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He failed in his final navigation test on March 27th and I was forced to tell him that it was useless to continue with his training. He had seemed a perfectly sensible sort of chap to talk to on the ground, personable and confident. I had to find out what he had been doing until he joined up, for he must have been aged about 23 or 24.


‘Jones’, I asked, ‘What were you doing in civvy street before he War?’ Now I should explain that I had been a United Steels representative working from the company’s London Sales Office. I was a junior representative in terms of years of either age or experience, even if well-paid and seemingly reasonably successful. I suppose that if you had asked me at the time what my ambition might be, I would have suggested that to have the job of my London boss, the Sales Manager of the London and south-east of England area, would have been the height of it. ‘Well, sir,’ replied Jones, ‘I feel the problem is that I had the sort of job where


I didn’t need to think.’ ‘And what job was it that relieved you of the need to think?’ I enquired. ‘I was’ replied Jones, ‘a Sales Manager!’ He got his ‘bowler hat’ – the current description of being released from the


Service – and returned to civvy street. I got over the shock of learning what sales management must demand, in due course, when Jones told me that he had been a Sales Manager in his father’s firm.


It was about three weeks after Jones left my little group of pupils that I had my own explaining to do – on this occasion to our Chief Flying Instructor, Wing Commander Larkin. We were flying from Southrop on a particularly murky night and I was doing circuits and bumps with Cadet Dalgleish. He was a young Scot of somewhat nervous habit so that flying with him always had me worried, for if there was the slightest chance of any trouble in the air it was always Dalgleish who was sitting beside me – some solo pupil converging on us after taking off too closely beside us was one occasion which had Dalgleish practically in my lap, gibbering and pointing to an Oxford wing within about ten feet of our starboard side. I must explain that during night flying the Oxford’s instrument panel is faintly illuminated from behind, just as are the instruments on the dashboard of a car. The air speed indicator, the artificial horizon, the rate of climb and descent indicator and the engine oil pressure and temperature gauges all have to be readable in the dark. But, unlike the dashboard of a car, the Oxford’s instrument panel was a simple vertical panel which a hand could reach behind, with no horizontal shelf or covering panel above it. The result was that the instrument lighting was unshielded from above and could be reflected in the perspex front cowling of the pilot’s cockpit. On a really dark night this could be distracting and the pilot had to strain to look beyond the reflections if he was doing anything other than flying strictly on his instruments – when, for instance, he was approaching to make a landing on a flarepath.


38


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