More than one liberty



More than one liberty


Relates an incident at an officers’ mess ball which contrasts the attitude of peacetime station commander to those found on operational stations. Describes events surrounding a station ball at a training base in the midlands. Includes general behaviour and arrival of the ladies. Relates and incident where a young flying officer bares his chest to show his war scars to some ladies and the peacetime, regular group captain’s response.


Spatial Coverage



One typewritten sheet


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[underlined] More than one liberty [/underlined]

Light beamed from a full moon as Todd made his way from his quarters on the airfield. It reflected on recently polished buttons and on his best blues. The batman had made sure his uniform looked its best, along with highly polished shoes.

Bright moons in the past had spelled danger, lighting up his aircraft for any lurking
fighter. This training airfield in the Midlands was a shock after the free and easy life
on the squadron. The Group Captain Station Commander was a non flying regular
who was all for "spit and polish" with no room for camaraderie.

He returned the salute of a passing airman making his way into the Mess. This was a
welcoming sight tonight as it was the occasion of the Station Ball. Ladies had been
invited, and a special effort had been made to make everything look attractive.

At the bar with drink in hand he returned the ribald remarks of the others grouped
round the bar, realising the strange sound emanating from the hall was the station
dance band practising. There was a sudden hush as the Station Commander walked in, his eyes taking in everything and everyone in turn. He joined a group of senior
officers whilst the barman came forward with his usual libation.

At that moment all attention turned to the door as there was a slamming of car doors. Ladies had arrived and instantly the whole mess became alive with their chattering; their colourful appearance. Swiftly they were greeting husbands, fiances and friends. Even with the rationing of materials for coupons somehow they managed to look like Hollywood stars. Little groups stood about laughing and chattering until at a signal from the C.O. they moved into the hall.

By this time the band was churning out some recognisable tunes, inviting dancers to
take to the floor. After several popular numbers refreshments were served for the
standing parties and chatter re-commenced.

A sudden burst of laughter from the bar turned people in that direction. The C.O.
decided to investigate. A young flying officer in the middle of the ladies had bared his
chest to show some scars made by guards in the Stalag Luft prison in which he had
been captive. He had escaped by hiding in a vegetable cart, surviving stabs by guards

This peacetime C.O. saw nothing humorous or interesting in this, ordering the officer
to attend to his dress; leave the mess; and report to H.Q. at 0800hrs the next day. He
was posted to another camp forthwith

Such was an example of the difference between those who faced the enemy and
survived, and those who still treated their subordinates as though it was peacetime


Antony Bartlett, “More than one liberty,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 20, 2024,

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