#5 British Flying Training School

Clewiston, Florida

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The Ninth Edition

Here is an article published in the 25th December Xmas issue of the Embry-Riddle newsletter "Fly Paper".

It gives us some idea of what it was like to travel to Florida in 1942.

The original page images can be seen by clicking the page numbers below. The text has been reproduced below to improve readability.

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It all started on a misty May morning so long ago. We chugged fussily along-side our towering ship as the Lilliputians must have approached their Gulliver.

Two schools of thought arose among the prophets of Leviathan's behaviour - one held that it would pitch more than it would roll; the other, that it would roll more than it would pitch. Both were right. When we were not communing with the ocean, we peeled potatoes, swept the bridge and put our all in a nefarious game called "Crown and Anchor", which operated under the auspices of the Indigent Merchant Seamen's fund.

After a brief but horrible voyage in the large but horrible ship, we reached our brave new world, armed with a sympathy for the Prophet Jonah, a now famous little booklet entitled "Notes For Your Guidance", and a set of Hollywood-conditioned ideas about America and Americans. We expected slouch-hat gangsters, rug-cutting hep-cats, and gum-chewing reporters, but found neither Ariel nor Caliban upon our Setebos. It was peopled by a race eminently similar to our own-they even spoke the same language. Almost.

Then came the salad days of Moncton. We gloried in the unblackout, the food, and the friendliness. We were informed that our ultimate destination was a place called Clewiston in Florida or Texas or somewhere, which seemed to be full of swamps and alligators. It was, said our informants, "all right", and further questioning was frozen by a Gioconda smile that might have implied anything.

We came south via New York, and our few hours there passed in as many minutes. The rest of the time was spent in an alleged railway carriage - "Chevaux 6, Hommes 53"; but there were no horses - the N.S.P.C.A. had seen to that.

Eventually, on a Friday morning in June, we reached Riddle Field. In that memorable first week, we met the canteen, Commander Brink, and the swimming pool. We encountered the Grind School, Sergeant Henley and the mosquitoes. In the second, we found that P.T.s loop quite marvellously - on the ground. And so it went on.

It is difficult, in the perfection of Florida's winter to picture what we were then - the morning temperature ranging from 109 to 110 in the shade (not that there was any shade in these sweltering Juke Field days) and the slumberous quiet of Ground School in the afternoons, marred only by the uneasy voice of Mr. Gowilshaw proclaiming navigation to an unresponsive congregation and Mr. Robinson's buzzer emitting a vague whirring noise which served as the (inappropriate) back- ground to our daydreams.

In the months that followed, we trod the ways of our predecessors and life was its usual compound of high comedy and low, chilled by occasional tragedy.

But it is the pleasant things that live, and a thousand memories crowd upon each other's heels out of the limbo of these last months - of the buoyant warmth of the Atlantic thundering into the lazy beaches, of Miami's mother-of-pearl skyline at twilight, of the Deauville on Saturday night and of Clewiston almost any other night, and - this above all - numberless friendships with the most varied and generous people in the world.

And now, on the stroke of twelve, we are sorry to make an end. True, we have often sighed for the meadows of England shining after rain and for the lowlands and the highlands and the unforgotten islands; and homecoming with wings will have its peculiar delights - but we have many regrets in leaving such a country and such a people.

Perhaps the greatest is that for all you have given us, we can only offer in return, inadequately but sincerely, our thanks.