'Remember remember the 5th of November', well I certainly remember this one, as I spent most of it either waiting or sitting on an aircraft. I slept extremely well, which was a miracle considering how much many of the veterans were drinking last night. Lucky enough for me my neighbours weren’t drinkers unlike poor old Alex Allender’s, who came back to his room, turned the television on full volume and then fell asleep!
A full English breakfast (army style) followed by checkout, meant I still had a couple of hours to go before it was time to catch the coach. To kill time I found an internet café and went for a walk around Waterloo. A heck of a long day ahead with me sitting down.
There was a bit of drama when a bunch of veterans got stuck in the lift, which required the fire brigade to come and rescue them, much to the amusement of those waiting in the reception. The coaches eventually arrived and we were shuttled to Gatwick.
I sat next to a lady called Linda who has had a hell of a time dealing with the consequences of twenty five years ago. She had been a theatre nurse on HMS Invinsible and had assisted at countless operations on casualties from the various ships. The trauma of having young ratings die in her arms has plagued ever her since.
Arriving at Gatwick, we made our ways to the arrivals checked in which was fairly painless. We had a couple of hours to kill again while we waited for the rest of the coaches to arrive. It seems that they were unable to carry all the luggage so an additional vehicle had to be organised at the last minute.
The aircraft was fine and I got a fairly good seat next to a window, except there wasn’t a window to look out and my seat didn’t go back at all. That didn’t matter though, as the company was pleasant. Vince was in 36 Engineers and had had a long and interesting Army career, in which he was in the RFA Stromness and had handled the distribution of equipment in San Carlos. He supplied me with a steady stream of fruit gums, pastilles and pleasant conversation, so he made a perfect partner to share what turned out to be an eighteen hour flight.
The first twelve hours to Rio De Janeiro were long but I managed to get at least four to five hours sleep, which was good for me. The food was great and the plane was actually quiet and very comfortable. We had a three hour refuelling stop, which was slow
as the airport was closed. I chatted to Brian who had also been on RFA Stromness as one of the naval party and who runs a small cottage industry embroiding special designs on clothes.