I got used to parades and, knowing that I had to do them, I decided to learn as much as I could by carefully watching, listening hard to the orders, and memorising
as much as I could. I found them to be similar to a slow motion dance routine. The fact that I couldn't dance was irrelevant.
I did not fly again until Sunday, December 20th. The weather had been awful and our time was filled with lectures and talks. Aircraft systems, aircraft recognition,
ranging and tracking analyses, tank recognition lectures and sessions, as well as the inevitable periods in the gym, filled almost all our time.
I flew two sorties that Sunday. One was 40 minutes unofficial circuits in a Tiger Moth with Flt.Lt. Eric Hughes
who was i/c
Station Flight at the time. The second
sortie was to air test a Vampire which was fitted with under-wing drop tanks in
readiness for the flight to Sylt. It was my first air test so I casually enquired what
might be expected and was told, quite curtly, "Start the bloody thing up, take-off, fly
around, make sure everything works, and bring it back in one piece!" I couldn't
argue with that and should have known better than to ask. I was airborne for 55
minutes in cloudy conditions, my longest flight on the Squadron
so far. It involved
10 minutes instrument flying and a QGH
. The next time I flew was at Sylt.
We had been given notice a while back that the Squadron
was to be detached to Sylt for live-firing practice. Plans had been moving forward with this in mind for some time. A Movement Order had been written and promulgated. It listed the
duties of those involved; that was all of us. As MTO
, I was to take a convoy of
wagons laden with spares, office equipment, and much other materiel. I had warned
those who were to be drivers of what would be expected of them, and that we
would be overnighting and refuelling at RAF Ütersen, north of Hamburg. Chiefy
was allocated to me and would drive one of the trucks containing a small
amount of ammunition. His advice proved invaluable. It was my job to check the
route, plan stops, and generally ensure that convoy regulations were obeyed.
, who was Squadron
Adjutant at this time, would be my 2 i/c
. I was well occupied, as one might guess. My inability to drive, officially, was no help to me at all. This, clearly, was a matter in need of rectification, but not yet awhile, at least until winter road conditions improved.
Preparations for the journey had to be made for the departure of my convoy on the 27th, the day after Boxing Day. Chiefy Blair
supervised the loading of the vehicles and the drivers were given a full briefing. The rest of the Squadron
was preparing equipment for loading on a special train due to depart the day after.3
The Mess was decorated so well to the extent that parts of it almost looked like a Department Store Christmas Grotto. This created a very relaxed and festive
atmosphere. The NAAFI
was decorated, as was the Malcolm Club, and the Sergeants
Mess and Corporals Club, too. On Christmas Eve, with the assistance of some of our
Officers, a bar was set up in the Squadron
Airmens block, so that they could
entertain themselves in their own way.
We Officers were in our Mess bar at opening time and, after dinner, some of us went to Wing Commander Russell-Bell's
house for drinks.4
Following this we
went back to the bar for the Christmas raffle.
On Christmas Day, in uniform, we followed the usual RAF ritual of inviting all members of the Sergeants Mess for drinks. Then we changed places and walked
3 The train was to depart from the camp siding by the Equipment Section. The use of such special trains was not unusual. Each RAF Station had its branch line, connected to the Deutsche Bundesbahn, and a diesel shunting
locomotive in its own siding. Aviation fuel was brought by rail tankers, so the use of the railway was a permanent
and operational feature in the running of an RAF Station.
As an occupying force it was allowable, in extreme circumstances, for a serving Officer to delay the departure of
any train on the system. I never heard of it actually being done during my time. This facility ceased as soon as
Germany regained its sovereignty.
4 He was the S.Ad.O.
= Senior Administration Officer in charge of the Admin Wing.