© Ian A Clark, 2008.
ISBN 978-1-4092-1173-0 buy hardback
Charles Henry George Nida (1895-1985) was one of a vanished breed of men: a self-declared empire-builder—and proud of it. But not for him the titled ranks of the Heaven-Born. He earned his spurs as a box-wallah: a travelling salesman in India on the eve of the Great War.
Always a great believer in trade as the way Britain must earn its living in the world, he was a chota sahib—“little man”—rubbing shoulders with the ordinary folk of India, treating them as equals and being treated likewise.
In 1914, at the outbreak of war, he volunteered for service with the Calcutta Motor-Cycle Machine-Gun Battery, a frankly bizarre unit which was disbanded on arrival in Belgium without seeing action. He then joined another unit of dare-devils mounted on new-fangled mechanical steeds—the Royal Flying Corp (RFC).
After the armistice in 1919, having been transferred into the newly-formed Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1918, it was his task to fly the unit’s aeroplanes home across the English Channel. He crash-landed the last one in a gusting side-wind—an accident which left him with one blocked nostril and an engagingly urbane drawl.
In the 1950s...