I leave Bangalore 8.30am on the 19th. The night before, Saturday, is whisky night and I have quite a party with Pete Lewer, Smith and some naval F.A.A. type from Ceylon. I am in good form shouting “Fall out all Brigadiers” at old Brigadier Ayles who is propping up the bar as usual and keeping a greedy eye on the few bottles of whisky they have allotted for the evening.
I travel most of the way with a Yank who has his ration lunch in a small cardboard box, all compressed and protected from the heat and the damp. I meet S/Ldr J. Hills and wife – he it was who introduced me to flying when he came over to our Mess at St Thomas Mount (in Madras) and told me how much it all cost.
Arrived Victoria station, Bombay, and met by Grindlays (Bank) who took over my heavy kit, and then out to Worli Transit Camp. I share a room with one W/C T.B. Morton, also on the boat, and we feed in a Mess arranged in a flat opposite. We spend last night drinking the worst possible Indian gin before dinner. Today we go to town, I to Base accounts to see the Committee of Adjustment to try and buy a raincoat, but I get a shirt and two collars instead off some corpse. Then to Grindlays but I find it’s a bank holiday and only the shipping department is open. Meet Morton and G/C Seton-Broughall at the Taj Mahal (hotel) for a rotten lunch, after a few sickly John Collins’ in the “Harbour Bar” first.
A large convoy is in, and plenty of officers in shorts like drain pipes and carrying Wolsey helmets in bags. Some even are wearing blue still. Bombay not too hot, but damn sticky walking around trying to get a taxi. Food is rationed and you only get three courses in the hotels at meals. (JDW: !)
Conditions for 1939/43 and Africa Stars are out. As opposed to the Army, you cannot get Africa Star if qualified for 39/43 Star. The Army is the other way round. Aircrew after two months in an operational squadron and one operation. Ground crew six months, aggregate, in an Army command:
France 3/9/39 – 19/6/40
Norway 14/4/40 – 8/6/40
Belgium 10/5/40 – 19/6/40
Holland 12/5/40 – 13/5/40
India (North West Frontier) 1/1/40 – 31/12/42
Greece & Crete 7/11/40 – 31/5/41
Iraq 10/4/41 – 31/5/41
Syria 8/6/41 – 11/7/41
Persia 25/8/41 – 28/8/41
Hong Kong 8/12/41 – 25/12/41
Malaya 8/12/41 – 15/2/42
China 11/12/41 – 31/12/43
Burma 11/12/41 – 31/12/43
New Guinea 7/3/42 – 31/12/43
Madagascar 5/5/42 – 5/11/42
Sicily 10/7/43 – 17/8/43
Italy 3/9/43 – 31/12/43
Russian Wing 7/9/41 – 30/11/41
I send my blue tunic and battledress to have it put on, but expect I shall get told to take it down when I get home – if I get home!
AOC says he will consult SASO on my report when he comes in, so I put in a minute to SASO which he says is “bloody rude”. However, he gets it changed and tells me I shall not have too initial it. Half an hour later the AOC sends for me, gives me the report to read, and demands my initials. I discover he has altered the marks on the “scoreboard” on the front sheet, mostly to 4s, and consequently below average (5) and therefore adverse.
Am all tee-ed up for the boat and hope that my kit will arrive and get safely on board with me. 25 div has gone off to the Burma front, so I hear. They have collected about 40 prisoners on the show and even had pictures of them in the “Statesman” – the first ever.
The AOC gives me an adverse report! Says I lack initiative and made a poor show of 2 squadron! Eventually he says he will wait until SASO returns and consult him – because Macworth (AOC) does not know me and cannot even spell my name.
A signal in this morning that I have to report to Bombay on 21st March – I book a berth on the train for the 19th to arrive on 20th.
Not out of the woods yet!
A damn great cyclone off Madras and a good drop of rain here. We lose a Catalina in it at sea. Another convoy sails from Bombay which I miss. S/L Ramsey lets me have his greatcoat for £8, in condition that I take a box home for his wife.
My pay is a complete muddle – back pay due from the difference between F/O and F/L from October to March in Ambala. They offer me 190/10! P.O.R. re my Acting S/Ldr rank and 100/- per month with Indian Air Force did not reach B.P.O. from 2 squadron! My account debited 100/- per month for the D.S.O.P. Fund, but found not credited since Sept 1942?!
Apparently we get no 1939-43 Star for service in Burma, but as someone suggests, I should thank myself lucky to have what I have, without wanting more.
Still here doing nothing hard. A signal from A.C. Sea today asking for confirmation that I am available for embarkation, whatever that means. It never happened with anyone else before. I meet one W/C Phillips just out from the UK who gives me the lowdown – dry ships. There’s far too many sinkings in the Gulf of Aden appearing on our Ops Room board for my liking. Just my luck to be sunk and, if rescued, then by a ship coming back to Bombay!
I purchase two small sandalwood elephants and a large rosewood one at Mysore “arts and crafts” department. Bill Beaman, Phillips and one Swaley, a petrol king from Delhi, and self, stoke up on Cyprus brandy at the Bus Club last night, and then feed at Winstons Chinese restaurant. I have a great success with my paper darts made from menus. AOC says to me “What? You still here?” So long as he doesn’t ask me what I’m doing I don’t mind.
Indian Rates of Pay in Rupees (GD/ASD/Medical)
Air Commodore 1805/1725
Group Captain 1680/1475/1930
Wing Commander 1240-1470/1080/1510 (also Lieutenant Colonel in Indian army)
Squadron Leader 1010/915/1075 (Major)
Flight Lieutenant 710/640/755 (Captain 690-710)
Flying Officer 635/545/600 (Lieutenant 535)
Pilot Officer 500/455 (2nd Lieutenant 480)
Chaplain – 500 on appointment
Old Pinsen turns out to be saner than I expected and we have a most interesting chat over my whisky last night. A big flap on just now on just now and Jap fleet expected in the Bay of Bengal – Pinsen has to go down as station master at Tanjore. G/C George Howard suggested I go, missing boat and catch the next one! Bill Beaman stops it and AOC tries again today saying “We can fly him back in three hours.” Beaman wins again, but if the situation deteriorates perhaps I shall have to go, and miss my boat.
A letter from Mhairi out of the blue, and I go for a walk in the evening dreaming of a “rosy future”. I write to Daphne, Babs, the Mad Aunt, Mhairi and Bill’s father, who sent me 2oz of Gold Block, so I am more or less up to date.
That dance was some show, as Briggs and I spent all our time doing ‘pincer movements’ on pongoes (JDW: Army types) who kept coming up and trying to steal a dance from the girls, in particular Mary Kinloch, a blonde with protruding teeth and two eighteen inch guns. She can’t dance but waggles her bottom round the floor like a duck and very comfortably – and Marcie House, in the mornings a F/Sgt in our ops room. No light weights. There seems to be something about me that makes these women – girls, rather – giggle and never stop. Must be my inane grin.
A fearful picture developed for the Public Lavatories Officer (JDW: I suppose he means PR Officer). Pinsen is a bird fancier like myself.
Four years today I left Madras with the regiment for the “frontiah”. I have arranged for Albert to transfer his allegiance to F/L Peter Lewer, Group photo officer. I hand in my mauser and ammunition for transport by air to Octavius Steel Company, Calcutta, and onward transmission to Uncle Stan – God knows if it will ever reach.
I haven’t got that boat yet, whatever they say. Feeling rather turgid through lack of exercise and concentrating on doing nothing for so long in the office, as AOC is back and I now cannot arrive half an hour late and depart two hours early. “Just going to the Admin buildings (Racecourse) old boy! If anyone wants me…”