- Contributed by
- Simon Kind
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 14 November 2004
That night we went on a cross-country flight. Five hours criss-crossing England and Wales was the pattern and, with an excellent navigator, all went well until we reached a turning point over the mountains of North Wales. I looked at my watch, switched on the intercom, and spoke. "Navigator to Pilot, prepare to change course to oh-niner-oh compass."
Acknowledgement came there none.
I repeated myself. "Navigator to Pilot, prepare to change course to oh-niner-oh compass. Acknowledge please." Not a smell, not a hiccup, not a whisper. Had it not been for the racket made by two thumping great radial engines, without silencers, it might well have been the silence of a sleeping barrack room.
"Probably his intercom plug is out Stu" came the voice of Wal, the bomb aimer. "Go and see." Unbuckleling myself and extracting my legs from beneath the chart table I edged forward and grabbed hold of the pilot's seat to steady myself. My God, he looked awful. Pale complexion, staring eyes and the sweat standing out on his face like globules of freshly boiled tapioca. It was obvious. The one and only pilot on board was suffering from oxygen lack.
I grabbed an oxygen bottle from the nearest stowage and held it up before the skipper's eyes. He pushed it aside and continued to stare ahead like a zombie. My problem of what to do next was suddenly solved for me as the skipper put the aircraft into a steep dive. I flew through the air and comprehensively bashed all protruding parts of my body against each and every one of the carefully designed knobs, hubs, protrusions, lumps and prominences to be found inside the front end of a Wellington, and believe me, there are many.
I tried to get up and couldn't because some mysterious force called G was holding me down, in a foetal position, somewhere in the vicinity of the main spar. I could hear nothing of the exchanges of the crew on the intercom, because, after nearly throttling myself on the intercom lead, the plug had happily detached itself from the socket. It was obvious that fate had not meant me to die by strangulation, but simply by smearing me over the slopes of Snowdon.
At last I untangled myself and dragged myself forward on hands and knees. The pressure in my ears told me that we were still diving as I once more reached the pilot's seat and dragged myself vertical. I reached forward to lift the flap of the skipper's helmet so I could shout in his ear when, whoosh, he pulled the stick back hard into his belly and deposited me back once more near the main spar.
Dear reader, I do not wish to prolong the suspense. After the tumult and the shouting died we had a tranquil flight back to base. I'm still alive and very near to separating the Chancellor of the Exchequer from my Old Age Pension. "What was it all about." You may very well ask, and I may well tell you. This is what happened.
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