The ‘meanest man in England’?

From dad’s book – Of Stirlings and Stalags: an air-gunner’s tale

“One special friend of mine was another wireless operator, Tommy Bentham.  He was one of those rescued from that plane which went over the embankment, and he had flown with the Wingco when Errol Green had taken over the landing. He was in a crew returning in a badly shot-up condition and the Skipper thought it would be unsafe to attempt a landing, so he flew over the drome and ordered ‘Abandon aircraft’.  The crew did and landed by parachute over some miles of countryside while the Skipper set ‘George’ the automatic pilot, to fly a course which would take the plane out to the North Sea  to crash in safety. 


Tommy landed with his canopy tangled up in a tree.  He fell to earth when he unclipped his parachute harness.  It was during the small hours on a nearly pitch black night and he had no idea just where he was.  All he could do was to walk and found a farmhouse.  He banged on the door and eventually a bedroom window opened and a belligerent voice demanded to know what the noise was all about.  Tommy asked to use the phone, but it took a while for him to convince the farmer why, and what had happened.  He was admitted and allowed to phone the squadron for transport back. 

All the while the farmer was moaning about the cost etc. (a phone call cost two pence).  Tommy asked whether he could have a drink, hoping for something a little stronger than tea.  He was not even given that – only a glass of water. 

When he got back he was debriefed and the Intelligence Officer was most interested and disgusted by the farmer’s attitude… he was the author, H.E. Bates!  The Intelligence Officer had a few contacts and as a consequence the farmer was spread all over the Daily Mirror under the heading ‘The Meanest man in England’ and the Air Ministry ‘co-operated’ by sending him a huge bundle of forms to be returned in quintuplet so that they could reimburse him with the two pence.”

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