150 Story #9 – NO USE FOR THAT ANY MORE!
Submitted by Noel J Vautier – Squadron member since 1964
Harold George who was the Squadron’s Commodore 1937-39 and 1946-47 was a great friend of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park. They had met while both serving in Ceylon under Lord Mountbatten in South-East Asia Command at the end of the Second World War. Sir Keith became a keen sailor after his return to New Zealand in 1948. The K Class keeler Dolita was designed and built for Sir Keith by Col Wild in 1950. After he sold it around 1957 he bought the B Class keeler Teal and subsequently another B Class keeler Aramoana.
Harold occasionally invited Sir Keith to come sailing with him on his A Class Victory. I remember well rowing ashore sixty years ago on a warm January afternoon in Mansion House Bay Kawau to meet Sir Keith for the first time and bring him back to Victory. I (just 19 years old) had been crewing on Victory for some weeks during my Christmas holiday from University. Keith arrived on a ferry from Auckland. He looked like a naval officer with his white shirt, long white shorts and long white socks. He was about 6 foot 3 tall, very thin and erect.
After we had boarded Victory, we sat with Harold in the cockpit and Keith opened a battered brown bag and produced with a flourish a bottle of rum. He proceeded to undo the cap which to my surprise he threw overboard. “No use for that any more!” he quipped.
That evening we went ashore to watch a film at Mansion House. At the conclusion of the film we went outside to find that the wind had freshened and was blowing straight into the bay. We quickly rowed out and boarded Victory as it was clear that our position was becoming untenable and that we would have to sail across to the other side of Bon Accord. With no motor, it was necessary for us to haul up the main and one of the foresails and get the boat moving forward before I could start pulling in the heavy hemp anchor warp. Not easy without the assistance of a winch. Eventually I succeeded in getting the anchor up so that we could sail out of the bay. Other craft in the vicinity must have been watching with apprehension. I was not concerned as in all my time sailing with Harold we had never had a mishap.
Keith was full of praise for my efforts and I could immediately appreciate how he was able to keep up the spirits of so many young pilots during the Battle of Britain and to keep them flying despite so many being killed. He was certainly inspiring and I felt privileged to spend a few days with him and Harold on board Victory as they reminisced about their colleagues and experiences during the Second World War. They also talked about their time in the “bow and arrow war” (as they called the First World War); Keith (aged 22 at the start of that War) had been in the army at both Gallipoli and the Battle of the Somme, while Harold (aged 17 at the start) had also been in the army serving as a signaler.