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It was late in the afternoon when the dazzling white walls of the town rose up as if by magic from the sea. Gradually a thin green line of cocoanut palms became visible, and then the masts and rigging of dhows and little ships. Soon we could make out the Sultan's Palace, from which the tired "Hunter of the East" was now unwinding his "nose of light. A wonderful scent of cloves, cocoanut, and incense assailed my nostrils as I stood gazing towards the shore; darkness had now fallen, and a hundred twinkling lights were reflected in the softly lapping waters which encircled the town; the dull boom of a distant tom-tom, the weird wailing of a muezzin from the mosque, the musical babble of many voices were borne in perfect harmony through the still warm air, and I began to feel myself sinking into a hypnotic trance.
was informed that I might flying-fish gliding joyously leave for the coast by the even- through the air, the great ing train. The only accommo- blue-backed porpoises gamboldation proved to be the tender ing madly in front of the of the locomotive, the most bows. comfortable regions of which were already occupied by a number of Staff officers and their servants. However, Maganga very optimistically slung my kit (water-bottles, officers, for the use of one, haversacks O.F.U.O. 1) on to the coals, and staggering over a wriggling and cursing heap of humanity I managed to find an unclaimed space on a nigger's leg, and there I settled down for the journey. We left about 11 P.M., by which time there were no less than thirty-six people on board the tender. It was an unspeakable night, but the sight of a very dapper red-tabbed staffmajor trying to sleep, with one leg cocked up at an angle of 90 degs. and his head resting on an iron shovel, made up for many things. At nine in the morning we pulled into the station of Daresalam. Without waiting to explore the town, I rushed round to the Naval Office and obtained permission to embark on a whaler which was leaving immediately for Zanzibar. For once I felt the lack of kit to be a distinct advantage, for I got on board just as the anchor Was weighed.
How good it was to taste the sea air and to feel the coel monsoon playing on one's cheeks; to hear the plaintive ories of the sea-birds; to watch the bright blue waves of the Indian Ocean dancing in the sunlight, the gossamer-winged
"Come on, Flying Corps, the boat's waiting for you!" broke in the gruff hearty voice of the skipper. "Where's your kit ?"
"In my pocket!" I replied with a feeble smile.
The convalescent home, one of the Sultan's numerous expalaces, was magnificent. I spent the time time chiefly in spending money, exploring the bazaars and the old town, sketching, zoologising in the coral reefs, and fishing in a ramshackle old dug-out. On
"Good afternoon, sir!" I ventured.
No answer, but the glare developed into a scowl.
I proceeded to undress, feeling not a little embarrassed. The air seemed charged with electricity. Silently I prayed for the speedy arrival of the nurse, perhaps she would well, introduce us. No nurse arrived, however, and I made the change from shorts into pyjamas with as much dignity as I could muster, feeling all the time like a night-bomber in the glare of the enemy's searchlights.
Umph-Flying Corps, I
The voice gave me such a start that I knocked over the bedside table, and a collection of medicine bottles and glasses orashed on the floor with a fearsome noise.
"Umph- -nerves-how old are you?"
I answered as a trembling slave might answer the questioning of an Eastern Potentate.
Followed a deadly silence of half an hour. Then I happened to notice his cap, bearing the badge of the Royal Naval Air Service. Something must be done to break the tension. Here at any rate was a bond of sympathy. We were airmen. Perhaps if I asked him something about his particular type of machine. . .
"I hear that your seaplanes won't climb, sir!" I said nervously.
I suppose it was a somewhat taotless remark, yet I was hardly prepared for the volcano of wrath which immediately burst forth from the other bed.
"And who the that, you young
landlubber who- !"
I retired under the blankets while the storm blew past. An hour later he spoke again in mnoh softer tones.
"Umph-what's your temperature?"
"One hundred and four, sir!" "Umph-better have this rug of mine!" and with that he came over and tucked me in as gently as a mother would do her babe.
XII. KILWA AND THE TRAGEDY OF CLOWE.
After ten days at the Convalescent Home I left for Daresalam. I crossed in an Arab dhow, an exciting and unforgettable experience. I have never seen such cockroaches in my life. Arriving
at Daresalam, I found that I had to leave on the next boat for Kilwa, and report on the aerodrome then under preparation at that place. At Kilwa Kissiwani, from which the road runs twenty miles northwards
to Kilwa proper, a car was waiting for me, and within an hour I was at the aerodrome. Here I found Osman, a pilot who had only recently been sent out to the Squadron, and who had been placed in charge of the aerodrome construction gang. A very unfortunate site had been chosen, in low swampy ground which promised to become a lake after the first shower of rain. The aeroplanes were wanted too urgently, however, for us to change it at present, and speeding up the niggers we managed to make it safe in a day or two: then wiring to Daresalam that all was ready, we patiently awaited the coming of the machines. The natives were all very excited at the prospect of seeing one of the "big birds" come to roost. They had occasionally seen aircraft of the R.N.A.S. and they knew quite a fair amount about bombs, but they could not quite understand where the human beings fitted in.
The whole populace rushed out of doors when a loud hum announced the approach of the first "ndege." Thousands of eyes were strained eagerly to the sky, and deep gasps of astonishment were heard as the machine descended in a steep spiral, flattened out over the palm-trees, swooped down gently and kissed the ground as daintily as a butterfly alighting on a wisp of grass. It was Carey -Thomas-who was to take command of the Flight. The niggers pressed round and regarded him with awe and wonder written in their faces.
