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The El Adem Radio Service, RAF El Adem and Tobruk.
Stories, Views and Comments
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|1.Down Memory Lane by Jackie Small||If you have any
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here. Please send them in the first instant to John Moir, 1 Holland
Close Bickington, Barnstable, Devon.
RAF El Adem 1969-70
I did some work on the Tears Studio, but dates are a little foggy. Myself and a couple of friends closed it all down for a week, and rewired all the desk. We bought all new stuff such as a posh microphone and even trolled round all the Twynhams rewiring speakers and putting the correct matching transformers in them. I also vaguely remember etching "on air"etc. in the perspex between eng. and announcer. Decks were rewired and much earthing was done to eliminate hum. I also remember that there was mains 240 under the control panel operated switchboard type keys (lethal on reflection, but acceptable at the time). Buying loads of matched pairs of valves for the amps. caused apoplexy with the controller of funds.I would do it all differently now of course, but fun at the time. The only person I recognise on the site is Ben Lines and his wife Avril. Long time ago but treasured memories even if at the time it seemed like a life sentence.
By Bill Blackie
The first time I ever heard the name ‘El Adem’ was in mid summer 1960. I was on detachment from RAF Halton as the storeman for a tented camp situated on the top of the hill above a small Army TA camp called Penhale near Newquay.This was for the “brats” who came down for a two week ‘holiday’! The duty clerk told me that I was on draft 777C to El Adem in September. Our CO was a walrus moustached ex WW2 pilot, Sqd Leader Jenkins, who took great delight in telling me that he had transited through El Adem and it was a 'shit' hole, to quote him! He described the few buildings mainly erected before the war by the Italians and the sand strip with its oil can lighting system. I thought he was having me on but that was just what we faced when alighting from our charter flight from Gatwick. Our first night was spent in the splendour of the tented accommodation behind Air Movements with the luxury of flush toilets and mains electricity. My nights for about the next six months were in a marquee near the water tower with six or eight beds and a 60watt bulb run off a generator in the AMWD yard across the road. After the six months I got a billet up in J Block but finished up in Newton Block opposite the front of the Airmen’s mess after Squillions of pounds had been spent on new runways, messes, a swimming pool and a new NAAFI and new accommodation blocks. Many memories of the place include the following:
I obtained a class B licence from the MT section and became the driver of the stores wagon, a Bedford RL in which I did many miles around the camp and in and around Tobruk and also on a couple of occasions up to Derna to change over 45 gallon drums of fuel for the helicopters. These trips usually happened on a long weekend and a few others from the stores compound would come along too usually in a ‘borrowed’ Land Rover. On one trip we ran out of fuel on the way back and took the fittings off the air hoses and siphoned Avgas from the drums in the back, into the fuel tank. The MT sergeant was not too impressed with our ingenuity as it would have damaged the valves but, Boy, did it run well! I well remember the MT section taking the prop shaft of ‘my’ wagon to keep one of the Gharries running and leaving it with drive through the front axle only. It took about half a mile to turn it around! Another incident was when pulling up to the laundry hut after the first rains of winter, a trench collapsed under the near side front wheel and we took a nose dive in a couple of feet. Another joy was the unauthorised driving of the AMWD’s Leyland Hippos around the stores compound. One regret was that our lads would never leave the keys in the cab of the Bedford Queen Mary so I never managed a go at that one.
Many hours were spent at the Astra, probably at least three visits a week with one memorable Sunday when a Tom and Jerry spectacular was shown [Good old FRED] and by the end of the show we were too sore to laugh. CSE shows were few and far between but always worth a visit just to see the girls in their fishnet tights. Talk about sex starved Airmen, BINT Whooff!! Bill Maynard now better known for Heartbeat, on the telly, put on an impromptu show in the NAAFI one night when his kite went U/S on the way back from the Far East and that went down very well with the lads. [Lassies were conspicuous by their absence!]
