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buying a rather similar but smaller house just across the avenue from ours for £2,300 and moving out of ‘Windward’ to suit us in a most co-operative spirit. Walters did a splendid job on my uniform and I felt rather good changing from civvies into my Air Force blue with the thin stripe of a Pilot Officer round its sleeves. All I needed to do now was to await the summons to begin my war career and in the meantime I continued with my career as a United Steel Companies Limited representative in the nineteen counties (not including London itself) of south-eastern England. My territory stretched from the Wash down to the south coast and from the east coast, south of the Wash, to the western bounds of Somerset and Wiltshire. So I was off every day in my Vauxhall Twelve-Four, a maroon saloon with a very economical engine and little else to recommend it, visiting our customers as far apart as Portsmouth and Peterborough, Margate and Malmesbury, reporting usually on a Saturday morning – for we worked a five and a half day week in those days – to the company sales office in London. Then the call came to report on the 11th of December, 1939, to No. 30 Elementary Flying Training School at Burnaston, near Derby on the Derby to Burton road, just a mile or two north of Repton School. This unit had been a civilian flying training school, now commandeered by the RAF, with its previous boss, one Squadron Leader Harben, still installed as the CO. I donned my new uniform, with my new gold-crested peaked hat and my rather splendid greatcoat, and started north in the Vauxhall to call at the home of Margaret’s brother Len and his family at Hillmorton Road in Rugby, which was right on the route to Derby. Len and Kath Davies had two daughters, Mary and Celia, who were at the time schoolgirls of eleven and eight years old. I had a cup of coffee with Len, Kath and the girls and prepared to take to the road again when Mary cried ‘That’s not the way to wear your hat!’ ‘What’s wrong with it?’ I asked. ‘It’s too straight,’ replied Mary. ‘The bus conductors in Rugby don’t wear theirs like that!’ The entrance to Burnaston airfield was up a lane north of the main road and I arrived at the entrance to find three not too smart and rather elderly airmen there. They looked as if they too had been civilians until very recently indeed. I stopped the car and got out. One gave what he thought was a salute. One took his forage cap off. The other, I think gave what might have been a small bow. I could hardly complain. I had been in civvies until that morning and had clad myself in the uniform of an officer and a gentleman without having the least clue about how to salute properly. I did my best and passed on to the large house on the edge of the airfield which was to be my home until the last day of April 1940.


It was a day of surprises. One by one there arrived at Burnaston another eleven young men. These really were young. In December 1939 I was 27 years old. The others varied from 19 to 22. They were, to a man, straight from either


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