Two other machines were to be expected at intervals of fifteen minutes, and I returned to the aerodrome in time to see the first one land safely. It was Jansen, and there still remained Clowe. A quarter of an hour passed and no sign oame: in half an hour we began to feel worried, for the sun was sinking rapidly-and yet no familiar hum in the sky. We should have had a wire from Daresalam had he returned. When six o'clock struck we knew that he must have come down, for his petrol could only last 3 hours, and we resigned ourselves to the inevitable.
They say that war has made soldiers callous to the horrors of death.
Perhaps this is true, but in a little Flight like ours, one could never really shake off that terrible feeling of despondency when one of the mess was "missing." Although experience had taught us that "missing" usually meant a few days wandering in the bush and a happy return to camp, yet there was always that disturbing sensation of uncertainty; and although at dinner that night we had all the outward appearances of being a moderately cheerful party, I'll guarantee there was not one in whose mind thoughts of our comrade were not uppermost.
Late in the evening, orders came down from General Hoskins, who was now in command of the Kilwa force, that we were to attempt a reconnaissance as soon as possible over Kibata, a military post some forty miles north-west, in which
our infantry at that time were very fascinating about cloud more or less surrounded by a dodging. The way is blocked powerful force of the enemy. by a dense bank of oumulus ; The map of this section was to fly through this is not danparticularly inaccurate, and gerous but uncomfortable, and very little information could of course the ground may be be given as to how we should hidden for many minutes-a find our way to the place. fatal thing when one has to find We were simply told that it one's way by tracing a narrow was a big white fort on the native path through the jungle. top of a hill, and that several To olimb above this cloud is native roads converged upon it. perhaps possible, but obviously Carey-Thomas and I left at possesses no advantage: to fly daybreak next morning. The below means being "bumped" wind was blowing from the in a most disagreeable manner. sea, and we took off in the Therefore the only thing to do direction of the town, which is to find a clear gap or "pass, we skimmed over at 200 feet. and at this game we quickly The quaint flat-roofed white became expert. It was usually Arab houses gleaming amongst the observer's task to stand the rich green foliage of the up from his seat, choose the cocoanut palms made a ther- way, and wave his hands to oughly delightful picture. A right or left as a guide to the broad yellow beach of spark- pilot. Sometimes we would ling sand, patched here and fly through wonderful cloud there with mangroves, divided caves, ornamented with airy the town from the sea, whose stalactites and stalagmites, or great monsoon rollers broke on pass under frowning cliffs and the shore in scintillating lines over yawning chasms. It was of foam. Sunken coral-reefs all very nice on the homeward and green sea gardens were journey, when there was revealed as through a magic need to worry about finding mirror as we flew outward the way, but going out it kept over the water. Soon we us in a perpetual state of banked steeply and turned to- anxiety. wards the land. Above the town the ground rises gently in a series of hills, covered with oocoanuts, native eultivation, and exquisitely-tinted mango-trees. Ten miles north the mighty silver coils of the Matandu river were discernible, and we set our course in that direction. Although the sun was shining brilliantly, heavy patches of cloud hung over the hills Kibata way, and soon we had to commence dodging. There is something
North of the Matandu the ground is clothed in dense forest, in which the road was frequently hidden for miles. A native path never by any chance runs straight, and it was a very difficult task to pick it up again after once losing it from sight. However, our luck was in, and at last we were overjoyed to get a glimpse of the little white fort, just before it was blotted out by an immense cloud. It was nearly ten minutes before we
saw it again, and by that time we were well to the south of it. Bumps or no bumps, we had to come down, and pulling back the throttle Carey pushed the joystick forward. We were not much more than 1000 feet from the ground when the machine flattened out. The country below was very mountainous and still forest clad. Several trench lines could be seen, but before attempting to sketch them I decided that we should first of all fly over the fort in order to get our bearings.
It was a typical "Boma," built of bricks and plaster, with dazzling white eement walls, and presenting from the air at any rate a very spickand-span appearance. Part of it had been destroyed by the German artillery, which had done some very effective shooting. The slopes of the hill had been cleared of forest, and this open space was being shelled continuously. Immediately above the fort I gave the signal to Carey and he commenced a steep turn in the middle of it and without a moment's warning the engine suddenly stopped dead! Instinctively he put the nose of the machine down and we started to glide towards the ground. With no small amount of apprehension I looked towards the bare hillside: as a landing-ground its attractiveness did not thrill me. Even if we did orash safely there was the Hun shell fire to consider. However, I put every confidence in the judgment of my pilot and resigned myself to the inevitable. It is a curious sensation, sitting in a
comfortable upholstered seat, feeling physically fit in every sense, yet knowing that within the space of perhaps a minute one may be a mangled corpse. It is not the sense of fear that is uppermost in one's mind by any means, and it is a mistake to imagine that all a man's sins float across his consciousness on occasions like these. The time is usually much too short.
As we came nearer to the ground the bumps became very violent indeed, and sometimes it was hard to keep in one's seat. I had loosened my belta wise precaution in case the machine was badly smashed up-and had curled my legs under my body in order to keep them out of the way of the engine should it be pushed forward. At 300 feet I closed my eyes and waited for the final crash. . . .
Hours and hours seemed to pass, . . . and then instead of the sound of rending wood and timber came the very welcome splutter of the engine, complaining badly at first and then swelling out into its wonted roar. I looked round at Carey. He shouted gleefully, but his face still wore a look of anxiety. Slowly we climbed, but so low had we come that our way home was still barred by the hills. In five minutes, however, the altimeter was was registering 1000 feet, with the engine still running perfectly. Naturally we turned homewards as soon as our height permitted, and for an hour we flew along over the forest expecting every minute that the engine would