Archive for May, 2006

Accidents

Cars don’t cause accidents – it is the NUT behind the steering wheel.

For many years the aim of car designers has been towards keeping the driver safe by compulsory seat-belts and airbags and specially strengthened body panels which tend to give the driver a feeling of impregnability as soon as he steps aboard. One day in the future this will indeed become true when a scientist has discovered the repulsive force achieved by the flying saucers which have been – and still are – regularly visiting our planet. Until then here are a few suggestions for preventing accidents and bringing back a motoring freedom which many of us enjoyed in past years:

No seat belts for the Drivers

No air Bag for the drivers

Driver(s) seated at the front – as in a glider

Access to driver’s seat by canopy

Front bumper connected to spike protruding through the steering wheel

Abolish all speed limits

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Marriage

When I left the instructors training course at Cambridge aerodrome those of us who had done well were told we would be given a choice where we would prefer to be posted. I had done well and asked to be posted to Cambridge EFTS which was on the other side of the airfield. I was also offered a commission which was also to a few of the other successful pilots. I dared not accept the Commission as this would have blown my eyesight subterfuge. Another successful candidate, Cormack, had been posted to Booker EFTS and decided he would like to have me with him and arranged to have my posting changed to Booker. I didn’t really mind although I would lose many friends I had made at Cambridge. My chief relief was to be still flying. Cormack had accepted a Commission, but I couldn’t explain, of course, why I wouldn’t do the same.

Here one can see the start of the working of a miracle. I have stated elsewhere my strong belief in the writings of the psychic Sylvia Browne “The Other side and Back” and that of Dr Daniel Fry “The White Sands Incident”. A reader of both books will see at once the connection to what was happening to me. But the miracle had only just begun. At Booker on the Mess notice board I noticed there was to be a piano music concert taking place at a nearby village of Frieth organised by a Mrs Sewell and her daughter Phyllida. I went along and found two grand Steinways and a room with about 50 people. Amongst these was Mrs Ursula Creighton who told me she had been a pupil of Busoni – one of the greatest pianists of the time. I seemed to have arrived at a sort of time-warp – but there was still more to come. Mrs Creighton told me she lived near Lane End village and was therefore nearer the airfield and she also had a Steinway Grand which I was welcome to play on whenever I had the spare time to do so.

The miracle was now all but complete. What she didn’t tell me was she also had an attractive daughter, Ann. The miracle was now rapidly completing! Ann and I were married in 1943 and had a happy married life together for the next 53 years.

In 1982 Pyllida Sewell lent me one of her Steinways to replace my own which had been reduced to ashes when part of our house was burnt down. It is on this piano I recorded my two CDs.

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Cecil Lewis


During the early years of the war Cecil Lewis came to Booker as an instructor. Cecil, who wrote ‘Sagittarius Rising’ about his flying experiences in the 1914/18 war, lived at Frieth, half a mile from where Ann and I lived, but apart from this our lives came together in a somewhat dramatic way. Apart from my flying duties I had taken on the job of entertainments officer and Cecil loved producing sketches. I got to know him well and he chose me for some of the more exciting flying duties he was also involved in. One must remember that there were moments in the war when the possibility of stuka attacks were quite likely and the powers-that-be decided a simulated attack by our own home-based aircraft would not do the citizens of Marlow any harm A programme was arranged by Cecil who asked me to accompany him in another Tiger Moth. The proceedings started by a ‘bomb’ dropped by me at 8.30 am on the Pedestal at West Wycombe. I did this exactly on time to complete silence. I expect the fellow with the matches was still asleep! Half an hour later Cecil and I found the RP post in Marlow – at Quoiting Square – and by repeated dives almost down to ground level, we quickly cleared it. I flew as his ‘inside left’ position with my wingtip only a few feet from his fuselage. We then flew up the High Street at dangerously low level before flying close to Henley and then back up the river with our tailskids inches from the water. Then came a moment I will never forget.

