|Home||Beginnings||Editorial||Contact Us||News||Links||Online Albums|
The El Adem Radio Service, RAF El Adem and Tobruk.
Stories, Views and Comments
ARCHIVE (1). ARCHIVE (2). ARCHIVE 4 ARCHIVE 5. ARCHIVE 6. ARCHIVE 7. Back to Main Editorial
|If you have any
Stories, Views or Comments that you would like to see published here.
By Jim Jeffries, 5001Sqn. (ACB), 1958-60
Fifty years ago, it doesn’t seem possible that it was so long ago – that is until I kneel down and then try to stand up again. That’s when I concede it is probably true ! I well remember TEARS starting though, to be honest, I don’t think it was known as such then was it ? What I do recall was the ‘con’ perpetrated by the TEARS crew in either 1958 or 59. I suppose someone had initially mistakenly played a 45rpm record by Doris Day at 33rpm. I’m not sure of the title but it could possibly have been Secret Love. The resulting performance was surprisingly good and a fictitious name for the artist was contrived. Again, I cannot recall this name. The ‘con’ went on for some weeks and fooled a lot of people, myself included (well, I was young and naïve then). Eventually the spoof was revealed – whether because of a guilty conscience or what, I don’t know. Whatever it was, as Al Murray would say, “ Shame on You ! “ .
50 YEARS AGO …… TEARS BEGAN BROADCASTING
by Brian (Garry) Wolfe, RAF El Adem, 1958-59
I was known as GARRY most of the time I was in the mob. This name was chosen by me because, square bashing at Bridgenorth, we had 12 ‘Brians’ in our billet. The Garry came from my first employment when one of the Engineers would, if you asked a question, tell you to Go Away and run round a country. This particular day I left a note for him which said Go Away Run Round Yugoslavia. A couple of hours later he called out for Garry and everyone looked up and said we don't have one of those. We do now he said and pinned my note on the board. From that time on until I joined up I was known by that name.
In Habbaniyah, in Iraq, I spent some time working on the radio station as a controller and announcer. In May 1958, upon arrival in El Adem, I was part of the signals unit - just behind the control tower. Pilot Officer Croy was Oi/c and I recall him asking me how often we did six monthly services, WOW !!! I only worked there for about six weeks before I was told to report to the Station adjutant.
I well recall that meeting. It was with a great deal of trepidation that I marched into his office and saluted. " Who are you ?" he asked, which struck me as a stupid question as I had been summoned by him in the first place. I told him and then he surprised me even more when he said "Please sit down, we have some important matters to discuss." "When you were in Iraq you worked on the HAB radio station I'm told." When I confirmed this he said - "We need something like that here because we're a bit cut off and the chaps and families get bored. Would you be willing to take on the task of making this idea come to fruition?" To this I replied that it was not going to be easy trying to do this whilst at the same time doing my normal RAF signals job. To this I was told they would post someone in to do my RAF job as of the end of the week I was full time on this task. Go away and come back next week and tell me what we need. We have a rack of equipment and 200 loudspeakers for use in the accommodation areas. I'll see if I can get Air Formation Signals to do all the cabling and installation work. Everything is in a Nissan hut which we will make the new radio HQ. As of next week you still retain your rank but will no longer work for RAF. I will make Flt Lt Tolley your officer commanding so deal with him, OK?"
"Yes sir" I replied.
Having assessed the acoustic properties of a Nissan hut as abysmal, I then set about deciding what equipment we needed. Garrard 301 transcription turntables, Burne-Jones 12" Pickup arms, Ferrograph tape recorder and all the electronic bits to build the operating system. Acoustic tiles to line the walls and a Westinghouse 'Studio Whisper' air conditioner for the control room. Attempts to acquire the Habbaniyah record library unfortunately came to nothing. A shame really as they had in excess of 2000 discs.
A trip to Blighty, in a Beverley, enabled me to go round the London shops to purchase the goodies. The most expensive item being the 'Acoustic Cellotex' tiles purchased from one Horace Cullham Ltd. He was a real character and took me out for a Lobster lunch which comprised steak & Kidney pie and a pint of beer and a word of wisdom. If anyone asks you where you or anyone else comes from tell them 'Their Mother'.
All of this stuff was purchased with a bill of credit issued by the Air Ministry, and they arranged to get the equipment sent back to El Adem. I think 5001 Squadron did the lining of the hut and produced the soundproof partition between the control room and the studio.
The electronics console was designed and built by Brian Hughes, myself and AN other. At this point we were about ready to run some tests and I asked Allan Carruthers if he would like to be an announcer for us. And so it came to pass.
