Joan Beech had a wonderful gift for small anecdotes. I had forgotten quite how good they are until I started re-reading the section of her book One Waaf’s War which deals with 105 Squadron (see yesterday’s post on this subject). She describes one of the Mosquito crews – Jimmy was the pilot and Henry was the navigator:
Henry and Jimmy were known around the squadron as Laurel and Hardy. Henry was large and jovial and partly bald, while Jimmy was small and rather lugubrious in appearance and hailed from Glasgow. […] Jimmy was always quiet, even speechless, before ops, but on his return he was a different person. He would burst into the office singing, and if I happened to be there he would rush over and ruffle my hair, and exclaim, ‘Here she is, the wee lassie! Waiting on my return as usual!’
Jimmy had a small car, and Joan and her friend Rosemary often went out with him and Henry.
We had a succession of crazy nights out. […] On [one] memorable night, coming home in a thick fog, Jimmy got us completely lost. We were following a long, straight road in visibility of about twenty yards, all of us hanging out of the windows in a vain attempt to spot landmarks, when a ghostly figure loomed up, saluted, and announced in long-suffering tones, ‘Excuse me sir, Mr Mills, you’re on the main runway!’
POSTSCRIPT: Looking through our poor-quality copies of 105 Squadron’s ORB, I have not yet found a pilot called J (Jimmy) Mills. I’m sure it won’t be far out if it is slightly wrong – some of Joan Beech’s names are not completely spot-on accurate (see the loss of ‘Wing Commander’ McMillin, page 68, and the true details of McMillin’s pilot and crew).
JENNIE MACK GRAY