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1px-trans.gif, 43 bytes Just after lunch on Saturday, March 13th, 1954, Fg.Off. Dinger Bell and I were driven in an open Landrover to Sande station. In civilian clothes and carrying light hand luggage we were on our way to Austria for a fortnight's Arctic Survival Course. We caught the Wilhelmshaven to München (Munich) overnight train and arrived at Munich Hauptbahnhof the following morning. After a short wait, and after breakfast in the station buffet, we caught a train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, arriving there shortly before lunch. An unmarked RAF bus met us, and took us to our course headquarters in Erhwald across the Austrian border.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesAustria by then had become an independent nation following the withdrawal of the Forces of Occupation. Ehrwald, and Lermoos, the village across the valley, had jointly been a British Forces Leave Centre during the occupation. It was because of this that the locals agreed for the RAF, but without any identification, to hold the course in that area.1
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesOur HQ was the Gasthaus Thörle on the road from Ehrwald to the Zugspitzbahn, the cable railway to the top of the Zugspitze (the highest mountain in Germany but with the greater part of its massif in Austria). Our accommodation was sparse, the sun room on the south side of the Gasthaus was our dormitory equipped with three-tier bunks. We had blankets but no sheets. Food was cooked for us by the innkeeper's wife and was plain and mostly varieties of stew or goulash with bread rolls. There was one toilet and only one bath. The effluent from both poured out on to the sloping forest floor not five yards from the veranda but didn't stink as it was quickly frozen into a disgusting and increasing mass. Washing and shaving, using tin wash-basins, was done outside in the cold, but was a more pleasant procedure when the sun was shining. We used our reflections in the windows as shaving mirrors. Ablution times saw shivering naked and semi-naked men out in the snow, cleaning themselves as best they could and as quickly as possible. There was often a queue for the toilet. We usually urinated in the nearby forest, even in the middle of the night when wearing pyjamas. Speed was of the essence.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesWe were regarded as civilians and it was only by chance that any of us found out another's rank. It turned out that we varied in status from Wing Commander to Pilot Officer. First names were the norm. The CO was Sqn.Ldr. Uprichard (in civvies, of course). He lived in the village with his wife during the time he was in Austria. The permanent staff numbered no more than six or seven and lived in what were normally the guest rooms which had their own sparse facilities.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesWe were issued with ski boots, ski clothing, and skis, and for most of the first week we were taught to ski on the nursery slopes at the back of Ehrwald. I had a personal difficulty in that there were no boots that would fit me. Fortunately, after nearly crippling my feet by wearing a pair that were too small, for a whole day, one of our Austrian Instructors told me where to go in the village to hire some boots of the right size. But damage had been done and my feet hurt, so, as a result, for most of the time I lagged behind the others in proficiency. Even so, we had great fun helplessly colliding with each other and falling over until we found our feet (or our skis) and attempted to regain an upright posture. Even though the spring thaw was setting in and there was much grass to be seen where there had been snow, we were
1 The Austrians probably had their eye to business, for several of us were to return there on holiday in later years. I went back three times, the last was in 1973 when the Gasthaus Thörle was in process of being demolished and rebuilt.
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