46 Squadron held a lot of parties and was famed for its good spirits – not only its Cyprian brandy. Doc Macdonald’s daughter kindly sent me this great photograph of a ‘session in the mess’, on the back of which Doc had written the following caption:
‘taken after a lunchtime session. I am on the piano with Sheriff Muir behind me and Oscar Wild standing up. Charlie Peace with Fritz in the foreground.’
Sherriff Muir (Squadron Leader Gilbert Alexander Muir DFC) was a Canadian, who, as a special signals officer in 46 Squadron, had devised a means of controlling night-fighters from the warships they were escorting. Charlie Peace had been with my father in 256 Squadron back in the UK in 1942. He had adopted Fritz after the Dachshund had been left behind by the retreating Germans. Charlie was killed in action in early 1944, and Dad looked after Fritz from then on. ‘Oscar’ was Dad’s nickname in the Squadron. I was very moved to receive this photograph in 2013, and wrote the following poem.
There’s my dad standing at the back,
Clapping or playing rhythm spoons,
Next to the smiling Sheriff Muir;
While the Doc bashes out the tunes
on the old Joanna, festooned
With flowers, as if they’re in Hawaii,
Not Egypt, under a desert moon.
In front of the draped Union Jack
Two chaps stage right are obviously
Dancing, pounding the boards, a blur
Of movement in the camera’s eye.
Charlie Peace, self-styled conductor,
With his back to the players sits
Waving his right arm frantically
And on his knee the Dachshund Fritz
Wags his tail and grins ecstatically.
The picture’s still, there is no sound
For me: no honky-tonk music,
No spoons’ percussion clacks, clapped hands,
No feet-taps or the dog Fritz’s
Barks, no creaking boards. I can’t smell
The frowsty, beery, tented air.
The Doc’s playing but who can tell
Now what song?
I see but can’t hear.
All these chaps are gone: weeks later,
Lost in action, Charlie died out there,
His final resting place unknown;
My dad in Derbyshire, last year.