A Great War adventure of Flight Officer Joan Worralson (Worrals of the W.A.A.F.) and her comrade in arms, Flight Officer Betty, otherwise “Frecks”, Lovell.


by Captain W. E. Johns


First printed May 1944



I.         ASSIGNMENT IN SYRIA  (Pages 7 – 22)


Flight-Officer Joan Worralson – “Worrals” to her comrades in the W.A.A.F. and her friend, Flight Officer Better Lovell, otherwise “Frecks” have arrived at Combined Intelligence Headquarters in Aleppo in Syria to meet with Major Kenton.  They have been recommended by Air Commodore Raymond of the Air Ministry for a task and Kenton, who has been in the Middle East for thirty-two years, is to explain what it is.  Kenton firstly explains how women are treated by the locals.  “Women barely count for anything except as a means of getting work done or running a house.  They are practically slaves, dominated by the men”.  Their hands are tied if a woman is suspected of espionage.  “No man dare go near a Moslem woman, not even in the street, to ask a question.  He might lose his life if he did.  The natives would stand for a lot, but if we tried to get into their women’s quarters there would be the very devil to pay – not only here, but right through the East.  Every Moslem country would go up in a sheet of flame”.  Kenton explains that all the various sects and religions in Syria would be at each other’s throats if order was not maintained by force.  Syria is an ideal place for enemy propaganda causing unrest.  The propaganda is mainly in the form of leaflets and they know they are bought in by air.  An aircraft has recently crashed carrying two hundred pounds of paper.  It was flown by a woman pilot dressed as an Arab woman.  Kenton has good reason to believe the paper is being used for the printing of the leaflets.  The plane she was in was a German copy of a British plane called the Heron, used all over the Middle East.  It’s a high-wing monoplane, with a three-seater cabin.  Kenton has arranged for Worrals and Frecks to stay in a small hotel run by a trustworthy local called Stampoulos.  They won’t be able to wear their uniforms.  The plan is for them to adopt the role of two young girls of French extraction from a convent in Lebanon (as they both speak French), on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, which is in Aleppo.  Kenton says he has a man to show them around and also protect them.  “There are some fine men here, and that goes for all classes and creeds, but there is also the scum of the earth, creatures who would commit murder for the price of a night’s lodging.  The danger is worse for women than for men.  A man, even when he is an enemy, may be treated with respect, but a woman is nothing, a mere chattel, worth no more than the price she could command in the marriage market.  After thousands of years of custom the women here are content to accept that state of affairs”.  Kenton calls for Nimrud to come in.  “Nimrud is an adopted name – his real name is unpronounceable”.  He speaks all the languages spoken there.  There is a knock at the door and Kenton calls “come in”.