I get back to Bangalore and continue doing nothing. Tom Pierce now up with Wingate’s show. I take two afternoons off and go and lie in the sun and bathe at the Bus Club. Then I get in a game of squash. I visit one S/L N.A.S. Allen who used to be at Harrow with Hugh. I get a ride on one of his fire hoses and we go into the Palace grounds. His wife is daughter of one Colonel Willis who commanded 2/13th (JDW: 2nd battalion, 13th Frontier Force Rifles, my father’s old Indian Army regiment) way back in 1928 or so. I see the S.M.O. and hope to arrange a medical board in Calcutta, but I can’t see any use coming of it.
I have to go out to Directing Staff camp in two days for an exercise “Malabar” taking place down in the jungle there. I have come to the conclusion that if I have to stay in India it is better to do something than fester in 225 Group doing nothing. Have now been turned out from A.O.C.’s morning conference where I learned what little was being done in this Group. A letter from Aunt Vivy and one from Bernard Fergusson the other day.
Back at Solar to investigate two crashes. On completion of that, 4 Squadron’s C.O. returns so I am pushing off on this evening’s train. Basil Darlington, their A.L.O., and I go and visit the Navy on Sunday night, having quite a party with the “No. 1″, ending up in a search for a double hammock. Last night we go into Coimbatore Club for a bath and dinner with the Wren – then on to the flicks. A very nice Club and I see an excellent sunset over the Nilgiris from the roof whilst waiting my turn in the bath.
4 Squadron Mess is horrid; tin plates and tea soup out of thick glasses. Bearers wipe spoons with their thumbs and dirt and neglect all round.
171 Wing under Tom Pierce moving to Comilla and this 4 Squadron due in Ranchi after completion of the exercise. Squadrons I have known: 17 (fighters) under S/L Stone DFC whose aircraft I flew and crashed from Highland Queen and with whom I later went to China. 135 and 136 (fighters) whose a/c I flew at Mingaladoon and Akyab. 45 and 113 (bombers) with whom I lived at the Mingaladoon Golf Club and in Laschio Mess. 20 (army co-operation) now on Hurricane 11ds under Pete Joel, with whom we went to Egypt. 60 and 34 (bombers), whom I meet from time to time in Bengal, Arakan and down here.
We go to a dance at Coimbatore and meet the Fleet Air Arm types from the RNAS station nearby. I am in great form with a WREN called Lila or Lilo or “Bubbles” and dance most of the evening with her. Fat, plump and 21.
Next day Pat Lewer and I depart and reach Wellington by 1250. We put up at the West Grove Hotel in Coonoor and go to the Club in the evening. Meet some Mary and one Huggins, the brother of Yolande’s father in Lahore. Damn cold up there. Lewer has a miniature daschund which is trained to run up to women. They then say “what a sweet little thing” and he has his introduction. We sit with a popsie from Bombay in the hotel after dinner, with a dreadful “chicks” voice and she has the dog on her lap, which I stroke, including her on the follow through – charming.
A long drive back to Bangalore and this morning I find that 4 Sqn have pranged two a/c and I have to go down for a Court of Enquiry tonight on the train. As Tom Pierce and 171 Wing are moving off I have to stay and look after the joint – I suppose until December 13th and without any transport, which is going to be a bind. I have a small “room” in the West End Hotel here – by the look of it where the bearer lived and cleaned the boots. It’s in a sort of warren with four other rooms, 9 beds, and a communal bathroom. But being on the outside I am OK and no one can walk through me.
I get down fairly uncomfortably by train and find much mail waiting. A telegram of congratulations from “Scotty, Nobby, Burt Mann”. I also read in C.R.O.s that Mike got the MC for his escape from Foul Point. Hammerbeck gone thank God, so I can get on with what work I have in peace. My luggage from the Training Battalion in Abbotabad arrives. (JDW: three years late!). Meet one Sandy Webster DFC and bar of 60 squadron, a well known character east of the Bramaputra, and we go to the Bus Club. Meet Catherine Railton and go home to her bungalow for a drink. I leave at 2.30am and he is still there and not back when I go to work at 8.30.
