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I remember one big party there when we gave a dance in the Officers’ Mess. Margaret came along accompanied by her cousin Miriam Rogers and her fiancé, Jack Green. Miriam lived in Oxford with her parents, Margaret’s uncle Philip and Aunt Maggie, and Jack was a graduate who was working for his doctorate at the time. His study was of the flow of liquids and gasses through nozzles, which sounded a bit odd in those days, but whose relevance to engineering, especially jet propulsion, very soon became apparent.


My closest companion among the officers was F/O Gordon Pickering, who also hailed from Oxford city, a tough-looking young chap who unfortunately was shot down and killed flying Wellingtons not long after he transferred to operational duties. Half way through the evening, Gordon and Miriam, who was a pretty and attractive girl, appeared to be mising. They were not gone for long – these were not the days of the permissive society and light flirtations were rather innocuous – but Jack was less than chuffed. Jack – by this time Dr Green – and Miriam were later married and it was a pity that we lost touch with them after the War when they lived in Basingstoke and we were up in the north.


The life and soul of any party we had in the Mess was our own CFI, W/Cdr Larkin. He was an Australian, and an extrovert Australian at that. With or without a pint or two he would happily get on his feet and regale us with a story or a song. One favourite recital of his was a take-off of the then popular James A. Fitzpatrick Travelogues which were in those days a fairly regular feature at the local cinemas. These travel films of far-off places always seemed to end with ‘And so we say farewell to … ’ Larkin would, at some appropriate point in our evening goings-on, get to his feet and declaim in his best James A. Fitzpatrick style: ‘And so we say farewell to Sydney, Australia. And as we sail under the harbour bridge, the longest single-span bridge in the world, second to but five in the United States of America, there are the natives, clad only in flowers and beads, singing and playing on their national instruments…,’ whereupon, the chaps would burst into a chorus of “Ta ra, ra ra ra, ra ra ra-a, ta ra ra, ra ra ra, ra ra ra-a.” to the tune which was used for the later well-known:


Be kind to our web-footed friends, For a duck may be somebody’s mother. It lives all its life in a swamp Where the weather is very damp. Now you may think that this is the end – Well it is.


But it was Larkin’s solos which were most enjoyed. I can remember most of one and a bit of another. The bit is of a song about Lilian, pronounced and sung ‘Lil-eye-an.’ It started thus:


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