Sneh seemed to be far happier now that she 'had seen off' any girl friend but I resented the intrusion. Not that I wanted any other woman but that she had inserted herself between me and several good friends. I realised that this was partly her feeling of insecurity. Before, when I had joined an operational squadron she had felt that I was virtually committing suicide and that she would lose me. Now that the war was so obviously coming to an end our future was even more uncertain. This resulted in the most blinding rows which could erupt without warning and for no apparent reason. Previously I had given in to her but now I tried to trace the reason for her accusations which usually lead to her realising that there were no valid reasons.
I found all this very difficult and unsettling and although each little reconciliation seemed complete, there was, within me, a feeling that some unseen thing was wearing thin. I was fully aware that I was jaded and tired but was still carried along by our complete mutual infatuation. It gave me a strength that I could hardly support. The one thing that eased the situation was the upcoming concert and the professional that she was, she was in her element. It had all started as a squadron concert such as we had produced in the jungle but as soon as she became involved the lads were happy to leave it to her. She just naturally took over and the bunch of amateurs as one man followed like happy sheep. Some how she had wangled the co-operation of the All India Radio orchestra to be there on the night. They offered their services completely voluntarily.
I was treading a very thin line with squadron duties and was most anxious not to raise any dust. The C.O. realised as well as I that my posting from the squadron could come at any time. I was treated as supernumerary to the strength. In any case he was quite enthralled by Sneh and came to dinner as often as could be arranged. I had, for some time, been wondering why I was still a P/O and contacted my father who had received a letter dated the previous September (30/Sept 1944) to the effect that I had been a F/O (Flying Officer) since just after I arrived in India! Also I was promoted to F/Lt within a day or so of my "Arrest". So, for some reason unknown to me I had been acting as a rank below my true one for almost two years!
This hardly improved my already pallid view of life in the services. I had given dedicated service to my duties as a pilot but I must always have been a bit of a maverick as far as my superior officers were concerned although, with one exception, I was on the best of terms with them. No matter how much 'scrambled egg' decorated that cap I never accorded more respect than I would to the lowest 'erk'. This horrified my fellow officers but often led to conversations that were completely frank and open.
I had, at last, an aircraft to myself. I had shared "B" with P/o Jimmie Milne, a happy go lucky lad who had just been commissioned. Strange life, when I was flying her she was all mine. We were on different flights and although we seldom met when on ops we were both very proud of her and 'our' fitter and rigger. Now, my very own Spitfire had no letter, just a number. I wanted to call her Omega and use the Greek letter but the wish remained just that. A wish. She never had a letter.
Then it happened, as the following letter reports:-
This was from the heart and from a world where atomic warfare seemed remote. The crushing realisation of human vulnerability was, for the first time, palpable. There was a strange atmosphere of the world being in limbo for just over a week. We knew our enemy very well and it seemed likely that they would fight to the last man. Surrender was inconceivable to the Japanese psyche so we carried on wondering how this new weapon would affect the war.
We were in bed and asleep when something struck the window. I climbed out of bed and looked out. In the pool of light round the street lamp were a few friends led by "Slim" Suri. "It's all over Sparkie!" Strangely, there was no feeling of elation. Those at home in England were getting used to peace. We, as always, did not seem to matter. We were used to it; The Forgotten Army. The Forgotten War. "You organising a pissup?" "Nah! What's the use.' 'We are just going to get some sleep." I thanked them for troubling to come out to tell us and they drifted off.
The following day I went to flights and sat in W for Omega for some time before taking off. I chucked her all over the sky; after climbing to some 25,00ft I went through all of the manoeuvres that I could think of short of pulling the wings off when that tightness under my helmet reminded me that I had better get down. Eyes on the port wing root as I brought her in to line up on the runway, bring the wings level. A little flashy but comfortable, I hardly felt the touchdown. Suddenly a "Bang!" and a jerk to port. "You're not going to ground loop on me you little bitch." Hard starb'd rudder and almost up to the gate with the throttle! She didn't like it and I didn't care. My right eye was almost closed. She looked demure but wounded with the remains of her port tyre wrapped round the rim, port wing down, just off the runway. The war had ended yesterday and she tried to tame me. I had never ground looped any plane but came pretty close to it that time.
The 15cwt truck picked me up and took me straight to the M.O. Once my helmet was off, my forehead which had been contained by the pressure looked normal for a few moments, and then I felt it bulge out to match my cheeks and it became so swollen that I could only just see. The M.O. was most sympathetic. The injection of adrenalin had no effect. "You know what this means Sparkie?" I knew alright. I was grounded.
Letter home. 23/VIII/45
When we parted on the station as she returned to Poona, we had no idea where the future lay. The day after that, waving until the small white clad figure vanished round a curve in the line I was told that I was to be posted to Worli (Bombay/Mumbai) and invalided back to England. So I would be back to Sneh again before going to England. Another officer and I had to hand in all of our "Jungle Kit" before leaving the squadron. He had always played the "Burrah Sahib" and was racially prejudiced to the point of hatred. He paid!
I must admit that there was no one more infuriating than an Indian clerk when 'power' rushed to his head. It was though the centuries under British rule must finally be reckoned with. Every single item was carefully examined (we had never expected to account for fishhooks, needle and thread and so on ad infinitum). The poor chap (actually he really deserved it) became more and more furious as every missing item was priced with great deliberation and delay. I did not feel in the least bit sorry for him even when my documents were filled in on the nod.
Sad, but it was with such ignoble thoughts that I left Number 10 Squadron Royal Indian Airforce.
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Edward Sparkes ©1998-2002