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natives on the farm and around the household. His manager, Mr Kemp, was away on his business trip and we missed meeting him during our short stay. We put Mr McDougall in the picture about our dilemma – the true


picture. We simply had to risk telling him the facts and confiding in him the details of the ploy we had adopted in the hope of concealing them from our RAF masters. Fortunately he was most understanding. He realised the mess we would be in if the truth came out and no pressure was needed to get him to agree to keep quiet about the morning’s events and, indeed, to back up our story if the need arose. We went to bed in our rondavels rather easier in mind than we had expected. We awoke the following morning to a breakfast of bacon and eggs and coffee, and hung around to see what was going to appear in the sky to rescue us. Quite early in the morning two Harvards were spotted which landed safely on the strip, although we who had stayed overnight and worked so hard to clear the strip beyond the rutted track were chagrined to see them land on the half we had failed to touch. But they were safe, and Wilcox had flown down in one, complete with an LAC mechanic, a spare tailwheel and main wheel and tyre which, to allow it to be squeezed into the Harvard locker, was deflated. The other Harvard had two instructors in it, together with a jack and one or two tools needed to replace the damaged wheels and a car type pump to blow up the deflated tyre.


I was anxious to find out what had happened when Wilcox and Gaudioz


had appeared back at Thornhill the previous afternoon. It transpired that all had gone far better than we could have hoped, in so far as Gaudioz had played his part to perfection and had found no difficulty at all in looking genuinely sick. He had been examined by our Station medico, S/Ldr Kelly, and packed straight off to the Gwelo Hospital for a through exploration of his trouble. So far, so good.


Between us all, we now managed to jack up the two damaged Harvards


and get their wheels in place. Blowing up the deflated tyre of the main wheel was quite a task with a small car hand pump, but we need not have worried, for the black children of the farm’s native workers had streamed down to the airstrip, excited to get their first ever view at close quarters of something they had previously seen only in the sky. They queued up to take turns at the handpump and the tyre was up to pressure in no time at all. We now had four serviceable Harvards, four instructors plus three pupils and the airman mechanic to get back to the Station, so I flew back with Larcombe, Wilcox with his own pupil, one instructor colleague with the airman, the other instructor with pupil Bagley. I had to see the CFI, S/Ldr ‘Goody’ Heal on my return, and I managed to keep a straight face as I told the same crooked story as the others. But he obviously smelt a rat and decided he would like to make the acquaintance of Triangle Ranch and Mr McDougall for himself. I flew him down to the airstrip


73


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