Posted by: eppingstrider | 26/03/2011

5f: The final entry

So I got back up to Cairo and then had to start thinking about my work.  As I said I was then Assistant Traffic Superintendent, Near East Region and had the responsibilities to the Traffic Superintendent for all sorts of things from the area up from the Western Desert out to Teheran and from Alexandria down to Juba and all stations on that section. Oh it was all part of the usual thing, routine, to me it was routine, we worked hard, we had to do time at night-time as duty officers, for emergency stuff that might happen during the night, but, ah, well, that was life.  But at the same time of course I was wondering how I could get Frances up to Cairo to join me.  Although she was now a wife, a wife travelling would have very low priority on the priorities board, where military requirements meant that priorities became the first requirement.  But oh, well, I just had to try and hope for the best amongst my friends in Airways.

In correspondence with Frances I found that she would have to give particular notice to the Uganda Government to terminate her service in the Nursing Service because she was on a three-year contract.  I hadn’t anticipated that one! So that she wouldn’t be able to leave at a moment’s notice if I got the priority or got some sort of wangle fixed.  She would have to give notice and if I hadn’t got a wangle over by that time, she would just have to sit around waiting till I got a wangle!  I don’t quite know how I fixed it but she eventually got away.  I had a payment to make to the Uganda Government to buy her out of her contract: I always remember that because it was the equivalent of eight cows!  Then I remember it because subsequently when we were talking to anybody socially when the opportunity arose I used to say “yes well she cost me eight cows,” [chuckles] and it always went down with a laugh.

It must have been about in September when I bought her out of her contract with the Uganda Government, I don’t remember the time or detail but the next thing I heard was that she was in Khartoum.  I subsequently found she flew up in a flying boat on one of the routine northbound flying boat services from Durban to Kampala up to Khartoum, but of course when she got to Khartoum she was again stuck because as previously indicated, traffic from Khartoum northbound was all priority, because you had everything feeding in there, you had the traffic coming in from West Africa on the West Africa route and also from West Africa via the Congo, and then there was also stuff coming down from Asmara [muses] anyway I was in Cairo and I knew she’d got to Khartoum because um, it wasn’t Brian Nelson [thinks] … it wasn’t George Boughton that was down there, I just remember that it was.. it was a guy that used to work on the passenger counter at Airways Terminus – he was a local UK staff, but he had volunteered for overseas service… Johnson, no…  Venters was one of them, but …, gosh I can’t remember his name, but, anyway, all right well this was my wife and he and Venters looked after her between the two of them and saw that she had a reasonable amount of entertainment, but of course it was several, I was going to say days, but I think it was probably a few weeks that she was stuck in Khartoum, but because she was Airways wife of course she could stay in the Grand Hotel and it was paid for by Airways! Which thank goodness for that, saved me a lot of money!

But part of my job as the Assistant Traffic Manager was of course to keep the routes flowing as well as I could with traffic, and because of this build up in Khartoum, whenever I could get a spare aircraft to do it I was laying on extra flights to Khartoum to try and clear this backlog. I was doing fairly well and got it down to a fairly limited number, in fact probably only another day’s delay and then one morning Maxwell got very upstate because he’d found out about all these extra flights going down to Khartoum to clear backlogs in Khartoum and he thought this was terrible, wasting aircraft hours, and I said it wasn’t wasting aircraft hours it was clearing priority traffic, which was one of the requirements of airlines to keep the priority traffic moving.  So I put on another flight that day and what happened, sure enough, Frances was on it! But that was the last one I was able to put on, again I was very very lucky indeed because after that we didn’t find any more flights that were ours that we could use for these extra operations!

But at least we got Frances up to Cairo, I keep referring her to Frances as when she got into to Cairo, I introduced her to anyone as Frances Pett, and I eliminated any reference to Mollie and from then on she was Mollie only to her own family, but everybody that was new to her, in the business, only knew her as Frances, and she accepted becoming Frances very naturally, and you know, after sixty years of marriage I still think of her only as Frances and the idea of calling her Mollie seems most odd.  Although of course when I was a kid at school I only knew her as Mollie.

Editors note: And that I’m afraid is the end of the tapes (tape 5).  There is a ‘tape of edits’ to be transcribed, but chronologically the story is told.


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