From Iasi I flew north to Czernowitz, later Czernauti and now Chernovtsky on the boundary of Moldavia and the Ukraine. Here I stayed the night as a guest of the Aerodrome Commandant, who had been one of the country’s chief fighter pilot aces in the First World War. I let him fly the Gipsy Moth by himself, which delighted him. He was the most hospitable host imaginable, and detailed his charming Russian girlfriend to entertain me. She was a lovely creature. We only had a few words in German in common, but I think we were better off without being able to talk.
From Czernowitz I flew over hundreds of miles of dense forest, interlaced with streams and rivers and with few signs of people. I refuelled at Warsaw, and again at Poznan. I was making for Leipzig, but I ran into fog near the River Oder and landed in a huge stubble field at a place called Reppen. Here I was most grateful to be the guest of the Rittergutsbesitzer. Again I had had nothing to eat all day, and was most grateful for the meal with my host, who was the local squire.
New Zealandn Mountains Map Photo Gallery
This flying trip may sound simple, but in fact the negotiations and formalities at every landing I made were long and exhausting. Police, Customs, military, air force and civil aviation officials had to be satisfied after long questioning. Every time I landed, my passport and permits, carnet, aircraft log books and journey log book, all had to be examined, interpreted, explained and stamped. In East Europe no one seemed to eat anything in the morning, and I was too anxious to get away to spend time hunting for food at any stopping place during the day. On top of this I nearly always had difficulty in obtaining suitable petrol and oil when I landed. Once I had to wait sixteen hours for petrol. Later, when I had grown wiser, I always carried a loaf of bread with me.
After Reppen I landed in a field in the Black Forest, and although I did take on some petrol there, I really did it for fun. A crowd of Germans surrounded me, and when I asked them not to handle the aeroplane because it was so easily damaged, they took offence. They thought that I was afraid of their damaging it purposely because of still hating the British as they had done in the war, whereas, they said, they now felt exceedingly friendly towards us. In due course I soothed them down, and we parted friends. I landed at Leipzig and from there flew on to the Junkers Works at Dessau, where I had a flight in a small all-metal Junkers monoplane. I thought it was heavy on the controls, and glided like a brick compared with the Gipsy Moth.
On leaving Leipzig I had an adventurous day. I landed in a field when I could not penetrate the fog near Munster. I waited an hour on the ground, and then tried again. I still could not get through to Munster, so I made for Osnabruck. Here, the area round the field was completely enveloped in fog. I cruised round for some time, and then landed in a field at Jeggen. I got someone to pinpoint the exact position of the airfield on my map and tried again. I flew low up a shallow valley, only to find it closed off by fog on the ground. I turned round to retrace my track down the valley, to find that meanwhile the fog had dropped on to the ground at the other end, and I was completely trapped. I was attacked by panic. There was no time; the fog was dropping everywhere to the ground; already I had not enough height to turn properly banked but had to slither round in horrible skidding flat turns. However, I saw a field, which I thought suitable, and successfully found it again, after sliding round in a horrible semicircle. I pulled off a good landing. That night I slept in the house of a small farmer who had fought against the New Zealanders at Dixmude. He was most hospitable, and I spent the night under the same roof as his father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, his children, my Gipsy Moth and five cows. The Gipsy Moth and the cows occupied the hall. Next morning I found Osnabruck. The airfield officials knew I was coming and shot up red Very pistol lights in the mist as I approached.
After that I had no more adventures before returning to England. I re-crossed the English Channel fifty feet above the water, grateful for no hazards. I was sorry Joe King could not have seen it.
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