Narrow escape for Dai Rees

For three years running, Dai Rees and I circumnavigated the globe. This might not sound much now, but in 1950 it took you five days to fly from the UK to Australia in piston-engined planes which had a maximum speed of about 250 miles per hour.

The trip was broken up into eight hour flights: London to Cairo, then to Karachi, Calcutta, Singapore, Darwin and finally Sydney.

Max with Dai Rees (centre) and Alf Padgham (right)

I am not much of a reader and neither was Dai, so these flights used to bore us rigid. To relieve the tedium, we would chat. We would tell each other things about ourselves that we would never reveal normally.

On one of these trips, we told each other about our experiences in the RAF during the war. Dai told me he had been posted to Egypt during the early days of the desert war and had the good luck of landing the cushy job of MT (Motor Transport) driver in Cairo, which meant that he could play golf at the posh Gezira club during his days off.

On the day before he had a match arranged with three of his pals, he was telephoned by his OC (Officer in Charge), who was an Air Vice Marshall.

“Rees.”

“Yes sir.”

“Would you play golf with me tomorrow at the Gezira club?”

“I would like to sir but I am afraid I already have a match arranged.”

Dai told me that this was the biggest mistake he made in his life. Three days later he was posted out to drive benzene (petrol) tankers supplying fuel to tanks in the front line at Sidi Barrani.

They were under constant air attack, carrying an explosive cargo. On one occasion he was in the back of a truck being moved to another depot when their convoy was machine gunned by fighters.

Dai leaped out with the others but the signet ring he wore on the third finger of his left hand caught in one of the hooks on the back of the lorry. It very nearly tore his finger off and he was left hanging there while the others ran out into the desert.

Eventually a friend came back and lifted him off. When Dai was telling me this in the plane flying over India, he took his ring off and showed me the circular scar of white skin around his finger.

If he had lost his finger it would have finished his tournament golfing career. Not only would we have lost one of our best golfers, we would also have lost one of our best Ryder Cup captains. Dai was inspirational in leading us to victory at Lindrick in 1957.

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