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‘For that matter’, I replied, ‘I don’t particularly like you. But your flying is OK and that’s what matters to me.’


‘The CFI,’ Hanzl continued, ‘did not like my flying.’ ‘Really – why didn’t he like your flying?’


‘Because,’ said Hanzl in his Czech English, ‘always I do the inverted approach!’ I could just imagine him, with his masterly control of his aircraft, turning across wind at 1000 feet and into wind for the final landing approach at 500 feet, then rolling upside down until almost ready to touch down and recovering just in time to do his three-point landing. To do that, you need to be good! I feel, on looking back, that Hanzl fooled us all about his past. He was posing


as a flying pupil when he may well have been an experienced flyer before he escaped to Britain. Anyway, his logbook was duly inscribed with the coveted ‘Exceptional’ and he passed on to start his operational career. I never heard of him again.


* * * * *


Social life in the Officers’ Mess at Brize Norton was comfortable and pleasant. Officers had a bedroom in the main brick building and the bar was modestly patronised, supplemented by one or two local pubs. I recollect no hard drinking, but we played a few rough games at times. I had my Vauxhall and a small petrol ration, so I was able to get in to Oxford to see Margaret and the family there. The winter of 1940/41 was by no means as cruel as the last one, but it had some very cold spells, and one such spell caused me a little trepidation. To make myself even more mobile I had bought a second-hand two-stroke motorcycle, a James with a little Villiers engine. We were all of us, car and motorbike owners alike, chronically short of petrol to make all the journeys we wanted, and we felt it was of little loss to the RAF if we purloined a small can of aviation petrol when the opportunity presented itself.


Night flying at Southrop, our dispersal field, was the best time and place to loot a few pints. The Oxford’s two Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah X engines used 100 octane fuel, which was not exactly suitable for a Villiers two-stroke, but it was better than nothing, and the bowser, as the wheeled petrol tank was called, had hundreds of gallons in it ready for re-fuelling the aircraft. Unfortunately, just at this time the RAF was becoming aware that aviation fuel might be finding its way into unauthorised tanks up and down the country, and a green dye was added to it to make it easily identifiable. I came out of the Brize Norton Mess one very cold winter’s morning, ready to start up the James for some journey or the other to see, to my horror, the carburettor coated in bright green ice! The 100 octane petrol had frozen solid, and the evidence of my crime was patently visible. Thank goodness, no-one had spotted it, and I cleaned it up as soon as I could get away from the Station. It cured me of petty thieving.


42


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