Would Cecil or would he not fly under Marlow bridge? We had no radio in those days but I had decided to keep close to Cecil’s Tiger and we approached the bridge as almost one unit (there was another Tiger Moth in our dive-bombing unit – a F/LT Shepherd – but he had remained well outside to the right throughout). Just short of the bridge Cecil pulled up in a climbing turn to the left and we then faced the church spire: Cecil went to the right of this, but I could see there was just no room for me between Cecil and the spire and I pulled away and went to the left of it. But it was far too close to have been planned. I thought then, and still think over sixty years later, that Cecil had forgotten that I was tucked under his left wing as it were. He preferred not to talk about it afterwards. But I never let him forget it.

To this day I still look at that magnificent church and its spire with especial affection whenever I am in Marlow.

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Miracles

For many years I have been interested in miracles – not just lucky moments which we all experience from time to time, but those moments when a logical explanation cannot explain them. Here is an example:

During the last war London was festooned with barrage balloons. These were balloons filled with hydrogen and tethered to winches by thin steel cables and flown at 5000 feet. They had an explosive charge fixed to them about 50 feet short of the balloon and were effectively stopping German aircraft from low-level bombing. They brought down many aircraft and also many V1s or ‘flying bombs’ later in the war. Occasionally one of these balloons would break loose from its winch and set out on its own cross-country trip downwind trailing several thousand feet of cable.

I was a flying instructor during the war and on 25 September 1942 I sailed into one of these drifting balloons when flying a Magister aircraft, together with a pupil, just north of Aylesbury. The balloon was in cloud and one would never spot a cable at 100 mph. We were flying at 2500 feet – some 500 feet below cloud base. Now for the miracle: The cable struck the Magister’s left wing hard against the fuselage and proceeded to saw into it. The engine continued to run at 2000 rpm and with no loss of power indicating no damage to the propeller. (We had quite a long battle and were brought down to 1000 feet before breaking free). On landing back at Booker a thorough examination showed no scuffing on the wing and just the single gash which reached about half-way through the main wing spar. The propeller was unmarked. The cable must therefore have passed through the propeller’s arc (about 10 feet) when the propeller was pretty close to top-dead-centre.

Now you computer wizards work this out! The news of this episode reached JF Roxburgh, my headmaster at Stowe, and he wrote to me to say he had given the mathematical problem to the top maths and physics teachers. They failed to solve it.

The only satisfactory answer is that it was a miracle, and I stick to this, especially after reading Sylvia Brown’s “The Other Side and Back”. She is psychic and explains how these things happen. You disbelievers have a long way to go!

Gliding

The Booker Gliding Club had been formed at my wartime airfield a few miles away, and as my elder son, William, was learning to fly during his last years at Leighton Park I decided it was time I considered renewing my flying licence and be able to help him should he need it. After 16 years of no flying I was pretty rusty, even in a Tiger Moth, and required an hour or so of instruction before I was happy on my own. In due course I qualified as an instructor and spent the next 30 years instructing on gliders or flying their tug aircraft for them when ever I had the time. Being impatient by nature I never had any desire for cross-country flying with the risk of landing out and waiting for someone to come and fetch me with the trailer. To qualify as an instructor one had to do a solo cross-country, a flight of 5 hours and a certain minimum height gain. I chose Cambridge for my cross-country trip and with plenty of thermals on the way ended up 5000 feet higher than the start (at 2000 ft) at Booker.

As a sport I found gliding more appealing than power-flying. And in many ways the motor-glider has the best of both worlds. I bought a SPERBER RF5 with my friend Rolf Pasold of Ladybird garments fame and enjoyed many, many lovely trips with Ann, my wife. One specially I remember was when William flew the RF5 to Nitray in France for a get-together of RF aircraft at the factory where they were built and Ann and I drove there in our MG during a splendid holiday in the Loire valley. I was then able to explore the Chateaux of that lovely part of France from the air. William flew it back to Booker and Ann and I returned in our car together with a good supply of Chateau Nitray’s excellent wine.

I also taught both my other children to fly – Linden achieving her 300km flight in France and her Gold height (18,000 ft) in Scotland. James, my younger son was up to solo flying by the time he was 10, but rather than wait for the legal limit of 16 decided to take up motor cycle trials riding at which he soon became an expert, so repeating my own life but a considerably younger age.

