Trips To China

‘I represent the North China Daily News. I am a South African and a globe-trotter like yourself and a keen airman like yourself.’

On board the launch I met Colonel Thoms, who was a big, tall New Zealander in command of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps, Palmer, the Shell man, and a China Police officer. We debated what to do with the seaplane. Palmer said that it would be difficult to guard it there, and that it would take one and a half hours to get down the river by launch. I asked why he did not come down by motor-car. Thoms said, You can’t motor anywhere here. There are no motor roads, and it is not safe to leave the town.’ Here the old woman, her withered face wreathed in a friendly smile, manoeuvred her sampan alongside and returned my hat. She had gone off by herself and rescued it while we talked.

Trips To China Photo Gallery

It was decided that I should fly up-river to the Shell (Asiatic Petroleum Company) store and jetty, half way back to Shanghai. Before getting into the sampan to return to the seaplane, I drew Palmer aside. ‘Can’t you come in the sampan instead of that chap?’ I asked. ‘It’s pure luck that my plane is still intact; why didn’t you come in the first place?’

‘I didn’t like to, because he is a flying man, and knows all about it.’

Palmer talked Chinese fluently and I was quickly back in the seaplane without any trouble. When I opened the throttle to take off I was only 170 yards from the river bank ahead of me, but the seaplane took off easily enough some thirty yards short of the bank. I circled to have a good look at the take-off scene, recalling all the long hair-raising attempts to get off during the voyage before the floats were mended. I came down by the Shell jetty and the seaplane was hauled up a grass bank beside it, with each wing tied down to oil drums full of water. By the time all this had been done it was dark, and we trod across a number of sampans to a jetty where the shadows were pitch black. ‘Keep together,’ said Thoms, ‘they have a habit of sacking a knife into people here, and holding the body under water until all is quiet.’ After a long wait beside a road while I tried to keep the reporter from sitting on the bundle containing my one suit, Palmer at last secured a car, and Thoms took me to stay at his house.

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