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Mistaken Identity  - W. D. Graham

While serving on the front lines with CTSD, Hanslope Park , I was part of a team that inspected the British Embassy in Havana. I was granted time at the end of the inspection to divert via Canada en route to London. At that time we Canadians traveled on British Diplomatic Passports.  

I was supposed to travel by Air Cubana through Montreal but shortly before my scheduled departure Air Cubana cancelled their service because they were not allowed to pass over US territory.  

Fortunately, a secretary at the Canadian Embassy alerted me to the fact that Air Canada was now allowed to service Cuba and that the inaugural flight was leaving that evening. I rushed to the office handling Air Canada travel, secured a seat and then to the Cuban Foreign Ministry for an exit permit.  

At the appointed hour I arrived at the airport, cleared customs and sat in the departure lounge where it was lonely. At last the flight was called and I boarded the bus to the aircraft where I noted that I was the only passenger. I remarked on this to the Air Canada steward who explained that I was the ONLY passenger because the Cubans had not organized exit procedures for that route yet and I only got on because I had a diplomatic passport.  

Being an inaugural flight, the aircraft was laden with champagne, steaks and lobster. I and the 5 cabin staff started to party.  

After we took off and at cruising altitude, the captain came back to see who the important passenger was. I explained why I was in Cuba and that I wanted to get to Ottawa and visit my parents.  He advised that we would land 10 minutes AFTER the last flight to Ottawa .  

"No worries" he said because they would hold the flight for a British Ambassador.  I tried to explain that I was neither the Ambassador nor British but to no avail.

When we landed in Toronto a Canadian customs type met me at the aircraft door stamped my passport and drove me to the aircraft waiting to depart to Ottawa where I had a hostile reception from the other now very vexed passengers.  My luggage arrived the next day and I traveled to London a few days later as an ordinary peasant.

Editors Notes:

Beginning in the late '50s Canadian Diplomatic Technical Security Service (CDTSS) technicians were posted to CTSD for training and to provide assistance to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in their inspection and technical maintenance of British Embassies worldwide.

The Manor House at Hanslope Park is a historical site.

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OFARTS Canada 2007 Old Foreign Affairs Retired Technicians, Canada The opinions expressed here are those of the contributors. Accuracy of facts has not been verified in all cases.