A Day Out for the Boys- Old Warden and other things, Part 2

This week’s guest post is from my cousin Sean Mendis.

The story will unfold in three parts- here is the second part.

Our first stop was the RFC camp and field dressing station where everyone had dressed up in their army fatigues, and hobnail boots just for the weekend. Fearsome infantry weapons were on display causing my fevered imagination to go into overdrive. “Sir! Your helmet and entrenching tool are enormous!” “Never mind your ankle puttees Graves, just feel the width of my bayonet.”  “Would you like a Satsuma sir, before I drop down and give you twenty?”

Then there was the re-enactment of a WW1 dogfight and the exchange between an RFC pilot and his rear gunner.

“Did you get the Kraut?

“Yes saar”.

“Did you see him smoke”?

“Yes saar, and some flames too”.

“Good show Douglas, very well done, so we’ve bagged a flamer after all”!

Further up the field, pleasure flights in vintage aircraft were on offer. This was an opportunity not to be missed and very soon we were shoe-horned on board the tiny cabin of a De Haviland Dragon Rapide biplane. The pilot was a chunky untidy chap who wore an eight o’clock shadow.  I felt he needed a touch of the cold steel and the badger.  He fired up the Dragon Rapide’s ancient Gypsy Major engines, which popped and crackled, before bursting into life and then settling into a heavy, steady thrum.  The whole airframe shuddered in sympathy and I hoped like hell that the glue holding the tiny two by one cross members making up most of the cabin structure would hold.  The pilot had to wait for a landing Tiger Moth before he had the all clear.  I had a good vantage point just behind and to the right of the pilot.  He gently eased the throttle forward and the elevators back.  It took a while for the tail to lift and soon the aircraft was on rotation point waiting for a bump or a slight gust to make the step from ground to air.  At this point the pilot gave quite a hefty tug on the control yoke and we eased upward.  It felt and looked like he was driving an old Route Master bus.  After a gentle climb out towards the South, the pilot levelled out at about 2000 feet and throttled back to 1900RPM.  It must have been the cruising speed and I could now see the silvery shadow of the whirring props.  My seat was directly in line with them and I found this slightly unsettling. It was probably the memory of a detached propeller slicing through the cabin, in the re-make of ‘The flight of the Phoenix’, that came to mind.  I could see the headlines: Degenerate civil servant dies in a freak prop accident.

Stay tuned next week for part three…

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