgotten when it is all over - anyway nobody will be really interested in the lack of life on a remote Bengal bomber station. I don’t think that some people in England even know there is a war out here, let alone that I’m taking part in it, and of course I can’t enlighten them. Everyone is excited about increased pay and prospects of demob’. Op’ on tomorrow but we are not on it - not even nine hours in this month, and look at the date. The bearer is back but not looking too good. Went over to see Sandy and Norman last night - very quiet in their mess; they both seem fairly cheerful. Shall probably go to the flicks to-night - Mike (Barlow, a second pilot with 356 Squadron) was coming, but probably he won’t have finished on the kite early enough as there’s generally a large queue for the show and we need to get there early.
Sunday September 24th: Operation was Maymyo, but 10/10 on target so they attacked secondary with mediocre success. Another combined effort - all our kites got off this time, which is a good show. F/O ‘Lucky’ Jordon is missing - he was apparently last seen trying to penetrate cloud over target - we may hear more. He was in ‘D’ - Malcolm, his Australian F/Sgt W/Op. flew with us on the last Op’. Geoff told me at dinner that Jordon had signed a chit for the oxygen tubes he borrowed from us - what a quip! A P-38 went down in the Bund near Chittagong today - we thought at first that it was our kite. The film last night ‘The uninvited’ was very good - mystical and enthralling. We took the day off and I have not accomplished much - it takes me such a time to write a letter these days. We thought of going to Khargphur this morning, but there would be nothing doing there on Sunday. I expected a few letters, but only got some photos from Ax’, which were, however, excellent. Heard from Eddie to-day that Smithy, our first navigator at OUT is missing in Italy. The way they are going I won’t know a soul soon.
Nearly cursed the bearer to perdition this afternoon because he came back from the canteen and said there are no chips or stamps - not that it was his fault at all, but I’m a bit short tempered lately and he is incredibly dim. Must pack up as can hardly see to write - bags of flak today apparently.
Monday September 25th: Afraid there does not seem to be much hope for Jordon - no news at all. Have been preparing for the Op’ to-morrow. How devilishly hot it does get under the perspex of those kites - you can’t appreciate it until you experience it. The ground crews, although their job is comparatively safe, do have to put up with a hell of a lot, working out there in that deadly sun. What annoys me is that the Pay Accounts and Orderly Room people. They spend most of their day in a reasonably cool office, put up bags of notices saying that so and so must go down there at such and such a time, as if we were here for their convenience instead of the case being quite the opposite. The feeling between the aircrew and the blokes who look after their kites is very good, and their co-ordinated dislike is usually turned in the same direction. Lot of mosquitoes around tonight - they’re a bally nuisance. The enforced service dhobi is not working very smoothly, takes a lot of time and is not done well. I now have three changes of clothes at my disposal, and do not think I could stretch it much further despite all the clothes I’ve brought since taking up residence in this country. Fairly quiet in the mess tonight - I think many have gone to the flicks which is said to be excellent. Geoff and I went over to the library - I got ‘These Foolish Things’. Bet I’ll be whistling the tune tomorrow. Lancaster has given me a tin of peaches to take on the show tomorrow - I can see it will be a sticky business.
They promise us quite a lot of flak on the target. As usual I shall be tucked up in my Beadon suit, guns, knives etc strapped on and my parachute harness on - just in case! But I’d hate the first night or two in the jungle, particularly if I were by myself. I know they say that one would be quite safe, but the thought of all sorts of strange noises in the night gives me the creeps - and I do not relish leeches. Must get on with my letter to Mrs Smith - Oh! to be in Atlanta City Ga!
Tuesday September 26th: Took off on Op. (in EW120) at 10.30 this morning - very hot indeed. Formation was a bit ragged; cause in most cases was amount of cloud, which was certainly present in profusion. Got up to about 17000 feet south east of Chittagong when W/Cdr leading formation starts a series of wide circles and eventually turns for base - formation a bit scattered but eventually reformed, but one of the first vic kept weaving all over the sky. Personally I think we could have got through individually, but who am I. Dropped a 1000 pound bomb to lighten us for landing (time airborne 4 hours 20 minutes). Bags of R/T chatter, not very good. I did quite a bit of the flying - it’s tiring work keeping formation and avoiding clouds. There was a perfect example of the anvil where we circled, a colossal effort which must have extended to 25/30000 feet. I seem destined never to reach a target again. Target was Maymyo; 355 went there earlier but have not heard about their results. Object is to smash the railway up at Lashio, where the fighting I think will be rather severe - or rather on the front N. of Lashio. Jordon is safe - good show. Apparently he landed on a water-logged strip; don’t know why and have no gen on kite. The crew are at Agatala and they are going to get them to-morrow. Had a letter from Wheeler to-day - he’s done over 20 drops and expects his second pip.
Thursday September 28th: Was hoping for a bit of mail to-day, but only one. Jordon and crew were fetched from Agatala by S/Ldr Harris yesterday. Apparently they got lost and put down through lack of petrol - may be a row about it, there certainly would be if he was an N.C.O. Spent yesterday up at the Flights reading a book - Mike went to Khargpur to see his father the Brigadier - came back this morning with tales of delicious food and a few funny and scandalous stories. Played ‘Stategy’ in the mess last night - beat Thorpe and Lou Claydon, the former by slow decimation and the latter more by luck than anything else. There are some very good games in the mess now - I think I should get proficient once more at ‘Monopoly’. Rugger match this evening against Bishnapur, but I’m not playing - may watch it. Tucker is not back yet from course at Cal, and though I hate to think it I’ve a feeling our leave is going to be put back again - it is almost heartbreaking, but prehaps it may not happen. Second bomb bay tanks being fitted to kites and rumour of Op.
The little white dog has just pooped in Bill Robert’s bed space - confound the beastly little thing. It's a beautiful day, but hot this afternoon; this morning it was quite pleasant with a gentle breeze.
Friday September 29th: Played rugger last night after all. We beat Bishnapur 14:3 in an excellent game. Afterwards there was a meal and booze-up in the mess, but I didn’t go - visited Grew in hospital instead. We talked quite late - he was in the M.N. for a short time before joining the RAF. When I came back they were singing in the mess - it was very melodic with many Welsh voices. The visiting team really enjoyed themselves. The latest fad for this squadron is long-range low-level on trains - 100 pound bombs and strafing! It seems a gross misuse of heavies, but we shall see. Dangerous I imagine if anything cropped up. Anyway they are going to practice on the range to-morrow with the W/Op bunging the bombs out. The Op’ is coming off sometime - three ‘A’ Flight kites - the C.O., Forrest and Johnson. A rotten trick to let only one flight go - Harry Lamb got his kite all ready and then was put off the Op. I really would like to be on it as it is appealing and I do want to fly and get some hours in. ‘F’ as usual is shooting off his mouth; how he annoys me at times. Next time he starts talking about English public schools I'll ask him where he was. And as for the time he was on Spitfires! Up at flights lazing all day - fed up with this.
Monday 2nd October: A whole heap of promotions to-day. All Canadians and Australians, which looks bad. Geoff’s is 11 months overdue, and Dickie’s W/O 14 months - damned rotten. Last night we were on night-flying. Got up there about 6.45, taxied ‘G’ out, and after a lot of waiting eventually reached the end of No 4 runway; ran up, and of course the generators on 1 and 2 engines were u/s. Taxied back and waited for Toovey to finish in ‘F’ so that we could carry on. He soon came in with brake trouble, and that was the end of our night-flying. Reached the mess about 10 p.m. with nothing behind us but a wasted evening. The mess produced a very good meal, and so to bed. Nothing like this sort of thing to get a man fed-up. We were going to fly this morning but the kite was u/s and consequently the morning was spent in the parachute room doing nothing. A letter from Ax in the mail-plane yesterday but otherwise nothing - seems to be very little just recently. Leave within a week - what a wonderful thought. A day or two in Cal and then up to Mussoorie - I hope though that the season does not finish half-way through the month. Heard a most amusing story from Mike about Peter Chopping - he had a crash at Kilar whilst with a screen, and eventually these two found themselves in a hospital ward, they being the only occupants. This screen therefore camouflaged himself as a girl with a wig, lipstick etc. and got into bed with Chopping. After a little while the sister came into the ward, gazed upon the bed, gave a horrified scream, and tore out of the place, to re-appear a few minutes later with a doctor. What he had to say I do not know, but they both got away with it. I wonder where Chopping will go when he is well. I guess that it’s not improbable that he will be night flying tonight. As long as we do get in the air I do not mind. It was a grand night last night, clear sky and brilliant moon. Two kites doing low-altitude bombing on the range: maybe they were 159. Forrest got airborne in ‘C’ today - third time lucky, but Lancaster says he nearly pranged just after take-off. But then so did we after the last Op’ and I guess a miss is as good as a mile. It is getting hot again, but maybe we shall get some rain. Johnny Dearlove and crew got a three day leave pass for putting in 60 odd hours last month - compare that with our 13 and it’s quite a joke on us. Tucker is back - the course was good - two half-days a week and Cal’ open before you. They are going on leave at the same time as we do, which thank goodness will not mess ours up.
Tuesday 3rd October: We did fly last night, to the extent of being in the airborne state for over three hours. One check-out by Johnson and the rest on our own. The only trouble was with the nose-wheel, which had to be forced locked-down. Kite was ‘C’ and performing very well. Moonlight night, with a gradually increasing haze. Was thinking, during take-off, and almost impersonally, what would happen should we swerve off the flare-path. What was queer was that at one time in the take-off, thinking at that moment of nothing in particular, I suddenly had a nasty moment, quite sudden and soon put down. A kite was howling around the ‘drome at about 500 feet and bombing the square of lights taking the place of the pundit (flashing light showing Salbani code letters) - a bad boob on somebody’s part. Packed in about 11 and came back to billets. Had an excellent meal, talked to Geoff and went to bed.
Was up again 9 this morning; went to Flights at 10.30, but did sweet nothing. Up again this afternoon but soon got stand-down. A grand day, strong wind and rain. There’s a rugger match later this afternoon – ground crew v. air crew - should be funny if the wind does not drop. Do not seem to be getting many letters recently, and it is hard to conjure up news to write about. I manage to keep up my scheduled correspondence, but fear that some of my letters must be fearfully dull. If only we could say what we are doing I could shoot lines to eternity, but it is not to be - quite reasonably I suppose. Talking with Lou Claydon a few nights ago on stars, planets, universes and the possibility of astral exploration, which all led me to the conclusion that I’ll confine my exploits to this world.
Wednesday 4th October: They wanted all flying kit up at Flights this afternoon - bunged it all into a kit bag and took it up. Of course, all they wanted to know was what we were deficient of; damned footling inefficiency that messes you about from morning till night - kit-bag came back unopened. Have done nothing all day - much as usual. Heard that our bomb aimer P/O Parish was originally a Sgt/Nav - he punched a Wingco under the chin and was stripped. Must have remustered, but it seems to show how much notice these people take of your records. Rugger match went off O.K. through wind and rain - ground crew won 6-3. Ghari bogged down but we got it out after much straining. Spent the rest of the evening playing 500 with Grew, Bob Postle and Lew Toovey. Got several nasty spots on my body which I think must be caused by the lack of decent food. We’ll see if all these ailments disappear when we get up in the hills. Dhobi is a damned nuisance - it’s taking weeks these days! I’m not going to put any in as I won’t get it back before leaving. All my clothes are hanging on the line - they certainly do need some airing. Some letters today - news a bit disjointed when letters come out of sequence, but it all pieces together eventually.
Friday 6th October: The boys and 355 are away on an Op. - the first of the low-level stuff against trains. Ofcourse, we couldn’t go on it. Lew T. was on but taken off - Mike, not unnaturally, was furious. He’s going to apply for a posting to-morrow. Freddie Wright bogged ‘V’ badly yesterday, blocking up jungle road so that ‘S’ couldn’t get out. Imagine Beale takes a very dim view. Otherwise all the kites got off - was driving around in the ghari with Geoff and Nobby this morning and we watched the take-off. One of two were very shaky and staggered into the air - we had a few nasty moments. Norman came over last night - he had come before when I was night-flying and missed me. Said old Cattell (Tony’s instructor on Wellingtons at Lossiemouth) is missing - a bad thing; a very nice fellow and a rare type. Killed, not missing. Used to have some fun with him at Lossie. Took me on my first day cross-country and first bombing. Remember I made a ropey landing after the latter and he remarked on it, adding that he was always the same, nervous when someone was with him. Apparently he was supposed to have a charmed life (survived a barrage balloon cable cutting into his wing over London), but it didn’t do him much good. Took most of yesterday afternoon off and did a spot of washing and put clothes out in the sun. The hut is almost empty as most are on Op’ - for this latter pay parade had been put forward until to-morrow. Must remember to pay my mess bill before we leave or there will be a row. Rs.20 each month - quite a lot really. More proof of the rotten conditions out here. It’s incredible the things that ‘Authority’ lets these contractors get away with - the price of the edibles is fantastic. Army run this country and it could do with a good shake-up. People at home appear to be looking this way a bit more, but it will be a long time before anything is really done to help matters. It’s hot as usual this afternoon - we have the punkas but no one is very keen to give us punka-wallahs - 355 have had them for a long time. Am reading ‘Random Harvest’ again - good reading.
Saturday 7th October: The boys came back last night between ten and midnight. Forrest had returned early with intercom’ and turret trouble, and F/O Eno with electronic boost failing to all engines. 159 were out earlier in the day and were intercepted by fighters. Two of their aircraft went down in the target area, and one staggered into Chittagong on two engines, one man killed and two others seriously wounded. Darky Harrison of 355 crashed in flames over the target and another of their kites went into Jassore. Altogether a very costly day. Target was railway engines and trains on the line north of Bangkok. Sic transit (so passes) Norman, who was in the Harrison crew, one hell of a blow.