Soon after I qualified as a gliding instructor I seemed to concentrate on the Tuesday evenings flying group until it had become “my” evening and was to remain so for the next 30 years. Gradually I moulded it to my liking – only having instructors who were able to land ‘short’ – before the launch point – and so avoid the unproductive time while gliders were retrieved from landing far down the airfield to clear the way for the next launch. This had a beneficial effect on Club funds and made it possible to get in 53 ‘air experience’ flights between 6.00pm and dusk one memorable summer evening. This was never at the expense of shortening a flight if a thermal was met – when we would limit the flight to half an hour. I also asked my instructors not to indulge in aerobatics. Here, I regret, I was not always as successful as I should like to have been. I must pay special tribute and thanks to my chief tug pilot, Shep, a vital part of a successful team.

When Norman Smith became our CFI he and I gave an exhibition of dual aerobatics during our annual show. We each flew a K13 and demonstrated dual loops, stall turns and formation flying (all without any radio contact) – then chased each other about the sky. When Norman left to take up commercial flying we lost a valuable asset.

I think it is a mistake to put highly-qualified power-pilots in charge of gliding clubs. The use of the rudder around the stall is a case in point. In a glider the rudder can be the most useful control a pilot possesses; in a powered aircraft it is little used – but it could be used, and beneficially too, if the pilots hadn’t forgotten how to use it.

In 1993 I flew, as usual, with the CFI for my annual check to see if my reactions were still OK and he passed me, but told me I must take a new set of lessons as instructional methods had changed. In future when a pupil made a faulty approach on the circuit (for example) I should say “I have control” and take over – sorting out the problem in a de-briefing afterwards. How anyone could learn to fly safely under such conditions if he is never allowed to make a mistake is beyond my comprehension. It would certainly take much longer and cost him a lot more and swell the club funds. Perhaps that was the object! But I did feel that at 84 I was, maybe, too old to be flying people who were not fully capable of coping – should something happen to me. And so, via twists and turns and many diversions I finally returned to my Steinway and produced the CDs you can find on this website!

Fireguards

When the war was over I had an instinctive urge to get back to my Steinway but it was soon obvious that I needed several years of intensive piano practice if I was ever to realise my ambition to become a concert performer. Vernon Warner was still shedding pupils which he passed on to me and it would not be long before he arranged for me to take over his teaching at Stocks, the selective girls’ school near Tring. This took one full day a week and was very pleasant. But I needed to earn more and fate was about to step in and steer me in another direction.

An uncle in Birmingham, past-owner of the hardware emporium Frederick Jeavons, wrote to me to ask if I could design a rat-trap as the famous ‘Monarch’ which was no longer being made. I tried various designs and discovered that rats would only willingly enter a Trap where they could see an unobstructed way right through it. So was born the KLEERUN TRAP CO. I found a willing manufacturer in High Wycombe and it was not long before we were sending these traps in hundreds to FREDERICK JEAVONS to be marketed at 13/6d each. Jeavons required 50% marketing costs, to I was getting 6/9d cash making a reasonable profit. Then came government intervention! Wilson was now premier and he decreed that everything must be for export and my orders for steel wire were deflected to Canada. I could still get the steel but now had to order it via Canada and, of course, pay the extra cost of getting it here. This meant a price increase and the time soon came when the trap became too expensive. But fate was not yet finished with me! A famous burns surgeon was staying in Lane End when he spotted one of my rat traps. “That is the mesh I am looking for” he said. There was, he told me, no requirement in law to fit guards to electric fires and tiny children were often brought to him with terrible burns after gripping the glowing elements. He had managed to get a bill through parliament rectifying this and he asked if I could arrange to guard every LCC electric fire. This I did with the co-operation of the LCC who provided me with blue-prints of all their electric fires. This was followed by orders from several electricity boards and the works at High Wycombe were kept busy turning out guards by their thousands. (We call them ANN-D fireguards). This was followed up by the gas boards and soon these were added to the production line. We also made the BRADDEL guard for open fires with a considerable demand for it from a Belfast hospital. I knew this would soon finish as all manufacturers were now required to guard their own fires, but it was a profitable life while it lasted.

