My father (now a squadron leader), was posted to RAF Hullavington, the home of the Empire Central Flying School, where people from The Empire, namely South Africans and Rhodesians were taught how to fly to RAF standards. He was to be their chief flying instructor. His other voluntary duty besides tuition, was doing the test flying for GCA (Ground Control Approach) system, this involved flying blind and being talked down by radar and radio. To prevent the three test pilots from cheating, their cockpit canopies were blacked out. Two pilots survived my father and Francis Chichester (like my father, a pilot, but too old for active service), the third was guided into a hill and died. My father and Chichester received the AFC, the highest non-combatant award given to RAF personnel.
My mother, sister and I were unaware of the GCA test flying, until after he received the award.
During this time, father introduced my sister (ten years older than me), into flying. The family went to an ‘open day’. My father took my sister up in a Tiger Moth, my sister thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I yelled my head off until it was agreed I could have a go. With help of several cushions, I was secured in the Tiger Moth and we took to the air. Shortly after take off, he looped the loop. We landed, I spewed up and run off screaming, “mummy mummy”. I kept well clear of flying for a long time after that. What a pillock! Him not me.
Incidentally Chichester was an Aviator along time before he took up sailing. He was famous for solo long distance flights piloting his Gipsy Moth to Aus and NZ.
My father also took my sister (after disguising her as a male), down the Cresta bobsleigh run at St Moritz. They were members of a RAF party, perks after the war. She may have been the first female to do it, females were banned from the Cresta Run in those days. I was not taken to St Moritz (in-spite of yelling), but had my first taste of chocolate when they returned.
My mother did not like living on RAF ‘camps’, so asked my father if she could find a property for us to live in, he agreed knowing full well that it was impossible in those post war times, however at dinner one night, the conversation went something like this:-
I have found a property.
What is wrong with it?
It has an awful lot of bedrooms and land.
We took it. Mother divided the main house into flats for people from the ‘camp’, including the Chichesters, I remember Mrs as being horrible and kept well clear of that flat. The land was turned into a market garden using Luftwaffe POW Officers as labour, a great friendly bunch of guys. My mother opened a shop in nearby Malmesbury called the Market Garden. The officers made me toys from wood in their free time and an elaborate sewing box for my mother. I believe some of them refused repatriation and stayed in the UK. The house had a large ballroom, which made an excellent roller skating rink for me and my sister.
One day my father came home unexpectedly for lunch. In the dining room he found me and my mother sat the ends of the long dining table, with the German officers down the sides.
What are they doing here, they are our prisoners?
We all stared at him in amazement. What a pillock!
My father’s contribution to the market garden, was growing tobacco and mushrooms. The tobacco leafs grew well, were dried. It was the night Gandhi died, my father had rolled his first cigar he rammed a steel knitting needle down it, trying to get it to draw (it never did), while this was happening, the announcement about Gandhi was made on the wireless. A few days later, I was fascinated by the pictures in the press of Gandhi’s funeral pyre. I tried to create my own using a very dead rabbit, very smelly.
His mushroom business, literally collapsed. He grew them in the loft above the stables. The weight of the mushrooms when grown, was too much and the floor collapsed.
Food rationing was in force but we ate well, having fruit and veg from the garden, pigs, various forms of poultry, rabbits. No sweets but loads of sugar to make them, as we had an extra allowance for our eight beehives, only one was actually inhabited by bees.
I had my second psychic experience when in Wiltshire, I was walking down the road with two friends, when a hearse passed us. I informed them that my grandfather was in the box. He was and I didn’t even know he was ill, weird.
Him and my grandmother were occupying one of the flats at the time. We had mutual hate for one another. When he died I inherited the extra strong peppermints he left behind. Later when I went ‘off to sea’, I was given the caul he carried when he was at sea. It is a sailors tradition that if you carried one, you will never drown. He was given it by his fishing friend Winston Churchill, the caul was reported to be his own. I believe he was serving on the naval vessel Churchill used for accommodation during Yalta conference. People said I looked like Winston, judge for yourself.
I only inherited two things from my father, the love of motorcycles (he used to race Norton 500’s before war) and Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. He had a good selection of racing trophies and I saw photos of him and my mother in G&S costumes. Police sergeant The pirates and Private Willis, a yeoman of the guard, Iolanthe. I guess he sung bass, although I never did hear him sing and he never heard me, not even on a record as far as I am aware, I guess he could have done while I was away at school, but no comment was made.
1947 very cold, lots of snow, skiing to get food, 1949 very hot, we had lots of sun.
I was given a cat, my sister was given a cocker spaniel, off-spring of my mother’s spaniel, six puppies I was not allowed one, I sulked for days.
Goose dripping on toast, one of my favour foods, not much choice in those days.
My first girlfriend, broken up by my father as she was a daughter of an air-craftsman. Pillock, my Father not the air-craftsman. She had great pigtails
Kicking a ball around, When asked by my mother where I got it from, I replied Taylor (the gardener). Asking him about it, she was informed that it was the recently killed pigs bladder.
Mary the maid, she was in charge of me most of the time.