Does not seem much hope for any of them. (Norman lived through the crash, was hidden by Burmese and survived the war) I’ll let Johnny know and he can write to N’s wife - he knew her quite well. I will also write in a little while - it’s so bloody difficult - his wife and kid and father and mother, and the latter had been very ill. I know it’s happening everywhere but that doesn’t distract from the bloodiness of it - seems so futile. Guess it’s no use moping about - tuck it all away behind the surface. We’re getting our passes this afternoon and going up by the 4 o’clock train in the morning - in this manner scrounging an extra day as leave does not actually start until AD on the 8th. So when I come down this afternoon I’ll have to get a move on with packing and sorting out. The team is going to Khargpur for a rugger match this afternoon - wish I could go but it would not give me time to get anything done. Heard from Sammy today - says I’m the only one left of the old bunch who is still writing to him - the others have all gone. Would like to see Sammy again and his youngster. I only hope he will be left when this is all over. Cal (Calcutta) with its attractions is looming close and it will not come amiss.
Monday 9th October: Up at 4 o’clock. Harry Lamb took us down to the station. And so to Cal, with breakfast at Khargpur. Went straight to Liberator House, this is all yesterday, but full up so got beds in Elgin House - very nice and clean but Rs. 9 per day - only for two days however. Shopped, lunched, wandered around till dinner which we had at the Peiping restaurant. We concluded yesterday with flicks at the Metro. Firpo’s lunch was definitely off - not half as good as when we were here last. Slept in late this morning, wandered into town after breakfast and messed about. Ran into Tucker, Delaveau, Fraser and the ‘Bishop’ Bubb. Not to mention many others. Have just come back from a taxi ride down to Alipore Road to see Sandy - quite a pleasant ride and I caught him in the back of a ghari just going to tea - seems to like the course OK, which it is if you have enough money to hold out. He knew about Norman - said that a kite of 99 was lost searching for dinghies from one of the 159 kites, which I heard later went down in the sea off Rangoon. One dinghy was spotted by a Warwick, and I believe they were sending out a Catalina to pick up the crew - no more gen. The taxi-driver, the inevitable Sikh, bearded, spoke to a pal while I was talking to Sandy and then drove me back. Seemed a humourous bloke - they are magnificent looking types with their beards and hair style. There is some lovely scenery - green and trees - all around Chowringhee, but I guess some parts of this city are pretty deadly squalid. We are leaving by the Delhi train to-morrow evening - changing there and going on to Mussoorie. Went up to BOAC and transport people this morning but gave up any hope of a flight to Delhi because of the large numbers of Colonels, S/Ldrs, etc. - besides which we have far too much luggage to take on a kite. Chinese pilot up there and a few uniforms that might be anything. I like the look of the Chinese blokes and some of the girls you see are lovely. White girls are at a premium in this place, so one just looks at them. These tonga-wallahs have a pretty rough time, pulling blokes around all day at a trot. They say that their lives are on the whole short. It has been very hot and my prickly heat is out in force - still we will soon be away to the cool.
Wednesday 11th October: Finished up in Cal yesterday afternoon with a show and after collecting bags proceeded to Howrah. By luck and bribery we got a compartment in a Delhi train, in company with two Yanks. Altogether not too bad. The train does not reach Delhi until tomorrow night, not tonight as the R.T.O. said. Yanks have plenty of food and there is plenty of stuff on the stations down the line. The only drawback is the filth which comes in through the windows. Went to bed sweating and woke up really cold. It has since warmed up and we are travelling through interesting country. Passed by the Ganges, where Sikhs were washing themselves - with their hair let down they look like women. Still paddy fields but there is much more green around and trees. We changed at Delhi for Dehra Dun. Where we will spend the night I do not know but nobody’s bothering. The rations these Yanks get are wizard - sweets, chocolate, chewing gum, tins of meat, cheese etc. Wish our people would buck up on things like that. Saw in the mess on the evening before we left base that there was a parcel for me - just my luck, but will be a surprise when I get back. Passed through Patna Junction an hour or two ago - the cleanest station I’ve seen in India. Seen no whites apart from those on the train - a few Army officers next door and one or two others.
Friday 13th October: We are established in Hakmans Hotel, Mussoorie. Got to Delhi yesterday afternoon about 4, and got in with an RAF hill-party going to Dehra Dun.
Went to the Wavell canteen in Delhi but saw very little of the place. These blokes on the hill-party are stationed a little way outside Delhi. Tell anyone you’ve come from Cal and they say “where?”. The journey to Delhi was quite uneventful but interesting and enjoyable apart from the smuts coming through the window. Saw bags of monkeys leaping around at one place. Yanks changed in the morning for Agra and very kindly left us all their rations. We were in third class compartment from Delhi to DD - thought we would be there by 00.18 but it turned out to be 08.18 - spent a ropey night, climbing down from the shelf now and again to retrieve my towel which was acting as a pillow. Arrived at DD about 9 after going through some lovely green country - saw Mussoorie way up shining in the sun. Journey from DD to Mussoorie by coach - what a trip! Incredible bends - quite exciting and very pretty. We are 6500 feet above sea level and the view over the plain is enchanting. Blue skies but wonderfully cool - in khaki at present but may go into blue tonight. Hotel is good, but we’ve no idea how much it is and exactly how we stand. Have our own bearer and a room with the three of us in it. Just come back from a walk around - we had tea with wizard chocolate and cream cakes. Must get some ink and write a few letters.
Sunday 15th October: Up at 7.30 this morning and walked with Grew up to Gun Site Hill, which we had already visited yesterday afternoon. Quite a scramble to get up there but it was well worth while. Saw the range of mountains to N. and E. with the snow on their peaks, a very fine sight. Nearer, the bare rugged mountainside, meeting the hill we stand on, and there trees and bushes starting. To the south the view is down to part of Mussoorie, and beyond the plains with Dehra Dun. We took a few snaps and looked round before returning to breakfast. How I would love to have a glider and a launching ground up here - one could sail for miles across the plain. After breakfast came back to the house and cleaned up before going to church - we left Geoff in bed and found him getting up when we returned about 12.30. Then lunch and a stroll - Geoff went to the flicks while Ted and I walked over to the west and up a steep road - big estate of some Maharajah there. We watched hundreds of monkeys frisking around, also mountain-goats which are worth watching climbing bare rocks. Walked back, stopping for tea at the cafe just along the road - wizard cream cakes. Sat in Hakmans last night drinking gin and waiting for something to happen. The band played and there was dancing, but we don’t know any girls so what’s the use. Left about 10 and went to the flicks, after which Geoff went to bed while Ted and I strolled through the town. An amazing sight - brilliantly lit streets, steep inclines and descents, full of corners but not a soul in sight. Had a snack at an American grill and came back to bed. We’re wearing blue in the evenings - there seem to be quite a lot of RAF chaps here - an officer in the flicks last night wearing VR’s (badge worn on the lapel by volunteer reserve aircrew, surprise was due to the fact that wearing the badge had long been given up)
Tuesday 17th October: Was up early again this morning and went for a walk with Ted. Breakfast and then we went shopping - I have by this time gathered quite a deal of stuff and have spent a lot of money. Still, as long as I have enough to pay the bill here and get back to base, who cares. Watched the dancing and floor show last night before dinner and went to flicks later. Yesterday was apparently the Hindu Christmas - the shops were hung with orange flowers and at night there were little lamps burning. This place seems to be very empty - I don’t know where people go at night unless it is to bed. Lay in bed last night about 1 o’clock listening. There was not a sound - silence intense. Not a noise of any sort. Silence broken some 15 minutes later by blood-curling yells from jackals which seemed to get very near and then fade away rapidly. See in the paper today that the boys have been out on the low-level stuff again - north of Bangkok - also the Jap fighters are putting in an appearance round Mandalay! Guess we’ll get all the gen when we get back. Have a bit of a cold, but suppose that is not an unlikely thing to happen coming from Bengal. Time is passing much too fast and we will have to find out about the trains back to Calcutta - I have a feeling that the journey back will not be so pleasant. Have sent a parcel home containing a tablecloth and a scarf - the rest of the stuff I will send when we get back. I’m in ‘civvies’ - which involves taking off my bush-jacket and putting on my green shirt with the sleeves turned right up to hide tapes and crown.
Saturday 21st October: This being written on the train back to Howrah. Have just had breakfast in the canteen at Lucknow station and are now on the move again. Should be in Howrah tomorrow at 4 o’clock which is not too bad as we only left Dehra Dun yesterday evening.
Saw W/O Dupre and Powers of Stringer-Jones crew in the canteen. Think they must be on the train as they have added several coaches. We had the deuce of a job getting on this train at Dehra Dun - arrived there after the bus ride from Mussoorie, and the train appeared to be completely full. A hospital coach was tried but with no success as it was going elsewhere than Cal and anyway there were some patients coming. Things looked pretty black as the 6.20 to Alahabad was full and the next train to Cal tonight took four days. However there was an empty 3rd compartment marked ‘Pay Personnel Only’ - we got in with some Army blokes only to be turfed out by the R.T.O. After a lot of flap with things beginning to look rather grim some high railway official rubbed off the ‘reserved’ notice and we filed in once more together with an Army Lieutenant. Geoff thinks the reserving of the carriage a racket, which is highly probable. There are three RAF officers on the train who were staying at Hakmans - they were quite merry last night - am not used to being greeted effusively by squadron-leaders. I hate to leave the lovely cold of Mussoorie and shall miss most of all the walks and the views. The last few days were spent much as the others - walking, eating, going to shows and listening to the band round about dinner time while knocking back a few gins. The last night there Ted and I ran into an Army bloke flat out - we gathered a couple of rickshaws and after much messing about got him in to one of them and started the long ride into where we thought he lived. In the market we meet some other Army blokes who knew him and they took charge. He was lying in the road when we found him and was utterly blotto when we left him. There was a crowd of these blokes used to get tight in Hakmans every night - they said they had been given two years pay as they had been fighting in the jungle for that period. They told us how they appreciated what the RAF had been doing down there - Spit, Hurri and DC boys. The DC’s kept them alive by supply dropping. The Army blokes have to stay out here for five years - almost a death sentence - they are pretty fed up and know that very few people know what they are up against. It’s a damn sight worse fighting down in Burma than in Europe, I'm sure of that, and yet you hear so little of these people. Maybe we’ll get a bit of help one day. There seems to be a very good spirit between the officers and men who have been in Burma. I think there will be quite a few revised opinions of India as a result of this war. Absolutely amazing the way the ‘natives’ pack into these third-class carriages - crammed in, on the benches, on the floor, hanging out of the windows. They can’t use the doors to get out as they are blocked up so they clamber in and out of the windows. Had a very snappy wash and shave at Lucknow, thank goodness. These third-class compartments are just wooden benches, the lavatory a hole in the floor and nowhere to wash. It’s a disgrace the way people have to travel and the country is just about bound up in red tape, with a colossal officer complex. The airs some of these people give themselves is sickening.
Wednesday 25th October: The boys are away on an Op. so we are taking the day off, apart from the fact that we have to see the MO at 2 o’clock about inoculations. Got back last night and since then have been getting things settled - some new blokes in the hut which makes a bit of a crush, but with the help of Crooks I’ve got things fairly well organised. Looks like the milk-run today. Since we have been away the boys have done a daylight on Moulmein with the Yanks - they were met by fighters who shot down three of the Americans; all ours came back O.K., although the new ‘D’ seems to be a write-off as a wing spar has been shot up. The 159 kite’s dinghy was never picked up. Rumour has it that second pilots have to stay here for a tour but do not know what foundation that has. Mike is in Khargpur seeing his father - met him on the station last night. We reached Cal 4 o’clock on Saturday and after failing to get in at Campbell’s tried Liberator House successfully. It is a wizard place for Rs 2.8 a day - full board and all conveniences. Was not in time to book for a show so after a good clean up wandered around and had a meal. Spent rather a rough night, do not know why - up town after breakfast, went round the market, shopped, ate ice cream. Back for lunch, played Ted at billiards then into town again. More messing about and running around, including a visit to the YMCA where we brought 200 camels each and basked in the smile of a fair maiden. Very nice and pleasant. Back for dinner and clean-up and then went into town by tonga (kind of rickshaw) and train. Flicks at Lighthouse - Frank Sinatra, who I rather expected to be a sleek greasy type, but seems quite a pleasant young man.
Rush after the film to find something to eat. Being a meatless day, the meal was restricted to fish, egg and chips, but was nevertheless welcome. And so to bed. Got an RAF ghari to Howrah in the morning and after an uneventful journey with lunch at Khargpur arrived at Salbani at 4 o’clock. Eventually got a truck which carted us to the mess. First class in this train - at last taking full advantage of our tickets. Glad to say that the nights are much cooler and the days do not seem so hot, though I have been under cover most of the day. Watched the take-off this morning - Harry Lamb had a narrow squeak and did not get off - amplifier to No 1 went and trying to stop burned brakes badly. ‘F’ got off, dropped bombs on range and returned. I think that most of the crews on the squadron are now operational - 355 have turned over to training for a bit as they have so many new crews.
Thursday 26th October: Target yesterday was Mandalay in collaboration with American Libs and Lightnings. Does not appear to have been a great success. No fighters but a spot of flak. Have been up at Flights most of the day and have come down early this afternoon. We had a lecture on engine handling and formation flying, which was not bad. Shall have to get on with some letter writing as want to see Sandy tonight. Fetched parachutes and got organised up at Flights this afternoon - very little doing. Had an inoculation against cholera yesterday afternoon - some of the boys had three lots shot into them and consequently are feeling a bit sore today. Mine is nothing. Electric light in now in the billet, so I can write comfortably in my own corner in the evening.
