Settling in - some verbatim diary extracts - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

A Yorkshire Aviator's Autobiography
Tony Cunnane
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Settling in - some verbatim diary extracts

Here are some more verbatim extracts from my diary for the first few days of 1955. As before, comments and additions to my original text are in italics.
Sunday 2nd January 1955. Breakfast at 8am was the same as usual. Every breakfast I have had on this camp so far has consisted of Corn Flakes or Weetabix followed by either egg and beans, or egg and bacon, with toast. Why we have to have egg each time I don't know. Having finished my meal I went into the Quiet Room and read the two English language papers, the Sunday Times of Ceylon and the Ceylon Observer. At the same time I listened to the National Service of Radio Ceylon. (See my diary extract below)



Monday 3rd January 1955. I was to have flown today from Negombo to China Bay for a week's Ground Defence Training course but when I arrived at Negombo I was told that the course had been cancelled. (I was beginning to learn that communication between RAF Negombo and Gangodawila about non-operational matters was haphazard at best. Most airmen at Negombo had never even heard of Gangodawila.) So I returned to Gangodawila in the van driven by our only driver - Mr DeLile. On the way back to camp we called at his house, which was about a mile from camp by road, to deliver some meat he'd bought. As we were about to leave, a friend of his stopped him and insisted on his having a drink to celebrate the New Year. So Mr DeLile went off to his friend's house while Mrs DeLile invited me inside and gave me a cool fruit drink which was very welcome. Mr DeLile returned about ten minutes later and we arrived at camp a few minutes after that. I reported to Flight Sergeant Owen, who had by that time received the order cancelling the GDT course, and he told me to take the rest of the day off. When I got into the billet I found, to my joy, a nice fat letter from home. This was the first letter I had received from home since one at Innsworth nearly a month ago. The rest of the day was more or less spent on my bed. A bad headache had developed so I tried to get some sleep but I only dropped off for a few minutes at a time. I went for dinner at 5pm but regretted it afterwards as I felt sick.

This was Elephant Rock at the furthest end of Mount Lavinia beach. I have had several emails from Sri Lankans in recent years to tell me that this popular tourist object is no longer there but no-one seems to know what happened to it.

Tuesday 4th January 1955. We had a visit this morning from Flight Lieutenant Gibbs' wife. At Christmas he had promised to bring her sometime so she could have a look round the camp. The first I knew of her visit was when Chiefy Owen came in the section, looked around, and then told me to go with him. He said Flight Lieutenant Gibbs wanted me to show his wife around while he got on with a few odd jobs. So, for the next half hour or so, I showed Mrs Gibbs what there was to see. She seemed most interested in watching the teleprinters at work and listening to the Ashes Test Match live on Radio Australia's Overseas Service. This afternoon Don Taylor, another junior technician, and I went to Mount Lavinia on bikes. I borrowed one. It took about half an hour taking it easy. There is a wonderful beach there with lots of rocks and clear deep blue sea. We both regretted that we hadn't got swimming costumes with us because the water looked very inviting. (Skinny-dipping had not been invented in 1955 and, in any case, the beach was overlooked by the international Mount Lavinia Hotel.) We didn't stay long and we cycled back by way of Ratmalana Airport, the civilian airport for Colombo.

Wednesday 5th January 1955. The first hour and a quarter in the section this morning was Test Match time and very satisfying from the England point of view. Australia, needing 240 to win, were all out for 111. The honours went to Frank Tyson whose bowling figures were 7 for 27. This afternoon Don Taylor and I went for a bike ride. It was very hot so we didn't go far. We visited what is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in Ceylon - at Kotte. I was hoping to take some photos but I was disappointed because it was much smaller than I had expected. We didn't go inside because there were some working-men (sic) building or repairing.

Sunday 9th January 1955. Today was the occasion of the fourth annual air display by the Ceylon Air Academy. A trip was organised from camp consisting of two van loads. I went with the first one which left at about 1245pm. It took about 25 minutes to reach Ratmalana Airport. The display had been widely advertised as the best ever held in south east Asia. I was rather disappointed in it but, nevertheless, enjoyed myself. After wandering around for a bit we eventually found ourselves a good spot in a hangar entrance near the Control Tower. The proceedings started at 2.40pm with the arrival by helicopter of the Prime Minister, Sir John Kotelawala. Rain spoilt the latter part of the display which included parachute drops and a mock battle. One story, which we heard from some RAF chaps, was that someone shaking the hand of one of the parachutists after his drop made off with his wedding ring. We picked up our van at the main gate after cadging a lift across the airfield in an RAF lorry going to Negombo. It took quite some time to get back to camp because of the large crowds and long streams of traffic. We eventually arrived back at about 6.30 pm.

Above: Part of my diary for 9 January 1955

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