Cars

My father would talk at length about his motorcars. His first was a tiller-steered Lanchester and when his next one came with a steering wheel he was far from pleased. “It lacks the extreme accuracy of the tiller” he would reminisce. Father taught me to drive as soon as I could reach the pedals on our T-Ford. I would be about 9 years old (in 1918) and he would prop me up beside him, ready to put his pipe between my lips whenever we came to a village. I can never remember not getting away with this and so became a reasonable driver at an absurdly tender age. Little did I realise that I was about to experience the art of teaching – something that was to play such a large part of my life later on. My father, who was a dentist had Dyson Perrins , of Worcester Sauce and Worcester China Works, as a patient. One of the China Works’ artists was a Mr Watmough who also came to my father for some dental treatment. Mr Watmough had a Rover two-cylinder car which he couldn’t manage properly and my father directed him to me for some lessons in the limited space of our drive at Berwyn. All father’s cars were open ones with canvas hood and side screens until he was about 80 when he bought his first saloon – a black Austin 10 – and in which he was arrested for car theft. He had pulled in at a local tobacconist for his pipe tobacco and another black Austin 10 had pulled in behind him. When he came out he got into the wrong car and had reached the centre of Great Malvern, half a mile away, when they stopped him The days of individual keys for ignition and doors were far in the future. Also almost all Austin 10s were black. This was interesting because the policeman who arrested him knew him well and in the end he escaped being locked up – but only just.

Every year father took me to the Shelsley Walsh Hill climb. The owner of the land was a patent of his and we had permission to drive up the famous hill whenever we wished. I have driven it in a Fiat 17/50. When I left Stowe at 17 I developed a passion for motorcycles. I had bought a Francis-Barnett 147cc from the lab-boy there and I remember the thrill of riding it home from Malvern Link station – an uphill mile or so. I would have ridden it from Stowe but for JF Roxburgh’s correct refusal permitting me doing so.

There was no driving test in those days and I spent much time in trying to improve the bike’s performance. The ignition was by flywheel magneto – the backplate fixed by a metal strap. Remove this and the backplate could be adjusted to give perhaps just that little more advanced ignition setting which might result in obtaining just a slightly higher speed when flat out. The result can be spectacular. It must be remembered that a 2-stroke engine will run in either direction – it is only a matter of ignition setting. Church Street, Great Malvern is a steep incline terminating into the Terrace abruptly. There was usually a policeman at this point and he had stopped me there to await a gap in the Terrace traffic. My engine had coughed a bit as I brought it to rest – but it continued to run. When the policeman beckoned me on I gave him a ‘thank you’ smile and proceeded rapidly backwards. My riding skill was not up to this and I finished in a sprawl at his feet.

In 1928 I went to Kew to study piano with Vernon Warner and my Francis-Barnett went with me. But I now coveted a 172cc super-sports TT James in a shop in Richmond at £32.50 and when I was offered a good price for the F-B I bought it. Here was my ideal motorcycle. I joined the British Two-Stroke Club, entered their trials, advanced from beginner to expert and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My next mode of transport was Morgan three-wheeler. This had a V-twin Blackburn side-valve engine and cost me £24. Mr Morgan and his family were patents of my father and when I lost one pf the front wheels on this three-wheeler at night-time on a straight road near Pershore Mr Morgan personally opened the works next day (a Sunday) obtained a new wheel and axle and helped me fit it. Later on I bought the first F1 Morgan (with Ford 8 engine) but it was not a success. The extra weight of the water-cooled engine was too much for the front suspension struts and they would give way and wheel would splay out. Mr Morgan’s reason for not fitting a detachable rear wheel was ‘have you ever had a puncture in it?’ I admitted I never had. He continued “punctures are caused by front wheels kicking up nails etc, which become caught by the rear wheels directly behind them. There is no rear wheel behind in a Morgan”. Demand, however, won and a new rear suspension with detachable rear wheel was adopted – but only in the last year before the new Morgan 4-4 came out and the three-wheeler production finished.

The war came and went. I had married and we had started a family. We were always struggling a bit for lack of money and I remember little about the various cars I owned. All furniture was bought a auction sales but the time came when we needed something bigger to carry a growing family. I reckoned we could afford £100 – but there was nothing I could find. And then in Motor Sport of all journals I saw “Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 for sale with estate–type body used for caravan towing Price £75. Skegness Caravan co.”

