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1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesI 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.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesI 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, ciné ranging and tracking analyses, tank recognition lectures and sessions, as well as the inevitable periods in the gym, filled almost all our time.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesI 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.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesWe 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 Blair 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. Johnny MacKnish, 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.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesPreparations 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
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesThe 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.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesWe 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.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesOn 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.
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