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the first flight for weeks conspired to make me very ready to be sick as soon as we landed. Kay-Shuttleworth was on hand to film the event, holding his ciné- camera upside down, and told me he would be editing that piece of film by cutting it out and reinserting it reversed. That, of course, reversed whatever was on the film. Disgusting! One other flight from that period sticks in my memory. This was my first solo cross-country, from Eastchurch to the RAF fighter station at Tangmere on the south coast.


I had no difficulty in finding my way, with watch, quarter-inch Ordnance Survey map and magnetic compass, across Kent to the coast. I did have difficulty in trying to spot whether the approach for my landing should be via a right-hand or a left-hand circuit. I should have spotted the appropriately coloured flag in the signals area on the ground – red for a left-hand and green for a right-hand circuit. No way could I see any such flag, and I did some three or four circuits left-handed trying to pick it out.


In the meantime, a whole squadron of Hawker Hart biplane fighters was


drawn up in formation, facing into wind on the leeward side of the field, their propellers visibly revolving, obviously waiting to take off. I was beginning to feel somewhat desperate when I saw a flash of red on the ground, hurriedly completed a left-hand circuit, and landed safely. The Hawkers took off as soon as I had cleared the field. My welcome was less than enthusiastic. A very irate Flight Lieutenant asked me what the hell I thought I was doing, landing after a wrong circuit and keeping a full flight of fighter aircraft overheating their engines and wasting expensive fuel for all of ten minutes. I told him about my difficulty in finding the circuit indicator flag. ‘And where,’ he asked, ‘did you think you had found it?’ I turned to point to what should have been a red flag. It was the station fire-engine.


I have one final, more pleasant recollection of those months with the Squadron. We held an annual dinner to which a number of senior RAF officers were invited, brightening the top table with their splendid dress uniforms, their medals and the colourful sashes of their various Orders. The guest of honour that year was a diminutive don, Provost Lys of Worcester College, who was at the time the Vice-Chancellor of the University. In his far from colourful dinner jacket and no medals he presented what was almost an amusing contrast to the magnificent top brass around him, and when he rose to deliver his after-dinner speech in reply to a toast to the University, there was an almost audible titter from the undergraduate audience.


I forget what his full theme was, but as he got under way, any suggestion of tittering disappeared. It was a brilliant speech. His best story came when he took up the point that had been made when he was being introduced by the previous speaker. The Squadron had, just a year before this, moved its base from the RAF Station at Upper Heyford to the more convenient Abingdon aerodrome.


22


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