I was a member of the RAC and knew the chief engineer Mr Hudlass well (via my Verdik Petrol Economizer) and I arranged to get an engineer’s report on this Rolls for £5. This read so well that I sent them a cheque and the car became mine. Car collection collected it and so began several years of interesting motoring. I wanted Father to drive it before he was stopped driving by his insurance company which had a fixed age limit of 90. This places the year as late 1950s. He had never driven a Rolls-Royce and he loved it. He lit his inevitable pipe and settled himself comfortably behind the wheel and sailed blissfully over the crossroad near Frieth without looking left or right and convinced me that his insurance company had a point and it was time to stop and not spoil a long clean driving licence during the remaining almost ten years he was to have. The picture of the Rolls with Snowdon in the background was taken during a holiday in Wales. We were exploring at the top of the Llanberis Pass along the Pyg track. I do not recommend it, except on a suitable motorcycle. I cannot remember why I sold the Rolls. The purchaser Col Stephens, repeated the original Lands End to John O Grotes trip of the Silver Ghost for historic reasons which was written up in the motoring press and he equipped it with ‘everything including the kitchen sink’ and I occasionally met it at motoring events. I had always had a longing to own an Alfa-Romeo Spider. A holiday in Rome with my wife in 1981 (flown there by our son William who was by then an airline captain with BA) gave me the chance to see plenty of them and a determination to own one. With the help of a London Alfa dealer this soon became possible and we had may happy trips and holidays with it. There was only one snag. I was getting older and found it hard to cope without power-assisted steering. Above 10mph OK but parking in ever-smaller car parks was becoming too difficult and it had to go. It was bought my the Headmistress of Wycombe Abbey girls school who years later is still enjoying it. But I miss its presence in my garage, even if only just to look at. For some reason the Alfa-Romeo Owner’s Club made me a life member so I continue to receive their newsletter which I love to see. My last Driving Licence expired in Nov 2004 but I had already stopped by then, and so my driving life terminated, like my father’s, in being accident free and without an insurance claim.

Steam

Steam has always fascinated me although it would be more correct to say it was the reciprocal steam engine where the appeal lay, for the steam turbine held no interest. My younger days were spent at Berwyn, North Malvern, within 500 yards of the granite quarry there and many times a week a steam traction-engine would pass our gate with its empty trailer on the way back to the quarry works after unloading its contents at Malvern Link railway station a mile away below us. They took another route on the way down. I have never lost this fascination and at Stowe School I built several model boats powered by Stuart Turner steam engines. I tested these at a small lake next to the British Worthies monument which was quite near the main building and convenient. When I bought, and moved, to Colliers Corner in 1951 there was a rusting wreck of a Foden Steam wagon laying a a piece of wasteland only a few yards from the house. But Fodens did not interest me then. One day, at a Steam Fair I met Chris Edmonds – a real steam fanatic – and the interest in steam returned with force. Chris found me an Aveling and Porter Steam Roller in good condition for, I think, not much over £100, and I bought it. Chris had a Fowler Steam Roller of similar size and he would drive it over to Lane End and leave it overnight on that piece of green common in the village. I was persuaded to organise the re-surfacing of the School Road in the middle of the village which was in a shocking state with potholes everywhere and, although this road was ‘unclaimed’, the Council offered the help of their workmen in laying the tarmac at no cost if I would pay for the stuff. We made headlines in the national press with our MP – John Hall – officially opening the new road when we had finished it.

Bill Connor – Casandra of the Daily Mirror – asked me to let him have a go at driving my roller and he arrived complete with photographers for the event. Later he arranged for lunch at the Blue Flag, a couple of miles away, and wished to drive me there on my Aveling. Now, steering a steam roller is not easy! It is about as far as you can get from ‘direct’. Bill was only saved from ditching us by my rapid use of the reverse gear which, on a steam engine, can be instantly applied. I got on well with Bill. WE both had almost encyclopaedic knowledge of motorcycles and we used to try and catch each other out on the subject. Steam rollers paid no road tax in those days and I did various jobs for friends – rolling the car park at The Chequers, Fingest, or pulling up a tree with the winch and also rolling Booker airfield (we tested it for maximum speed on the runway – close on 20 mph) and a long run to the steam rally at Chesham. On the road there never seems to be any vehicle ahead – looking behind things were rather different!

