Whilst having a delightful time, sorting through the family Christmas decorations, I came across a rusty old tin which I established emanated from the British Royal Air Force in World War Two.
It had belonged to my dad - F/LT Reginald Albert Hardy who was with the Number 129 (Mysore) Squadron.
It was apparently an RAF WW2 Emergency Flying Tin and Energy Tablet Box. Sadly the original tin has virtually disintegrated but the contents were pretty much intact.
The kit contained no less than 4 intricate maps, one of France and Belgium, made from the finest most delicate tissue paper I have ever handled. (To a romanticist like myself it would appear to be almost edible!!)
The second paper map is of Germany, backed by a map of the English Channel with much of England blacked out. A magnificent piece of cartography, again in a very fragile, translucent parchment.
And then there were two finest silk scarves, the colours still vibrant after nearly eighty years. The blue and white bandana featured a map of North Africa - Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Italian Lybia, and Spanish Rio Del Pro with the reverse mapping the Balearic Islands, Spain and the Mediterranean.
This map must have been of great use to Flight Lieutenant Hardy who was shot down in July 1942. A Spitfire Pilot, he had been flying a over the Western Desert and spent several weeks recovering in the Alexandria General Hospital and then was transferred to the Brenthurst Plastic Hospital in Johannesburg then onto the Killarney Convalescent hospital for several months.
The second silk scarf is an intricate map of Germany, there are some stains on this scarf, possibly from the ancient pieces of chocolate still encased in this little treasure trove, or maybe, just maybe, the cyanide capsule leaked. (That again for the more romantic amongst us!!)
More treasures are the brown sachets of Halazone - a water purifier, (useless with seawater apparently). Also two sachets of tablets marked 'Read Carefully'. These tablets, it reads, only to be used when it is likely that you will be called upon to endure exceptional fatigue, or to remain awake and alert over a long period. Each tablet will ward off fatigue and drowsiness for six hours. And I quote 'Only one tablet may be taken every six hours. To take more, or to take them more frequently, is dangerous!!'
A tiny brass compass takes pride of place plus a very interesting, rusty, triangular metal contraption with two threads of the finest fishing line attached. I am sure every airman has one of these but I haven't the faintest idea what it is.
Next to be examined is a book of 20 matches with a giant V on the cover and then a wad of very large, used beautiful French 100 centime bank notes!
The final little precious piece of history was a tiny passport size photo of F/Lt Hardy dressed impeccably in French Resistance Style - a la Jean Pierre Arrighi!!
Was this possibly a photograph that was used when F/LT Hardy was parachuted covertly into Belgium to play his part in the French resistance movement His undercover role was playing in a jazz combo!
All of these special mementoes are kept close to his Pilot's Log Book, written in black, neat, masculine cursive, that spans an impressive record of service to king and country from 1940 to 1944.