because of this. The instructor was on my tail now and I had to try and
shake him off. That was another neck-ache day!
During a similar sortie two Vampires
touched in mid-air, damaging each, but not sufficiently to prevent them landing safely, if a little fast, because of wing damage. Both pilots were clearly shaken. Both had to fly again within the hour so as
not to lose their nerve.
Wednesday and weekend afternoons saw most of us walk across the airfield, through the coastal sand dunes and down on to the beach. There we would strip off
and do our best to bath ourselves in the very shallow water. Unless we waded a
long way out swimming was impossible. We soon learned that trying to use
domestic soap in salt water was a total failure. Many of us used PT
shorts instead of
swimming trunks. These were almost as bad a failure. When wet they were heavy
and the elastic wasn't strong enough to keep them up. Skinny-dipping, provided
there were no females about, became almost normal. Thus we kept ourselves
reasonably clean, even if we did have sand in our socks.
One of the Flight Commanders who lived with us in the Mess was so appalled at the food that he decided to augment the rations by fishing. We all realised that
when in the water we would sometimes put our feet on flatfish lying on the bottom.
Without seeking permission he, and one or two others, appropriated some tennis
nets and some staves from we knew not where. They made good fishing nets with
the staves threaded through and tied to them at intervals. The technique was, with a
man to each stave, to walk 25 yards at right angles to the shore keeping the bottom
of the net hard against the sea bed, and then to swing round to form a bag and drag
any fish towards the beach where we could catch and dispatch them. It worked well.
Most fish were small (we called them dabs because we didn't know what they were)
but they augmented our dinner menus.
On one Saturday during the course we became aware that the Orderly Officer, an aircrew member of the permanent staff, had been drinking heavily in the bar,
something no Orderly Officer should ever do. Stupidly, someone challenged him to
the effect that he wasn't very good at aerobatics. An argument followed and,
without further ado, the said Orderly Officer, full of alcoholic ambition, walked to
Station Flight and ordered them to prepare a Vampire
Orders are orders, so he was obeyed, but with some reservation. A parachute was placed in the
cockpit. In the meantime the word had spread around as to what was happening
and a few spectators gathered on the edge of the hard-standing. Without helmet,
any flying clothing, or Mae West, this Officer climbed aboard, started the engine,
taxied to the nearest runway, and took-off. None of us who were watching had ever
witnessed so impressive a display of flying and aerobatics at low level before - and I
dare say, since. After about 15 minutes the plane landed perfectly and taxied back to
Station Flight, shut down, and that was all. The pilot did not open the canopy and
could be seen slumped over the controls. The ground crew ran out and got him out
of the cockpit whereupon he collapsed, dead-drunk, on the concrete apron. The
Duty Officer, who had by now been summoned, placed him under close arrest and,
with an escort, he was taken to Sick Quarters. Nothing more was heard by us as to
the outcome of this escapade but some very serious charges would have been laid
against that weekend 'Orderly Officer'. None of us saw him again and the matter
was never officially discussed.
There was an AOC's
inspection during our stay. There were no special preparations made in advance because, it was said, Group Captain Beresford wanted
his Station to be seen as a working Station doing a job rather than all bulled-up for a
special inspection. From what we heard the AOC
was less than pleased and even told
6 Station Flight is usually on standby at most duty flying Stations in readiness to receive aircraft in distress or
possible visiting aircraft. It is independent of the flying Squadrons.