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Learning I


have little recollection of many of my colleagues in the University Squadron. Kay-Shuttleworth I have already mentioned and perhaps he is the Kay- Shuttleworth who now has a museum of historic aircraft. I will try to find out, one day. A South African, who may have been a Rhodes Scholar, stays in my memory because he was the enviable owner of a vintage Bentley. Not that a 42 litre W.O. Bentley was exactly vintage in 1934, but Cadet Gale certainly had a very desirable motorcar, in whose open body we used to tear around the island of Sheppey in formidable style. I got mine in 1963.


It was interesting, therefore, to find myself once again surrounded by University Air Squadron types when my personal war began. Some time after my Uxbridge foray I had a letter from the Air Ministry confirming the result of my interview and telling me I would be commissioned as an Acting Pilot Officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. No call-up date was mentioned, but I was given a grant to kit myself out with the appropriate uniform; and, as Margaret and I were by this time parked on her parents in their home in Whitehouse Road, Oxford, my uniform was ordered from Walters of the Turl. We had abandoned High Wycombe almost as soon as we were certain I would be going off to the War. In those earliest days London children and some others were being evacuated to safer places and were being billeted on anyone who had a room or two to spare. This was the prospect both for Margaret’s parents and for us and, selfish though it may have been, it was not one we welcomed. We had seen the young evacuees clambering around neighbours’ porch roofs, running wild and being a general nuisance. The Davies family in Oxford was threatened with an invasion and, in High Wycombe, we had been asked to receive two rather unpleasant female schoolteachers, who were demanding, had they descended on us, a separate bedroom each and the sole use of our dining room as a study. Margaret’s mother, grandma Davies, already had enough on her plate looking after Margaret’s brother Denis, who was blind and somewhat handicapped. It suited both families that we should move from High Wycombe and settle in with the parents in Whitehouse Road, provided we could arrange what to do about our own house. We decided to sub-let it, as our tenancy agreement allowed, realising that to regain possession, if we ever needed it, might be a difficult if not impossible task, for tenants were thoroughly protected in those days. We were lucky. A very pleasant family by the name of Petitt were looking for a house near to Mr Petitt’s job as Commercial Director of Broom and Wade Limited, the well-known High Wycombe engineering company which made Broomwade air compressors. Mr Petitt – although at the time we took his promise with a pinch of salt – undertook to move out again when (and, more especially, if) I came back from the forces at the end of the War. That is precisely what he did,


24


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