Day 5 – Friday, 9 May, 1930. XXL. Baghdad to Bandar Abbas

Bandar Abbas

Day 5 – Friday, 9 May, 1930. XXL. Baghdad to Bandar Abbas

I am in Bandar Abbas. Landing here was a difficult affair as they were not expecting me and I could not even see signs of an aerodrome. I headed for the open space I could see from the air – a stroke of luck that this was the right place – but as we touched down heavily Jason’s left wing trailed along the ground. This airfield is hardly in use and the hard work to repair his strut overnight was undone – the bolt holding it in place had sheared. Worse, though, was that I could not envisage help of any kind in this God-forsaken place.

With good reason, then, I was overcome with emotion when none other than the British Consul walked towards me before making me feel welcome in his home, a bungalow, together with his wife and daughter. They refuelled me with fine English tea.

Today I was full of trepidation, for I would be flying in the air where Sir Alan Cobham’s plane was shot down by tribesmen in 1926. The thought had crossed my mind that I, too, would bleed a pot of blood before the day’s end.

I followed the Tigris and, approaching Basra, flew over the marsh land we know to have been the Garden of Eden. From there, the broad river at Basra, dense with shipping, as we moved towards the wonderful rocky coastline of the Persian Gulf. The vivid colours of rock formations clarified in my mind’s eye that we were approaching Bandar Abbas, and to the south in the deep blue ocean one could see the island of Hormuz. There was to be no repeat of Cobham’s departure from this earth.

I had abandoned my flying suit this morning due to the sweltering heat. My face is sun-blistered but I care little about my appearance at this time, there are more pressing matters. Flying conditions were perfect, today. Yet I could not relax. The deep blue beneath me is home to sharks awaiting dinner, and Jason’s oil pressure was low and his engine badly misfiring.

The damage on landing has added to my worries, but a local man going by the name of David, who takes care of the British Consul’s car and was highly recommended, was summoned to carry out repairs. As I recovered from a pounding headache David wasted no time in repairing the damaged strut, having miraculously found a bolt among some spares. When I finally joined him after a very long dinner, he worryingly told me that his skills as an aircraft engineer have been entirely acquired by merely studying the RAF planes that frequent this aerodrome.

Jason now has Castrol XXL but its acquisition was not without drama. Having drained the old oil it was clear that there was no XXL to hand. David, who does not even appear to understand the importance of oil to an aircraft, located some Castrol R. As he began to pour it in the engine I quickly ordered him to stop. The substance looked like weak tea. Along with the Consul we roused the customs officer at the aerodrome to discover where his XXL was stored. On demand, he handed over his shed key. And there it was. We drained what was left of the tea-like substance from Jason and provided him with what the quality of oil he deserved.

I am about to retire to the bed provided for me in this bungalow. It is 2.30am. I will not and cannot sleep for long.

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