I got away at 5.20 next morning for a six-hour flight to Karachi, a distance of 430 miles. This flight was uneventful, except that I saw a huge school of porpoises in the sea off the coast, which made me long enviously for the peace of the sea.
During the next five days I flew across India and down to Singapore. I was forty-two and a quarter hours in the air to cover 3,500 miles, an average speed of 83% mph Crossing India, I refuelled at Nasirabad, Jhansi, Allahabad and Calcutta. I spent the night at Jhansi, where I was lucky to find three RAF fighter planes on manoeuvres. I spent a delightful evening with the crews, and they provided me with a bath in a canvas camp bath, and a campbed in a tent. All this time the flying conditions were delightful. I enjoyed the flight, in spite of the motor, which was running increasingly rougher until it vibrated unpleasantly.
Road Trip Australia Gallery Photos
Road Trip Australia
This caused me to keep a constant lookout for a possible open space on which to land if the motor failed. At Calcutta an efficient mechanic called Woolland, working for the Aerial Survey Company, ground in the valves of the No. 2 cylinder that was causing most of the trouble. He, and some Indians helping him, worked all one afternoon and evening on the job. I was most grateful to have someone to do it for me. Fatigue was nagging at me again. It was not because of flying, but because of the unending negotiations and talk from the moment I landed up to the moment I took off again, apart from the few hours spent in sleeping. Each day my time on the ground was cut by about three-quarters of an hour because I was flying east.
After Calcutta, I flew along the coast to Akyab. Here I landed in sheepskin thigh boots, a Sidcote suit (like a boiler suit of three thicknesses) and fur gloves. An hour later I took off in shirt sleeves after a roasting on the ground.
I was beginning to find that the overloaded Moth required a much longer run for taking off in the hot air. I landed for the night on Rangoon racecourse. Several horses were exercising there when I arrived, and I circled the course for ten minutes to give them time to get clear.
On leaving Rangoon at dawn, I flew over flat ground cut into tiny plots for 40 miles. The smoke from each hut had drifted away in a straight level line. There were hundreds of lines of smoke, from 1 to 5 miles in length, all straight, level and the same thickness, so that they looked like grey lines joining the huts as far as one could see.
I had a scare at Victoria Point, the southernmost point of Burma. The landing-ground was a terrible spot, shut in by hills and bordered by dense jungle with palms. At the eastern end a hill seemed to overhang it. The Air Ministry notice had said it was 1,560 yards long, but in my first attempt to land I overshot badly. The second time, although I came in only a foot above the corner, it looked as if I was going to overshoot again. I thought that my judgement must be badly wrong to overshoot a 1,560-yard field. I side-slipped, and put the Moth down firmly with a bump. Even then I only just stopped short of the jungle, because the airfield sloped downhill there. I was told afterwards that the airfield would be 1,560 yards long when it had been enlarged, and the hill removed but that now it was 350 yards long. Next morning I was faced with taking off fully loaded, because there was no landing-ground between there and Singapore – ten hours flying farther on. I was nervy and apprehensive, and I walked all over the field. If I used the longest possible run, I must take off straight towards the palm-covered hill. There was a narrow road winding through the jungle beside it, and I debated whether I could twist along the clearing made for the road.