A huge parade for the visit by the then Princess Royal, when she stopped in front of me and asked “ and how long have you been in the Air Force, Corporal? ”biting back the retort ‘ Too bloody long Ma’am!’
Remembrance day in the British War Cemetery with those lines of sparkling white crosses—the Last Post still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up’
In the early days, swimming down at the beach in Tobruk but this palled slightly with working outdoors so much in and around the stores compound that the idea of sunbathing was no longer attractive.
The Tears set up was usually worth a listen especially for the request programmes when you always hoped that your girlfriend or family got you a mention. I have a vague recollection of a late night show where the presenter was a Scots lass [medical Officer??] who had the most gorgeous sexy voice and drove us all to distraction!
In Newton block I shared, with Dixie Dean of whom more later, Jim Nichols and Dave Huxley. Dave was the POL storeman and at one stage was extremely worried when MT fuel was going adrift. All was solved however when they opened up the storage tank and found it had rusted away and the petrol was seeping into the surrounding sand!
The day an American Air Force ‘deuce and a half’ turned up with a tank on the back looking for 300 gallons of MT fuel for a desert exercise they were on. He was based at Wheelus Field and I will never forget his complaint that “ they were sure doing it tough” as they had not had any fresh orange juice for a week! I do not think he believed me when I told him I hadn’t seen fresh milk for months never mind a week!
Less pleasant memories were the night a native driver turned over a 6 wheel AEC tanker just across the road from our billet, fortunately loaded with Avtur and not Avgas, and the tragedy of the Hastings crash that took the lives of some Maltese defence forces who had been training with our Army in the desert. I heard that they were due to go back by boat but as the aircraft was going back empty anyway they were given the option of catching the flight! As the stores driver I had to deliver coffins to the Sick quarters and the temporary mortuary set up in the Gymnasium.
They say that time and distance lends enchantment but it cannot remove the memories of the other side of the place- the millions of flies, the stench of the thunder buckets, the lack of fresh fruit and milk [in the first six months at least] and endless supplies of tinned bacon and sausages served up in the mess, countless hours spent guarding the Bomb Dump [most of the stock looked well past its sell buy date anyway] and probably worst of all, the lack of female company. A thousand fellas and six women is entirely the wrong ratio!!
Like most Airmen of my era, when asked to nominate for overseas postings I put down, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia [having now seen Woomera at first hand I am glad I did not get that one!] but got El Adem. Someone told me that meant “The End” in Arabic and if so was fairly close to the truth but looking back on it now, it was probably a character forming experience!
The one good thing that came out of my time there was meeting Brian “Dixie” Dean on my first day at work in the Technical Stores and we are still close friends forty years later. He was my best man in 1961 and I returned the favour in 1962 when he married a WRAF girl introduced to him by myself and my then fiancée, also a WRAF girl both of whom worked at the MOD in London. A few years after I was widowed in 1989, Brian and his wife, Margaret were responsible for me meeting Jan, an Australian lady and when we got married in 1996 he did the best man job again. Not many people can say they have the same best man twice!
My memories of El Adem are probably more intense than of my other two major postings in my five years service, namely Halton and 16 MU Stafford, probably due to the isolation of the place and the fact that you lived in each others pockets almost 24 hours a day. There was no village pub to slope off to, no big city lights with all its attractions to break the monotony, so mail and newspapers from home were avidly shared around and a food parcel from home was like Christmas. French onion soup cooked on the top of an Aladdin paraffin stove was ambrosia from heaven!
Bill Blackie. Ex Cpl. Receipt and Despatch Section. Stores compound.
Pathfinder Mosquito pilot who played a role in developing the
accuracy of RAF bombing raids.
Robert Law was a Mosquito pilot in 109 Squadron involved in operating the Oboe blind bombing system used by Bomber Command’s Pathfinder Force to achieve new standards of target marking and bombing from early 1943 onwards.
