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Sunday, 5 February 2023

Up in the Air - Sepia Saturday

Aeroplanes feature as the theme in this week's Sepia  Saturday prompt, and I relate tales  of air travel in wartime and  leisure time.

My brother Chris in the 1980s had a half  share in a small plane and gained his pilot’s licence.  



Chris flew the plane from his home on the English south coast to the small airport at the seaside resort of Blackpool in the north west for a family gathering,  Somewhere there are photographs of myself and my daughter taking it in turn to sit in the cockpit - but can I find the photographs of the occasion?  Frustratingly - no.  
My father had the pleasure of a flight with Chris along the coastline - which brought back memories of a his 1944 wartime journey by plane to a posting  in the Far East.  
In his own words: 
"Off on a circuitous route because we were not allowed to overfly certain counties.  My travel documents said I was priority three – there were ten degrees, with Generals number one.   
We flew to Marseilles, then to Sardinia (refuel), over Malta to El Adam, near Tobruk., along the North African coast past Cairo and onto Palestine for a 36 hour break and went to Bethlehem.  
Our base was Lydda right on the coast. The flies were a major menace!" We flew onto Bahrain in the Gulf and then to Habayra (RAF airfield in Iraq) – temperature 104F when we landed there at 4a.m.  I could hardly breath. 
Then onto Pakistan, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and across to Ceylon.  I was told plans had changed and I was rerouted to Bombay.   It was take off in Colombo and we had almost reached the point of no return when the plane burst a tyre, which delayed us 24 hours. We took off at 4am on the second occasion." 

A tragic wartime jounrey  was recalled in my village of Earlston in the rural Scottish Borders when in 1943   a German bomber crashed  killing all the crew including the pilot, Paul Rogge (below)   Years later his family was keen to find out more information, anad I became involved ved through our local heritage group. Police records at the Scottish Borders Archive Centre revealed details of the event. 

A small memorial to the victims of the crash was unveiled in the  presence of the pilot's  grandson and daughter who had never known her father. The moving ceremony was led by Earlston minister with representatives of the Earlston community present.  


The piiot's grandson  holding a portrait of his grandfather on the site of  the crash.

It was a beautiful crisp autumn afternoon, standing in the field, surrounded by the peaceful Borders countryside that  years earlier had witnessed a tragedy of war.

On  a lighter note, recalling the time when we flew down to London from Edinburgh - our daughter’s first flight and visit to the capital.  These  were the days (1980s) when flying was a pleasure in terms of the service on board.  The journey only took 90 minutes, but flying  back in the evening we were served a meal with a menu listing the dishes.   Reading this, daughter in a loud voice proclaimed  “What are “mangy touts”  (pronounce it as in "louts"  - not in the elegant French pronunciation of “mange touts” Much hilarity round about - and  we have never let daughter forget this episode. 


Finally  memories of us  flying over the Alps into Innsbruck Airport for a holiday in the Austrian Tyrol.  

This is not for the faint-hearted air traveller.  You feel that if you could put your hands out of the plane window,  you could touch the peaks. 

The Europa Brucke - the main route linking Austria and Italy

Landing safely amidst a rain storm


Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity 

to share their family history through photographs

Click HERE to read tales from other Sepia Saturday bloggers





  1. What wonderful photos from and of planes, and I really enjoyed reading your father's words of his long flight. I guess I was shocked to then see the information right after that about the crash of the German plane and how you helped the family grieve. Of course in modern day we are friendly with Germans. It is perfectly understandable in your work with historians. Just a bit of a juxtoposition this old gal didn't expect. You woke me up definitely!

    1. Thank you, Barbara, for such a thoughtful comment. I was close to giving this prompt a miss, as I had so little on aeroplanes. Then I realized that I did have stories linked with air travel - hence my post.

    2. I am still trying to get use to this new way of making comments - anonymous above was me - Scotsue.

  2. I'm glad you didn't give it a miss. You have many personal photos of family and planes and stories to tell. I was sort of surprised when the German story followed your father's wartime story, also.

  3. When wartime is in the past, we remember enemy or not, we are all the same. We have families and people we love and care about and it gives me a warm feeling to hear about incidents like the citizens of Earlston remembering though the the pilot & crew of the German bomber were the enemy at one time, they were also people like us all & remembering them in such a lovely way for the daughter and grandson was a most gracious thing to do.
    Neat photo of your brother in the cockpit of his plane. I wish you could have found the pix of you & your daughter in there too. I suspect when you least expect it, you'll find them - 'a day late and a dollar short' as the saying goes. But maybe another prompt at another time will give you another chance to share them! :)

    1. Thank you, Gail, for (again) another thoughtful comment in relation to the German bomber account. The family were a pleasure to meet and so appreciative of what Earlston had done to make them feel welcome.

  4. Not that Alan awards prizes, but your story and photos this weekend are definitely a winner, especially your last photo of an airplane with a rainbow. So much of history writing overlooks the scale of travel that people once endured to get from place to place. Your dad's account reminds us that WW2 was truly a "world" war in a geographic sense. It's incredible how modern air travel has changed our appreciation of distant foreign places.

    1. Phew! Thank you, Mike, for giving me this accolade - much appreciated - and to think I came very close to not contributing to this week’s prompt. The reaction to the German bomber story has surprised me.

    2. Above from Scotsue.

  5. Everyone has already conveyed my thoughts! I don't have much to add, except that I'm glad you participated. I enjoyed it all.

  6. Many thanks, Kathy, for taking the time to comment and echo others’ thoughts - Scotsue.


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