Squadron Leader Bigglesworth might still be alive today if the RAF had realised that wogs had guns, said coroner David Masters today, giving his verdict into the crash of the dashing aviator’s Martin-Handasyde Elephant in Afghanistan in 1919, at the height of the Third Afghan War.
“The failure to install a fire extinguisher was… a serious systemic failure and a contributory factor in the loss of the aircraft,” he said. “There was a loss of opportunity for the survival of the crew by that failure.”
“I say!” spluttered Air Chief Marshal ’Binky’ Torpy, Chief of the Air Staff, raising his eyebrows so high that his monocle plopped into his glass of whisky. “How the blooming crikey were we supposed to know that Johnny Towelhead even had guns, let alone working out which was the sharp end? Our top intelligence man, Ginger - bloody good chap - did a quick recce in his old bus earlier, and assured us that the wily old gentlemen had nothing more deadly in their tents than a couple of trained falcons and the odd scimitar or two.”
The whiskered old veteran retrieved his eyepiece, and his faithful batman quietly decanted another tot of finest single-malt into the glass.
“You know,” he reflected as he reached for the soda siphon, “I do believe that, shortly before his unfortunate fiery demise, Bigglesworth wrote a memorandum to the effect that a fire blanket in the cockpit might forestall the instant immolation of the pilot, in the event of any mishap involving the tank of 100-octane aviation fuel just behind the instrument panel. Think I had a chinwag about it to Algy in stores, actually; but if memory serves, he said it wasn’t in the budget and he’d try to scrounge a couple off the Martin-Handasyde rep next time he dropped by.”
“Anyway, bit of a flap on now,” he admitted. “We’ve already taken steps to enhance the protection of our kites, including the fitting of a sand bucket to all Elephant biplanes operating in Mesopotamia and Afghanistan, and to improve our understanding of the threats posed in the challenging and dynamic environments in which we operate, i.e. the sky. Apparently if the wings fall off, there’s a possibility that the plane might stop working. Tricky business, this flying lark. Learning all the time, you know. Still, per ardua and all that. Chin chin!”