Madness

I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone at one time or another displayed a tendency to madness. Neat though, all grist for the mill. I remember when I was a young lad only a few years after World War II, I went on a bicycle ride with my friends. We loved to visit the airfields in our area, of which there were many. On this occasion we visited the aerodrome of Feltwell in Norfolk. There were three airfields within a five-mile radius, but this one was deserted.
Little did we know that Methwold, which was only a couple of miles away was still active in air training. Oblivious to the danger we cycled down the middle of Feltwell runway. Suddenly a red flare lit up the sky only a short distance ahead of us. It was then we heard the roar of aircraft engines. Five Harvard trainers were about to land on top of us. One passed over my head so close I felt the prop-wash. There again we were only children.
Many years later I was in the Royal Air Force working in air traffic control. The controller come over the squawk box that the Decca (Radar) was out. I quickly checked and sure enough there was a problem, but it appeared to be at the head, which was the other side of the runway.
“Go take a look at the Decca head,” I told airman ‘H’.
He nonchalantly wandered off and I thought nothing more of it. That’s when the panic ensued. The idiot walked unconcernedly across the live runway while a transport plane was making a landing. All but for the grace of God he might have been killed. I got the rocket because the idiot was under my charge.
The same idiot, who will still remain nameless, let me down on another occasion. The chief air traffic controller came into the radio room and appeared somewhat annoyed. “What happened to the Eureka beacon,” he snapped in a non-too friendly tone of voice.
I had no idea there was a problem with the Eureka (Identification beacon) and commenced to examine the logbook. The controller was annoyed that no one answered his question. “The Eureka, Eureka, Eureka,” he bellowed.
Airman ‘H’ grinned and replied, “You don’t smell so good yourself.”
Another time we needed a radar mechanic on the marine craft unit where I worked. A volunteer turned up. We took him out on the tender to the TTL which was anchored out in the Straights of Johore. Boarding the TTL in a light swell was second nature to us.
“Just wait for the wave to lift us up,” we told the volunteer. “Only step off when she rises, okay?”
“Sure,” he replied with confidence and stepped out into midair on the down stroke. That was only the least of his madness, the idiot could not swim.

Dragon of Hope Island

Firstly I would like to say that there is no such place as Hope Island, at least not in the Banda Sea. Many years ago I was on pirate patrol in the South China Sea in a hundred and fifty ton twin engine TTL, when suddenly on this particular occasion I spotted a fairly fast moving object on the radar crossing our bow at about 18 kilometres ahead. I told the skipper there was something suspicious at the relevant location.
Full throttle and we steered at high speed toward the blip. Before we made visual contact, as was the case with most pirates their speed suddenly decreased. They would pretend to be harmless traders or fishing. The lookout visually spotted them – sure enough it looked like a harmless Junk, probably an island trader. But the radar had told me these boys were doing 16 knots, something no Junk could achieve.
The skipper ordered a shot across their bow to attract their attention. No sooner had we opened fire than a cloud of diesel fumes rose from the Junk and she accelerated to almost 18 knots and headed for a nearby island.
In seconds we heard the scream of incoming mortars – their accuracy was pretty good and the shells landed only a hundred metres off our port bow. We returned fire with a twin 50-calibre machinegun. Unfortunately the pirates knew the waters better then we did, our skipper veered off the attack. The water was far too shallow for us to follow. We stayed out of the enemy’s mortar range and called the Royal Navy for help while keeping an eye on the pirates.
A few hours later a Royal Navy Corvette turned up, she carried six-inch guns with at least ten nautical mile range. The RN Skipper said he’d chase them out with a few heavy-duty rounds. The big gun turned to face the island, and ‘BANG’ a huge shell screamed toward the shore. With an amazing shower of dirt, sand and splintered wood the pirate ship exploded and vanished from sight.
“Sorry old man,” called the RN Skipper over the radio. ” A little too close.” And they sailed away.
The island though probably not inhabited inspired me to write the story of ‘The Dragon of Hope Island.’ My thinking being that those pirates saw the place as their only HOPE of escaping our fast boat.

Blood and the other stuff

When I was a young lad I was terrified of dead things. Once the schoolmaster brought a dead baby pig to school. I fled from the class shrieking with fear. Some years later I had a real and terrifying experience. I was playing with my cousin on the beach when a fisherman brought his boat in and beached it. My cousin, a year older than me ran off but I stood and watched. The three occupants of the boat off loaded a net with what I thought was the day’s catch still in it. It was in fact the body of a littler girl who had become lost at sea several days earlier. She looked so horrible – all swollen and discoloured, I was frozen on the spot by the horrific sight. When the men put the net down on the sand the girl’s body burst and millions of shrimp gushed out. Since then I have had a strong aversion to seafood.
Later I joined the St John’s Ambulance Brigade and there I learned to tolerate imitation blood. We did exercises where makeup experts made people look like they had been in a terrible accident. Very realistic, but being fake it had no effect on me. Later I joined the Royal Air Force where I had to undergo a hardening course. Not all that different from the St John’s. One not so nice aspect of it was we had to spend a day in a mortuary helping the professional staff. I guess it must have worked, and I thank my lucky stars that it did. On my very first manoeuvre – that’s playing soldiers usually at night. My friend was accidentally shot in the face with a 303 rifle. It was exactly like the St John’s, blood everywhere and lots of screaming. Some of the tough guys fainted. Somehow I managed to control myself and act near to normal. The shaking and sickness came afterwards. I was posted to an operational station where I lived out and rode to work on a motorcycle. One very early morning I noticed a small sports car propped up against the railway gates. (The gateway to a rail yard.) I stopped the bike got off and investigated. Fortunately I had been on a hardening course for there before me sat a dead woman. Somehow in the accident she had sliced her throat on the broken front window. There was blood everywhere. My worst experiences, I cannot bring myself to write about, but when I write a story these horrible images come flooding back.