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main pretty ignorant and, though we had native servants on the station who were treated with kindness, and Askari uniformed guards who did guard duty, and others who cleaned our aircraft and swept the hangars, they were on the whole regarded as a race apart.


There were approximately 800 officers and men at Thornhill, manning two squadrons of aircraft, the first where pupils were taught to handle our Harvards, the other where they were taught to use them in operations like gunnery and bombing. The North American Harvard was a low-wing monoplane powered by a single Pratt and Whitney Wasp S3H1 air-cooled radial engine. It was a lovely aeroplane to fly. Its wing loading of about 21lbs per square foot was the same as a Spitfire’s and, although its cruising speed was just around 170 mph, it was a beautiful aerobatic machine and flying it, right way up or upside down, was always a real pleasure. Its one vice was a tendency to drop the right wing rather smartly if it was held off just a shade too high in landing, and replacement wing tips were the spares most in demand.


I settled in to a wooden hut which contained the rooms of a gaggle of officers, with my own native servant to keep it clean, wake me in the morning, and do sundry menial duties I can no longer recount. We had a wooden officers’s mess with a good, large ante-room, dining room and verandah (or stoep), and we had a couple of tennis courts close by. There was a small wooden chapel for church services, which were voluntary and were patronised by some of the officers’ wives and children who had been lucky enough to get posted out with their husbands before the ban came down.


Before flying duties began, newly arrived officers needed to be kitted out with tropical uniform. Gwelo lay well within the tropics, but the midlands plain of Southern Rhodesia is some 5,000 ft above sea level, with a climate which is unusually kind – not too hot, but warm enough for shorts and a bush shirt to be the normal working rig of the troops. My immediate need was for khaki drill slacks, tunic and bush shirt and I was advised to patronise a little tailor in Gwelo town who was, I think, a Czechoslovakian who had emigrated there some years previously, when so many fled from Hitler and the threat of Hitler in those parts of Europe. He made my kit in two days; the tunic was far too tight. I took it back and complained that it did not fit.


‘Flying Officer Kilpatrick!’ he cried. ‘Just wash it and you will find it shrinks and fits perfectly!’


‘But,’ I complained, ‘it is already far too tight!’ ‘Don’t worry, sir! Just wear it for a day or two and it will expand!’ I gave up and put up with a somewhat tight tunic for a long time afterwards. A bush shirt and shorts was the most comfortable rig and, cleaned and pressed by the native servant, was always a neat and smart-looking outfit. Newcomers from the UK were always greeted by the older inhabitants of the Station with the cry ‘Get your knees brown!’ And so I settled down to expose


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