Ripping Yarn at Probus Club

The adventure of a young RAF Flying Officer was regaled to the audience of retired professional and business men of the Probus Club of Basingstoke. Retired RAF Group Captain Mel Kent, himself a member of the club, enthralled his audience about his experience in the Sudan when disaster struck when he and three other RAF servicemen were passengers on a freight plane heading south out of Khartoum in December 1951.

The Vickers Valetta twin engined plane was designed to fly on one engine, but on this occasion when the port engine stopped the starboard engine just was not man enough to continue the flight and they had to make a forced landing with the undercarriage up. Landing in a swamp there was no real injury to anyone but the plane was damaged with bent propellers and tears to the skin of the fuselage. There were only minimal food rations on board and only a gallon of water so the situation was desperate. The radio didn’t work at ground level but after some days they were eventually spotted by a search plane and supplies were dropped to them. The RAF contacted a local tribe who arrived days later at the crash site complete with long spears. The servicemen initially feared that they were Mau Mau terrorists.

Three days walking and the crew were at the tribe’s village and from there eventually returned to Khartoum where a rescue and repair team was led by Flying Officer Kent back to the crash site. Several trucks carried two new engines, propellers and a host of mechanical aids. Six weeks of hard work later, in late February 1952, the plane being repaired and the swamp having dried out to a hard surface a makeshift runway saw a successful escape flight.

What caused the initial engine shutdown turned out to be that someone had forgotten to refuel the wing tank.

Potential members of the Probus Club of Basingstoke can find out more of its activities by looking on their web site or can contact their secretary Gerry Anslow on 01256 325253 or email