I play rugger again yesterday during a ‘clamp’. Today I go round area 2 as No.1 at 7.30am, a beautiful dawn with V1s flaming across the sky as we go out to be briefed. I see not much as there is a ground mist, through which stick the spires of Utrecht. Later I do a shoot with a 155mm gun onto a hostile artillery position, but when I dive down I see no guns. One round lands on the Emmerich-Arnhem railway line.
A lot of flying, and I always seem to be No.2. I look up the air force list and find I am a bit senior, but cannot break the trades union as far as I can see. Bob Mackeson takes me out one day and we get lost, looking for 202s near the Reichwald forest, and I get back with 10 gallons, very shaken, and touch down as the flare path is being lit. Scotty and Johnson and Mumsford arrive from GSO to join 268 squadron.
Three days of fog which lift yesterday afternoon, whilst I am out with George Thornton getting some four dozen eggs. Steve got a bar to his DFC for a photo run down the Rhine by Emmerich the other day, and does the honours in champagne. I manage to do a No.1 successfully in area 4, but my engine oils up over Arnhem on the way home, and I am sweating all the way down to the soles of my feet, as it’s damn rough and I see nowhere for a decent forced landing.
I also play rugger for 35 Wing against 123 and am pleased to be fitter than most on the field. Last night I go with a gang to Tilburg where we drink some gin and beer in the officers club and then go to a local dance, but not much good, and the scarcity of soap in Holland is very apparent.
I go up with Woodbridge and he works with a contact commander of 51st Division, “Longbow Mike”. They ask him to look at various bridges on the Maas and he dives down whilst I stay up at 8000’ or so. I go too low once and get mixed up in some light flak being shot at him. The sky above this town, Gennap, becomes full of tracer, and then it bursts into grey puffs, not near me thank God. I go out again as No.1 yesterday, but low cloud at 1000’ and so I investigate the flooding between the Waal and the Rhine, west of Nijmegen. Today more drizzle and we are stood down.
I drink too much champagne last night, though without any eveil effects. I see two flying bombs whilst on the circuit, there’s just a glow if you are dead behind, but can do nothing about it. I go to a party given by 123 Wing at the invitation of Alec Johnston but am a bit bored, though I eat a few oysters, some grapes and an apple, and meet the famous W/C Alan Deere, and also one S/L Deakin-Elliott.
I have prepared five rules in case I am captured.
- Answer all questions with “I’m sorry, sir, but I cannot answer that question.”
- Don’t look the interrogator in the eye.
- Try not to listen to what he is saying.
- When put in solitary confinement, go in with something to think about – the future of civil aviation or something.
- Beware of the first contact, probably a stool pigeon, and take stock twice a day on what subjects have been discussed the previous half day.
I have decided not to fly with a revolver, and will hope for the best without it, provided I reach the ground again alive. Bob Macelwain shoots down a 109 and Jeffries damages its No.2, on the deck in Area 111.
The 1st Canadian Army advances on the 8th into the Reichwald forest. We put up 30 sorties with 12 a/c and I do two myself. Continuous Arty/R (JDW: Artillery Reconnaissance) cover which fails due to low cloud and a few Tac/R (JDW: Tactical Reconnaissance). I go out with Peter Crane and he insists in flying round above the guns at 1000’ above Nijmegen, irrespective of the air being full of shells. Later I do a Tac/R with him. We lose Malcolmson, who came over with me, killed force landing on South Beveland, and Frank Normoyle, and Ops officer who just vanishes. I am damned tired, having missed lunch and tea, bar one and a half spam sandwiches, and am unable to stand up in the bar until after I have had about five large whiskies, when my strength flows again.
Yesterday I go on Tac/R as No.1 but have to return through R/T trouble, at which I am greatly pleased as the weather stinks. Champagne in the Mess, but I can never grab a bottle. It’s now raining and I hope I shall be able to get in some reading.
I go out three more times, one abortive due to weather, and another at Zutphen where I get another, more accurate, dose of 88mm flak. One bursts in front and above to the left. Today as No. 2 to Selkirk who takes some obliques (JDW: photographs) – many aircraft in the sky and my goggles keep misting up, much to my discomfort. I burst a tyre taxi-ing out once which delays our dawn sortie. Air Marshal Tedder comes round today but seems more interested in the works than in the personnel.
I get Alec Johnston, S/L Ops 123 Wing, across last night, and he gets very full of whisky and talkative about himself and the Allied Control Commission. We later adjourn to his Mess, there being no more visitors’ whisky in 35 Wing Mess, but I retire after a couple of gins. There is a Sabre test pilot with a George Cross there. I go out egg hunting, getting two and then two and a half dozen in three days, much to the amazement of my colleagues. A continuous procession of flying bombs, but I have never seen one when I have been airborne.
More snow. Yesterday I manage to get up as No. 2 to S/L Maitland, and see the gliders at Arnhem. Am pursued by some 88mm flak from Zutphen and arrive back with 5 gallons, and try and land on the wrong runway. I eventually taxi back with 2.5 in the tanks. V1s rush overhead day and night and one lands in the field the other morning, though without any damage. I hear from Marny and Bill, now at Staff College. There is English beer and stout in the bar, and Belgium beer which is rubbish. We get a ration of 20 tots spirits a month, but every hour or so the barman produces a bottle “off ration”. No eggs, but nine bars of chocolate and fire oranges a week. I give my laundry and a bar of soap to a Dutchman and it costs 20 cigarettes. Bert Mann retires to hospital with appendicitus and I cannot get a lift over to see him. My camp bed collapses and I spend one night on the floor, but now have it repaired – though for how long?
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.