A Little Light Relief
Parents have a tendency to worry about their offspring and particularly if they are involved in operational flying so letters home were often intended to pacify them. However, young men full of testosterone often find recreations that are as likely to be somewhat boisterous. When two squadrons in forced inactivity become competitive those recreations can become progressively more warlike. A letter home:-
The trophy was a magnificently mounted wooden dumbbell that was ceremoniously presented to any pilot guilty of notably crass flying. It remained in his name until another pilot was stupid enough to earn it. I have no idea of how or where it ended it's life. The kidnap succeeded solely because of the element of surprise. I had come in through the door at the back of the mess and all attention was on our 15cwt truck. They probably thought that we were about to return the dumbbell. It was fortunate that although most of the chaps who had piled out of the mess had a drink in their hands there was one in the very front, about my size who had his hands in his pockets. I put my arms around him, trapping his hands in his pockets and rendering him helpless.
They had left me to keep him quiet during the inevitable counter attack. Saying that he was 'my baby'. He was no wrestler and I had him in a neck lock. Our camp was virtually empty. The O.C. and the others were no match for the three truckloads that had arrived bent on vengeance. As soon as the 'attackers' had gone into the darkness they created a hullabaloo in their rear. Since they felt ambushed they rushed back to their vehicles and so back to their own camp for the night. The letter continues:-
The whole thing was planned with precision. "Our" Indians were perfectly dressed as bearers. They went into the bearers quarters just before dinner and explained that there was a special guest that night and for that night only his servants were to serve. Just outside the door to the mess was a master switch that held all of the fuses etc: for that part of the building. We were waiting in the shadows with the 'get away' lorry. Since we had heard that their O.C. was not in that night a similar story was given to the diners. There was a heart stopping moment when the 'bearer' who was standing by the light switch was spoken to by an officer who was just entering. We could not hear the words but there was a raised voice and a pointed finger.
The 'bearer' bowed low, placed his palms together and vanished in the indicated direction, only to return to his place. It was plain that things were not going well with the new bearers. They seemed so clumsy with the soup etc: When complaints were becoming unbearable the code "Pani Sahib?" (Water Sir?) was given. As soon as the 'head bearer' picked up a water jug the others did the same and as one man they drenched the unfortunate diners, the lights went out, the bearers tipped over the trestle tables and escaped through the open door to the lorry.
The letter mentions shots being fired. When that happened we knew that something must have gone wrong. To some members of the other squadron it seemed that they were facing a revolt by the bearers and several of them drew their revolvers and fired into the night. The plan had been to tip over all of the beds in the sleeping quarters etc: etc: but there was no way of telling our members detailed not to carry this out. They had started as soon as the lights in the mess went out some distance away. In the following confusion trucks were careering all over the countryside and this is when the pig was killed. There were few trucks following us because we had taken the liberty of removing the rotor arms. These had been placed in a sack with a large label "ROTOR ARMS" that was left in the mess.
We gathered at the appointed spot and held a council of war, deciding that our first object would be to recover the pig. We found it and chucked it into the back of a lorry. In the back of that lorry was F/O Dogar, a devout Muslim and a damned good type. I just caught a glimpse of the fear in his eyes as he cowered back afraid that he might be spattered by the blood. The pig was soon to give birth. It was a horrible moment. We went back to our mess and changed lorries.
Things had not gone exactly to plan. We felt that their O.C. had not made plain to all of his staff that he had declared "open season" and agreed to go back and explain. As mentioned in the letter home they let in a few officers, slammed the door and started to beat them up. I and one other officer climbed through an open window to shorten the odds and there was much 'rough housing' before peace was declared. No broken bones but it was a near miracle that no one was shot. Nevertheless we felt that they were unfairly punished. True, they seemed to have been poor sports but we felt that the ultimate blame lay elsewhere.
This degree of hooliganism was not common but when young men have been bound by tribal loyalties and have time on their hands it is bound to break out. One only has to watch a Rugby match where thirty men have been all but killing one another for an hour and a half shake hands at the end to understand; at least, a little. The chap whom I nearly strangled met me in a bar a few days later. He bought me a drink and I apologised for being so rough on him, he answered "You had to, I'd have done the same thing'. 'Just watch your back that's all". He was a good type. Never saw him again.
We played hard and often drank too much but I would not take a drink at all if I knew that I was down for ops or a long flight the following day and there were many with the same philosophy. It was just not worth it. Sneh did not drink at all! Neither did I when we were together and it is interesting to note that when I returned from leave there could be quite a time before I joined in.
Next: - Ops
Previous: - A Jungle Day
Edward Sparkes ©1998-2002