Flt Lt Tolley said we should call ourselves 'Rediffusion' and that was the name used when we did the radio broadcasts using a 1Kw transmitter. It took about 3 weeks before I was hauled up before the station adjutant and given a severe knuckle wrap because Radio Switzerland had complained we were interfering with their programmes. So ended the radio trials. To make matters worse 'Rediffusion' pointed out that the name was their trademark and we were infringing it. A lot of head scratching took place to come up with a new name and thus 'Tobruk El Adam Radio Service' (TEARS) was born. At times it almost drove us to them !
A few months later we had a complaint from a station in Winnipeg saying we had caused them some trouble with our transmissions. We devised some good programs like 'Oasis Club' which came from Waddi Halfa on Sunday evenings. I think Terry Peters did that. We used to hide him in the station all the weekend so people thought he had actually gone there.
Brian Hughes said that if you played a piece of music enough times you could produce a hit. So we tried it with Igor Stravinsky 'Rite of Spring' the maidens sacrifice. This got played every time there was a gap in normal programming and after about two weeks you could walk around the station and people were either humming or whistling this. There was of course the classic scam with this new pop star. We found that some Doris Day records played at 33 rpm had very little vibrato on them and so could be taken as a male voice, Bearing in mind the Stravinsky test we thought we would try this. Now we needed a name for this new singer. Well DORis became ROD and the orchestra was conducted by Frank de Vol so we used frank and ended up with ROD FRANK.
We managed to keep this going for about six weeks when I was asked to go to supper with Group Capain Bell. Me - Supper. Oh dear there must be real trouble. What a pleasant gentleman. I had a wonderful evening with him his wife and daughter Helen. She was somewhat annoyed that she couldn't buy this Rod Frank song. The NAAFI said that none of there distributors had ever heard of this chap. She complained to her dad who said " I'll get the chap over and we'll discuss this socially." Now I had to explain what we had done. He then told me that the NAAFI had had all these orders for this disc and it was not available which was making life difficult.
I could only apologise profusely and said we would let the secret out. As I was about to leave he said that his daughter Helen wanted to do a show and what did I think. Well you can't tell the c/o what to do so I suggested she come over for an audition. It then transpired that she very much enjoyed my Night Train program so I said, "Come over and we'll give you a try." When I eventually left E-A in the fall of 59 she took over my programme and I still have that script.
Back in the uk I got posted to Wittering and after a week was asked to build a station for their people. Lucky for me I got early release and came back to civvy street.
Just like any other night the ‘squawk’ box sounded and with the flick of a switch the familiar voice of the Controller said “Good morning Crash Crew, line the runway aircraft on approach”, within minutes the crash tenders roared into action proceeding to their respective standby positions adjacent to the runway, Crash 1 at the northern end, Mk 6 midway and DP 2 at the southern end, which was on this particular night, end of approach or point of touch down. Immediately on leaving the crew room it became obvious that this was not like any other night, thick fog hid the airfield. At each crash vehicle position was a ‘squawk’ box and on arrival each driver confirmed with the tower has being in position. After several minutes Ginger Lindsay, driver of the DP 2 thought he heard a bang and felt a bump, he reported this to the tower and requested permission to go to the end of the runway to investigate, Tom Maxwell controller that night denied that request and told Lindsay to hold his position, minutes passed and Ginger knowing that he could not be seen from the tower, left his position and drove to the end of the runway, the overdue Beverley XB268 had indeed arrived on time only to land short of the runway, hit a concrete bunker and burst into flames just 100yds outside the perimeter fence. With no RT equipment and to the horror of the pilot screaming at the crash gate, Lindsay had no alternative other than turn his crash vehicle around and go back to the ‘squawk’ box to raise the alarm.
Very soon every fireman on the station was heading to the crash scene to lend a hand. I remember a great buddy of mine Maurice Webb and myself up to our necks in foam searching for bodies with the wreckage burning around us, and as Maurice recently said “We were 20 year old bits of kids doing a mans job and we thought nothing of it ,because it was our job” (Yes we still keep in touch). Sadly the accident had claimed the lives of two people, I think one was a civilian and the other was an airman reporting back to base following leave in UK.
A few days later, the controller Tom Maxwell was repatriated back home, before leaving he visited the Crash Crew that had been on duty the night of the accident, and gave each member of the crew (7 in total) a packet of cigarettes as a thank you.
Some weeks later, and as a direct result of events that took place on the night of the crash, every emergency vehicle was fitted with radio transmitting equipment, a major contribution to future safety, at an enormous cost,-- The Victims of XB268.
Dave (Taff) Austin.
C Crew, RAF El-Adem. 1962-63.
WING COMMANDER MALCOLM SCHOLES
Flight Engineer who led a charmed life during two operational tours as a teenager with the Pathfinders force.
© tears.org.uk 2007