After too long in hospital I was discharged, and joined a group having recently passed through OCTU and now en route for Officer Training in India. Donning white epaulettes and white cap-bands we became Officer Cadets, the lowest form of animal life in the services, and were treated like vermin. Our journey from Cairo, down the Suez Canal to a ship at Port Suez, was a major crusade against combined opposition. No one expected us. Nobody had heard of us or had planned our travel.

There was no shipboard accommodation available and we made many enemies, using threats we could never have sustained, persuading the officer in charge of Army personnel to remove others from their rightful cabins for our use. A travel saga of determination fought against bloody-minded Naval and Military obstructions. But reach Bombay at last, we did.

But one bright highlight! I was taken to a Burn's Night Ball in Bombay. I danced most of the evening with the same beautiful girl, sharing hilarious obscene stories, but returning her after each dance to a long table of distinguished looking folk. My hostess, noting our affinity, advised me not to try to date my partner since she was the daughter of Sir Somebody Colville, the Governor General! But I still have her picture.

And so to the military depot at Mhow in India to be kitted out, and to my surprise, jumping a rank to be gazetted a full lieutenant; then long train journeys to Calcutta via a short stay in New Delhi.

With my arm not fully recovered I was medically downgraded as unfit for the rigours of an Engineer Officer's training. To my dismay I was transferred to the Intelligence Branch of the Royal Corps of Signals and sent on a cipher course.

Having passed out at this dull repetitive but essential work I was promoted to captain and told to hold myself in readiness for a flight to Peking to join the staff of General (Vinegar Joe) Stillwell. An unpopular American missfit, he was busy rallying the Chinese Army to the Allies' Cause and needed someone to establish a cipher office for him - which was to be me.

A fellow-lieutenant on the same cipher course as me learned of this, and with a brigadier father nearby to pull strings, replaced me for the Peking promotion. Unfortunately, as I was to learn later, his plane to China was shot down by a Jap fighter only minutes after take-off.

By then having reverted to my previous rank of lieutenant I was already on my way to the 14th Army in Burma and spent my remaining days in the Orient decoding and encoding cipher messages.

One day Standing Orders, the daily announcement issued to all units covering the Army's requirements and movements of personnel, issued a reminder that those men who had served a certain time abroad were entitled to be repatriated. As this included me, it was an opportunity you may he certain I grabbed.

I was in no further danger except in a troopship dodging enemy submarines while passing through the Med, but with the comfort of a Royal Navy escort, and later the risk of flying bombs while in London visiting relations.

My final and only escapade that could have landed me in trouble happened in Yorkshire.

Ilkley then was an attractive town on the edge of lkley Moor. It maintained an air of exclusive superiority, with many hotels and large gracious houses. But wartime saw the town awash with crowds of men in khaki, for its environs by then held numerous depots for military personnel.

The Army had requisitioned a large hotel in the centre of the town to offer temporary accommodation for many officers recently returned from service abroad. A number of we juniors living there, missing the easier life-styles we had enjoyed overseas, resented the wartime restrictions and would occasionally overstep the bounds of disciplinary prudence. Boredom was our chief worry, for few knew where our next posting might be.

Unintentionally I had acquired a reputation for waywardness, as had many of my friends. One day we heard that the local Trout Beck Hotel was shortly to hold a select dance for the BIF - The Best Ilkley Families - as well as for senior Army officers; strictly, by invitation only.

The rowdier of my subaltern friends challenged me to gatecrash it.

How could I refuse?

A group of Paratroopers returning from the recent Battle of Arnhem tragedy had been billeted locally. The basement bar of our hotel was also open to non-residents and there in the evenings one would often find groups of these men, who as national heroes received generous hospitality. This bar was also my own favourite, being less stuffy and cheaper than the residents' bar above.

One evening, chatting with a group of these men I bought a round of drinks and wondered whether five of them would be interested in joining me for an evening they might find amusing. "Anything for a laugh," agreed one, so I explained my idea. "And I want you to wear polished shoes and to look bloody smart," I concluded, as they grinned and nodded their agreement.

So, on the evening, with the dance well under way, I marched five smart soldiers into the splendid foyer of the Trout Beck Hotel. At a table by the entrance to the ballroom sat a white-haired elderly lady to check the invitation cards. I could hear the band playing Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. What an appropriate number, I thought, as I approached her and delivered a smart salute.

"Good evening, Madam," I began. "I have no wish to alarm you by bringing these soldiers into the hotel, but we have a very delicate mission here. You see, one of our officers, a captain Murphy, has escaped from house arrest. We hear he has every intention of gate-crashing this dance, and my men and I are here to prevent him."

Turning to the troopers I muttered conversationally but sternly, "Don't just stand there at attention. Go into that corner and appear casual; talk to each other. Remove your berets and tuck them under your shoulder straps."

Turning back to the receptionist I continued, "I would like my men and I to circulate among your guests and keep our eyes open. We'll be very discreet, I can assure you; we'll easily recognise the captain when he comes. He's tall and has red hair. If he's drunk you may certain my men can handle him with the least possible disturbance to your guests. Thank you, Madam."

As I led the men into the ballroom, I hissed, "If anyone questions you, just say security, and nothing more. The drinks are free, but for God's sake don't get pissed, or you'll have me court-martialled!"

They held their drinks well, and we all had a wonderful evening. The dance finished in the early hours and we all made our own way home; some, I learned, enjoying even more pleasurable solace, which they richly deserved.

None questioned our presence there. After all, who would challenge a muscular Paratrooper - back from Arnhem?

And then what? Oh, yes. Demob and a blue civvy suit.

Copyright Bob Thwaites, 2007