When I became too busy to have the time to enjoy it I sold the Aveling to a Mrs Vickers and so another chapter in my crazy life was over. But it was fun and all my children and my wife enjoyed it too. As I was finishing these notes my elder son, recently retired from being a Training Captain with BA, on reaching their age limit of 55, has just asked me if I am going to write about the fun we all had with Gokarts – or Karts as they were later called. I might do so, but at the moment I think I have said enough for one long lifetime and anything more must wait for my next lifetime on this planet. Then, of course, I may have totally different interests – none in steam, none in cars, perhaps none in flying but I hope plenty in music with a special addendum – that my final years are not hampered by deafness the next time round.

World War II

Start of World War II

My two years in Berlin convinced me that Germany was preparing for war. I was billeted with a pleasant family who were very pro-Hitler and I saw a lot of the man at rallies. The general attitude was summed up for me by the words of a Pub owner I met “We would like, with England, to rule the World.” There was a certainly no animosity towards the English, but the feeling of “we are the master race” prevailed everywhere. I tried to convey this to my parents in letters, but to no avail.

When I finally came back home, the first thing I did was to learn to fly. My brother, Martyn who was just over a year younger than me, had already started to learn and was already flying solo. I learnt rapidly and at no stage had any problems. My years playing with model aircraft were paying off and I soloed after some five hours dual on a Gipsy Moth. Flying, for me, held fewer problems that playing the piano! Martyn and I joined the Civil Air Guard and obtained our flying at two and sixpence an hour. We flew from Hanworth aerodrome until we had to move due to so many complaints of the noise. We then moved to a small field with a shed in it called Gatwick and we were about to be kicked out of this one when Hitler solved the problem by declaring war (actually we did the declaring).

During these three years before war I earned a bit by teaching music, and I especially remember three young girls I taught at a house in Regents Park owned by an Admiral Blake. The girls were about 8/10 years old and one of them used to enjoy her music lessons from the top of the upright piano onto which she would crawl. These girls would now be around 80 and may well be alive. There was a lot of road works going on outside and I was told that Mrs Simpson lived in one of the nearby flats and they were installing a private telephone line to Buckingham Palace. So you see I was starting to move into the highest circles. Many of Vernon Warner’s pupils were from titled families and as fast as he was cutting down his teaching I was, as fast, gaining pupils, finally becoming music teacher at Stocks in his place – but that was after the war.

In 1939 both Martyn and I joined the RAFVR and because we had both soloed we were made Sergeants at once but told we were not yet needed in view of our age. When we were finally called up we were posted to Cardington to learn all about discipline, saluting, marching, fire-arms drill and how to write a report of any unusual activity. “Sir, I have the honour to report etc etc.” Little did I expect that, but for fate stepping in I might had had to write “Sir, I have the honour to report I have shot the Adjutant”. This was during the next stage in our RAF life. We had moved on to Cambridge were we were trained as Link Trainer (visual) Instructors (they still only wanted younger pilots) and we were operating from the engineering Labs (opposite Leys School) There were five entrances to these Labs and as we had to provide our own guard we were given an extra Corporal and an army rifle with two rounds of ammunition. We were obviously not going to get much sleep as the Germans were dropping spies all over East Anglia. As the Senior chap in charge I decided to do something about this. So I ransacked the Labs and came up with five trip switches operated by a length of black cotton across each entrance and connected to one of those panels with coloured lights and a buzzer. We could now snooze in peace. As I am a hopeless shot and my brother a good one. I arranged for him to have the gun and I would have the powerful torch with I would point at the intruders and shout “Halt or I fire”. My brother, now with the loaded gun to fire at the intruders feet at my command, and shoot to kill with the second shot should they fail to halt. We got the call at 3.30am and all went as arranged until I have the order to fire as the four or so men continued to advance. Then came my brother’s anguished cry “The bloody gun’s jammed”. This was not uncommon. I had kept my torch on the approaching men until they arrived at the guardroom door to reveal our adjutant in a state of semi-intoxication. He was out on an inspection of all the guard posts. He was not amused and our rifle and rounds were immediately called in and we never got replacements.

