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were available and enquiries revealed that they could not even be got from the UK. I was stuck with the results of my own foolishness, for the padre had told me no lies. He had told me nothing and I could have kicked myself for my stupidity in not bothering to test drive the car or even to start up its engine before making my offer.


I was furious with myself and everyone else. I was determined to do something about it. The opportunity arose almost immediately.


Our pupils, once they had finished their Thornhill training, were in the main posted to fighters up in Egypt where the battle for North Africa was raging. Many of them wanted to own a car whilst they were still with us, and many of them could afford to. A little group of three of them had been running a Model B Ford saloon and came back to the Station on foot one day, having walked the last mile up the road from Gwelo. It appeared that their entire Ford engine had decided to drop down out of the chassis and they had left the car in the ditch, intending not to bother further with it, as they were due to be posted in a couple of weeks’ time to an operational squadron up north. Another good friend of mine was little Ronnie Barlow, an F/O in my own group. We were both interested in cars and their engines and, between us, we knew just a bit about them. We had a look at the Ford as it nestled in the roadside ditch and we decided that the problem was fairly simple – a sheared engine bolt which was one of three holding the engine in the chassis. So we approached the owning syndicate with a proposition: we would recover and repair the Ford if they would leave it to us when they finished their Course. The three boys had, we knew, won the Ford in a raffle whose tickets had cost them no more than a few shillings. So they readily agreed. Ronnie and I had no difficulty in making the Ford roadworthy and two weeks later found ourselves the proud possessors of a saloon which, when the front passenger seat was removed, would take about six of us, with the passengers sitting on each others’ knees from the back seat up to the dashboard, down to the bioscope in the town centre.


It was just the start. Another pair of pupils approached us shortly afterwards. They had a car and they too were due for early posting. Would we be interested in guaranteeing to take it from their hands when they went, so that they could use it right up to the very last minute of their time at Thornhill without worrying about a hurried sale? We looked at their car, quoted a price for this arrangement and concluded the deal.


Life after that became most interesting. It quickly got around that F/O Barlow and I were willing buyers of cars which had to be disposed of in this way, and it soon became known to pupils newly arrived at the Station and looking for a car to use over the next three months of their sojourn there that Ronnie and I were the right people to contact.


Our trade rocketed. It was my first experience of retailing, and it was most 77


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