Oboe, invented and developed at the Telecommunications Research Establishment, required pilots to fly absolutely steadily, and for several minutes often under enemy fire, along a radio beam transmitted by a ground station (the ‘mouse’) that emitted a pure note reminiscent of an oboe. On reaching their target, they would receive a further from another ground station (the ‘cat’) on which they would drop their flares enabling the following ‘main force’ bombers to hit their targets with an accuracy not obtainable with Oboe’s predecessor systems.
Oboe and H2S, a radar apparatus completely self-contained within the aircraft, transformed Bomber Command’s bombing accuracy during the second half of the war.
Law flew 93 sorties for 109 Squadron between July 1943 and May 1945. Of these 82 were flown with C.W.(Billy) J. Falkinder his Australian navigator. Among their targets during 1943 were munitions dumps and gun batteries around the Pas de Calais, the Krupp works at Essen and chemical works at Leverkusen, north of Cologne.
In 1944 targets included the V1 sites in the Pas de Calais and oil depots at Geisenkirchen, and on March 1st Law piloted one of two Oboe Mosquitoes that led a formation of Lancasters to attack a V1 site in the Pas de Calais in daylight from 20,000 feet, the first time Oboe had been used in daylight. From mid-March until D-Day most raids were directed on the main railway yards of Northern France.
On June 6th Law learnt that his mission, late the previous evening when he was the first to take off at 22.10 and mark the massive gun battery at Crisbecq in Normandy with flares, had opened up the air offensive for D-Day.
In late 1944 and early 1945, by which time he was commanding the Squadron, raids were directed at targets mainly in Germany, including one on April 25th 1945, on Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and the SS Barracks at Berchtesgaden. Law’s final sortie was on May 4th as part of Operation Manna, which was launched to relieve a desparate food shortage in The Netherlands. Between April 29th and May 5th Lancasters and Mosquitoes dropped more than 6,650 tons of supplies for the Dutch.
Law was awarded the DFC in 1944 for ‘gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations’ and the DSO in 1945, the citation praising ‘a fearless pilot whose courage and determination in the most hazardous circumstances have set a fine example to all who have served with him.
After the war postings included Paris, 1951-54, where he was involved in early attempts to form a European Defence Force, and the command of RAF El Adem in Libya, 1957-59, some 18 miles south of Tobruk on the edge of the Libyan desert. El Adem was, in those days before the overthrow of King Idris by Colonel Gaddafi, a staging post for transport aircraft, a Vulcan bomber base and was also used by the RAF Regiment to hone desert fighting skills. It was also a visible deterrent to a potentially aggressive post-Suez President Nasser of Egypt.
One of Law’s first acts was to plant acacia and eucalyptus trees and within two years El Adem had been transformed from an arid desert air base into an oasis and a resting point for all manner of birds on their annual migrations between Africa and Europe. Law made the medical facilities at El Adem accessible to the few local and semi-nomadic tribesman and their families. If during the long and hot summers their water ran out, a bowser would be sent to ensure they and their herds were not without water.
Group Captain Robert Law, DSO, DFC, was born on November 2 1917 and died on February 11 2008 aged 90.
By Bob Bertie, Safety Equipment Section, RAF El Adem, 1960-62
There was great joy on the tent site when told new accommodation was to be built and the 'Campers' were to be re-housed in prefabs, four bods to a room and four single rooms for corporals. The numbers of blocks were limited and allocated to each wing. There were not enough rooms to accommodate everyone in the new blocks consequently volunteers were called from the bods in the tents who wanted to stay put. Amazingly there were plenty of volunteers, some whose time was almost up at EI-Adem who thought it was not worth the trouble of moving, while others with the bravo/macho attitude wanted to stay in their tents in order to boast to the 'Moonies' back home how they had survived the hardships by completing their full tour in El Adem's notorious tent lines. Being at an age where comfort was a priority needed no persuasion. I relished the thought of a move from the tent lines to the comfort of brand new accommodation fitted with all mod-cons. I could not get out of the tent lines quick enough.
