This article was submitted by:
SAC Bernard Burgess, Air Wireless Mechanic 1957/58
In May 1957, orders were given for a brief detachment of a Valiant aircraft to Northern Nigeria for the inauguration of a new airport for services into West Africa.
Not many days later, we found ourselves in Kano as honoured guests among the colonial administrators and the native population. In this festive atmosphere, the relations between aircrew and groundcrew eased. Everyone stayed in the Airport Hotel; officers in their rooms, other ranks in the ‘Pilgrims’ Hall. Northern Nigeria is a Muslim country and West African Airways arranged flights for pilgrims to Mecca during the Haj. Happily the Haj was over and temporary accommodation was provided for us in this billet.
During our stay, we were looking for a souvenir. We resolved to steal the sign which stood outside this building. On the morning of departure, the sign was taken down and used as a stretcher to carry our equipment across the apron to be loaded into the carrier which hung in the bomb bay of the aircraft. As we made our way past the CO, he stopped us, asking to be shown this curious board bearing our toolbags. Our hearts sank, believing that we were well and truly caught. As he read the words of the sign - Pilgrims to Mecca this way (in both English and Hausa) - his face broke into a broad grin. He jerked his thumb at the aircraft and said, “Good show! Get it aboard”. Sighs of relief all round!
And that, as they say in the fairy stories, is why there stood for many years, outside the Squadron Office at Honington, a sign directing all those who wished to visit Mecca, to knock on the Adjutant痴 door!