the tanker was safely in tow we set course for base and again
passed over the Mississippi running through the middle of a vast
expanse of green swamp land.
And so in four days we put in over 30 hours of operational flying
and on the whole made a good job of it as a crew, all of whom
had a turn at each of the four duties. Since then we have rested
while our classmates have begun their flights none of which have
been so exciting as ours. Our Navy pilot on all our flights was
Lieut Jester who was great - always calm and he accepted our
courses without question. The Catalina flying boats are perhaps
too slow for operational flying but ideal for their present task
where they carry two pilots, eight student navigators, two radio
operators, two ordnance men and a mechanic. They carry four guns
which we have to man if necessary and there are four bunks for
occasional rest periods in rotation but the food was poor !
I mentioned earlier that we were all very tired on Sunday morning
and it is not surprising as five of our team went to Panama City
along the Florida coast to meet Charles Hollins with some of
his classmates at the training field in Bothan. We hired a car
to drive the 103 miles mostly along a straight road with pure
white sand on either side so that we seemed to be travelling
through a desert. It was good to share experiences with our ex
classmates who had succeeded in getting past the elementary stage
of pilot training and ten of us sat for hours in talk so that
we only got back to Pensacola at breakfast time on Sunday. This
meant that we had a long day in the air after a sleepless night.
The most interesting and sad story which Charles told was that
ten of our classmates at Darr Aero Tech had been killed in flying
accidents and he was sure that all of them were border line cases
as pilots in that they had only just passed the elementary training.
I now realise that my elimination from pilot training has probably
saved my life and possibly the lives of others who might have
been in my crew.
No special news from home lately but I am very anxious to get
back and surely our departure from Pensacola must come soon.
3 June 1942.
I only had one more flight at Pensacola which brought my total
flying hours there to 41 and a half. On this final trip we saw
a tanker ablaze with decks awash with oil and smoke for miles
around - we circled for some time and saw rafts and lifeboats
but no sign of life. The submarines are doing a lot of damage
in the Gulf.
Our final exams in Navigation and Gunnery were very stiff and
we expected to leave Pensacola on May 23 but to our delight we
were given seven days leave from Thursday May 21 until
the following Thursday. With Alec and Dennis I had a marvellous
time in Auburn where Louise and Monk Wright entertained us royally
but it all came to an end with a somewhat emotional farewell
to them and to other friends in Auburn.
On the Wednesday afternoon Louise drove us to Montgomery for
the 8 o'clock bus to Pensacola; this involved a few hours at
Mobile in the middle of the night and we eventually got into
the base just in time to shower and change before our interviews.
The three officers who conducted the interviews were very searching
in their questions to all 37 in the class; later in the day it
was announced that four had been selected for transfer to Ferry
Command in Montreal - McIwaine, Evans, Barras and myself. Naturally
I felt very elated at the news, not only for the chance to fly
home, but because it seemed to be a sort of atonement for failing
as a pilot.