Medical Board will not let me fly as S.M.O. is taking my case up with Delhi so I either go back to the Army or get permanently grounded. Well, I set off by “doodlebug” or Dodge recce car to visit 171 Wing and 4 squadron at Solar near Coimbatore. We go via Mysore and Ooty and arrive about 9pm. I should have spent the night at Ooty as I miscalculated ETA and the slow descent from the hills. Ooty, Wellington and Coonoor not quite what I expect and very close together. Tea and coffee on the way up, and vast grasslands, though they do not look open enough for ibex. The other side – to Coimbatore – with a dozen or so hairpin bends and dense forest all around. We run into rain, a bad road and the market breaking up near Coimbatore, and find the lights will not work. Nobody knows of Solar there, but it seems to be on the Trichinopoly road, so we feel our way painfully down, the lights eventually functioning near Solar.
I have analysed what’s wrong – I want to meet a ‘nice gal’ again.
Madras bombed again but no bombs dropped and a Beaufighter gets a shot in. Terrific floods last month and a four engine Jap flying boat comes over and drops half a dozen on the town. It strikes the coast to the south and is plotted flying up, but Control thinks it is a Catalina returning from patrol – why?
Indian trains God! Dust and vibration despite all the windows, Venetian blinds, and wire mesh frames being closed, making it damn hot. The fans blow the dirt onto one’s sweaty skin where it sticks. Nowadays it is hard to get a berth and you have to reserve four days ahead, from Bangalore to Madras.
I arrive back with Wilkes to find Douglas has fixed for me to go and stay with Gouldsburys at Yellaputti and shoot. I come up on Monday and go back today – Wednesday. The old man takes me out the first evening but we only see a couple of wild pigs. Next morning I go out with a shikari after Nilgiri blue pidgin and I miss two. I see three Malabar red squirrels and take a long shot with the shotgun at it. Much coughing and a barking deer, or jungle sheep. comes rushing down and past me. I get my first leech bites despite an extra pair of socks and spraying with some potent concoction of the old man’s. I see another barking deer creep out of the jungle into the tea, but too far away. On the last evening I go out with the shikaru but there is mist and rain and visibility is only 30 feet at times. Just before dark a Sambhar leaps across our path and down through the tea and we later see him nibbling the shade trees, at least the shikari does, and I can just make him out about 180 feet away in the dim light. I let off my Mauser but it’s downhill and I miss.
Last night the old man gets me a bit pickled on gin after dinner. He was with 5 G.R. in Mespotamia and Ramadi which I know so well. This morning I look at horses and go off for a walk with the daughter of the house Phillipa – no, Philippa (encouraged to do so by Mama I think.) Beautiful country, 6500 feet up.
Bill Girvan comes over and we three ride up to the grassland, having sent our kit on up by coolie to a boundary commission hut at Erivakdam. He has a rifle and Ham Wilkes a Jefferey’s .404 and off we go after Ibex. We sight a couple and I get in two shots with the .404, unsuccessfully, and we then follow them up. I come across them twice on a convex slope at about 15 feet but only see their heads before they are away. Later, after lunch, I get in a standing shot at another two at about 60 feet and miss. We spend the night in the hut about 8000′ up and Wilkes’s bearer lays on food and drink and a roaring log fire. My feet are a bit weary as all I have is a pair of thin stockings and my rubber sole sambhar boots which are almost in pieces and no use for climbing up and down the slopes of hills sort of sideways.
Even a bath with hot and cold water from a tap is provided. The outlook is bleak, bare grassland rising up in thousand foot hills and spurs, with small clumps of jungle in the cracks between. This morning we set off home in the mist, damn cold, it later clears and I get a good shot at a sitting ibex (Nilgiri wild goat) from about 120′ with Ham Wilkes as a sand bag. And I have to go and miss it. I am officially not allowed to shoot, due to various decisions made by the High Range Game Association, as they object to the military coming up and flashing guns about and demanding a shot. I was damn lucky to get one at all. Scrambling around at 8000′ has done me good, and it’s damn cold.
I go down to “Stuffy” Stevens’ bungalow for a day, and for tea he takes me out to a rock overlooking the low jungle country. Eventually we see a bison moving through the long elephant grass, with glasses. I return to the Club and come back home with Ham Wilkes with whom I am now. He has a beautiful bungalow more like a country house than the usual, and breakfast and lunch on a sort of glass sun corner of the verandah. I go out by myself looking at birds and see some black monkeys, and get lost on the coffee, having to get a guide back.
In the evening we go to shoot jungle fowl, though without success, though I see four scuttling away into bamboo clumps. In the evening we go for drinks to one Rowson who has 19 rifles and about a thousand heads and skins in his bungalow. A young stuffed black monkey holds a table lamp, and he also has a type of African nut that looks exactly like an anus. I find the sun getting warm and take to my Bright and Macivor hat. A lot of birds I see that are not in my book.