When all the accommodation had been filled, my job as NCO i/c block started and, as the saying goes, 'This new broom swept clean' and with a vengeance, which did not go down at all well with the bods who had conveniently forgotten how to make up a bed pack and viewed a sweeping brush as an offensive weapon. What hurt them most was the return of the one thing all airmen detested, the dreaded 'Bull Night'. After a few choice phrases and some old fashioned discipline taught as a wartime soldier and a few little skirmishes they began to lose that 'Happy Campers' attitude. In recognition of my efforts and to show their respect, I was awarded the honour of being mentioned on the walls of fame, namely the toilet walls. Bless ‘em, how could they have known my parents weren’t really married. (I wonder where they got the brown paint).
At one stage the tech ‘Wing discip' sergeant had to return home on compassionate grounds. I was detailed to stand in until a replacement arrived. One of my duties was to march escorts and accused to face the Presiding Officer whose office was up a flight of steps. Originally an old time control tower, it was quite a small room with a very highly bulled up floor. On one occasion as I marched them in, 'left, right, left, right’ in quick time, five paces then 'Right Turn', as they turned right the accused feet shot from under him. He ended up on his back, feet facing the Officer. Naturally there was some concern but the lad was no worse for wear, perhaps a loss of dignity. However, it turned out to be his lucky day - the Officer feeling benevolent due to the mishap, dismissed the charge.
During one Tech Wing inspection day by the Station Commander (who ran a tight station to put it nicely), I had to accompany the inspection party on the rounds. We arrived at the Tech Wing airmen’s' accommodation site where two of the new blocks which housed the airmen faced the full extent of the bondu. Suddenly, the station commander shouted, "What is that Arab doing there?" as he pointed out into the bondu halting the inspection party in its tracks. The object of his outburst, about two hundred yards away was an Arab squatting down obviously adding his homegrown silage to the sand. "Go and investigate corporal," he ordered. I walked a little way towards the Arab, returned to the party and announced, "He's having a shit sir!" The O.C. showing his anger said, "Then take his bloody name corporal and get rid of him." - or words to that effect. Away I went, waited while the guy had finished his muck spreading, looked at his I.D. then escorted him to the guardroom and handing him over to the police with an explanation of the incident. I did hear later he had been deprived of his work permit on the station. That little episode saved me from doing the rest of the rounds of inspection.
A few days later when I was in Tobruk I heard this voice shouting "Hello Corporal". It was the Arab muck spreader - he came to me beaming all over his face and greeted me like his long lost brother. Had Allah answered his prayers and sent someone to save him from having to work for a living - namely yours truly ? It appeared I had made a friend for life. I got this acknowledgement each time we met in Tobruk.
On a long weekend some of us 'living in' Corporals, half a dozen or so, would team up with a civilian worker who worked for an oil company and who was very familiar with the surrounding desert. He would provide the transport and camping equipment and we the vitals. He would then take us to various interesting sites, the Kalansho Sand Sea and Petrified Forest being a favourite run.
Here we would collect small mementos of petrified tree for ourselves and also for the guys who, when they knew where we were going would ask, "Bring us a bit back". We would camp down when and where we felt like it. On occasions we would catch sight of a desert fox or a gazelle, a protected specie by royal decree of King Idris.
The Sand Sea was an amazing sight; among the huge sand dunes one could listen and swear an aircraft was way overhead, when in reality it was the sound of shifting sand. It was fun kipping down under the stars after a good cooked meal which we all helped with one way or another. A couple of cans of Amstel beer helped to induce a good night’s sleep.
Another great favourite destination was Giarabub a little oasis approximately 300 kilometers southeast from Tobruk where we met a friendly Arab weatherman who manned the weather station. None of us could speak Arabic apart from the few swear words which the English serviceman always latches onto quicker than anything else. I had picked up a few words of Italian, in which the Arab was quite fluent, learned from when the Italians were there. We picked up a little bit more information from him, not much I'm afraid for I did not know as much Italian as I thought I did. (Clever sod)
There was a standpipe with a water tap right in the middle of nowhere in Giarabub and that is where the 'Cheeky Club' was formed. So christened because we used to gather round this tap in a group to wash ourselves down, no inhibitions, each and every one of us ‘starkers’. It was inevitable a photograph would be taken at our 'ablutions' and that photograph founded "The Giarabub Cheeky Club". I wonder how many of the members still have their copy of that photograph ?
