September 10th 1944

I get flying again at Poulton. I do the pinpointing exercise in 15 and 20 minutes, much to everyone’s amazement, but fail to find Welshpool on a dual cross-country in a Harvard and will be allowed another try tomorrow. If I fail again, then off the course I go, damn it, and there’s nothing left.

I go and meet Jill again last night and stop on the way home for a bit of kissing – she has even let her hair down in my honour – but find she is leading me up the garden path and then shutting the gate. She is 23 and married five years. I say I won’t meet her again, but then arrange to ‘close my account’ tomorrow, foolish perhaps, as she may not turn up, and it’s damn cold cycling home these nights. It seems to hurt more than I expected, as she really is a nice (no – charming may be the word) girl. So now I am no better off than when I arrived a week ago. However “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I play some squash with David Crook and read his book “Spitfire Pilot“.

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September 7th 1944

I go and say farewell to the King-Hays and next day drive to Hawarden with Reg Cooper. Celia Spink, thank God, is posted. We get ourselves all in a gang for huts and flights. Reg and I go to Chester the first night by car, under the tutelage of George Bainbridge, who is still here, having been suspended, and we go round all the pubs except Barlow’s, which is shut. Then he leaves us at Quaintways about 10pm and we enter a dance there. I dance with some dame called Jill and later we part our ways, she with her sister home and I to rendezvous with Reg at the car.

Next day I bicycle in with Denys Collier to “Barlow’s” where we meet Jill and her sister Sheila. We wander round the drinking dens and eventually we see them home, this Jill dame getting distinctly ‘warm’ at my side. I spend no little time kissing her goodnight and arrange a rendezvous at the Castle the next night, where I park my bicycle with the sentry. We go to the “Grosvenor” and consume 3 1/2 pints and then walk home, ‘warmer’ than ever. I cycle home and get to bed, having arranged to go down Saturday – though to what I know not.

Henry Larsen was here, home on attachment to get himself modernised, and is now over in France. He is claiming 22 months Ops and says he is going to get Tom Pierce’s job as W/C in Delhi. Just wait until I see him!! The beer is better up here than at Ternhill and we are to fly Spits instead of Mustangs.

My lovely Jill – oh dear! I wonder…

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September 3rd 1944

I get posted to Hawarden together with A.J. Scott, Reg Cooper, David Crook, “Tiny” Price, Denis Collier and Bob Martin – also one Harris. Reg and I go down to the Corbett dance but it is a bit grim, though I get in without paying anything as the “heiress’s guest” – Emlyn Williams. Last night Reg and I get to the “Lamb” and syphon petrol out of Steve’s jeep and then go to the “Swan” in Newport, arriving home to bed at 2.30 – damn tired myself.

I am reading W. Churchill’s Early Life and trying to enlarge my education. Nine weeks at 41 O.T.U., one week’s leave, one week at Larkhill, more leave and then to a G.H.U. in T.A.F. – it will be three months before I get to a squadron – and then the East again.

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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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