Page 46 – 47 / 1941 – 42
Left Hand Page
‘My Greatest Thrill’ by ‘A Pilot’.
MY GREATEST THRILL. By a Pilot.
Contrary to general belief, a pilot’s first solo flight does not, as a rule, give him his greatest thrill.
Before going ‘solo’ I had been made to do landing after landing with my patient instructor sitting behind me watching every movement. No pupil in the Royal Air Force is sent on his first ‘solo’ until both he and his instruction are perfectly confident. So it is that the R.A.F pupil does more hours of ‘dual’ than his civilian brother.
At last the great day arrived when my instructor stepped out of the aircraft and told me to go ‘solo’. At first there was that certain empty feling [sp] within me. This time there was no one to correct my errors and no one to encourage me. I was entirely alone. But when I had landed successfully I wondered why there should have been any doubt.
How thrilled I was when I first flew a large twin-engined bomber! It seemed strange how obediently the aircraft answered to the slightest movement of my hands. It was all so eeries as she ‘banked’ in a gentle turn while I, a mole-like form crouched inside the roomy cockpit, could see one wing tip towering above while the other seemed hundreds of feet below.
Then I was sent up on my first flight at night. How could I was, but all below was strange and wonderful. In spite of the roar of the engines, the world was so silent and distant. The myriads of twinkling lights seemed like fairyland, but it was with some relief that my wheels touched the ground with safety.
To be shot into the air by a giant catapult which is fired by means of an explosive, hurling aircraft into space at 60 m.p.h. in a distance of 30 yards sounds pretty frightening. Before ‘taking off’ I was told to hold all my muscles rigid in order to withstand the shock. This only intensified my anxiety. The flag was dropped and the next moment I was hurled into the air. It seemed terrifying at first, but was not nearly so bad as it appeared.
Those who have had to land on aircraft carriers probably experience great thrill during training. Everybody feels a little anxious before their first landing, know that the margin of safety is far less than landing on an aerodrome. From the air the ship appears so small that it seems impossible that one could land without going over the side.
Finally there is landing on an aircraft carrier at night. At first it seemed fantastic. If the truth were told, every pilot before going up to do such a landing for the first time would admit to being genuinely anxious. I was and I longed for something to happen to prevent me from flying. It all seemed so impossible as I looked down into the utter darkness.
So dark was it that I was unable to distinguish sea from sky. All I could see were two thin rows of lights. Between these I had to land. Others had done it so why shouldn’t I?
My greatest thrill was as the deck suddenly loomed before me and I landed safe and sound.
[Scribbled notes about margins]
Right Hand Page
‘Endurance’ by Hank F Quin. Evening Standard Correspondent. Includes personal account of the Battle of Kranji (second day of the Battle of Singapore, 9th February), on a race course near Bukit Timah Road.
The Story of how an Infantry Sub. won the M.C.
by Hank .F. Quin, ‘Evening Standard’ War Correspondent.
The Infantry Sub. looked at his watch. It seemed impossible that they had only been fighting two hours, and now already he and his men were virtually prisoners or worse.
Two hours ago his battalion had advanced to attack the Japanese troops, who, after three days fighting at Singapore, had arrived in front of the race course on the right of the Bukit Timah Road, and the scene of much Bloody fighting.
Half way through the attack his Company, B Company, had been split in two, his platoon and Coy H.Q being sent over to the extreme right of the Battalion line. The first objective, two hills which laid directly in the line of advance, had been made and they were having a breather on the right hand side of their hill, when every kind of hell opened up on them from all sides.
Medium matching guns cunningly concealed in the high ground to their right and rear enfiladed the Battalions [sp] positions. Other posts concealed in the village, through which they had just passed, opened fire taking the troops in the rear and to add to the confusion a small party of Japanese armed with Tommy guns opened up from their tree lairs on the top of a hill.
Ten men were killed and five wounded in as many seconds before the surprised troops could open out and take cover. The Infantry Sub. crawled up the hill with a hand grenade and tried to locate the Tommy gun merchants without success.
Meanwhile the Battalion was being attacked by the concealed enemy troops from every conceivable direction and was for the most part pinned to the ground. Some of the troops managed to break away and concentrated in the low ground behind the hills for an attack on the village, which however, was unsuccessful. After this effort to stabilise the situation, the Commanding Officer ordered a general withdrawal, which was, for the most part, carried out successfully.
The Infantry Sub. knew nothing of these things. His platoon was some distance from his Coy H.Q. and the second in command of the Coy, and as yet he did not even know their fate. He could not move because of the closeness of the Japanese and was forced to feign death and make his men lie as dead men among their own dead comrades.
The closeness of the Japanese troops forced them to remain in this unfortunate position until nightfall, when the Infantry Sub. received a message from the second in command of the Coy that all Coy H.Q. had been killed in the first encounter except himself, who was wounded, one other wounded man and one other man unwounded. The message went on to say that he and his two survivors would try to get away in about half an hours [sp] time.
The sounds of the battle had in the meantime died away in the distance, as our troops drew steadily back by the overwhelming force of the Japanese troops and their complete air superiority had fall [sp] back to the line of the race course. With the fall of darkness the Sub. was able to crawl about and take stock of things.
He found that three of his five wounded were dying and he bandaged their wounds making them as comfortable as possible. The other two men were not badly hit and had managed to attend to themselves. From their position on the side of the hill he was able to see that Japanese troops had taken up full occupation of the area. Troops and transport were moving along the track running below the slopes of the hill and the enemy appeared to have established their H.Q. in the village where their troops had first been hiding.
Down in the dip where the village lay small fires were being kindled and he could clearly hear the Japanese talking as they sat taking round their fires. A mortar position was established on the reverse slopes of the hill to where the sub. And his party lay and soon they could hear the officer in charge giving out orders as the mortars opened up, their bombs whistling around on deadly mission.
As the evening wore on into night the British artillery ranging on the area where the party lay put down a steady barrage for nearly nine hours. Though no one was hit, the constant whistle and whine of the shells as they came over to bury. Themselves in the found with a crump racked and tore at the nerves of the still and listening men.
Dawn broke and with the coming of day came also the deadly.