Saturday 28th October: There’s a big Op. on tonight - no ball or beam gunners, We were on - in a ‘B’ Flight kite. Then F/O Eno’s kite went u/s and he took ours. So now we are no longer on the Op. - a disheartening start on coming back from leave. Mike moaning about the impossibility of getting a posting. Taking the rest of the day off - damned if I’m going up there to hang around and do nothing. Which is what I did yesterday, coming back early in the afternoon.
Sunday 29th October: We took off on the Op in T (EW117) Thunderbird at 5.30 yesterday evening. Just after take-off, circling the field, we saw flames and smoke belching high out of a wood beneath us - looked the deuce of a mess. Completely forgot about it until we got back at 6.00 this morning, when we learnt that it was McCormick. Apparently he had engine trouble taking off, jettisoned his bombs, then went right in from 200 feet. They were all killed - Mac, Eric Wilson, Patten, Taffy Evans, F/Lt Peirse - who was in the tail turret - and the rest. Mac was around so gaily in his new gaudy scarf yesterday - I think he was one of the most popular officers on the squadron. Target was a railway junction near Bangkok - a thousand or so miles away. It was rather grim without ‘George’ (automatic pilot), although the journey out wasn’t too bad. As it got dark we had the moon and apart from one or two cu in the way weather was good. We reached the far coast and I think we were a bit lost. We stooged over the land, searching for pin-points and eventually gave up looking for the target because the petrol situation wasn’t too good. We stooged back to the coast and bombed the Siam railway in the region of Ye. Whilst stooging over the countryside we got bursts of flak - the tracers looked very pretty coming up towards us but I don’t think it was very near. Having got rid of the bombs we turned for home - the trip developed into a ghoulish nightmare. Geoff and I were taking it in turns to fly - from my seat the horizon (artificial horizon) was useless and I was using magnetic compass, air-speed indicator and rate of climb only. My flying was a bit ropey - after a time the instruments seemed to blur and fade, it was like being in a dream, responding almost automatically to little needles going up and down, with no thought to what went on in between. It was almost hypnosis and I felt dreadfully tired. I think once when Geoff was flying I dropped off to sleep. The moon went down over the sea, orange-red, the process making everything more ghoulish than before. External horizon went and outside was pitch black. The trip seemed as if it would never end. After many aeons we crossed the home coast and flew on through the darkness until we found our own flare-path. We landed just as the first streaks of dawn were in the sky.
Went to interrogations, breakfast and bed. F/O Eno made a crash landing between Midnpur and here - the engineer is badly hurt but otherwise seem to be OK. Tucker came back on three engines having been spot up by flak. This is the longest trip I’ve ever done - how unending the night seemed.
One realises, flying over those hundreds of miles of sea, just how much hope you’d have if you came down in it. (Items in brackets not in original text).
Tony wrote a poem in memory of ‘Mac and his crew’
Burn not too fiercely o'er their heads, oh! sun
As they lie hidden there in Indian ground
And though their spirits long ago have won
A deeper rest, cast though the shadows round
The crosses bare, from that lone tree above.
Oh! clouds, pour thou not down torrential rain
On these who died far from the land they love,
But gently through the leaves cast out the pain,
Fall softly, greenly on the sparse dry grass
And grant the air a sweetness once unknown.
And winds, ponder a moment as you pass
Over these graves untended and alone,
And pause to whisper softly though the leaves
Telling the old familiar tales of yore,
That they may know the heart of England grieves
For lads we buried there at Midnapur.
Above interrupted as we were called to briefing - we’re now on the Op. once more. Flying ‘T’ in place of F/O MacAlpine who apparently had sinus trouble. ‘George’ in the kite is u/s - what a bloody thought. Forrest in dock with malaria - rather bad I believe. Must get my Beadon suit organised this afternoon before the meal as I’ve taken one or two things out to go on leave. 355 were on last night but know nothing about their show.
Monday 30th October: Sandy came over last night and we chatted for a bit. He has some of Norman’s personal kit and I’m going over there soon so that we can get a letter written and send it off. Went as a bearer to the funeral of Mac and his crew at Midnapur this morning. The journey down got us all covered in red dust which did not help things very much. What a deadly road that is. The eight graves were in a corner of the graveyard under a tree. Coffins were very ropey efforts, with no names on them as blokes were apparently beyond recognition. I did not think much of the service, but it was all done very hurriedly and I suppose could not be helped. If I die like that I would rather be buried near the aerodrome. Came back and had a shower to wash away the red dust and then had lunch.
Up at Flights all afternoon - we’re on an Op’ tomorrow night - in ‘C’ - will pray that ‘George’ is OK. Lancaster has the gen that the Canadians are going to form an independent Air Force for operations against the Japs. Don’t know how true it is. Vast numbers of mosquitoes around these nights - they get me most around the ankles. They certainly had a good response to requests for blokes to go to Mac’s funeral. It has been rather sultry today and I’m sweating quite a bit. If possible I’ll have an early night tonight to counter as much as possible the likely effects of tomorrow night’s efforts. 159 apparently laid mines down at Penang the other night, involving a flight of about 3000 miles - 18 or 19 hours. All got back, two to Chittagong.
Wednesday 1st November: Went up to the Flights all yesterday, and the Op. was postponed until tonight - went up again this morning and it is postponed again. We have a stand-down this afternoon, thank goodness. It was quite chilly this morning early but has warmed up and is really a grand day if you do not spend too much time in the sun. Spent this morning mooching about getting more and more fed up. Got the issue of Christmas Airgraphs - have never seen a worse selection of Kerab efforts - they really are poor. Must get my mess bill paid soon - guess I’ll wait until after pay day as I don’t want to break 100 chip note.
Put a spot more money is savings. Jock shot at a rat in the roof last night but all he saw after that was a streak of blood. The boys had a mock trial of ‘Silas Wates’ in here last night - quite amusing but rather crude. The new arrivals in the hut are a pretty rowdy lot - seem to be a few Scotsmen among them! Roberts is going into Cal on a 72 with Forrest’s crew, he being sick. The idea of spending the next few months at this place makes no appeal to me but there’s not much to be done about it. Did I say that Lew Toovey had his hydraulics shot out over the target the other night - Mike had a shell come so near the seat of his pants that he thought it decidedly unhealthy. I wonder if we’ll collect any packets on this next do.
Friday 3rd November: The Op’ came off last night. Got off the deck at 4.15 in the afternoon having been briefed after lunch. Target was Bangkok - the engine repair shops there. 159 were going in before us and 355 after. From the briefing we had expected lots of flak, and a fighter or two, but we may get that later. We got well over the sea before the sunset, which was very pretty. We were above what little cloud there was and could see the tops of them bathed in red, then changing to grey. After the sun had gone the sea around disappeared into a purple haze and above that to the west was a patch of red, changing to green higher in the sky. This glow gradually faded but remained for some time. A long way off at about our level I could see another kite keeping station - just a black speck against the red. Below us, showing up vaguely against the haze was another kite, near enough to be identified as a Lib. We had ‘George’ in, and I was having no difficulty in remaining awake at this stage. As we approached the coast south west of Rangoon, the moon came up, a blood red disc, soon to disappear behind a mass of stormy looking clouds to port.
There was a lot of cloud in this area but after a spot of dodging and climbing we got through and continued on our way. Approaching the coast of Siam we met more cloud but did not experience much difficulty with it. Then, after the mountains, the plain with Bangkok lay clear before us. We met more cloud in patches but it did not interfere with the effort. From afar we could see flames coming from the target - unfortunately the bomb sight and a few other things fused, but we plonked the bombs easily enough on the target from 2000 ft. Ground details were moderately visible. I saw tracer coming up from port and a few heavy batteries firing though I did not see any bursts from the latter. A few searchlights were about but I don’t think any picked us up nor did we see any fighters. Being so low and with the brilliant moon one felt very naked, and we were quite expecting fighters. We ran right into the bad weather round Rangoon but after stooging about a bit eventually got clear.
The trip back I did not find too bad. Felt tired once or twice but found the best way to stay awake was to keep doing things - so what with looking after ‘George’ while Geoff had a snooze, eating, taking off and putting on my gloves and generally amusing myself was OK. We thought we would be short of petrol but got in easily enough.
Briefing, breakfast and bed about 8 o’clock. It was just starting to get light as we landed. Was up just after mid-day, and went to flights after lunch, thinking I might be on an Op’ tomorrow. Not so, but Geoff is flying with C.O. - formation daylight. Now feeling rather tired but shall make up for it.
Saturday 4th November: Boys went to Rangoon today with an escort. 215 and 355 were also there - in fact it was a bit of a party, with Libs, Thunderbolts, Lightnings, Tongs and Oscars, not to mention flak. Dogfights all over the place and they say that at least three Japs were shot down. Most unfortunately Beall opened his bomb doors and the bombs dropped out to be followed by the rest of the formation. What they hit I do not know, but doubt if it was the target. Wish I had been on the trip. The boys do not seem to think much of the Jap fighters - think they lack guts. Bags of photographers floating around today. Have spent the whole day doing nothing in particular - have not been up to the flights at all. Spent rather a rough night but the stomach seems better today. I imagine we will be pretty busy for the next few months while the weather hold good. Geoff flew with the C.O. but have not seen him since he got back. Have written three of those stupid airgraphs today - two of the better ones and one of the corny ones to Sammy with apologies.
Everyone is very full of the trip - certainly something to brighten life up a bit. Do not think I will visit Sandy tonight - he likely to have been on the trip and to be a bit weary. All being well I’ll go tomorrow night. Jacko says the Japs were dropping bombs.
Monday 6th November: We are on a big Op. but have no gen as to when it is coming off. They have fitted both bomb bay tanks, ground crew working most of last night. We are going in ‘C’ - I've got my stuff in it ready for anything. Yesterday was spent on the Flights doing nothing - boys were letting off Very cartridges in the evening to celebrate dear old Guy Fawkes. I played 500 with Digger, Ron and Ted most of the evening and also managed to get my mess bill paid - as well as Rs. 10 for Christmas dinner. There’s a headline in the paper today about the Rangoon show - quite a good effort to get a spot of publicity for a change. Having some wizard weather though its too hot and gets a bit monotonous. The last night or two it seems to have been a bit warmer though I guess it will gradually cool off. Must go back to the Flights and see if there is any gen.
Tuesday 7th November: Sudden flap at 9.15 - briefing 10.00, take-off at 11.30. Damned ridiculous giving so little warning. After a hurried briefing we rushed down to the billets and collected scanty rations and our junk - thence back to ‘C’ which was still in the process of being refuelled. We had everything on top line by 11.30 and taxied out. During this we noticed the kite was bumping a lot, so stopped at end of No 2 runway and had a look at nose-wheel. Apparently oil was leaking out and the engineer said that the oleo had gone. The CO then came up, taxied it a bit, looked at it, and said he thought it would be OK. Reg did not think so and neither did Geoff - the result being that despite the CO we put the kite u/s. Fine effort on part of Geoff for doing what he thought right. Anyway we piled out and went to lunch - up again afterwards but nothing doing. Now the CO has sent for Geoff and Reg, so I don’t know what is going to happen. Am fed up about it - would I think have been an interesting show. F/Lt Eno did not take off as he had flap trouble. Went over to see Sandy last night and also caught a glimpse of him today as we were taxing. We sorted out Norman’s kit and decided that Sandy should see his adjutant about it - I don’t think that there should be much trouble in getting the stuff off. How I hate getting all my kit into the kite, strapped in and all buttoned up - and then not taking off. The brevity of briefing was amazing - rather as if we were T.A.F. fighter boys on a scramble.
Thursday 9th November: Toovey and Wright turned back from the trip two days ago due to bad weather. Very few found the target but one ship was hit. Yesterday morning there was another panic - rushed about in a flap and took the air at 11.20 in ‘C’ (EW120). Quick briefing warning of very bad weather en route.
Flew most of the way about 1000 feet avoiding squalls and going under the clag (cloud - usually used in connection with bad weather) - there certainly was a lot of it. Flew over black and white lighthouse Bassein way - it looked wizard. Then on to target followed by another Lib. Flew up Siam coast trying to find the convoy but like everyone else we were unsuccessful. It was very impressive flying just off the coast over the little islands. Inland the hills and mountains reared their heads into a mass of swirling cloud, orange and red tipped by the setting sun. Wood-covered slopes sinking down to the sea, with lovely looking sandy strips - all very green and lush. The cloud, colour and mountain effects made me think of ‘Fantasia’ - strange but rather wonderful. There were several tiny boats and someone shot at them. They looked harmless enough but someone said they were carrying supplies. It was getting dusk as we got to Ye, and so we bombed the railway north of the harbour - boys said the bombs landed dead on the track. One of the other Libs knocked down a span of the bridge, so I guess the line will be out of commission for some time. We flew back low to keep out of cloud, as there was no moon to help us. I was expecting we would run into squalls, but the front seemed to have moved rapidly and we had little bad weather. Bassein to base seemed as long as ever and my seat got very sore. To my surprise we were last in, just before midnight. Interrogation, an excellent meal, and bed. Have not been up long. There was another flap this morning but it has been scrubbed. 355 and the rest were on this do - we saw one or two of theirs coming back as we went out.
Rumour has it that the tour has been cut to 250 hours - but is there any truth in it? The result of Geoff and Reg’s natter with the C.O. was somewhat indeterminate. Meant to get some ‘duty free’ labels yesterday - will now have to wait until next weeks.
