August 31st 1944

No sooner said, than I go down to the Corbett with one Reg Cooper for a drink and meet Elaine and Nancy Cork, proprietor of the Lamb Hotel. We then proceed to the “Elephant” and the “Star” and back to the “Lamb”. I make to go at about 12 after sitting in the bar with Elaine for some time, and she comes out to the wood shed, or byre, or whatever it’s called in which bicycles and garden tools are kept, and I score a home run, as our Canadian friends say. And so to home.

Today I do some instrument flying and find it improving. There is a 8/6 dance in the Corbett Arms and these two dames expect to see us there. Maybe, but I don’t want to see them.

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August 30th 1944

A little stock taking after four months in England. I don’t seem to be a particularly good pilot, especially in instrument and night flying, not to speak of some pretty poor gunnery. Mentally I am stagnant and cannot hold an intelligent conversation or argue on any subject – and seem to have no hold on anything. I read the Times every day but seem unable to absorb learning through the eye, despite having a memory like an elephant. I can organise damn well but am on the level of a Canadian pilot officer at present, only my day flying is not as accurate as his. Then the presence of women in this country after the East has complicated things – warped my thoughts as it were, though principally because I don’t seem to be able to score what other people do – or boast that they do! Maybe the day will dawn, as I say to myself, but I may get posted East again before sunrise, as that is the present trend of postings.

I go around with Canadians – Pete Mackenzie, Charlie Ruck, “Sawn-off” Perkins, Hugh Roberts, the Englishman David Crook DFC (author of ‘Spitfire Pilot’), A.J. Scott DFM, ex-Observer, who knew Hugh in 21 squadron, Wilkinson DFM, ex A.G and four seconded “pongoes” – Joe Hulme, Dennis Collier, Bob Martin, Tiny Price. And to hear them talking I realise how little I know of army life now. Someone once said “Jack of all trades, master of none” – but I’m not a particularly good Jack. Lazing in the flights or flying from 8am to about 16.30, a game of squash, some beer and supper, then hot foot with one or more of the above to the Corbett Arms in Market Drayton, the Bear in Hodnet or the Castle nearby.

And then the local women with whom I am such a failure – Elaine Spender, who drinks more beer than I ever thought possible, took up with Biani the Norwegian sergeant pilot whilst I was night flying; WAAF Lewis of ill fame; the beautiful Vera and her girlfriend Irene; “Hell hath no fury” Dorothy of Hodnet – I walked out on her, bored; two others who live in Garden City, but no progress; Wilky’s land army dame, but I can never find her; and the respectable hangers-on of the Vardon parties, but who might be cracked, with skill.

Hell! I want a change of air! Or station rather.

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August 29th 1944

We sit in the lounge at the “Beach Hotel” in Elie and have lunch and tea out of the rain. I ring up Donibristle but no aircraft, so after a walk around the beach I set course on the 4.21 train for Edinburgh, somewhat relieved as I now know that I was in love with a shadow, and that its substance is a different shape. The Club fixes me up with B and B (3/6) in the annexe lounge – the bed part turns out to be four blankets  and a pillow on a sofa but I manage OK when I get home at 1.30, despite no lungi.

I beat it hot foot to the Club after a bath and meet an RASC Lieutenant, a Canadian, and a navel Lieutenant and we drink and sup together there. Then to the dance. I advance on some plain looking ringed dame, as a sort of stop gap, but she smells strongly of whisky and is quite gay. Name of Ray, from Manchester, as are they all. I see her home to the North British Hotel, skirmishing en route, and we sit in the lounge for a long time as her room is occupied by her sister and a Maori captain with an M.C. and a bottle of scotch which he brought all the way from Italy. I go on strike eventually so we go out and I try to navigate my way home, remembering the position but not the name of the street I am staying in. I try to line Ray up on the way, but no good, though she comes to the door and spends a long time kissing me goodnight. And today I return to Ternhill to find I’m on night flying again. A most odd letter from Nairn – Ma’s landlord – in answer to one of mine.


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August 27th 1944 – Crail

I have a small bed and breakfast apartment with a gas bracket, and have high tea in the kitchen with the family. Angus Mitchell, a bus driver of some 24 seasons, buys me a few drinks in the local – the “Golf Hotel” – and then we hang around for some more when it has shut, and get some more. Today Mhairi comes round 10 to 12 and we sit on the rocks and look at the sea, but her vibrations seem to be out of tune, and I reckon I made a mistake in coming up here. I should have gone down to see Peggy. However I must learn sometime, though what I do learn doesn’t seem to be much good to me, as far as the results go. Mhairi has a half retriever, half spaniel called Mitch.

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August 26th 1944

“Hell hath no fury…” I don’t take much notice of the Dorothy dame at Hodnet’s Monday dance, and she gets damned annoyed. On 23rd we hear of the fall of France and have a party in the Mess with the dozen or so French course pilots. I get up on a table and sing “A troopship leaving Bombay” with my own two verses and then retire to bed. Later I organise myself three days leave, plus a day off, and get a lift in an Oxford from Hinstock to Donibristle with one Lt MacDonald RNVR. We fly over Blackpool tower and Moffat and see the Isle of Man to port. I get put up in the wardroom at Donibristle and of course find that I have packed no lungi.

This morning I bus to Crail and find Mhairi has organised a bed and breakfast, but nothing else. I have a beer and 20 Horlicks tablets for lunch, then Mhairi gets off 2.45 to 6.30 and we bus over to Elie and back for tea. Crail crowded out for some reason. I am dissatisfied with this sort of life. I know what I want but cannot find it. Some 3000 pewits on Chetwynd airfield.


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August 19th 1944

I go back to Hodnet but the Bear is shut and so we go for a walk and sit on a hill. I get a fearful thirst but can do nothing about it, and cycle gloomily home at about 10.30pm to three glasses of water.

Yesterday I go to town with Collier and eventually make the acquaintance of the “Hungry Vulture” and her sister, who are talking to my friend Donda, a Czech. She is another Dorothy, and Donda and I get invited back home when the pub shuts. But Ma and Pa are sitting in state and we have tea and biscuits. The H.V. is looking for a husband so I leave hastily at 11pm and cycle home through the pouring rain. Tonight I am going to another of the awful Vardon dances, or parties rather, but do not intend to lose 8/6 at bridge this time.

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August 16th 1944

I go to Hodnet and dance at the ‘Bear’ on Monday and meet a new dame. We dance around the dance floor and I meet her in the Bear last night. Discover her name is Dorothy and she lives in Hodnet, aged 20, having been discharged from the ATS with a pension after a prang in a 15 cwt truck. However she speaks English without the trace of an accent and seems to have some character, but that is about all her usefulness. I go to Chetwynd yesterday and fly a Hurricane I, and find it a bit difficult to land after so many hours in the damn Masters. Beautiful sun for a change.

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