Bruce West, in his 1975 book “The Man Who Flew Churchill”, relates a story that smacks of myth if not outright “line shoots”. Nevertheless, there may be a small element of truth. But how much ? The book is the story of Bill Vanderkloot, an American pilot in Ferry Command who several times flew Liberator AL504 (“Commando”) and VIP passengers. This particular story constitutes Chapter Twelve of the book and is circa June 1942. It describes a situation involving Vichy-controlled Dakar and British forces in Bathurst, West Africa. However, West/Vanderkloot write as though Dakar was a Luftwaffe station (here is where I am sure the story departs from reality).

By this account, personnel at each station felt that they were neglected and forgotten by their respective headquarters and thus developed a friendly "live and let live" relationship with one another. This extended to mutual assistance with radio homing of aircraft to their intended destinations. It also extended to once-a-day fighter fly-bys of the airfields, “for the sake of official reports” to their respective headquarters, “But no shooting.” There is even an account of five Me.109s making a pass over Bathurst (plausible as the bases were only 100 miles apart). "Standing there on the tarmac observing this amazing scene, Bill Vanderkloot came to the conclusion that it was certainly a most peculiar war being waged out there in that strange corner of Africa."

“Horse poop”, I say - but is there even a kernel of truth in this tale ?