Saturday 11th November: Up at Flights all yesterday but did nothing apart from attending a lecture. This morning we heard we were on Ops, tomorrow - first in ‘C’ and then in ‘G’. We air tested the latter this afternoon and then went to briefing. After waiting a long time they started but it was after sunset by the end of it. Rushed up to Flights again, shoved ‘chutes etc in kite and have come back and had dinner. Rumour now has it that the show is scrubbed, but we have no definite gen on it. If true it will be a bind. Sandy came over the night before last and we talked a lot. Then, as Black was going over there, I paid them a visit last night. Had a little beer and a few arguments with the boys and returned to bed reasonably early. The Op’ is definitely scrubbed - what a bally nuisance at this stage. Lew, Mike, Bob and Mac and Banff and crew went on leave today - Most of them are going to Kalimpong after a few days in Cal. I got out the watch I bought as a joke in Bombay today and it had been keeping perfect time. Can’t make out what has come over it. Usual discussion groups going strong in the hut - subject normal and others. Today we were issued with Xmas air-letters; they are rather good, surprisingly so after the airgraph effort. Also they are selling Christmas cards in the mess. Took my great-coat to bed last night and needed early this morning - chilly until the sun gets up fairly high. Then it is deucedly hot - particularly if one is inside a kite. Jock Black says one can only get the Christmas cards in the mess if they are ordered, but has let me have a few of his. Was just boasting about the watch to some of the boys and picked it up to find that it has stopped! Think it has to be left in peace.
Monday 13th November: Was up at 5.15 this morning ready for take-off at 8.10, but we could not start No 3 of ‘G’ - tried everything, then the E.O. came along and put the kite u/s. The Wingco did not get off in ‘Z’ not did ‘A’ and ‘B’ - so out of the first box of 7 only 3 got airborne - all NCO’s - maybe Tucker will lead them off to battle. Getting fed up with all the preparations and then not getting off. I believe they are going to put us on local flying this afternoon. Yesterday we went up to Flights but did nothing all morning, having a stand-down in the afternoon. I went up to collect parcel - cigarettes, most welcome. Imagine from home but no mark by which I could tell. Lancaster has just gone to the MO and got 48 hours excused duty because of a stomach-ache - but that is his business. Could get so angry but what is the point - was wearing slacks and shirt, Beadon suit and battle-dress blouse this morning early and it was too hot. Getting up was not too bad but did try to snooze a bit extra. It will be bloody hot if we have to go up and fly this afternoon - not at all keen. B-29’s flying up and down as usual - no idea what they are doing. 355 put up a lot of kites very good effort it looked. I'll be glad when ‘E’ comes out of maintenance and we can get cracking on it again.
Tuesday 14th November: All the boys came back last night. The primary target, a 300 ft bridge N.E. of Rangoon, was already down when they got there, having just been bombed by the Yanks. So the boys bombed small bridges and such along the railway line. Tucker led three out and Harry Lamb brought five back. Thunderbolts and Lightnings in the vicinity. A 159 bloke was in here last night - said that one of their kites pranged into a hill near Moulmein whilst mine laying a few days ago. We went up to the Flights yesterday afternoon but there was nothing doing so came back - a mad ghari ride. This morning we went formation flying leading F/Lt Evans, but developed a sort of uncomfortable swing and swish so came in after little more than an hour. Went up again this afternoon and after telling the sergeant in charge of the kite the trouble came back again. After which I packed parcels to send home. There’s an RAF concert party outdoors this evening so think I’ll toddle along. Roberts and Cox are going for a run before breakfast in the morning - good luck to them. Not very keen on running myself. Cox has now backed out as he has no gym shoes - but is going to wake Roberts! We shall see. Con. Unit (Conversion Unit) has moved to Canada and of course everyone wants to get there now.
Wednesday 15th November: Went up to Flights as usual this morning - rumour of Op’ soon started flying around, and we found we were on in ‘A’. Put kit in this morning and spent the afternoon hanging around until briefing at 4.30. Then up to Nav. section for look at target maps and back down in time for quite a decent dinner. Does not look as if I will have a chance to write in this book tomorrow unless we don’t get off! Went to RAF Concert Party held outdoors opposite cinema with Bob Postle last night and met his cousin from 355 - the show was good, particularly considering that four of the ten of the troupe were away sick. I got my yearly ration of duty-free labels - four - from the Orderly Room this afternoon and have since been sticking them on parcels and addressing the latter in bold upstanding print. No letters today but must write home this evening - not that there is much news I’m afraid. The A.O.C. was in briefing this evening and gave us a few words of encouragement - I really do hope we will get off tomorrow as it ought to be a decent trip. I have a bet on with Jacko concerning our get-off. He’s not going as he has a spot of sinus trouble. We have a lovely rat-trap laid out - a bottle with a bit of cheese in its mouth pendant over a bucket of water. Nothing came of it last night.
Friday 17th November: Up at usual time yesterday and took off at 10 o’clock. So I win my eight annas chips from Jacko. Went out (in KG217) at about 8000 ft and did not have much trouble with the weather. There were several large Cu Nim south of Moulmein - we went in on top, turned round and went in underneath. The weather was not good, but there were kites all around trying to get through - we eventually turned back, not alone. I saw one Lib just on our starboard being pelted with heavy and light flak - have never seen so much in one area. We were going that way but soon changed our minds. Came out to the coast and bombed the usual railway. And then all the way home at 160 mph landing at 9.15. We were first kite back - target well hit I believe. Harry Lamb got his rudder shot up and was going into Cox’s Bazaar - a not very large fighter strip. Do not know if he got there or not but will get all the gen later. Pay Parade is this afternoon so I’ll toddle up, collect the cash and return to the billet.
Saturday 18th November: Went up to flights this morning and soon heard of Op. We were not on it at first, but are going on ‘J’ (EW116), which has been having a lot of engine trouble lately. Got ‘chutes out to kite and then had to do a compass swing. Tractor not functioning well so did it on engines - deuced hot work, especially as it was lunch-time. Took twenty minutes over a very bad tiffin (lunch) and then up to Flights. Messed around and sat about until briefing - then went up to Nav section to look at target maps. Then a hurried shower and wash and dinner which was not at all good. Harry Lamb came back from Cox’s Bazaar yesterday, collected by Tucker. Apparently they got to the target, and coming out the tail-trim wire starboard rudder snapped, jamming the trim so that they started going round in circles. But by dint of much strength he kept her straight until he got to Cox’s - which, by the way, has a larger runway than Chittagong. They said the food is wizard there and some of the crew had a bathe in the Bay. I guess the kite should be back soon. No mail today, very little at all recently, but maybe the situation will improve with tomorrow’s mailplane.
A pretty new moon tonight, which would presage night ops in the near future - except that it seems fairly official that we are starting an APC course (Fighter Affiliation) on the 26th - if its the same as the last one I shall go stark raving mad. But rumour has it that we are on the stepping-stones to great things - dear old rumour. I’ll get my bottle of English gin tonight and save it for Christmas. Reg Winchester got so stewed last night that he did not get up until late this morning - and when he did get up to the flights he was still in a stupor. Wonderful what drink can do to a man.
Thursday 23rd November: Here we are again after a bit of a lapse. We took off on the Op. morning of 19th at 7.40 - nearly lost the formation in the join-up, as there were hordes of Libs circling Midnapore. Narrowly missed collision with a B-29 who wouldn’t give an inch. The flight out was a bit of a nightmare as we were No 6 and echeloned starboard - too close to No 2 and Jordon’s leading was not very inspiring. Over the target I was having babies as we were too damn close to No 2 and our leader was swinging about a bit. Saw a burst or two of flak, and heard a colossal bang while over the target - but as nothing happened dismissed it from mind.
The escorting Thunderbolts dropped their fuel tanks through our formation, one passing between our kite and our leader - much too close. 355 were on the target a minute or so before us, and altogether was a good prang. Later learned that the Thunderbolts were medium and high cover - the latter being sprung by Jap fighters which caused the T’s to drop their tanks in a hurry. None of us saw anything of the fight, although we saw a few Thunderbolts. Coming back we slowed down to let 355 get ahead and land first. Soon decided we had not enough fuel to make base safely so broke formation and headed for Chittagong. Came in there and ran along the runway some distance before another bang announced a burst tyre. We swung off a bit but braked and stopped before we could run off runway - got out and surveyed the mess, which it was. Yanks came up to pull us off with a tractor, also a RAF party to drag the Lib off runway. Looking at the kite we found several flak holes, seems a heavy AA had burst right beneath the kite over target when bomb doors were open and the blast caused flight-deck hatch to fly open causing the bang we heard. A piece of flak had gone through the rear of the wing and penetrated a fuel line which caused us to lose fuel before the line sealed itself. We came to the conclusion that a piece of flak had hit the tyre causing it to slowly deflate - the boys said that it did not go round when we touched down and there was a very long skid mark on the runway. The tyre was a real mess - ripped to hell. We left the blokes to drag the Lib off and went to Interrogation. Very decent blokes there. That over, we stowed our kit in the kite, which had been dragged onto the grass, and got a ghari to the Wing mess - handed in guns etc and got blankets, found a spare charp, had a meal, sat in the mess and soon went to bed. Morning of the 20th we went up to the watch office and hung around, drinking bags of char and eating delicious bacon sandwiches from the caravan there - the blokes got used to us and during the time we were there gave us lots of delicious food. Also we went over to Intelligence and had some more tea there - really nice blokes, Army and RAF. Chatted to a P.R.U. Spitfire pilot at lunchtime - said the stripped down Spit beats anything flying except a Thunderbolt in a dive. Beautiful looking job with its four bladed prop and light blue colour. Said he went up to 42000 ft one day to get over cloud but could not make it - what chance have we! Shot a few more lines and then departed - said engine soon heated up so could not hang around for long. Wicks came in in ‘D’ and brought a spare wheel and the E.O. from Wing - then he went on to Cox’s Bazaar where ‘C’ was, leaving us the crew chief Shinnin. They got cracking on changing the wheel - we soon went back to the mess and drew blankets etc again. A bloke in one of the billets kindly lent me some long slacks and with Ted and Tug Wilson hitched into Chittagong. Unshaven, slacks tucked into socks and no hat I looked a bit of a mess. The road-cum-railway by the side of the river was a bit bumpy, but the view reminded me of the East Florida coast and Indian river. Some big ships come up that river. Once in town we went to a Chinese restaurant and had a good meal despite the fact that it was a meatless day. Then to a flick and after tried with little success at first to hitch back. Eventually got a lift to the jetty and after walking a bit another one to the aerodrome. And so to bed. Morning of 21st we went up to aerodrome again - kite was ready by lunchtime and after piling in duff wheel and jack etc we started up and taxied to end of runway. Run-up - big mag drop on No 4 engine - so back onto grass and out of kite. Hung around until we decided it was hopeless then Cyril rang up for a ghari and we all, with two exceptions, went into town.
Washed at RAF club, which is quite a decent place, and then went to another Chinese restaurant for a meal. Must be recorded that I had a whole chicken. The sort of thing I’ve dreamed of - piled up high on the plate and deliciously tender. Boys split after the meal, some going to one flick and some to another. Ted and I wandered round the shops for some time and then went to the RAF club and sat down. Later wandered back to the cinema and met Geoff, Dicky and Cyril, and got a ghari back to camp. Most of us stayed in the mess reading on the 22nd, until Lanc came down and said some of us should go up to the kite. A few of us did - Geoff cursed Lanc because he’d wanted us all. Message was that a 159 kite was going to Cox’s and then coming to Chittagong to pick us up. Soon we heard that a kite of our own had left base at 14.40 to pick us up. At 6 o’clock having brought the rest of the boys up from the mess, we heard that it was all a mistake and that there was no kite coming. And so back to the mess where we again drew blankets. Later went to the flicks in camp - ‘Action in the North Atlantic’ - and bed late. This morning we found that Heyes had landed at 11 last night, short of petrol from an Op, down to Victoria Point! He took off about 11 this morning, taking four of our gunners with him.
Meanwhile Shinnin, who is a damn nice bloke, inclined to worry a bit, and some station blokes, have been working on our kite, and eventually at 3 o’clock we took off, reaching base about two hours later. Shower, shave and dinner - and here I am. Dakota with some big Army type came in as we were hanging about this morning - bags of M.P.s, saluting etc. Met several APC boys in mess - they are still flying Vengeances. Also one of the Hurricane boys, who is now on Tiger Moths - Comm (Communications) Flights. At present they are flying wounded Army types out from the front. It’s fun at Chittagong watching all the different types landing and taking off. Four lightnings in formation swoop low over the runway at speed, pull up and break away in a steep climbing turn - starboard approach and very pretty to watch. Saw a Lightning come in on one engine - no trouble at all. Thunderbolts with their extra tanks and eight .5 guns are heavy things and they’ve had several crashes there. A Wimpy, good old faithful, came in - stripped and battered a bit, but she’s a good kite. Looked over the Sentinel - a beautiful job, and I would like one. Mitchell with fourteen .5’s and a 75mm cannon - what an armament. Yankee photographer took a photo of the crew by the Lib - promised to send us a snap. Food in mess was wizard - miles better than ours here. I’d like the place, but it got a bit annoying being there without any proper clothes or washing materials. One can get down into town for a meal or flick, besides those on the camp. Everyone seemed very friendly and things are well organised. Cyril is a most amusing bloke, and as we tell him very useful for getting gharis etc or anything done. Altogether the outing was a bit of a break - now I've had my first shower and shave for five days - was a bit dirty. There’s an Op. on tomorrow, but of course we are not on it - should get most of tomorrow off and I need to catch up with my mail. Luckily I had a 100 chip note in my pocket when we landed at Chittagong, so we did not run short of cash. Geoff and some of the others also had cash.
