January 5th 1941


I had arranged to leave on 29th and was just returning to tea on 28th after a last dekko at the monkeys (I get into the jungle and slay a couple up trees) when a wire comes from Aircraft Depot: “Return immediately.” I come back normal time, after Peter Allan for supper on 28th, and arrive Delhi on 31st having been unable to fly, owing to one of INA’s directors being on board (Indian National Airways).

I stayed at Great Eastern, good food and a dirty cell for Rs 10/-. Stay at the Cecil and spend New Year’s Eve in my bed with a book. On the 1st, go to Hyderabad House and ask about ranks, pay and why I was recalled. Not known. Also when in Iraq (if reached) do we get RAF pay, British Army with colonial allowance, or Indian Army with overseas allowance? They know nowt of course, but will look into the matter (if they remember). Actually they were all staggering into each other’s offices and saying “Oh I say Claude – it must have been too many gin and tonics last night – what! – I feel awful.”

Next day arrive Karachi having flown most of the way myself. Manilal again pilot – we go to 9000’ and then fly through and above the clouds, my first experience of them. On asking about this leave J. Chapple said that the day I left on 14 days leave message comes saying we could only have ten, so they let me have my ten then recalled me – so I had 15 days in all. Met Dickie Bird in the Mess, from Madras, and we talk about the good old times and “who married who – my god, really?!”

Next day Chapple casually mentions we need passports for Iraq, but “show ‘em to me in two days time.” We sort out Iraq consulate from Afghan and Turk ones, and find we require passports to be valid for Iraq, vaccination certs, an official order detailing us there, and two photographs. We ferret out the passport officer from a mass of City Magistrates and High Court Officers and their clerks’ counter directions, and find we want another order from the RAF as all passports are invalid in time of war. Get photographed and return to lunch exhausted.

That evening Gribbon of Kings Own telephones (JDW: later Major-General Gribbon)– “wasn’t I at Beacon (JDW: my father’s prep school in Sevenoaks) with him? – yes – then come shooting tomorrow, OK?”

He takes me out to Kalri again, where Evans of the Kings Own, his Mrs and aged Ma and Pa have been in occupation for 10 days or so. I am stuck in the water in a hide at 3.30 and leave it at 7.15 with two ducks and minus 22 cartridges.

A very jolly supper and Nigel Gribbon and I exchange reminiscences well into the night on our beds. Up at 6 and off to a damn big jhil (lake). The old man, 70 with Boer War medals, and I – he well greatcoated and blanketed – are taken away in a boat one way, the others and the lunch departing north. I shoot a coot with the Winchester on the way for the boatmen to eat, it being duly hallaled first. We maroon Poppa and I am taken to my hide. I am handed off the boat first and am nearly up to my waist, and so without having got wet himself the Shikari (boatman) is able to judge it too deep and they make me another. Then I am also marooned, the fellow going off to “beat”, and promising lunch later.

About 1pm, three hours later, I see Poppa has evacuated his stall and is thawing himself on dry land, so we whistle up the boat and return, with great difficulty, against an icy wind. Great anxiety at the base and not much lunch left. On swapping notes we find the boatman did no beating but spent his time cooking my coot under Poppa’s blanket. Return to Kalri for tea, with a “spot” in it, and dropped here by Gribbon at 6pm. A great weekend.

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