Goolie Chits: Written on 6 September 2017
For the last few years some of the most visited pages on my own website have been those dealing with my time in Pakistan 1969-70. Way back in 2011 one of my website readers gave me a link to a website that tells the personal story of a man called Edward Sparkes. His fascinating tales, refreshingly non-PC, cover his RAF service from the 1920s onwards. Of particular interest to me are his stories about Risalpur and the Khyber Pass. Edward must have passed away many years ago but his website is still on line (as of today 6 Sep 2017) and it is certainly worth a visit for anyone interested in the early history of the RAF. This is the link (opens in a new window).
Here is a short extract Edward wrote dated 14 May 1944:
"The climate at Risalpur, our first pre-war RAF station was a great relief from the heat of the plains and the Mess itself was most luxurious, quite the best that we had ever seen. The luxury was to make up for the tedium of service in the far flung empire as well as to take the minds away from the hazards of flying over tribal hill country. All pilots carried "Goolie Chits" that stated that in the case of capture by tribesmen a good ransom would be paid providing their 'Wedding Tackle' was in place and intact.
"The mess itself was massive and ornate. The billiard, ante room and dining rooms are huge and are panelled with wood that looks to be at least 2 inches thick. The ante room is long with two huge fireplaces and decorated with carved wooden crests of previous squadrons. Above the panelling are mounted animal heads and at about twelve feet from the floor are the windows. The dimensions of the dining room are similar and in proportion to the dining table that is of heavy polished wood and eight feet wide by fifty feet long. Our poor little squadron is quite lost as there is ample room between each chair for another. Most of the table service is of heavy silver. I complained that I had to buy Mujid two mess uniforms, but he is immensely proud, standing discretely behind me. He really is a gem and costs me his keep, uniforms etc: and £3 per month, most of which he manages to send home."
The Mess at Risalpur as described above by Edward Sparkes was little changed during my own time at Risalpur 1969-70 - but I was never issued with a “Goolie Chit”. My Squadron Commander, Squadron Leader Saleem, during my first interview with him, delicately broached the subject of what could happen to uncircumcised European males if they were forced to eject over the Khyber Region. I was able to assure him that would be the very least of my problems in such an eventuality! The squadron commander seemed very relieved to have got that conversation out of the way.
Above: One of the many parties staged on the lawn of the Officers' Mess at Risalpur. I am second from the left on the front row.