I applied again to become a pilot, but was turned down on the eyesight test (I have always had a weak left eye) so accepted a posting to the Oxford University Air Squadron as a visual Link Instructor. Our CO was WCdr Edwards, a difficult man to get to know but kind to me when I contracted double-pneumonia. He took me back to his own house during my recovery and later on asked me to fly him in his own Avian to Swindon where he had an appointment. On landing back at Abingdon he asked me “Why aren’t you flying?” I told him about my eyesight problem and he said “leave it to me”. I then received a summons to appear at the Radcliffe hospital for a medical. For the usual eye test I read the smallest line easily with my good eye and the doctor then turned his back walked away saying “now with the other eye”. So I read it again with my good eye. “Good, that’s all right” was his verdict and I passed. A few days later I received a posting to Cambridge for a flying course. I passed this easily and was recommended for an Instructors’ Course – also held at Cambridge Aerodrome. Here I met the best pilot I have ever flown with – Peter May the aerodrome’s CO. He could do with a Tiger Moth what was considered to be impossible – continuous rolls without losing height and dual too. He showed me the trick and after I’d managed two of them successfully he said “Now go and practise it”. Remember the Tiger Moth has no inverted fuel system so the petrol must be kept flowing when you are upside down. A barrel roll is useless because a lot of height is lost on each revolution. After considerable practice I once managed three rolls solo – never one dual! But I loved aerobatics! My next posting was to Booker as a fully qualified flying instructor and there I met my wife and life changed. I remembered JF’s words on leaving Stowe “The best years of your life are always ahead”. Here my brother Martyn and I had temporally lost track of each other because he decided to take up the option, which we had both been offered, of leaving the Air Force and he was now with the Air Transport Auxiliary and was soon to be flying Spitfires, Mosquitos and may other from factory to squadrons. He was based at White Waltham, so we met frequently. I had been recommended for a commission while I was at Cambridge which I managed to avoid because this would have meant another medical exam. I would have failed this on eyesight and probably taken off flying – a thought I could not bare. Better to get a good many hours in as an instructor plus a good report at the end of them before venturing down this hazardous lane again. And so it was after a thousand hours of successful instructing I was again recommended for a Commission. But there was a difference. My CO W/Cdr George O’Donnell insisted in over-riding my objection. So I faced another medical – and, of course – I failed it. This apparently worried everyone and I was sent to a guru in the Eyesight world – a W/Cdr Livingsone, one of Morefields top surgeons. He looked at my eyes and said “you have always had this poor eye and have adapted completely to it you can see perfectly well – I pass you!.” Back to Booker now with a new uniform and a weight off my shoulders. The rest of the war was mainly uneventful. On Sept 26 1942 I struck a drifting balloon cable a little north of Aylesbury. I was on a cross-country exercise in a Magister N3971 with a pupil Corporal Gladman. A fairly exciting few minutes followed. The cable cut into the left wing close to the fuselage. The balloon was not visible being in cloud 500 feet above us. It soon appeared behind us and quite close. The cable was streaming forwards over the wing a few inches from me. Presently it reversed and started moving backwards and finally ran out and we were free. From start to finish we had lost 1500 ft in height and were now at 1000 ft above ground. I climbed up to cloud base and tested the flaps which are invisible from the cockpit and all seemed well. I told Gladman to take over and complete the exercise – we were on the way to Sywell. “Please Sir, do you think we could go back to Booker – I want to go to the lavatory” was his answer. I agreed and told him to work out the reciprocal and go ahead. A few moments later “Sir it is nothing to do with the accident”. A good fellow!”

Later on we lost the Lane End Telephone exchange to a V1 flying bomb and I remember the night my wife and I were in bed and we heard the familiar pop-pop-pop of an approaching V1. The pops became fewer and then ceased followed by the swish of air as the wretched thing passed directly over our house. And then merciful silence! It had not exploded and was later recovered.