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Custody at Francistown!’ But Guppy was right. There was nowhere for him to go in that part of the world, and he was quickly recaptured and sent down the line to face whatever penalty deserters attracted at that time. Overnight, the train continued through Bechuanaland, passing Mochudi


and Gaberones and crossing into the Union of South Africa at Lobati. At Mafeking, the line which so far had been going fairly due south turned sharply to the east and headed for Johannesburg. Thereafter it was south again, down through Bethlehem and Ladysmith to Pietermaritzburg and Durban. The Drakensburg mountains stand between Johannesburg and Durban and, although the highest parts are skirted, there is a steep drop on the way down to the flatter coastal plain and the rail track continually turns back on itself in the tightest of S-bends.


Durban, the capital of the Province of Natal, was the most Anglophile


part of the Union, although the police, the civil service, the Post Office, the railways and state industries were, as I have related, Afrikans staffed and never too friendly. But Durban was really pro-British and the British-based element went out of its way to show it, and a British uniform invariably brought offers of hospitality, a drink or a meal. I well remember, during one of my many visits to Durban, being slightly discomfited by being so obviously British – we were never allowed to abandon our uniforms on these holidays. A troop ship on its way out to the Far East had called at Durban and allowed ashore its contingent of British army personnel. They really were a sight! Whether it was a regiment of bantams or not, the soldiers who strolled through the streets of the city look underfed, undersized, slightly ridiculous in their good old British khaki shorts which made one wonder whether they were long shorts or short longs. Their bare knees were seeing the sun for the first time and it showed. The amusement of the locals was scarcely concealed, for their own army types, who came back to Durban after fighting in Egypt, were on the whole tall, bronzed giants compared with these. But that very evening the scene changed. We heard that a military band from the troopship would Beat the Retreat (I hope I have the technical description of this parade right) just before sunset in the square in front of the Town Hall. What a transformation! The band of the Black Watch paraded in their magnificent uniforms, marched and counter-marched to the thrilling sound of their pipes and drums, their kilts and sporrans swinging, and the local population went quite wild. Honour was satisfied, pride restored! The Mayfair Hotel in West Street was near the centre of the city and was the favourite pad for us RAF visitors. Its daily tariff of eleven shillings (55p) provided for an excellent room and bathroom and four marvellous meals a day. The reception desk, manned usually by Rosie, was particularly welcoming. Hung up on the wall above the desk was a framed cartoon of a typical RAF officer, complete with handle-bar moustache and hat with the usual floppy


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