October 11th 1941

Am in hospital with malaria for the last four days. Aching all over one morning and with a slight head I went to see Doc Wilkinson and he says sand fly or dengue fever and I have a temperature of 103. But I have to hand over security files to Corporal Doughty and then return to the guardroom and wait for an ambulance and am sick there, so they decide on malaria and so it is.

Pete Jennings got us down to plenty of training programmes etc, which seemed to work funnily enough. I was sent on a ‘dash sortie’ to pinpoint and count a convoy which was on the Bannu road – 8th Cavalry moving out of Kohat – and “spotted” 54 out of a total of 53! Northern command exercises are on now and all I had was a practice blitz on Peshawar.

Last night terrific bangings, and very shaking on my nerves. Well, first ‘A’ flight taxies out in no wind under Squadron Leader Jennings and puts up alot of dust, followed by ‘B’ flight, with me as number two, led by Mann. It’s as much as I can do to keep his wing tip in sight, and suddenly ‘A’ flight thunder down the long dirt strip over the hangars. Mann then forms up at right angles to ‘A’ flight’s take-off and off we thunder through this horrible dust. A third flight, of 1 squadron IAF, is just starting to taxi bang across the middle of the ‘drome through the dust (‘A’ and ‘B’ had gone round the edge.) Mann misses the leader by inches but Scowen, no. 3, cuts half its tail off with his skid. Mann returns to survey the damage as Scowen lands again and I go on to Peshawar.

Garner has turned up as Intelligence officer for ‘the duration’. I have been Security officer in the camp issuing passes to over 270 ‘Injuns’, though I had the details filled in by the Munshi (in duplicate as required by AHQ.) We have also got some A.C.H.s as policemen, and have been on the lookout for fifth columnists who are in the exercise too. But now I’m hors de combat.

A carpet wallah rolled up one day; and always an admirer of Persian rugs I let him show me his stock, though having previously said I wasn’t buying. I liked one rather nice ‘pear pattern’ Shiraz, so he insisted I should buy it. After much argument that I ought to buy something, to get rid of him I told him to leave it on the floor for a day and he says “OK, price 375/-“. Next day I tell him to roll it up and take it away but he insists I make him an offer, so again to be rid of him I say 100/-. He of course mishears that as 150/- and spends half an hour asking how much more than 150/- (as he puts it) I will give him. Eventually he says OK and asks for 150/-. When I explain I said 100/- he spends about an hour of sales talk which I take in, and am damn nearly mesmerised into giving him 150/- for it. When he coughs and asks for a cigarette I can see he thinks he’s snared me, and nearly has too, so I pull myself together and say “take it away, I don’t want it.” That breaks him completely; he says “you’re a hard man, Sahib” and as he mounts his bicycle he turns, and with tears in his eyes whispers “140/-” – then pedals furiously away.

After leaving hospital I shall be grounded one month, which means Cypher officer and then “horrible dictu” (JDW: a schoolboy expression, correctly spelled ‘horribile dictu’, a latin phrase meaning ‘horrible to relate’) – a medical board! So it looks like “the end of a promising career” as they say! To say nothing of the questions as to how I passed the first one!! Back to the Army – Christ!!! Or will it be RAF stores – still worse! Still, I suppose I have had a pretty good year and can’t grumble.

(JDW: As regular readers of this diary will remember, my father’s eyesite was poor, and he had to cheat in order to pass his medical. See October 28 1940 entry for the full episode. Thereafter he flew with special custom-made goggles with lenses.)


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2 responses to “October 11th 1941”

  1. Hi James

    A very interesting and somewhat amusing entry. Thanks as ever for posting it.

    I note the reference to “Mann”. I reckon it might be this chap, one of the foremost tactical recce pilots of the war – G/C Albert Sydney ‘Bertie’ Mann DFC.



    1. James Dunford Wood Avatar
      James Dunford Wood

      Thanks Andy – almost certainly. I’ll look out for further references to him. I’m sure there will be many, as before long they are off to Burma, where Mann apparently flew.

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