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Old 23rd Nov 2018, 17:25
  #122 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Co. Down
Age: 78
Posts: 512
A last letter to our dear friend Danny

Hello again Dennis, my dear old friend,

Can it really be six years since you first cast your spell on us Ppruners? Already enthralled by the long-running Brevet thread for World War II aircrew, we logged in every day to read your latest instalment. In your time foreign travel was undreamed of for most people, let alone flying, yet your 18-year-old self, yearning to fly a Spitfire, joined the RAF and was sent off to learn to fly in Florida.

Through your writings, a rich mix of humour, knowledge, and vivid memories of times long gone, we followed your shaky steps into the air and your sense of wonder at this strange land where everything was plentiful. We shared your delight when you returned to England and your dream came true with training on Spitfires and posting to a new Spitfire Wing in India.

Four years later I would follow in your footsteps when as a child my mother took me to rejoin my father in RAF Poona. Long before Bombay came into view we too picked up the exotic smells, from spices to sewers as you described them. From the deck of HMT Strathnaver we too goggled at the Victorians' vast Gateway to India, wondered at the teeming humanity, picked our way through the seething platforms of Victoria Station to our reserved carriage. At Poona, the aviation bug infected me for life the instant my father lowered me into the cockpit of a Vengeance, perhaps one that you had flown.

That was when our electronic friendship began with your first greeting Namaste, chota-sahib! An address I had not heard for 70 years, and the once-familiar terms of the Raj that my father used until he died 22 years ago: memsahib, chai, jeldi-jeldi, dhobi, tiffin, charpoy. We shared memories of basha and bearer, of cobra and Kipling, of monkeys and monsoons. We even enjoyed a few phone calls despite your deafness, which had started with many hours behind a thundering Wright Cyclone.

Back on PPRuNe you kept us spellbound with your rail journey across India and our hearts sank with yours when you eventually reached Madhaiganj and spotted a line of big ugly things on the apron.
What on earth is THAT? That's a Vultee Vengeance, Sarge, they're dive bombers! We knew nothing about dive bombers and clung to our last faint hope.

What about the Spitfires we're supposed to be getting? You've had it, Sarge, there aren't any out here!

Oh, Noooo . Oh, Yesss! Not for the first or last time in the RAF, we'd been sold a pup.
Soon a thousand PPruners per day were following your love-hate relationship with the Vengeance and your description of its two-mile vertical dive had us on the edge of our seats; in between came your witty and colourful mix of reflections on India and the life of its European exiles. Then a Japanese bullet severed an oil line and you were badly injured in the ensuing forced landing, thankfully to recover and to command a special Flight carrying out gas spray trials until the war ended.

In your 90th year, you wrote all your stories on an elderly laptop with touchpad, a laptop which became increasingly unreliable as the years went by just like ourselves, we laughed. So we decided to produce your story as an e-book and all through last winter we exchanged drafts and yet more memories, leading to In with a Vengeance in April this year.

This first book was so well received that my wife and I began work on your second volume, Danny and the Cold War, for which with great effort you transcribed the first 22,000 words. Once again we hung on every word as you rejoined the RAF, converted from Spitfires to jets, only to be grounded by your lung problem in 1954. Then you regaled us with life as an air traffic controller on airfields around England and even to Berlin during the Cold War. All the while you watched the RAF and its personnel change from a wartime to a peacetime and different Service.

But despite the loving care of your devoted daughter Mary, your responses became slower and I detected a faint note of resignation. We're pals for life, you told me, and said you would like the book produced even though you might never see it, and I promised I would see it to completion.

It was a poignant moment when we read of your loving care for your little daughter in her playpen, and we thought how your lives had turned full circle as little daughter Mary was now caring for her dear Dad. As your bad days increased, we worked flat-out to finish your book at the end of last month, and we are so glad we did as you were alert to the end and able to see the first proof copy. Thank you, thank you, thank you, you wrote, and it gladdened our hearts to know you were pleased.

But at 4am on November 12, Mary told me, you became restless, you asked for your laptop, and you called on your last reserves for a brief mail which brought tears to my eyes:
Well, Doc says my life scan is a week or a fortnight: it had to come sooner or later, I suppose, but I had hoped for a bit more ... Now, I would wish you to offer the book on PPRuNe as we agreed ... My favourite charities would be the RAF Memorial Fund and Marie Curie ...
Heart too full now,must break off now.
A few hours later, you 'slipped the surly bonds of earth and soared the skies' for the last time, leaving a void that can never be filled. But now, far beyond the sparkling clouds with their towering castles and sunlit canyons, you have joined your beautiful Iris once again. May you have eternal happiness together.

Ever your pal,

Last edited by Geriaviator; 1st Oct 2019 at 20:11. Reason: sp
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