There’s an Op. on tomorrow, but of course we are not on it - should get most of tomorrow off and I need to catch up with my mail. Luckily I had a 100 chip note in my pocket when we landed at Chittagong, so we did not run short of cash. Geoff and some of the others also had cash.
Saturday 25th November: Have just come back from a walk down the village with Bob Postle - we have a stand-down the full day, which is wonderful. Brought several things in the village and Bob acquired a tree-rat. Made the acquaintance of Ransan Singh, who owns a shop down there - Bob says he had a wizard education and was going to England but something prevented it. Anyway, he supplied us with coffee and biscuits and I brought a mattress which George is collecting at tiffin time. I notice the paddy is fully grown and some has been taken in, although the wind has beaten some of it about. Apparently nothing more is planted in the land until next monsoon as it is too dry - which is a pity. With a decent irrigation system they would be able to raise two or three crops each year. We saw Brighouse, the new Flight Commander, yesterday - gave us a pep talk and said he wants to see smiling faces around the place. He was at Lossiemouth on a course after us. Did not go up to Flights yesterday afternoon but wrote letters and did nothing in particular. Went to see Sandy yesterday evening - news is that Norman and one other from that kite are POW. Conditions will be pretty hard on them but at least life is there. Do not know if they were hurt. The news has come through very rapidly - rather surprised me that anyone had got out of the kite alive as the boys said it was a hell of a mess.
Sunday 26th November: Hughes and Black were going into Khargpur yesterday afternoon so I decided to join them. We thought that there was an ambulence going down but this was not so and we had to hitch into Midnapur. Rode in a horse-drawn tonga to the Military Hospital and there saw F/O Johnson and F/Lt Roberts. I do not think the former will ever fly again as he has an ulcer in his stomach. The latter is a mad bloke - dashing about all over the place and having the time of his life in hospital. W/Cdr Beall, F/O Jordon and F/Lt Evans arrived in a jeep and we did not stay long after that. Our tonga tooks us to the railway station, but the train was three hours late because of a crash at Bishnapur - this, coming after the smash of the Punjab mail, makes it seem like sabotage. Anyway we walked along the railway until we came to the bridge where we got on an American truck driven at a mad pace by a negro. This landed us a few miles outside Khargpur just as it got dark, but we soon got a lift into town. Had an excellent meal at the Institute, talked to some Yanks, decided not to go to the cinema, had another meal, and then walked to the station.
To my surprise we found that there were no more trains going to this place that night - passengers or goods, because of the prang. However an engine was leaving at 11.30 and so we waited on the station until it came. We asked various engine drivers where they were going and eventually found the right one. Piled into the cab only to be followed by a horde of R.A.F. types who wanted to get home. Eventually we were all turned out by an official - but while the rest of the boys retired disconsolately onto the platform we crept craftily round to the back of the tender and mounted the ladder. I got showered in steam, but the engine stopped a bit further up the line and we relinquished our precarious positions in favour of a place right on the front of the engine. Here we found three of Tucker’s crew, so we all piled on and the engine started again. It was rather fun, sitting on the front beneath the big spotlight with the track all lighted up ahead. Dashing towards trucks and then swerving off onto another line. But it got a bit chilly so we asked the driver to stop and climbed along the side of the engine into the cab. Then on again until we arrived on the line through camp. The driver stopped at the point nearest our billets and out we got. The boiler fire in those engines is some effort and it really eats up the coal. Then we were very quickly into bed - George had installed my mattress and it was wonderful. We began the new course today - bags of formation and bombing as well as lectures and I guess we’ll be pretty busy. The C.O. gave us a gen talk on it this morning, saying what he wanted and all that. Delivered the bomb-aimers a kick in the pants and handed out a few compliments. It means we will be off Ops for some time which I do not like. Mike will be pleased when he gets back tomorrow to learn he has just got in time to start the course!
Monday 27th November: Flew formation this morning (in KH111, 3 hours 35 minutes) - we were No 3 to F/Lt Evans. He was bombing and consequently we were on the inside of the many turns. We kept up fairly close to the leader at first but were getting shoved out on the turn so dropped back to the rear and held a wide formation comfortably. Too much like hard work to get in really close with all the turns we were making. A cheap way of getting in formation time says Wicks! Landed about 1 o’clock and came down to the mess. Ofcourse no lunch had been ordered for us and they gave us a pretty scrap meal. Went up again at 3 o’clock - the C.O. held a post mortem on this morning’s trip, but apparently did not say much. A couple of Thunderbolts formated on us when we were flying, but did not stay long. No mail in today - same as yesterday. Toovey comes back from leave today - have not see any of them yet but imagine they will be in on the evening train from Cal. Wish Johnny would write - goodness only knows what he is doing.
Wednesday 29th November: We were going to fly this morning but ‘D’ was u/s so did not get off. Hung around all day and did a spot of skeet-shooting. Lunch was awful - so sick of this routine food. All I ate was two pieces of bread and jam and a tangerine. Dinner was good last night, but it is the only meal of the day when one gets decent food - and that not always. One letter - let’s hope there is some improvement on the mail situation tomorrow. Went to the cinema last night with Lew Toovey, Geoff, Ted, McNulty and Bob Board. Quite amusing and some nice looking girls - they are now running two performances each night. Now that the rains have ceased there is dust all over the place in profusion. It gets in ones nose and mouth and is highly annoying. I imagine we will be night flying soon - circuits and bumps and bombing. One misses the rush and whatnot of the Ops - don’t imagine we’ll get any in for some time. W/O Forrest put in an appearance today - he is going on sick leave and I believe is posted.
Thursday 30th November: We were going to air-test ‘G’ and pick up the ferry crew that flew ‘F’ from Dalbhumgarh this morning but ‘G’ was not ready so we did not get off. Guess the ferry blokes will be cursing madly. Hung around Flights all day - we are on night flying at 11 p.m. Should not be too bad with the jolly old moon. Mail plane came in today - only one letter but maybe will make up for this duff period in the future. Dhobi came back today - they have ruined the tapes on my best bush-jacket and lost the belt support - bloody hopeless. Chips have re-appeared after a long absence in the canteen. George got me some but they were cold. Hear that Jordan was leading a formation over Cal today and they got some flak. Rather amusing - one is not supposed to go over Cal unless on Ops. Would like to get onto Cal for a day or two but not much chance while this course is in progress. Forrest left today - on his way home apparently. Steggles, Owen, Claydon and Thomsett have got their commissions.
Friday 1st December: Suddenly put on night-flying last night - ghari outside mess at 10.15. But Stringer-Jones said ‘W’ was u/s so we did not go up to Flights but had quite a good meal and went to bed. I believe we are on again tonight. Sandy came over yesterday evening and we chatted for a while - he said something about going to Cal this weekend. There is registered mail for me - probably the photos I had taken on leave - will collect them this afternoon after pay-parade. Have been up at flights all morning reading a book and doing nothing in particular. Wish we were on Ops - this is getting boring again. The sun was hidden behind a bank of cloud for the first part of the morning and it really was chilly. It is now grand - deuced hot in the sun but with a good breeze blowing. The prospect of tiffin ahead is not particularly exciting - I already know what it is. Have been eating the char-wallahs banana pies and tangerines all morning so am not very hungry - probably a good thing. Lancaster says that all the mail to the States is now being sent via Lagos - hope this is true.
Saturday 2nd December: Taking a few minutes off to write a letter. Did a spot of night-flying last night (EW116, 2 hours 40 minutes). Messed about for an hour or so finding a bombing-wind etc - called up the range and they told us to return to base. Which we did and did bumps until 10 o'clock. It was grand flying as there was a brilliant moon - I spent the first part of the trip in the beam as W.O Heyes was flying with Geoff. Got up for breakfast this morning and then toddled along to a lecture at Wing.
hen to the Post office to collect the mail - but none for me. Up to Flights after lunch but did not stay there long as there was nothing doing. We have a stand-down to-morrow - 355 have three days, lucky dogs. Sandy is in Cal - Jimmy and Norman Gayton were over earlier this evening and we were talking in the mess with Mike. Alan Payton has just come in - he is on night-flying tonight - the kite he was going in has pranged its bomb-doors - F/S Collier pilot. Presumably he dragged it in on landing and hit something. Now Alan is flying in ‘B’ at midnight. They need good luck. Tiny has just been in - ex Mac’s crew, now in ‘B’ Flight. I guess he must feel a bit lonely.
Sunday 3rd December: I rose latish this morning but in time for breakfast. Then went into village with Bob Postle and Crooks. Had coffee and biscuits at Thans and then looked around the ‘Shops’. Then gave the accompanying dogs a swim and proceeded to Wing Post Office - but mail had already gone down to the mess. Dropped in at canteen and brought a tin of pears which I guzzled after lunch. No mail for me - this is becoming boring. Dinner was pretty awful - fish as at tiffin. Have been organising my bed-space a bit this afternoon - looks somewhat better now. Got a small print of the photo the Yank took at Chittagong today - it really is pretty good. Spent a good portion of yesterday in the mess with Mike - having a pretty hearty bitch.
Monday 4th December: Tomorrow we enter on the second phase of our training period - formation bombing by day and long war-load cross-countries by night. Actually we are not on the programme at all. Two letters today. Had a talk by Group bombing type this afternoon. Bitching about everything, mention of T.I. aircraft in future. Bob and Ted are going to the flicks - asked me to join them but somehow do not feel very keen about the flicks these days. Will toddle over to the library and get a book. Dinner this evening was fairly decent, although there was not enough of the duck which was the main attraction. This ice-cream now and again is a good change. It seems to be warmer at night lately although the degree of cold in the morning has not changed much. The nights are really too gorgeous to waste in desolation. Had my hair cut today - for a change quite well.
Wednesday 6th December: We flew this morning (in KH111) - took-off at eleven and landed at two o’clock. Formation bombing, which was not too bad, although 2 and 3 of the second Vic had trouble holding formation and eventually dropped out. Did not go down for lunch as the ‘critique’ was at 3.30 - the events of last night’s and today’s flying were thrashed out. It all goes to show that if you are going to have any sort of success with large formations each man has got to hold his own position well. ‘Critique’ was also quite amusing in parts. Got down to the billet about 4.30 - shave, shower, dinner and here we are. Hear a rumour that a 355 kite is missing from a cross-country last night. Collected two big sacks of mail from Wing Post Office last night with Surtess and carted same down to mess.
Most disappointed to find among it all nothing for either of us. Geoff did nearly all the flying today - as we were No 3 on third Vic we changed seats - quite a tricky business. I was mainly concerned with watching the bomb-doors open and the bombs drop but on the first run-up missed both as we were a bit behind the formation. We are on a night cross-country tomorrow on ‘B’! I hope she will hold together for six hours. It must be the oldest kite in the squadron now with plenty of flying hours in. These KH series are nose-heavy, which is a pleasant characteristic - they take-off wizardly.
Thursday 7th December: We had a lecture by Elmer this morning - on escape etc - his usual line and all the old stories. Otherwise have done nothing. Joe Bell has his crown through, two days after it was due. Also Geoff’s W/O - at last we are getting organised. Apparently nothing has been heard about the 355 kite that is missing. 99 went out to Hnonpladuk a few days ago and two kites collided over the sea - do not know if there are any survivors, but as it happened at a 1000 feet I imagine it is highly unlikely. Also another kite missing, I believe from 215. We are not taking ‘B’ tonight thank goodness - ‘F’ instead. Think the trip is in the region of six hours so we should be back before 1 o’clock. Guess it will be a bit of a rush - briefing, eating, changing and getting up to Flights. No mail today although quite a lot in.
Friday 8th December: Took off last night (in EW111) at 6.50 - trip was pretty uneventful, George in all the way. Heard Charpoy 2 (Japanese radio station) once or twice, making nasty remarks over the air. Visibility was bally awful and I did not see the coast at either crossing. Moon came up at about midnight with resultant haze which cut visibility even more. We were late at the turning points, I don’t know why. Arrived over the range at two in the morning, and after messing about for a bit dropped our one eleven and a half pound bomb - which Cyril said was fairly near the target. The bomb did look funny in the bomb-bay before we started - bomb-bay tank in one bay, 1000 pound bomb in another, 500 pound bomb in the third and last but not least the chota one on its own. Having dropped the bomb we messed about a bit more and then went in to land. And landing, crashed. I did not notice anything strange at first when we touched down I held the throttles back, started to open the cowl flaps and made ready to brace the controls as soon as Geoff shouted. Then I noticed that we were down a bit to port and things started to move quickly. We swung round to port, off the runway and on to the grass. I braced myself for a shock, cut the switches and waited. Deceleration was not fantastic and when we came to a stop I pushed everything handy - mag switches, battery switches, mixture controls etc and had a look around to see what was happening. The boys were leaving the flight deck quickly like while dust swirled in everywhere. Someone has a red torch on and I thought at first something was on fire. It was a wonder that nothing did go up as we had a full bomb-bay tank and the big bombs still on - although I do not think there would have been trouble from the latter as they were not fused. We toddled over to where ambulances, crash-trucks etc had gathered. When we saw that nothing was burning we went back and collected a few things. Apparently what happened is that we lost the port wheel assembly - after touch down the whole leg adopted an angle backwards and soon dropped off, hitting the tail fin in transit. The wheel was about 200 yards from the place where we eventually stopped. Port wing was badly damaged, props bent, fin messed up and a few other bits broken. We soon retired to the billet, disappointing the blood-wagon types, and after a meal went to bed. The 355 kite missing is no longer a mystery - six of the crew have been found after bailing out - do not know about the others.
