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imposed it – had a rule that no-one could do a first solo in term-time. We had to wait until we went to the Squadron’s annual summer camp at the end of the summer term. So I came back from the Christmas vacation to begin another term in January 1934 and flew with a pair of strange instructors on the 8th and 9th of January and then was taken over again by F/O Bates. I flew once with the CFI., S/Ldr Dalzell, and by the end of term had 18 hours 25 minutes in my logbook.


This was an eventful term. I had decided I wanted to make the Royal Air Force my career. Graduates who entered the Service with a degree were automatically given 12 months’ seniority and to enter from the University Air Squadron was literally a flying start in one’s career as a commissioned officer. As I write this, in 1990, an ex-Oxford University Air Squadron cadet is not only the top man in the RAF but also Chief of the Defence Staff – Marshal of the RAF Sir David Craig. I had dinner as his guest at the officers’ mess at Bawtry, when he was an Air Vice Marshal and O/C No 1 Strike Command whose headquarters were at Bawtry Hall.


I duly made application for a commission during this term and was sent


off for a medical examination to the Central Medical Board of the RAF in London, at the bottom of Kingsway. No fears of failing it crossed my mind. I was exceptionally fit, for it was just a week after the inter-college sports annual event and I had run in six races, including heats, in the 120 yards and 220 yards hurdles. The 120 yards high hurdles was my event. I had represented Oxford versus Cambridge in December 1932 in the Inter-Varsity Relay Races and I was President of my college Athletics Club. In those six races I had logged two firsts, two seconds and two thirds. You have to be pretty fit just to clear ten 3'6" hurdles in 120 yards, so I really had no qualms about this medical exam just a week after those races.


I remember my disbelief on being told, halfway through the medical, that I had inordinately high blood pressure. The doctors spent the best part of the day checking it and trying to discover the reason why my systolic pressure (the top one) was 172. During the pumping phase of the heart beat, called systole, the pressure in a young healthy adult is between 90mm and 120mm of mercury; when the heart fills with blood, in the phase called diastole, the pressure is between 60mm and 80mm. The values tend to increase with age – as a rough guide, the systolic pressure is normally equivalent to a person’s age plus 100 and, though I do not remember my diastolic figure, here was I with a systolic pressure of someone in his seventies! So I was rejected. And the Board mentioned one other possible future disability. I was asked if it was likely that I would be doing much more close reading, for my eyesight was showing signs of early myopia – shortsightedness. My Finals were due at Oxford in another two months or so and, had I been accepted for the RAF, there would have been no difficulty. As it turned out, the job I eventually took after coming down required


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