In the BOAC office at Durban

John Field (as told to Allan Jackson)

John told me that he was at school in Durban and that he got a job as a junior clerk with BOAC in December 1943, after leaving school. The job had been advertised in the local papers and he was accepted for the post after an interview. He worked both in the ticket office on the ground floor of Devonshire Court and in the office on the floor above.

He told me that the staff would often walk the short distance to the bay to watch the flying boats land and how a siren would sound to warn shipping of the impending arrival. The crash boats would assist in warning ships and make sure that the landing area was free from floating logs or anything else that might damage the aircraft on landing.**

John often used to write out the tickets for passengers booking flights on the flying boat service to the UK. He remembers that many of the passengers were keen to avoid having to sit in seat # 13 and he believes that the airline did consider changing the number of the seat to 12A.

His duties often included taking the pay out to the staff at the engine workshops in Sydney Road and at the hangars at Bayhead on Fridays. He and a big box of money were transported by car and, although there was never any trouble, he was issued with a large pistol just in case.

One of the more pleasurable duties that the office staff were called upon to perform was to ride on the flying boats, when they were test-flown after major overhauls and maintenance, to bring the aircraft up to the weight that they would be with a load of passengers. John said he remembered flying three or four times before leaving the company in July 1944, having refused a transfer to Lagos.

** Note: On calm days, when the surface of the bay was flat and smooth, the pilots would have had trouble both in taking off from the water and judging their height above it when coming in to land. The crash boats would have zigzagged up and down the landing area to cause waves and ripples to make it easier for the pilots to take off and, when landing, to see the water surface.

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