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have landed on top of a Ruhr steelworks chimney. He may have landed on the end of a pitchfork wielded by someone like those old men who tried to reach me in the street along which I was frogmarched after capture, but he was never heard of again. Margaret and I had the sad job of receiving his young widow, Hilda Frost, at High Wycombe when we eventually moved back there in October 1945.


Alf Green was back in England before any of us. His mother, in one of her letters to Margaret, told how he had landed heavily, hurt his back and damaged his face and nose. He had been hospitalised by the Germans and his hospital overrun by the Allies in the early days of his captivity. He recounted that he had no recollection of how he got out of the Halifax. I never told him.


* * * * * I


have often wondered how different life might have been without World War II. Those five and a half years must have done something to me, or perhaps for me, which nothing else could have done, not to mention their effect on the rest of the family. At home they had put up with lots of little, but persistent hardships – rationing, no luxuries, growing up without knowing even what a banana was, coping with poor transport, poor heating, blackout and the constant threat of enemy action, grandma Davies laying her hands on the sugar allowance and, in general, not much fun for anybody!


For me, there had been little to be called hardship or even discomfort until those last weeks. I had loved my flying. I had never understood, and never will, how some young men seemed to prefer the damp ditch, heavy rifle existence of the infantryman; the discomfort of a heaving destroyer ploughing through a stormy, cold ocean. Why should anyone who had the chance of flying like a bird opt for anything except the Royal Air Force? Flying is, simply, beautiful. To be up there above the clouds, above them in the moonlight alone in a single- engined aeroplane with no radio, is an experience which has its own, unique beauty. There is nothing between you and God. And the thrill of the perfect roll off the top of a loop, either by day or by night; the satisfaction of seeing the destination right in front of you dead on your ETA; the sheer delight of the scenes below as you fly over Scafell or along the inlets of the southern Scottish coast; the Rhodesian sun rising twice above the clear African horizon; these are what flying is all about. To be able to handle the machines which made it all possible is what made it, for me, the only way to fight the War. My time as an instructor should perhaps have been a bit boring. But it never was. The variety of the types I met and tried to teach to fly; the concentration I always felt able to give to improving my own technique and demonstrations; the joys of low flying when speed was reality; these are what my own flying was all about.


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