Sunday 10th December: A F/O from 355 took our statements regarding the prang today - what they will decide I do not know. Up at Flights all day and went to ‘critique’ in afternoon. C.O. warned us about engine handling - said we had too many engine changes. Also that we might be losing our engineers soon. I think that it would be silly to take them away as I feel that they are essential on this type of kite. Formation flying goes on daily, 355 and 356 combined, but we have not managed to put up a lot of kites - using them day and night takes it out of them, and we will have to stop for servicing soon. ‘H’ has came out of maintenance - we were going to fly it this morning but they switched over and put Harry Lamb on - but anyway she was u/s as two or three engines were not developing full revs. However, I believe that is now fixed - do hope she’ll be O.K. Mess meeting this evening - think that I will turn up.
Monday 11th December: Flew this morning on formation bombing - 355 and 356 combined. Took ‘H’, which S/Ldr Brighouse had just tested. No 3 engine over sped on take-off, but we held it down with the feathering button until it came into the toggle speed range. Kite climbed wizardly and showed a fine turn of speed. We chased the formation all the way to Jassore but owing to some trouble did not bomb. Came back to Midnapore passing north of Cal. Saw Howrah bridge and most of Cal. Two Spitfires attacked us - the more I see of those kites the sweeter they look. Did a quite good run on our own range and then landed. Went up late this afternoon and heard from Mike that the Flight Commander had called in all second pilots during my absence - said that a list was held of priority. Delaveau being first and myself second. That our names had been put in two or three times, but that we were expected to go soon - to Canada! After a probable period of waiting! And that following us they hope to send two a month. Have no idea how I got to be second on the list - and wonder if this all pukka gen. There is no more flying for several days and 355 have got three days off. Imagine that most of them will be down in Cal. But have we got three days off? - not on your life. There is not the slightest necessity for keeping us here and the C.O. might well have emulated the example of 355. They had a 48 a few days ago - makes me sick and the boys are fed up. To the Flights as usual this morning.
Tuesday 12th December: Have been up at Flights all day. (‘Flights’ was a single story building with a couple of offices and a crew room. It was there that the crews would sit around drinking endless cups of tea, waiting for something to happen) Went to Nav section this morning for a lecture but it never happened. Had a lecture this afternoon on the oxygen system! As if we didn’t know it by this time. Of all the crass stupidity this beats all. Making us go up to the Flights and then seeking hard for something for us to do. Why the hell we could not have three days off like 355 I do not know. Cholera has broken out in the village and everyone is being brought up to date on their inoculations - I did not go as I had one a few weeks ago. Two of the boys are heading for Adra tonight - what they will find there I do not know. I may go to Khargpur tomorrow on the other hand I probably will not. Two Christmas airgraphs today. Good mind to get happy tonight - about time something happened.
Thursday 14th December: Have been up to flights this morning - together with one or two other crews we have the day off. Had a stand-down yesterday but did not go anywhere. The village is out of bounds because of the Cholera and heard that the Institute at Khargpur was shut so did not go there. Spent the day writing letters and drawing and was in the mess with Mike in the evening. Had a few beers the night before and then went along to the mess to have a few drinks with Mike but as he was going to the flicks I accompanied him together with Les Surtees and Parry. It was not a bad show - tonight I’m going to the Ensa show which according to the reports of the boys who went last night is not too bad. Apart from some too low comedian - and when the boys say that he really must be pretty low. As I’ve said before, this mucking about at the Flights is stupid - the fact that they will give so many crews a stand-down today is proof that they do not need us - why they could not give us a clear three days I cannot imagine. Bags of mail coming in recently - have had a few Christmas airgraphs.
Friday 15th December: Pay-parade was at 8.30 this morning, but it was postponed as they had no money. When it will come off I do not know. Hung around rest of morning - may air-test ‘H’ this afternoon. Ensa show last night not too bad - we got seats well in front - the ‘low’ comedian was boring, but otherwise enjoyable. A change to see some white women again - one of the girls looked very young. I believe that the mass flight to Bombay is coming off tomorrow - but have an idea we will not be going. If all I hear is true there should be bags of Libs in the air. Seven of 215 were showing off at about 1000 ft over here this morning - really lovely formation. Bought a pipe yesterday and am not getting on too badly with it. Spent yesterday afternoon drawing Bob Postle - actually came out quite well and he wanted it to send home. Off and on it took me a couple of hours. Must try a bit more sometime. Cyril said something about a whole bunch of nurses, American and British, coming along to the Officer’s Mess after Christmas - now we need some for our mess - Heaven help them!
Saturday 16th December: Boys are away on a long cross-country to Bombay. Four squadrons participating. Toovey did not get off in ‘H’ as bomb doors would not close so took ‘F’. Went up to Flights this morning but stood down from 10.30. Have been drawing and reading, nothing in particular. Crooks has just come in with the mail - quite a lot in but unfortunately none for this body. But must write some letters this evening. There’s suppose to be a social in the mess tonight but with a lot of the boys away I doubt if it will come off. A 99 or 215 crew shot down a Zeke the other day. The pilot was in the mess two nights ago. Bought some more supplies at the canteen this morning for our Ovaltine sessions - sugar, tinned milk, Ovaltine and hot water from the mess make quite a pleasant drink at any odd time. Weather is much the same, getting a bit warmer at night but still undoubtedly cold in the morning - if only it would stay like this. Talk of postings in the air - disadvantages - several parcels on way and if I stay here until the end of February my W/O should come through quickly. Looks like Canada when we do finally go. Would like two or three weeks leave from there and a trip down to Atlanta. All rather optimistic.
Sunday 17th December: Boys came back last night between 9 and 10 after a 13-14 hour trip. We are on it tomorrow and I cannot summon up a great deal of enthusiasm.
Actually got paid this morning - also put ‘chutes out in kite - we are taking our own ‘H’ (EW153). It will be a bind seeing Bombay harbour and then having to head east again. Two rumours floated in today - one that the C.O. is posted, the other that there are some second pilots on the way here. Lunch was not too bad and ‘Victory’ has put in an appearance - I do not think a great deal of it although at times one finds a decent issue. Spent yesterday evening drawing Lancaster - something missing, but not too bad.
Wednesday 20th December: Got up early on morning of 18th and were airborne at 8 o’clock. Stooged around Midnapur until 9, when we set course for Nagpur. 355 with 9 kites. Tagged on, and we arrived at Nagpur at 12.30. I then took over from Geoff and flew the kite to Poona and then Bombay. Formation was not too bad, save that leader got ahead now and again when he started climbing quickly to avoid cloud. Bombay looked very nice but I did not have many eyes for it. Was aching all over by the time Geoff took over again. We flew to Bhopal, where we dropped bombs, and then made for home. I saw our own formation of nine, 355’s nine and somebody’s seven. After leaving Bhopal we ran into a lot of cloud and it was beginning to get dark. Hurricanes attacked us as Spits had done at Poona. We edged away from the formation and then No 2 engine cut. Out of petrol. However Reggie put the cocks on cross-feed and it picked up again. Then the amplifier on No 2 went - so we changed it but it made no difference. By this time we had lost a bit of height and were down to 6000 ft running into bad weather. Geoff did not like it at all so we turned round and set course for Jubbulpore where there is an aerodrome. After sometime we hit the town and then tried to find the aerodrome. Pursued a red-orange flashing light for a long time, but what it was we still do not know - definitely not a pundit. We wandered around the sky in this vicinity for some time shooting off reds and flashing every light we had. But there was no reply from any aerodrome and our spirits dropped a bit. I think we were facing up to the problem of bailing out and did not find the prospect appealing at night. Eventually we set course for Nagpur and after flying through a bit of cloud for about an hour eventually came to the town. There was no flare-path out, but we eventually raised them down below by calling on the R/T and they told us to circle while they lit the flare-path. It soon came up - a single row of flares, and they told us to land to starboard. We have never done a higher circuit and on the approach dropped like a stone - I told Geoff when to check as he could not see and we made quite a reasonable landing, well up the runway. Fierce application of brakes and we soon stopped, turned round and were guided to the watch-office. (Time in the air 10 hours day 3 hours 20 minutes night). I forget to record that we took off from base fully loaded with the gills open. It did not cause any flapping but a bit of a lag. To continue - having got out of the kite we climbed into a ready waiting truck and were taken to billets - all very nice. Thence to the mess - “can only give you egg and chips” - back to the billets to make beds and then to the mess again for a drink. All on the mess as it was corporal’s night. Then to bed but had the deuce of a job getting to sleep as was aching all over. Was never so glad as on that night to have my feet on good solid earth. It really felt good. Up on the morning of the 19th and just got in for breakfast. Then up to the kite where we ran the engines - I suggested trying a good amplifier on No 2 - which we did and discovered that the trouble originally was a duff No 2 amplifier and a duff spare.
We visited the canteen - a really good place - near the watch-office and had a look at some of the kites. Beaus, Mossies and Corsairs, the latter being flown by South African pilots for the Navy. This place is a ferry unit and M.U. Met a couple of blokes who had just brought a Mossie from Cairo and were returning there that night - had a date in Heliopolis. What a life! Cyril, Lake, Reg and I got some costumes made at the dhurzi and went for a bathe in the swimming pool. The pool is a bit shallow and one bloke cracked his skull open diving in - the ambulance carted him away. By five o’clock we had had no message of a kite bringing spares - Ted had sent a message through to base saying what we wanted - and so we all caught a bus into town. Eleven motley bods in all sorts of clothes. We were half way to town when we saw another Lib on the circuit! However we continued on and went to the Church canteen where we all had a damn good meal. Then an Indian P/O came along on a bicycle - wanted to see Geoff. The outcome was that he telephoned the camp and spoke to Jordan who had come in ‘C’ with two spare amplifiers - found we had to return that night. We spent half-an-hour in town and then caught the bus back to camp. It nearly broke my heart - think it must have been the thought of the trip back combined with the attractions of the town.
We saw some lovely girls, and they are a bit disturbing when one has been in this place for a long time. They have dances periodically on the camp at Nakpur and it is a really gen place. But what have we got on this bloody Bengal bomber station. However, back to the camp, collected our goods, up to the kite, started up and ran up engines - all OK. Took off a quarter of an hour after the night Dakota to Cal and about an hour after Jordan had left. Trip was uneventful and fairly fast, Geoff and I taking it in turns to fly. Landed at base at 12.30 (flight time 3 hours 15 minutes night) and were soon down at the mess where we got a meal and went to bed. I was up fairly early this morning but did not go up to the Flights at all. Geoff is off flying for a while now and getting a fortnights leave after Christmas- there is a short Op on tomorrow - part of the training. Air Marshall was down today, answering questions but did not dish out any solid gen. I’m orderly sergeant tomorrow - 300 cigarettes waiting for me when I got back, also letters. Must write a few now.
Thursday 21st December: Up to Flights this morning - Orderly Sergeant - Cyril was put on Orderly Officer and we visited one or two places. Lancaster went to see the Flight Commander and was insubordinate, with the result that he was put under close arrest with me as his escort. So this afternoon I have been in the billet with him all the time, also taking him to meals. All the crew have a fortnight’s leave - we put in our passes today, going after Christmas. The boys went to a place south of Akyab today - no opposition, but they said there were over 70 Libs on the target. They got back just after midday. I have put Calcutta on my leave pass - would like to get away somewhere else but it may not be practicable. A Beau shot down a B-29 over the Sunderbuns last night - crew bailed out. Two of 99 kites went west I believe on the first Bombay do - one crew bailed out and the others were not found. Eno landed at Chittagong today short of juice, but they are back now.
Saturday 23rd December: Boys have been on another Op today - Toungoo, as the last one. No opposition and from all accounts a pretty good prang. I’ve been up at Flights all day - this afternoon Lancaster went before the C.O. and was reprimanded. I helped carry some junk to the Officer’s Mess for the dance this evening - with all the ‘imported’ women. Delaveau reports rumours today of a posting for the four of us - will probably interfere with leave if there’s anything in the rumour. There’s a long Op on tomorrow - they have taken the dinghies out, so can only guess at destination. Saw some fat geese waddling around outside the mess - speed on Christmas day.
Sunday 24th December: Here we are on Christmas Eve - sun shining, birds croaking and a stand-down this afternoon. I am going to church this evening - evening service and carols. Mike is away on the big Op -should be down about 5 or 6 in the morning. Was talking to him late in the mess last night - says he hopes to go to communion after interrogation in the morning. Del has some more gen from F/O Black about postings, but nothing definite has come through yet. We all got our leave passes this morning so I shall go to Cal and keep a good look out for a recall. Slight decorations in the hut and plenty in the mess. By all accounts tomorrow should be a fulfilling day in all ways. Going to Cal by the early train on Boxing day - must get some proper kit put together.
Was talking to Mike last night about various things - among them the lack of enthusiasm for helping to get this war finished among certain people. He thinks the British race is decadent - particularly the shopkeepers! Some of the boys have gone to Khargpur as there are rumours of a fair. I think I will spend a quiet evening.
Monday 25th December: Boys came back early this morning - trip was across China to French Indo-China, 14 to 15 hours. No trouble - much! I went to church with Ted Grew last night and then went to his billet for a drink. Finished up in the mess about midnight, just happy. Got up early this morning and went to communion - thence to breakfast, which was wizard. Sat writing and drinking this morning until tiffin time. There was a running buffet from 12 until 3 in the mess, really excellent. Stuffed myself full of chicken, mince-pies and ice-cream and wandered off to the Officer’s Mess for a drink with Mike, Lou and one or two others. Have spent part of the time since then in the mess and part in the billet.
