June 22, 1939
How is work on the road going these days? Does it look like a big year again?
Strange and I took aeroplanes down to Cairo to see F/O Garlick who had been operated on for appendicitis at the Citadel Military Hospital.
When we arrived over Cairo we did a little detour to circle over the great pyramids of Gizeh and the sphinx before landing at the huge aerodrome of Heliopolis.
The Officers Mess is two miles from the landing ground, but an officer drove us down in a Buick.
The hospitality out east is something terrific and we had quite a few beers forced on us before lunch.
Group Captain Collishaw (Canadian War Ace 60 machines) has been promoted to Air Commodore and is there no longer - I met him last year.
While having lunch a servant came in and said the C.O. (Group Capt. Woods I believe) had placed his car at our disposal for the afternoon - (This was too much!) Cairo was exceedingly hot, but our khaki uniforms are really cool.
So after lunch we got our hats and stepped out to a huge blue limousine with small letters R.A.F. written in lower right hand corner of windshield and driven by an airman.
Real style along the 10-mile trip through the city to hospital. One thing I must say is that the R.A.F. go in for real cars.
Cairo is really a fascinating sight with pyramids and mosques. Tremendous wealth and utter poverty side by side.
Back at Heliopolis at 4 we had tea and went back to the aerodrome. On the way we saw the Misr Airliner take off for Dekheila. Stepping into our posh jobs we were strapped in by mechanics.
We don't need chokes - just put on the brakes and button B and the engine starts just like a car.
To cut it short, we were out of our machines at Dekheila, lit up our pipes and strolling over to the marquee when the Misr air liner arrived.
Can you think of a more interesting job? If so, let me know!
I meet quite a few young Egyptians. They are quite well educated (the ones I have met) and all speak Arabic, French and English equally easily. English is spoken naturally for the benefit of the English, but French is more generally understood by other Europeans such as the Greeks, Italians and Germans, as well as the Balkan countries. Alexandria is of course very cosmopolitan, having huge colonies of foreigners.
Business representatives in Egypt receive very high salaries, but this necessary because to do business out here one must belong to one or more expensive clubs, take an interest in golf - also another necessity is to have a cottage with spare bedrooms on the beach at Agami. Polo is also played a great deal.
Most firms, like Shell Oil, supply all these to their agents. They are always asking one to come out on Sunday to their cottages - fix you up completely. They never allow you to buy a drink. (The firm must also get an entertainment bill.)
I had an argument with the young Egyptian agent for Misr Airworks here at Dekheila last night about the relative merits of having Italians instead of English in Egypt. Didn't make any difference to him - said his children would by Italians - so what! - He doesn't like spaghetti however.
You know you really are lucky to have such a nice occupation - 6 months holidays a year - there's not many as well off.
Of course I am having a very happy time now - living in theoretical luxury with every advantage except that I live in foreign lands and have no home. (Poor thing) - I am afraid you wouldn't recognize your dark cousin from the south.
Soderholm, my Canuck friend from Amman, could hardly recognize me. I weight about 30-35 lbs. more and certainly have filled out a lot more than I was in Calgary. I certainly feel sorry for anyone out of a job. It feels great waking up in the morning and knowing you have a useful job to perform.
To show you how pleasant and informal it really is here for us (the officers).
Troops get up at 6 and are down at 6:30 on the tarmac doing their daily inspections on aircraft. We, of course, stroll down about 7 and take an interest in what is going on and make suggested changes in the rigging, etc. We have quite a lot of able seamen who do nothing but polish so our squadron is absolutely spotless.
Breakfast at 8 to 9. At 9 we go over to the office and the C.O. and flight commanders work out a program (if there are no fleet requirements). Quite often the C. in C. wants the squadron to do dummy machine gun attacks on his destroyers, etc.
But on an average morning we go off by ourselves in threes doing formation flying or machine gun (camera) air fighting. Individual aerobatics or half the squadron goes off and pretends to be an invader who is attempting to bomb the aerodrome from 25,000 feet down, and we try and intercept before they arrive. The ensuing dog fight is terrific - much better fun than pounding a typewriter at a desk.
Afternoons off - lots of leisure time. There are, of course, many squadron ground duties - books, records, forms - masses of red tape - petrol, spare parts, engines, etc., and of course orderly officer duties every week - but on the whole it is very interesting.
If we want to take our aeroplanes away for a weekend it is alright - or even during the week we can visit friends at other stations providing there is not an official program to be got through on that day.
I still get many letters from 41 and C.O. and everyone sends their regards. They have the fastest fighters in the world and certainly are a crack fighter squadron. I often wish I was back. Our top speed is cut down because we have to land on a deck!