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peak, checking in at an hotel reception desk. Behind him stood an embarrassed popsy. The receptionist was speaking: ‘A room with a view, sir? A view to what?’ The head waiter was a stout, jolly Indian by the name of David. He used


to look after us very well indeed and I imagine those of us who stayed there managed to eat eleven shillings’ worth of fruit at the end of our excellent evening dinners. English afternoon tea was the fourth meal included in the tariff and there again we managed to get through bread and scones and cakes in a way which rivalled young son Colin’s performances years later when we used to go to Innellan for our summer holiday and where, on one occasion, he managed to consume nine doughnuts at a sitting. Durban was hot and sticky. Humidity was high throughout the year and the sun made it literally impossible to walk with bare feet on the beach. Bathing was the usual preoccupation, with the water delightfully warm and the only problem the worry about sharks. There were usually a few RAF types staying at the Mayfair to share a meal with, or to hire a car with and take a trip inland to see the Valley of a Thousand Hills.


Six days of this and then one had to report early in the morning to


the small Durban aerodrome to which training aircraft bound for Southern Rhodesia were delivered, in the case of Harvards from North America, crated and unassembled. A unit at Durban assembled them and they were then test flown to await pilots like myself to fly them up to the Colony at the end of leave. If weather clamped down to prevent this, there was nothing for it but to try the next day, and any extension of leave from this point on was at the expense of the RAF. The first leg of the flight north lay over the Drakensburg mountains, which meant climbing to 10,000 ft, and there was no way of making that trip if cloud was on top. Our aircraft were fitted with no oxygen and no radio, and the only navigation aids were maps, compasses and watches. As I did that trip no less than nineteen times, I could eventually do it without a map. Even today I can remember the course to fly from Durban to Zwartkop Air Station (ZAS in my logbook) which lay just south of Pretoria. The course was 345 ° True and the flight time just over two and a half hours. It was exhilarating to fly over the Drakensburg and comforting to see ahead the great yellow spoil heaps of the gold fields around Johannesburg. Zwartkop was the first, and later my only, stop on the way to the Colony. If the weather delayed the start of the flight from Durban, so that only that first leg of the journey back to Thornhill could be completed in daylight, it was necessary to stay overnight and the most convenient spot where a room and bed could be found was Johannesburg, a little more distant than Pretoria from the Zwartkop airfield. There was always transport going into that city and the Officers’ Club in Bree Street was always good for a room at two shillings and sixpence (about 12p) for the night. Reception was staffed by local young ladies who regarded this as part of their War effort and on one occasion as I


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