McKay, Delaveau and Clarke were doing a Maori war-dance in the mess - stripped but for a tablecloth, faces and bodies daubed black, they were dancing round a paper fire in the middle of the floor. Have not laughed so much for a long time. There’s a crowd in the mess - all sorts of silly things going on, but everyone seems happy. I’m on the first sitting of dinner tonight - going to see the ground crew boys after that. Must shave now and pay a visit to Mike, who I left in bed an hour or so ago. When I am going to pack, who knows.
Tuesday 26th December: After a good dinner yesterday evening I went across with some of the boys to see the ground crew, taking a couple of bottles of beer and some gin. They had a bar rigged up in one of the huts - Blondie, Paddy and the rest, and we had a really good time singing and mucking about. I felt quite happy but by the time I had walked back to our mess was quite normal. Called in to see Sandy - who was in bed - at 355. Found Mike and McNulty in the mess drinking - talked to them until after 2 while Mike was packing up to go to Khargpur. Woke Geoff and Co up, washed and finished packing and then walked to the station - with a heavy bag. Waited an hour and a half for the train and do not remember much from that time until arriving in Cal. But do recall having breakfast at Khargpur station. Took a taxi from Howrah to Liberator House but they could only accommodate one so Geoff went in. Dicky and I are in Elgin House until we can get into Lib. House. Tug and Reggie are at Campbells. Had lunch here after a hot bath and then went into town, looked around, booked seats for a show tonight and came back here for tea. We are having dinner at the Peiping.
Friday 29th December: Have spent the last few days rushing around Cal. Went to a dance last night at Lancaster House which was quite fun. Met a F/O who was at jungle school. Did have one dance and rather more sherries - tummy a bit unsettled today so think had better lay off this wog liquor altogether. Bags of the squadron in town - keep running into them. We are now at Liberator House - only snag is that the water is only put on at definite hours and one cannot have a wash when one wants to. Spent this morning in town and booked seats at the New Empire for tonight. Lots of lovely girls around - a bit heart-rending for us! Probably going to play tennis this afternoon - Geoff and I had a couple of sets yesterday and as a result I’m stiff as deuce. Wore blue last night - was just a wee bit warm.
Tuesday 2nd January 1945: We went to the tennis party on the 29th - at Sir Somebody’s house - it was quite fun. A wizard lawn, marvellous house, tea in the garden - we hit the top-notch of Calcutta society! Some of the RAF nurses were there. Have been dashing around Cal quite a lot. New Year’s Eve, with Bill Adams and another bloke from 159 and Ted went to a dance at Sealdah. Got fed up with it so went back to Sealdah. Got rather merry and saw New Year in - most amusing walk back. Last night there was a dance and broadcast cabaret here - unfortunately they took the band away for a time but otherwise it went off OK. One or two blokes were too squiffy and making fools of themselves. Nurses were there and I took one home.
Monday 8th January: Have not been keeping this up (diary) recently due to being in Cal. Now back at camp - arrived here about 4.30 this afternoon. Boys are just coming back from a fairly long Op. It is really cold and apparently has been like this for about a week. It rained in Cal two days ago - shook me rigid when I woke up and found grey skies and rain pouring down. Sandy and I have been lunching together at Firpos for the last few days and have paid two visits to the Botannical Gardens - they are really pleasant and I had no idea that there was anywhere near Cal where such lovely surroundings could be found. Really pleasant walking in the gardens and crossing the river on the ferry. Toovey and crew were in Cal yesterday, coming back by the late train tonight. Saw a couple of more shows in town, spent a lot of time in the market and wandering around - and also in Ferranzinis! Naval officer asked us in Fi’s if we thought he would be able to fly to Bombay to get a boat the next day, this was when it was pouring with rain. We asked him what he was flying in - and when he said Dakota we said of course, we fly through anything. A bit of a line. Geoff and Ted returned on the 6th. Dickie and I dined at Christie’s that evening and a ‘queer’ man came and sat at our table. We had a good laugh over that. Went out for dinner last night but were too late to get into a decent place.
After a big mixed grill Dickie went back and I went for a walk - eventually ended up singing hymns. And so to bed. Girl walking by herself down Chowringhee last night - the solution would seem obvious but I do not think she was that type. Poor girl was stopped a dozen times if once but eventually reached her destination. Rumour has it that I am grounded pending posting - we shall see.
Wednesday 10th January: Have been up at Flights doing nothing for the past couple of days, coming back fairly early this afternoon. Boys are on an Op tomorrow as well as three crews going on the course at Jessore - learning the gen on supply-dropping. Opinion was expressed that all the training we have been doing was partly in aid of getting Akyab - which was found to be empty of Japs! Personally I think there must be more to it than that. Heard from home today but there seem to be some letters missing - I wonder if Bill Roberts took my mail to Cal when he went - to give me when he saw me. Anyway I guess I’ll know tonight when he is due back. Have been putting in a spot of cricket at the back of the hut - not having played for a long time my bowling nearly knocked heads off. Had better pay a visit to the library this evening - my book is nearly a month overdue. Geoff is not back from Cal and we have no idea what is happening. Cyril said that the C.O. said that he was fit to fly - MO said he was not. In consequence they have sent him down to the specialist in Cal. No news of my posting - must say I will not be sorry to get out of this place - and try and keep away from India! Which will be a hard task no doubt. Dicky has been out here for over three years - he should be home before Christmas although quite a lot can happen in that time. He had some time on Blenheims, but this is his first pukka tour. Cyril seems somewhat upset - he said he would come over this evening.
Friday 12th January: Have been up at Flights all morning and was paid. Including ration allowance and Jap pay. I’m flying on the Op tomorrow with Tucker - I think it is a short one. Went up to Flights yesterday morning and read while Cyril censored letters. No-one there apart from us. Played a game of cricket in the afternoon and as a result am now stiff as hell - cricket was quite good fun but we split two balls in the process - at that rate it becomes an expensive business. The last two weeks have been warmer then previously - but Cal has had its coldest period for some years. Willie Heyes landed at Cox’s Bazaar yesterday with some trouble - whether he was shot up or not I don’t know. Target was bridge on the railway Bangkok way and it seems that the show was a success.
Saturday 13th January: Op’ went off beautifully and I really enjoyed it. Got up at usual time - take-off at 9.30. Formation was reasonably good - Tucker flew all the way out while I map-read and kept an eye out for anything. Saw Howrah Bridge and sent my wishes to Chowringhee - over the Sunderbuns and so to the Chin Hills. For the first time I saw the hills with no cloud on them, and we did not fly above 10000 feet at all. Various dwellings way up in the hills that are I believe Army rest camps. Balloons over a new bridge across the Chindwin, which I believe the Japs have been trying to knock down recently.
There were masses of kites in the sky - mostly Libs, but I saw a Spitfire, several Commandos - and Thunderbolts of the Air Commando I believe. These were meant to shot up the defences of Mandalay before we went in. There were I think about six Lib squadrons in the air - four British and two Yanks. About 72 in all. We bombed barracks in the town - really gen bombing - each kite was carrying 8000 lbs of H.E. and incendiaries. I saw a few bursts of flak but nothing much. As we turned for home I could see the flames and smoke in the target area - it surely was a mess. We could still see the smoke as we passed over the Chindwin coming back. I flew the kite on the return journey. We changed seats as we approached base, Digger did an amazing peal-off and an astonishing drop approach. Harry Lamb went into Chittagong today with a duff engine - do not know what happened but do not think it can be anything much. Another bacon sandwich type (excellent pilot). Geoff flew today - not on the Op. but guess he must be O.K. Three letters waiting for me - all addressed to my A.P.O. number - probably someone got their finger out at last. As Hughes said, perhaps there is a new corporal in charge of the post office at Bombay! Think I will go over to the mess this evening and have a chat with Mike - am sure he will be there! Had a wizard programme on the wireless coming back from Mandalay - first the news, then a band and Frank Sinatra, then some waltz melodies, news followed by a Navy show which was most amusing. Altogether had it going for over two hours.
Monday 15th January: There’s an Op’ on tomorrow - pretty hot I think. I’m not on it as neither Digger or Geoff are flying - on early calls instead! Mandalay Op. was given a colossal write-up in the Statesman today by a reporter who went with ‘Q’ of 215. He shot the most awful line - said death was a novelty! Also that the crews came back to bacon and eggs and whisky - not these boys. We dropped over 500 tons of bombs, more than the amount dropped in any one raid on London. Good effort for Eastern Air Command and I hope the results cheered up everyone. There were some British prisoners of war in the goal which was very near the target area - but it was left intact. They must have had a first rate view of everything. Came down early from the Flights this afternoon and we are not going up tomorrow. One bad show - the name of the target for tomorrow was being bandied about yesterday. I would not be at all surprised if they get a hot reception. Had a game of cricket yesterday which was great fun. I made 3 not out! New moon tonight and it looks lovely. The moon and the dawn will always remind me of Halifax harbour as we sailed in there one fine day - one of the greatest sights I have on memory. What a lot has happened since then, yet it was only two and a half years ago. Have still got my cold but not as bad now as it has been.
Wednesday 17th January: There's an Op’ on tomorrow. Geoff is flying with Harry Lamb and our crew in ‘C’. Digger is on - asked Brighouse if he could take me, but B. says I am off flying pending posting so Digger is taking Les Surtees. Short formation trip. Boys pranged Mingaladon aerodrome at Rangoon well and truly yesterday - Yanks there as well, not to mention fighters. Each formation took a part of a runway and smashed it up. From all accounts there were no kites on the aerodrome. I got up at 5.30 yesterday and helped with the early calls, had breakfast and then to bed again. Did not do much all day. Had a Christmas card via home from the Gudbaurs - have not heard from them since I left Florida although I did write them a couple of letters. How I would like the chance to get down to see them again. And to pay a visit to Atlanta. Would rather have liked to go on the trip tomorrow - should be a good one. Only thing I hope is that I do not hang around for a long time doing nothing. How wonderful it would be to get a few weeks at home, but I do not dare hope for that. Whole crowd of big bugs here this morning riding around in jeeps, but what is cooking I do not know. Boys say that our formation yesterday was far superior to that of the Yanks - so they cannot Yahoo us any more as I believe they did once. Alan says Stringer is a day late coming back from leave, and has been put on an Op. tomorrow - what fun! It does not sound much like Stringer though.
Thursday 18th January: Went up to Flights this morning and saw the boys off. (Geoff captain, aircraft EW120, 7 hours 40 minutes day) Apparently they pranged the target OK but it was a ropey trip in regard to formation. Target was an aerodrome (Kaguang airfield) some 50 miles south of Mandalay. Geoff had to leave the formation as they were running short of petrol, but got back here OK. I came back from Flights mid-morning and went shooting with Bob Postle. We shot eight pigeons and two buglars - also Bob shot a Kingfisher because he wanted to get it and stuff it. Coming back I shot a woodpecker - I don’t know why because I was sorry afterwards. Two beautifully coloured birds and a shame to shoot them. On return had tea with F/Lt Jenkins and one or two others and then returned to billet for a shower. Having waded through a river and been torn by thorns I was bloody and muddy - also caught the sun beautifully. Really enjoyed the shooting and we are all going to eat the pigeons later this evening. Went to one village where there were hundreds of big fat pigeons but the natives did not want us to shoot them as they are apparently sacred to the villagers. Believe there is another line-up tomorrow - smashing the Jap’s aerodrome in Burma. No news whatsoever of my posting.
Saturday 20th January: Have been up at Flights all morning, reading most of the time. Went along to new watch office to see Beau and Beechcraft that were in. There is an Op’ tomorrow - 1400 gallons of fuel, so it must be a deuce of a short one. Tucker hopes to make it his last. Yesterday afternoon we had a very interesting security lecture by an Army captain who also showed us a couple of films and did a card trick. He really was most effective. The cook boiled our pigeons the other night and they were not particularly tasty as a result - ate most of them cold this morning. Geoff flying with Digger on this Op - it sounds interesting. Think I shall ask Brighouse this afternoon for a day off tomorrow.
Do not see that I can do much hanging around up here. Wish this posting would come through. Lanc is going into Cal by the afternoon train and coming back tomorrow - it is not worthwhile unless you want something badly. I am still recovering financially from my last leave. Weather stays much the same, still reasonably cool at nights.
Sunday 21st January: Got up late this morning after going to bed late last night because of reading and writing. My eyes were queer last night - kept clogging up - and were the same when I got up this morning. But OK now. Woke up this morning while 355 were taking off overhead - hell of a row. Boys went to Ramree Island where there was an invasion going on - Army, Navy and RAF. Went to get the mail with Bob Postle before lunch - deuce of a lot of bags and it was by no means sorted out but we took what there was. Although none for either of us! Spent most of the afternoon talking to Alan Payton - poor Alan and his girl friends! Feel a bit off today - cheesed off with this I guess. As I am not flying, the sooner I get out of here the better. Toovey is down at Chittagong with engine trouble - no pukka gen on it. Must go and see Sandy tomorrow night - said I would go over this weekend. How the time flies. Have this awful feeling of being alone - guess it must be me and this place combined. Weather is beautiful, but am fed up with it. Suppose I shall only feel good again when I get back to the dreadful English climate!
Monday 22nd January: Line-up today - Geoff flying with Harry Lamb. Medium length trip I gather. Shall probably go up to see the take-off and then come down again. Toovey put in at Chittagong from the last Op - kite was a write-off. Apparently a great lump of bomb shot up into the air and came through the floor by the beam. McNulty was luckily sitting at the opposite beam and was only slightly stunned. The piece of metal broke the oxygen bottles under the floor and started a fire. Mac got the fire extinguisher onto the fire but it was pretty well u/s and so he beat it out with his Sidcot (flying suit), which caught fire. By kicking junk out of the resultant gaping hole he got rid of the fire. Don Hughes said that looking forward from the rear turret he saw the catwalk all up in the air. They were lucky that no-one was hurt. Evans picked them up yesterday.
