I’m putting this project to bed. It’s been a blast resurrecting it after nearly 30 years, when I collated Richards documents after his death in 1990. He was 85, not a bad age I now think as I approach it.
The personal regrets are strong. Of course, giving the original file of documents including the original photographs to an interested ex airman, and never seeking it again. Perhaps above all never visiting Richard in Soller Majorca, despite gentle encouragement from my mother. And all those questions I did not ask.
It is sometimes between the lines, sometimes in what is not said, that the mystery of Richard is held. What were those Munich Olympic Games alike, sitting so close to Hitler? Just the ‘joke’ of how he got there is recalled. His interrogation after his capture in the desert must have been dark at times, but there is no sign of this: First taken to Mosel and interrogated. RK gave rank and number. Escaped but re-captured. Stripped and tied up. Flown to Crete then Athens. Taken to super interrogation unit in Germany. Kept for a month in various conditions eg sometimes suffocating heat, sometimes freezing cold, mixed with being wined and dined. RK: ‘Eventually they gave up of course’.
Likewise must have been his liberation of Stalag Luft 3: “We were marched to Berlin. The next thing I knew there was an aircraft arriving to take us home”. Which is contrasted with the official version of a horrific winter force-march from the camp, ahead of the advancing Soviet troops. No mention of this.
There is throughout an underestimation and unassuming quality: For the next 1,200 miles flying conditions were exceedingly unpleasant: cloud , heavy rain and lightening. The engines and aircraft behaved faultlessly throughout the flight’.
The old boy network operates from RK approaching Russell to ask if they could expand distance and go further. Russell negotiated with Wilfred (thick since Upavon days once again) and got the go ahead – leading to the LRDU formation to Richards retirement from the airforce and CinC suggestion‘What about the Imperial Defense College?’
His honesty about his lack of love – ‘perhaps because I am too selfish’, and the straightforward advice from his friend when Kitty wanted immediate marriage: RK consulted Karl: ‘It’s quite straightforward old chap, she just wants someone to look after her’.
The description of the encounter with aboriginals in the Western Australian bush, is a mixture of blind prejudice (the blacks) with admiration for their different customs and it gives a time context to what Richard would say later, for the reason for leaving South Africa: “It was not very pleasant there if you did not speak Africaans, and Kitty and I absolutely refused to speak it”.
Was it only 3 years that I came to know Richard? Such brevity surprises me now. Yes it was initially because he was a link with my father who I never knew, and because he was so unassuming, but in the end, it was because he was such good company, over a Guinness. I remember crying on his shoulder about a tricky situation when someone didn’t want to return an expensive restoration light. He said, let’s just buy a new one. He was in contact with me throughout my mothers death, and I clearly remember talking to him on the phone weekly afterwards and feeling his love, that illusive thing.
Heligoland December 2018 – DRAFT