Friday, 9 November 2007

Part II: Royal Air Force Service 1922-1945

On the 22nd February 1922, I joined the RAF for service with the Armoured Cars in Iraq. Early training at Uxbridge, the intensive training at Manston, Kent. (The RAF Armoured Cars were formed to take over from the Tank Corps the duties of policing Iraq and Fighter and Bomber Squadron were to replace Army regiments.)

At Manston my signalling came in handy. I was promoted Cpl and signal instructor to the whole A Car unit. In addition, every car crew had to know how to drive and to be efficient with Lewis and Vickers machine guns, rifles and revolvers, as well as signalling.

On 15th September 1922 we sailed for Iraq, but trouble was brewing in Turkey, so we were diverted to Constantinople. I saw the wrecks off the narrows, and as we steamed up the narrows my thoughts went back seven years to the thousands of young men who had died trying to force these waters we were so calmly sailing on.

After about three weeks, we were on our way to Iraq again.

Arrived Baghdad some time in November and at once started intensive training. I was promoted Sgt and took over ‘A’ Section of cars up to the end of 1924, when I was posted home. My section travelled thousands of miles in Iraq, stayed for a while at Mosul and Kirkut and even went into the Kurds’ Territory. Arrived Southampton 23 November 1924. Posted to School of Balloon Training on Salisbury Plain. 29th November 1929 posted to Halton. Promoted F/Sgt July 1932. Apri 1933 posted to 601 Squadron Hendon as NC0 1st Class. August 1936, posted to Demon Flight Squadron. Assembled on Waterloo Station, trained to Southampton, embarked on HMT Neuralia for Malta. The Squadron was later named 74 Fighter Squadron. In August 1936 the Squadron was posted home to Hornchurch, Essex.

September 4th 1937, promoted to Warrant Officer 1st Class and posted to Grantham as Station Warrant Officer. January 1938 refused a commission in the Equipment Branch. April 1935 posted overseas to Heliopolis, Egypt. April 30th, posted to Nairobi as Station Warrant Officer and to enforce discipline, which I am sorry to say was sadly lacking. However, after a few months, a new CO arrived, Wg. Cdr Shaw. H e was the type of CO I could work with and very soon the Station became what an RAF Station should be. I made friends with RSM, KAR [King's African Rifles] and other white Warrant Officers and was made an honorary member of their Mess, the first RAF Warrant Officer ever to be given that honour and I considered it just that. I also made friends with Chief Inspectors and Inspectors of the Kenya Police and a special friend was Brigham Young. Donald was his real Christian name. He was Superintendent of the Pumwani native location, housing about 10,000 natives, with their own hospital, staffed with their own nurses, brewery, dance hall, recreation room, sports centre etc. Brigham took me around the countryside to spots of beauty when time permitted.

In April 1940 I was commissioned in the advisory staff branch and posted to Heliopolis, travelling by BOAC flying boat. May 1939 posted to Khartoum by the Nile Valley Route. June 1940 posted by air to Erkowit, with the skeleton staff of HQ 254 Wing, whose function was to operate the three Bomber Squadron against the the Italians. September 1940 promoted to F/Lt and as Staff Officer had to visit Squadrons and collect data etc and help and advise in the admin work. Air Marshal Tedder visited us for a few days at this time.

He was very nice to all of us and we thought he was the right man for the job. October 1940 the whole HQ took up residence in Port Sudan and operated the Squadrons from there. The CO was excellent. I liked him very much and we got along fine. G/Capt S D MacDonald, AFC. With the final fall of the Italians at ***, our HQ began to run down. G/Capt MacDonald was posted during March 1941 from Heliopolis to Command, and shortly afterwards I was posted to Heliopolis as Station Adjutant. I liked the job very much and was sorry when the G/Capt flew off with a Squadron of Wellingtons to quell the mutiny in Iraq.

October 1941 promoted to S/Ldr and posted to MEP [Middle East Pool] to Command. This was my toughest job ever. A tented camp to house about 6-7,000 Officers and men. The Camp was renamed 21 PTC (Personnel Training Centre). Our job was to take all drafts of Officers and men coming into the country, tent them, issue with bedding etc. All had to be medically examined and inoculated and paid. Then posting instructions were given me by HQME [Headquarters Middle East] and the men posted by lorry to Western Desert, Palestine and to other units throughout the Middle East. Some job. And we had to get organised to do it. The largest draft I ever took was from the Queen Mary, 8,900 in one go. I had to take over seven Army Camps in the Canal Zone and we finally got them in and posted without too much trouble. Air Commodore Sanderson, our officer I/C Administration Air HQ Egypt was a tower of strength at this time and got me everything I needed to help post the men to their Units.

In October 1942 I was posted home, with, I have learned afterwards, a very fine recommendation to Air Ministry by Air Vice Marshal McClancey. Left Suez 14th October 1942 and landed Glasgow 14 January 1942, via Aden, Durban, Cape Town, Pernambuco, Brazil, Trinidad, and New York. Ten days home and posted to Lossiemouth, Scotland. I retired from the RAF in September 1945 as a Sq/Ldr and given permission by the Air Ministry to carry my rank through civilian life and permitted to wear uniform on any special occasion. Was awarded two mentions in Despatches and the OBE.

Photos 1922-42

RAF Revolver Championships, Iraq, Runners-up 1923

Baghdad, 1923.

Winners, RAF Cup, Iraq, 1924.

Balloon School, Salisbury Plain, 1925.

Balloon School, Salisbury Plain, 1925.

91 Group Senior Administration Officers, RAF Station Honeybourne, 23 May 1945.


Egypt, 1940s.