January 26th 1945


I don’t get up again due to the weather – fog and snow. V1s rush overhead all day today and yesterday and we hear the guns opening up on them in the I.A. zone. Yesterday afternoon, led by the Group Captain, we man the A/A bren guns outside the Ops room and shoot at the blue Met balloons, with no small success. Today we hang around until lunchtime, and then it begins to snow. The 1st Canadian Army have a small battle on – “Operation Elephant” – to clear an island north of the Maas, and the guns can be heard all day, but we cannot help them. My camp bed breaks, though fortunately I bring a spare set of legs from Lasham. No papers, and all I can get hold of to read is Conrad.

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January 24th 1945


I fly again, a sort of test, with F/L Clifton-Mogg, but he goes round and round in circles and I cannot really cope. Then an airtest and today I go out with F/L Bob Mackelwain over Area 1 – Dordrecht, Rotterdam and the Hook of Holland area, and I seem to cope this time. Weather and clouds are a bit tricky, and I see some 20 and 40mm flak directed at Bob when he dives down from 6000’ to 2000’ to take some photographs. No mail yet, and it’s difficult to get hold of a decent paper, though three or four days late. V1s go over here day and night, if the icing conditions are not too bad, and Bob shot one down two days ago in enemy territory. There is a very vicious bar here, and I am slightly flushed with wine writing this – *accounts for my handwriting!!

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January 23rd 1945


I fly out in an Anson with Blain, Malcolmson, Raynor and George to 2 squadron, and arrive to find Bert Mann still there. There is a continual clamp of snow and fog on, and I get as far as taxiing to the runway today but no further, to do an air test. On arrival we are greeted by a good view of a V1 at about 1500’ and more all through that day. I also see a couple of V2 trails in the sky. We live in a Luftwaffe Mess which is fairly comfortable, and there is lashings of booze – too much in fact, and I seem to be up to my neck in it every evening with Bert.

I share a pigsty with F/L Chin and Selkirk of 2 squadron, and there is a hot shower in the billets. My washing is well done by a Dutchman for a bar of soap and 20 cigarettes. There is much snow, and I go out and let off my revolver, but without much success. Bert and I go and visit 135 Wing Mess at the invitation of one S/L Patterson, O.C. of a New Zealand Spitfire squadron, and meet Group Captain Walker. I get rather intoxicated on champagne and stout, but feel better than Bert the next morning. Today we are visited by Commander Brabner, Under-secretary of State for Air (JDW: to be killed two months later en route for Canada), but he does not seem particularly interested in us. There is nowhere to go when off-duty and nothing much to read in the Mess. Some people even play chess.

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January 17th 1945


I get in about three hours in a Spit XIV and then set off to ferry one to 2 squadron at B77 (JDW: at Gilze-Rijen in the Netherlands). I come down at B67 – Ursel near Ghent – due to bad visibility, and also because I am not sure which side of my track I am. It then starts snowing, there is more snow and fog, and I do not get off for some six days. I live with the local R+R party and am billeted on one Henrique Kaiser in a fairly modern Belgium farmhouse. He and his wife were 17 years in the States where he amassed enough dough to return home and retire. Under the Boche they had more food than under us. From Ursel, on 11th December 1940, 54 C.R.42s (JDW: Italian bi-plane fighter) took off and only 9 came back from the Thames Estuary.

There is much snow and my flying boots leak. I sleep in pyjamas, a sweater and my socks and manage to keep warm. I also pick up trench mouth and have to go to a field dental centre in Ghent for treatment. The lads take me to Knesselare near Ursel where there are supposed to be lashings of blondes, but no luck. I go to a few drinking dens in Ursel but nothing doing.

Saturday 13th I manage to get off, and fly up to B77 where I stay the night, getting a camp bed in Bert Mann’s room. He is C.O. 268 squadron, and about to leave. There is a party in the Mess and I get pretty full, and retire to bed but get no sleep through my tooth. I see S/L Maitland, C.O. 2 squadron, and try and fix myself a posting. Next day back to Lasham in an Anson to find I am posted to 2 squadron and so miss the week’s leave I was due, which is annoying, as I had ideas, including meeting Marny Lowrey. Today I get a whiff of gas and the doc, one F/L Fairfax, whips out my wisdom tooth – I then get myself cleared, and hope to go tomorrow.

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January 3rd 1945


My last day in St Ives I get a bit whistled before lunch in the Sloop, and meet Marnie Lowrey on a 48 (JDW: 48h leave), a V.A.D. from Plymouth. Ma and I have dinner with the Lowrey’s and then Marnie and I go up to Tregenna and have a drink after hours on one of the residents. We walk back and down on the Portmeor beach and do much talking, and I believe we have much in common, but we part that night, having just become acquainted, presumably for ever. A pity.

