Day 4 – Thursday, 8 May, 1930. Sky Fall. Mouslimie to Baghdad

Baghdad - 1930

Day 4 – Thursday, 8 May, 1930. Sky Fall. Mouslimie to Baghdad

My loneliness remains. I pine for home. I am frightened. I have written the same to Jack and shared my encounter with the Taurus Mountains. I do not want him to share that unpleasantness, nor how I am feeling, with anyone. Not that there will be any interest outside of my family. I feel that my work has no appeal to those back home, however challenging and unique my flight might be. This is a lone flight in more ways than one.

I am now in Baghdad. Another terribly tough day that makes me question my desire to break Hinkler’s record or, indeed, even to take to the air.

Jason plummeted from the sky today. We left Mouslimie at dawn and went on our 500 mile journey east, following the Euphrates. The river banks merged into the desert surroundings as I flew and this made navigation a very difficult task indeed. Concentration, too, was an impossibility.

We hit some thermals but I had no idea, as we bumped along, where we were. I assumed, looking down, that this was unsurveyed desert.

A sandstorm, too. When Jason plunged he dropped like an elevator cut loose from its cables. My goggles were covered in sand and as I shook it away in order to see we were just feet from the ground. It wasn’t my plan at all and our speed was too fast but Jason decided to touch down on the sand. I steered into to wind to slow us down.

We stopped and I jumped from the cockpit. Jason, poor thing, has no brakes and the wind blew him backwards. I jumped back into Jason and dragged my luggage out of the cockpit to wedge behind his wheels. It was a battle for survival, as I attempted to cover the engine from the sand and dust that swirled around us both. I fixed Jason to the ground and sat on his tail, my back to the wind.

I had no idea where we were. I could hear wild dogs in the distance. Eventually the wind died down and it was time to get us out of there. But not before I had considered that this might be our final resting place, the place where my bones would be found many long years from now.

Yet I am blessed. The engine started with the first propeller swing. We followed the Tigris south, to where it joins with the Diyala, and shortly afterwards the sprawl of Baghdad could be seen and the Imperial Airways Aerodrome there, waiting for us.

I discovered, once back on the ground, that one of Jason’s undercarriage struts had snapped in his landing at the desert. We have sent the damaged strut to the RAF aerodrome at Hinaidi for repair. They will work through the night to repair.

As odd as it seemed I felt that I must see Baghdad after everything that has occurred today. I left Imperial Airways mechanics carrying out essential maintenance to Jason as I took in the city and dined at the riverside. This whole place smells of coffee and life. I sat there forming my correspondence to Jack. I must also tell him about the lack of Castrol XXL oil. There was none in Constantinople and none here in Baghdad. Utterly frustrating. But I am still alive, there is that.

Listen to the Twenty Days podcast

Hosted by Hull Is This, Twenty Days is our daily podcast charting Amy Johnson’s solo flight from England to Australia. Written by Dave Windass, performed by Rachel Harris, with music by Jessica Dannheisser as part of her Orchestral Portraits | Seven Pioneering Women album released on Audio Network.

Baghdad 1930

Rare film footage of Baghdad from 1930 with some of the details of daily life in that period.