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the journey to Durban by train was paid for by the RAF, and a splendid hotel in Durban itself, the Mayfair, became a popular base at the cost of a mere eleven shillings a day which provided a jolly good room and private bath plus four marvellous meals. Even a Flying Officer’s pay of eighteen shillings and twopence a day contrived to cater for that! During his Rhodesian posting the writer made that trip no less than nineteen times, usually bringing back a full locker of wines and brandy from South Africa for the mess; the average price of a good bottle of South African wine was one shilling and threepence whilst Cape brandy was a mere five shillings and threepence a bottle. If weather at the coast delayed the return flight, then living expenses became a charge on the RAF and if a late start in the day meant an overnight stay after an intermediate landing at Swartkop, between Johannesburg and Pretoria, then the Officers’ Club in Bree Street, Johannesburg offered a room for two shillings and sixpence.


Surely no other country in the world could have beaten the Rhodesian


record for producing pilots regularly and to schedule. The weather remains the overriding memory of those flying years – the weather, the horizon a hundred miles in front, the slow rolls at night over Gwelo with the Harvard’s twin landing lights on, revolving around each other, the take-offs in the early dawn before the sun had risen, to see the sun rise after getting airborne and set on descending, then, from ground level, to see it rise for the second time – these are but a few of the memories which in total could fill volumes. In the middle of 1943 the Station Commander, Group Captain Clare- Hunt, announced at the end of a church service that particular Sunday morning that there would be a week of celebrations to commemorate the founding of No. 22 SFTS two years earlier. He said there would be a formation fly-past over Gwelo on the Monday, a sports’ day for local children on the Tuesday, a dance in the Sergeants’ Mess on Wednesday, etc. etc., culminating with a cocktail party and dance in the Officers’s Mess on the Saturday evening. The pause that followed was broken by a voice, loud, clear and


anonymous, from the middle of the 800 or so airmen who had listened in silence. The tin walls and roof of the Bellman hangar echoed the voice with efficiency – ‘Wot about the ****** War?’. Well, it is true that 22 SFTS was a long way from the battlefields of


both Europe and the Far East. But the contribution it made should not be forgotten and there must have been, and still will be, very many who have reason to be grateful to the blue skies and the lovely clouds which, in one or the other of the seasons, made their flying here so beautiful and, for the RAF, so rewarding.


56


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