Nutting has his W/O through today - mine is due in exactly four weeks but doubt if I shall be here when it comes through. Not much mail in today. These damn lights are fluctuating again - eyes not behaving any too well these evenings, possibly too much reading. What else to do? Actually did a spot of taxing with Lew this afternoon - must not forget how to start the engines!
Thursday 23rd January: The Op’ which was going on yesterday was postponed for 24 hours. Then it was changed and the boys were up at Flights yesterday evening working on the kites and getting a new briefing. They have just come back - the target was near Mandalay - a railway station. Does not appear to have been a particularly good prang. Plenty of very accurate flak came up and several 355 kites were hit. I went up to Flights this morning and watched the take-off. A 355 kite returned after half an hour with a feathered No 1 engine. Made a beautiful approach and landing. I came back to the billets after take-off and have been there ever since. Mucked about a bit with tennis racket and ball just to get some exercise. I hear that I may be put on flying again owing to the shortage of second pilots. Why Brighouse won’t let Unsworth fly I don’t know - he has got to do it sometimes. Sandy came over the night before last - ticked me off for not going during the weekend. I did pay him a visit on Monday but he was at the flicks and I spent the time talking to Jock Brownlee. Am going to see Sandy tomorrow night and some English gin is coming out. News is good from the Russian front and the boys out there are pushing along well - should be in Mandalay soon. God Almighty’s Own Watty says that there is a line-up tomorrow. Maybe I shall get my seat off the deck. Walk into the mess these evenings and people say “here comes the ground crew!.” All this waste of time makes me feel savage - I long to fly again.
Saturday 27th January: There is an Op. on tomorrow and I am flying with Geoff. Les Surtess has been taken off flying and I believe Piper is taking his place with Harry Lamb. A short show I believe - only hope that we do not have to get up too early in the morning. Went to see Sandy last night and had a few drinks with the boys. His skipper and W/Op - both Aussies - came in and chatted for a while. A good evening.
Had a stand-down yesterday afternoon and moped around most of the time as could not settle to anything. The squadron has settled in well now - we have some damn good results, put some fine formation in the air, taken off with the heaviest bomb load in the Group - and the maintenance these days is really good. Our Flight put up all eight kites in the air several shows ago - never happened before. Beall is appreciated as a leader, but the boys do not like Brighouse very much - guess he will improve as time goes by. Wicks keeps good formation, Heyes has a bad name for it. Stringer-Jones is known as a menace throughout the squadron - but all laugh about it afterwards. Haines is generally recognised as the best formation pilot we have.
Sunday 28th January: Have just come back from the Op’ (KH270, flight time 6 hours 30 minutes day, Geoff captain). Took off at six this morning having been briefed at eight last night. Target was some artillery that the Japs had on a hill east of Akyab, and which was holding up the advance of our blokes. Target was only 800 yards from our types so a real tactical target. Four squadrons were on and it was a really good prang, particularly as there was nothing visible from the air and we did not have a great deal by which to distinguish the target area. By the time we returned Army had sent through a signal of congratulations so I guess that we must have put u/s the Jap guns. One feels at last that one has really done something useful. There was a brilliant moon for take-off and it was no trouble at all. As we headed for the coast it began to get light, and just before we came to the sea the orange-red disc peeped through the indistinguishable line between the sea and haze. It looked lovely but soon became a nuisance. We joined up over the coast after quite a bit of circling and headed for Burma. I was on Command and VHF and consequently heard a lot of natter from kites in the air and one or two ground stations. No bombing wind came through but Ted picked it up on W/T. We had one bomb hang-up, got rid of it in the sea. Saw several ships around Akyab - also south of Cal. I flew all the way back - was not too bad, although was soaked through by the time we reached base. Did not get echelon order and did a peel-off inside Beall which was not pleasant. Turning relative to him I did not realise that we had gone so far over. Very bumpy on return trip - interesting while holding formation to watch our shadows on the ground.
Tuesday 30th January: There is an Op’ tomorrow but I am not flying as Geoff is going with Unsworth. (Op. took place the following day, the Harrison crew with F/Sgt Ron Unsworth as second pilot flew in KH270, the flight took 7 hours 50 minutes day). I gave the latter a bit of gen this morning but he seems to have it pretty well weighed up. Hugh Black is flying as engineer apparently Reggie has been told that he is incompetent!
We flew for a short time yesterday formating No 3 on Brighouse with Heyes as No 2. It was bumpy up to 5000 ft, I spent the time perusing the ground, looking at aerodromes and tuning in to beacons on the radio compass. Quite a pleasant trip. Went to see ‘The story of Dr Wassell’ last night with Lou, Bob, Jock and Staff - it is a good film and I saw it before in Cal. Apart from a few technical details and a spot of bull. Consequently got to bed late but was up at a reasonable hour this morning. Went with Bill Roberts to see the Adjutant about taking up a Moth or Harvard - he said there’s not a hope in hell, but that when we see him taking a trip that will be the time! Mike was told by Cyril that I was going to fly the Harvard so rushed off to Brighouse and asked if he could fly it after me. Of course Brighouse knew absolutely nothing about it - we had a few laughs at Mike over that. 358 lost three kites several nights ago; Cloutier and Monks are over there and I did hear that the former was in one of the kites. No more gen on posting though - Nutting had a rumour that a new Conversion Unit was opening in India but I hope and pray that this is not so. Up this afternoon to see what is cooking and down early I think.
Thursday 1st February: Boys were getting ready today for an Op. in the near future. Bomb-bay tanks in, only two gunners - long effort, but it is now apparently cancelled and the tanks had to come out again - bloody bind for the ground crew. They went to a Jap headquarters near Mandalay yesterday and seem to have decimated it. One bloke said he saw a staff car tearing away from the target! I stood down all day - got up late and went round the village with Bill Roberts. In the market we had hordes of children following us and demanding baksheesh and wanting us to buy all sorts of things for them.
The most raggedy mob imaginable; but one of them, a girl with an attractive face, was several bracelets richer by the time we eventually got rid of them. We went into Ranjah’s and a few of them stood outside yelling away, whereupon Ranjan threw some water over them. Rather attractive these kids when young, but they soon grow old. After leaving Ranjan we paid a visit to a rice mill, but did not stay long as the women would not work while we were watching. Apparently the rice is gathered in from the fields and put into big baths of hot water - from there it goes into vats where a steam jet is played over it, after which it is heaped, still hot, and covered over. Next it is spread out in a large concrete yard to dry by the heat of the sun - the women were spreading it when we arrived, while birds were having a grand feed. When it is dry it goes through three machines - one that separates the husks from the brown rice after a machine has opened the husks, and a third that gets the white rice from the brown. Bill says that most of the nutritive value of the rice is in the brown outer covering, which is not usually eaten. Rice was on sale in the market as well as cabbages, bananas, tiny potatoes, melons and various fruit that to me have no name. All interesting, dirty, intriguing and smelly. Went to the flicks with Bill in the evening - ‘The mask of Dmitrios’ - really enjoyable and Peter Lorre was magnificent. This morning my clothes were damp and the sky was cloudy. This afternoon a strong wind came up and dust blew all over the place - we thought it was going to rain really hard, but so far we have had none. The wind is still howling around the place - I rather like it, reminds me of 101 things. Generally I dislike this climate and this place, but I have a feeling that when I am back home I shall miss something - intangible, indefinable? In the Statesman today I see that the Russians are about 50 miles from Berlin. Also an article about Beaus - ‘Whispering Death’ as the Japs call them - apparently they have been on shipping strikes as far as Tavoy! One Beau squadron has the motto ‘Silently into the midst of things’ which sounds appropriate. ‘Silneter in medias res’ I think.
Sunday 4th February: Saw boys off on long Op’ yesterday morning and then returned to billet. Geoff did not get off as they had a mag. drop on No 1 engine of ‘C’. I spent a bit of time sunbathing and writing letters. Sandy and Jock Brownlee came over in the evening and the latter and I engaged in a long argument and discussion which started off with the war news and ended at 11 with theology. Boys came back about midnight after a fifteen hour trip. They went down near Victoria Point, only the opposite side of the Peninsula. Many squadrons on, target was rail bridge and station yard - there are some fine pictures in but the bridge is not down. Op’ on tomorrow, milk run I believe. Do not think I shall get up in the morning as there will be sweet nothing to do. There is a mess meeting in a few minutes - I do hope that it will not be too prolonged as they become boring after a time. Did a bit of sunbathing this afternoon, up at Flights this morning.
Read the whole of Tamburlaine the Great - passed the time fairly speedily. Rumour that Jimmy Carter is in London - probably on way home. Four members of Tucker’s crew have got the boat home - how happy they are!
Tuesday 6th February: Boys did a short Op’ yesterday. (The Harrison crew, with Ron Unsworth as second pilot, flew in KH270, the flight took 7 hours 35 minutes day) Storage dumps near Mandalay. Haines in ‘J’ feathered an engine and got back late. That kite seems to have a jinx. I spent the whole day in the billet lazing in the sun and writing. In the afternoon three small girls appeared - the scruffiest looking things you could imagine. We washed them, hair and all, and gave them clean clothes. By the time we had finished you would not have recognised them from the originals. The smallest one had some white blood in her, as we saw after the dirt came off. They turned up again this afternoon and had another wash as they seemed almost as scruffy as when we first saw them. Poor little beggars, they wander around picking up things to eat and scrounging. They come from Midnapore and are staying at the village. Seecle flew a Tiger Moth today from Cal! He is on Comm’ Flight there - so much for his posting to Canada! Heaven knows what will happen to us. Lew Toovey and crew have gone on a 72 to Cal - we should be getting one very soon. There was a squadron stand-down this afternoon - I thought of going to Khargpur but no one felt inclined to accompany me so gave up the idea. Have got the negative from Ted of the photograph that he took of me at Cal - must get some prints done sometime as it is good.
Thursday 8th February: Boys have been on an Op’ today - near Mandalay, stores in a village. (Harrison crew, with Ron Unsworth as second pilot, flew in KH354 to the town of Singu on the Irrawaddy river, the flight took 7 hours 10 minutes, day) Slight but accurate flak. Harry Lamb feathered No 1 engine of ‘C’ after leaving target and arrived here a couple of minutes after the rest of the formation. 355 back complete as far as I could see. I watched the take-off this morning, beamed at by the second pilots. They came down to the billet and have been here since. It has got hot suddenly in the last two days, and last night I slept without pyjamas and with only a sheet. But woke early and put on pyjamas and a blanket! Cox has been singing and shouting all day in a foul voice. Yesterday afternoon the chicos turned up for their usual wash, but today they did not come. Going to see Sandy tonight, calling in at the library on the way.
Friday 9th February: Played cards and talked with Sandy last night. Six of their (355 Squadron) second pilots have been posted to Canada via England. I came back to the billet to find all the lights out and the boys in bed - the power had failed. This morning after pay-parade Nutting, Parry, Surtess and I went to see the Adjutant to ask him if he had any news of our posting. He said that we were going somewhere, but to come back before lunch and get the gen. When we went back again he had not much more news - only that we’d got the boat! The reality of it quite startled us. The 355 blokes have to be at Bombay on the 21st of this month, so possible we shall be the same. Next thing is to get my W/O through before I go!
Sunday 11th February: Op’ today - went up to Flights and watched take-off this morning - 355 and 356. (Harrison crew flew, with again Ron Unsworth as second pilot, in KH270, flight took 8 hours 45 minutes day) Got clearance chit from adjutant and did a spot of cleaning - no more gen. Boys went to stores and dumps half-way between Rangoon and Mingaladon. B-29’s were on before our boys and eight squadrons of Libs. Boys said that black smoke was pouring up to nearly 10000 ft so it looks like a fine prang. Bags of flak. A few Jap fighters came in and it is said that two or three were shot down by Thunderbolts that were acting as escorts. Also a voice came over VHF saying “I’m bailing out” - and boys saw someone going down by parachute - seems to have been one of the Thunderbolt pilots who had been hit by flak. I don’t give much for the poor devil’s chances once he gets his feet on the deck near Rangoon. A few of the kites were hit by flak but nothing much. There is another Op. tomorrow and it seems that we are going to be busy for the next week or so. Army types were helping to bring bombs up from the station and the bombs were being piled along the sides of bomb-alley. Formation today was said to be good and they did look nice coming back boxed. 355 scruffy as usual! Harry Lamb did not get off in ‘G’ - CSU on one engine gone. Also a lot of finger trouble I believe.
Wednesday 14th February: Swimming pool opened two days ago and it is grand. C.O. is leaving tomorrow and going to Kandy. The mob of officers stewed this morning - C.O. in his jeep with an image pinched from the village with a cigarette in its mouth. C.O. talking to it. Groupie was chasing Wingco around in a jeep - most of them well away. We are leaving in the morning - been packing and it is one hell of a job. Three kit-bags, two cases and a bed-roll. All my books take up a lot of room. Finished clearing this morning and were paid. There was to have been an Op. on today but it was scrubbed last night. Think that this will be the end of the book for a time. S/Ldr Sparks is becoming C.O. Probably Evans will become ‘B’ Flight Commander. Glad to be on my way at last, but it is a bit hard breaking from the routine, the hut and everyone. ‘Club 30’ meet at the Mitre in Oxford on August 30th 1946!