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Library Reference Number: 038

News from Home

Harry Tait, Scottish Saltire Branch, ACA

Among the many unique and unusual experiences shared by many members of aircrew (even before they had become fully qualified and ready for operations), must surely be those world wide locations selected for our flying training. Sometimes without a hint of where we were being sent, off we went to capture a taste of the exotics. Harry Tait relates the following experience while on Flying Training in Rhodesia.

The Pilot course at No.21 SFTS Kumalo, S. Rhodesia was almost completed but for a few more hours flying. With four days to go the 'Wings' would be awarded, and the postings would take us all over the world, wherever we would be required. Two of my friends, Adamson and Edwards, had come down with me from Egypt, and had both passed the course with only a few flying hours remaining. Both Adamson and Edwards took off in an Oxford, and surprisingly, at the end of the day had not returned. All available aircraft searched their route, but after an exhaustive search could find no trace. Over the next two days a further search but on a wider area produced no results.

For the remainder of us, Wings were duly presented and we left Kumalo not knowing what had happened to the two boys. For myself, I was posted up to the Middle East after a three-month GR course at George, South Africa. My Mother had been in the habit of sending me the odd newspaper, but these usually took many weeks and months to reach me due to being continually on the move. One did arrive, and to my utter astonishment the front page carried the story of my two missing friends.

It would appear that they had taken the reciprocal on one of the legs and eventually ran out of fuel, landing near the Kalahari Desert. Before leaving the plane, they took out the compass, axe and some odd rations. Of course the compass did not register correctly, and they were further hindered.

Eventually, they came across a wandering band of bushmen and their wives. By signs, they asked the bushmen to help them to get back to 'civilisation'. That evening, the bush women were busy preparing meals, and the boys asked them if they could have something to eat. This was given to them, and Adamson and Edwards settled down to sleep as best they could. Apparently, the bush women told their men that they would be in trouble if the two airmen informed the authorities about the bushmen shooting animals on the Reserve. The bushmen realised that they would be in serious trouble if their activities were known, and it was decided to kill the boys. The aircraft axe was used on one, and the other was shot. Their clothes were taken off by the women and burnt, then the bodies of the two airmen were buried.

After many weeks had passed, a Reserve Warden came across the bushmen and asked them if they had seen an aircraft or white men. Every member of the bush group was interviewed, and by luck one of them turned 'King's Evidence' and told the full story, including all details of what had taken place, also taking the Warden to show him the graves.

To this day, I and others would never have known what had happened to our friends but for this odd newspaper which carried the full story. It was indeed "News from Home".

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