I reach Lasham – 84 G.S.U. – and am assigned a pitch in a Nissen hut. I manage to change my U/S camp bed. Much frost, all the pipes burst, and I have to wash in the Mess, rushing to be there before the others in the morning. On New Year’s eve Tom Raynor and I go to Basingstoke and drink beer in the Red Lion. We meet some dame, and then two more, and then one more and two Canadian pongoes and a bottle of scotch and have a party in the pub, and later with food at a house shared by two of these dames. They are not much good, and Tom and I leave at 1am as we are not asked to stay (!) and get a taxi home. We still have one hour’s walk as we get lost and I arrive back to find my camp bed broken, at 3am! It is mended for me the next day.

I then fly a Spit 1X and in the afternoon (Jan 1st) take it to B79 airfield near Bergen-Op-Zoom, in Holland. F/L Ridley-Martin (Royal Corps of Signals) leads me over. My first impression of the Continent, and Cape Gris-Nez, is the vast amount of holes, bomb and shell craters, in that area. Also the scattered farms with quiet work fields around, much smaller than in England, and many of them white – either through frost or chalky soil. We also pass Dunkirk, but no signs of battle visible. We land and leave our ‘chutes and set off for Antwerp at high speed, and the town major gives us beds in the Century Hotel. I get a bath, as none at Lasham (the pipes being burst), and a good dinner with wine in the Excelsior, the officer’s club next door. I see my first flying bomb, and we go out drinking later. We meet one Captain Webber, an A.L.O., whom I knew in Habbaniya as a F/L, and return to a most comfortable bed at 12, and a night hideous with war. (JDW: not sure what my father means here – perhaps noisy with distant gunfire or V1/V2 rockets?)

Next day we collect our ‘chutes from B79 and go to Antwerp airfield to try and get home. There is a clamp on (fog), so we organise beds again and go back to town, having heard a lot more flying bombs pass overhead in the fog. Then, last night out, we go again to the Latin Quarter, and there is a great flash – pause – then a ginormous explosion and the odd bit of glass falls into the street as a V2 lands a mile away. We arrive at the “Robin Hood Inn” and are greeted by one Madeleine who takes a few cognacs off us at 45 francs a time, whilst we drink 6 franc beers!

Back to bed, and today we go out to the airport and find a Lasham Anson about to return home. We embark, and make landfall over Deal of all places. Antwerp is dead, and damned expensive. The old German signs are still up on the flying fields, and the whole set up reminds me of the Japs on Mingaladon (in Burma). No postings forecast for about one month and I am allotted a week’s leave on 14th January.

David Crook is killed in a prang at Dyce – some say his oxygen failed and he spun in. Large notices in Antwerp saying P.A.C., in the main streets, though not much to use them on. (JDW: no idea what P.A.C. means – any ideas?) I went to Antwerp in my flying boots, my green sweater and a fleece jacket and feel like the Yank pilots we used to see come in to the Grand Hotel in Calcutta, whilst one was immaculately drinking a chota peg. Roll on my posting. What to do with this leave? Go to London again?

 

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December 28th 1944


One or two parties. Christmas dinner with the Langdale-Jones in the “High and Dry” Hotel, followed by a pontoon and whisky party in Bobby Brain’s flat run by Vera Clayton. I cook the scores afterwards and escape paying up about 6/- lost! Then boxing night Pat Rose takes Ma and me to dinner in Tregenna, and they discuss someone else’s baby over my body for 20 minutes. Later Bill and Gertie and Felicity Findlay join us; and later still I get away and dance with whom I want to – a dark eyed girl in a corner. She is one Gay Priestly from Ealing, down to stay with her brother-in-law and sister. We get on quite well and I get her telephone number and go up yesterday evening for a drink at 6pm, before she goes back on the London train.

I go back tomorrow but do not know whether to go to Basingstoke or Alton. Glorious weather, almost fit for sunbathing. I wish I met this Gay dame sooner – i.e. Sunday when she arrived.

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December 23rd 1944


I arrive in St Ives a bit late owing to fog, and share a room in Curnow’s (Curnow’s Café) with Allan, the gay commando. (JDW: what does my father mean?) Last night I am made to play bridge until 12.45 with the Sandons and am most annoyed. I make a scheme when I arrive, on the available information, but it has fallen through already. Mrs Fraser over from Penzance for lunch and afterwards I try and date up an American nurse I see in “Kettle” (The Kettle and Wink pub) but she has to go back to Plymouth tonight. So I seem to have “had it” before I have even begun. Tonight, Saturday, I intend to drink some beer in the Sloop, then go to “Tregenna” (Tregenna Castle Hotel), spend 5/- on gin and retire to bed in high dudgeon. Never will I come to St Ives again if I can help it, though it could be perfect if the cards fell right – which they never do in my case. I get into my kit and get out a suit that I last wore at a garden party at Government House in Madras in 1939 or early 1940.

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