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Roald Dahl

Discussion in 'Celebrities and Entertainment From WWII' started by Jim, Apr 18, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    In August 1939, as World War II was imminent, plans were made to round up the hundreds of Germans in Dar-es-Salaam. The fifteen or so British citizens in Dar-es-Salaam, in Tanzania, including Dahl, were made officers, each commanding a platoon of askaris of the King's African Rifles. Dahl was uneasy about this and having to round up hundreds of German civilians, but managed to complete his orders.

    Roald Dahl in RAF uniform, 1941

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    It was soon after this incident, in November 1939, that he joined the Royal Air Force. After a 600-mile car journey from Dar-es-Salaam to Nairobi, he was accepted for flight training with 20 other men, 17 of whom would later die in air combat. With 7 hours and 40 minutes experience in his De Havilland Tiger Moth he flew solo, and hugely enjoyed watching the wildlife of Kenya during his flights. He continued on to advanced flying training at RAF Habbaniya (50 miles west of Baghdad) in Iraq. Following six months of flying Hawker Harts he was made a Pilot Officer and assigned to No. 80 Squadron RAF, flying obsolete Gloster Gladiators. Dahl was surprised to find that he would not be trained in aerial combat, or even taught how to fly a Gladiator.

    On 19 September 1940, Dahl was ordered to fly his Gladiator from Abu Suweir in Egypt, on to Amiriya to refuel, and again to Fouka in Libya for a second refuelling. From there he would fly to 80 Squadron's forward airstrip 30 miles south of Mersah Matruh. On the final leg, he could not find the airstrip and, running low on fuel and with night approaching, he was forced to attempt a landing in the desert. Unfortunately, the undercarriage hit a boulder and the plane crashed, fracturing his skull, smashing his nose in, and blinding him. He managed to drag himself away from the blazing wreckage and passed out. Later, he wrote about the crash for his first published work (see below). It was found in a RAF inquiry into the crash that the location he had been told to fly to was completely wrong, and he had mistakenly been sent instead to the no man's land between the British and Italian forces.

    Dahl was rescued and taken to a first-aid post in Mersah Matruh, where he regained consciousness, but not his sight, and was then taken by train to the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. There he fell in love with a nurse, Mary Welland, who was the first person he saw when he regained his sight after eight weeks. (He had only fallen in love with her voice while he was blind. Once he regained his sight he decided that he no longer loved her.) The doctors said he had no chance of flying again, but in February 1941, five months after he was admitted to the hospital, he was discharged and passed fully fit for flying duties.

    By this time, 80 Squadron were at Elevsis, near Athens, Greece, and equipped with Hawker Hurricane fighting with the British Expeditionary Force in the Battle of Greece. He flew a replacement Hurricane across the Mediterranean Sea in April 1941, although he had little instruction, and only seven hours practice on Hurricanes. By this stage in the battle for Greece the RAF had only 18 combat planes in Greece, 14 Hurricanes and 4 Bristol Blenheims.

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    He saw his first aerial fighting on 15 April over the city of Chalcis against the six bombers that were attacking ships, managing to shoot down a Ju 88 with his lone Hurricane. On 16 April in another air battle, he shot down another Ju 88. On 20 April Dahl took part in the Battle of Athens along with Squadron Leader 'Pat' Pattle and his friend David Coke, shooting down numerous planes.

    As the Germans were pressing Athens, Dahl was evacuated back to Egypt. 80 Squadron was reassembled in Haifa. From here, Dahl flew missions every day for a period of four weeks, downing a Potez 63 on June 8 and another Ju-88 on 15 June, but then he began to get blinding headaches that gave him black-outs in the air, and he was invalided home to Britain. At this time his rank was Flight Lieutenant.

    He began writing in 1942, after he was transferred to Washington as Assistant Air Attaché. His first published work, in the August 1, 1942 issue of the Saturday Evening Post was “Shot Down Over Libya”, describing the crash of his Gloster Gladiator. C.S. Forester had asked Dahl to write down some RAF anecdotes so that he could shape them into a story. After Forester sat down to read what Dahl had given him, he decided to publish it exactly as it was. The original title of the piece of war propaganda was A Piece of Cake the title was changed to sound more dramatic, despite the fact that the crash had nothing to do with enemy action.

    During the war C.S. Forester worked for the British Information Service and was writing propaganda for the Allied cause, mainly for American consumption. This work introduced Dahl to espionage and the murky world of the Canadian spymaster William Stephenson, known widely as 'Intrepid'. During the war Dahl supplied Washington intelligence to Stephenson and his organization known as British Security Coordination. When Dahl was sent back to Britain, for supposed misconduct by British Embassy officials," I got booted out by the big boys," Dahl remembered, Stephenson sent him back to Washington with a promotion. After the war Dahl wrote some of the history of the secret organization and he and Stephenson remained friends for decades after the war.

    He ended the war as a Wing Commander. His record of five aerial victories has been confirmed by post-war research and cross-referenced in Axis records.


    Source: Wiki
     
  2. RustySword

    RustySword New Member

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    Cool, he was a great writer.
     
  3. fpbeast

    fpbeast New Member

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    yea i must say hes a good writer
     
  4. eireann

    eireann New Member

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    Wow, when I looked at the title of this thread I thought, Roald Dahl, the WRITER? No way! Well, thank you very much for starting this, because I confess, until now I didn't even know what he looked like. I grew up reading his books but never really knew anything about him.
     
  5. crystal

    crystal New Member

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    Interesting piece. :ehm:
     
  6. Junkie88

    Junkie88 New Member

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    The man was 1.90 (peter crouch length i think) and still flying a fighter?
     

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