There were times when we would go off for a day on a weekend to Bardia. There we would have a few hours swimming in the sea and working on 'that sun tan'. A bit of grub and a few - cans of Amstel, some skylarking in the sea - a great day had by all.
Of course there was the Bomb Dump security guard duty to contend with, a necessary evil from which there was no escape although it can be said that one hundred percent of personnel on that duty roster did try to skive off from doing it - the rate of success was minimal, very minimal. I know I used to make out the guard roster. The highlight of that guard duty was hand feeding the Jerboas, a desert rat (kangaroo rat) that would come into the guard hut looking for food. They were likeable little creatures and over the years had got used to the free handouts and so were quite friendly but only while the food lasted, then away they would go returning only when they smelled food.
The worst part of the duty was a Saturday or a Sunday. These two days would mean a twenty four hour stint stuck in the bomb dump, very depressing. Could it get any worse? Definitely ….. to be detailed for that duty on a long weekend or public holidays. The living-in personnel suffered then but did not have the torment of the guys in married quarters. That is when money changed hands, duties would be swapped or a straight deal arranged. Who could blame either parties, the married man in quarters wanted to be with his family with perhaps a trip in the offing while the living-in guys most of whom would settle for a booze-up in the N.A.A.F.I or just flaked out on their 'pit' (bed). When there was a chance to make a few' Ackers' and why not, it worked all right with no harm done.
Shortly before ones tour was up you would receive a pro-forma asking you to fill it in and join the RAF Lottery. You were asked to name by choice, in order of preference, three RAF stations you wished to be posted to. Where this request failed was, how were you supposed to know that 'Records' was staffed by sadists whose only qualification was to draw a bent line with a straight edged ruler? Needless to say you lost in the lottery stakes and funnily enough you never heard of anyone who had won !
One of the best sights of the tour was to see the mail plane arriving living in hopes there would be mail for you. Its route was a round trip, Malta, Benghazi and EI-Adem. Besides carrying the mail there would be spare parts of various descriptions, food, which would be very carefully divided, not shared, between the different messes, also there were passengers, probably people returning from leave perhaps spent on Malta.
The very best sight of all was the Viscount carrying leave personnel, postings in and married families to join their loved ones but most important of all, your replacement. It caused great excitement to the guys waiting for their families and the tour-ex guys waiting to board the aircraft back to the UK. As it taxied by, the only smiling faces to be seen gazing out of the aircraft windows were the family ones. You looked at the other faces and said to yourself, Poor Sods !
by Howard ‘Titch’ Skinner, RAF El Adem, 1952-54
Because my address was now North Africa, relatives back in the UK could never quite get to grips that I was in a barren desert wasteland in the Middle East. For them Africa summed up exotic animals, palm trees, monkeys swinging from the trees and jolly black natives carrying things on poles.
“Think Tobruk !” - I used to write as our telephones had no outside lines. Weeks later would come the response, “But Tobruk isn’t in Africa, it’s in Libya – we looked it up in an atlas”.
“Look again – Libya also comes under North Africa. Think Rommel, Desert Rats”.
Slowly the messages got home. El Adem – the place of bones. The desert is grit and reddish sandstone on which only ‘camel shrub’ can grow. This shrub is one of the nastiest plants in the world. It has thorns, is grey in colour and is scruffy and scrubby. There were no trees and no shade of any sort apart from the camp buildings and tents. Tropical and beach umbrellas were not things that austerity Britain had even contemplated. Travel restrictions were still in force and holidays abroad were a long way from being any sort of industry.
You could see why it was a good place to have a war. There was little you could do to damage the environment. The British, Italians and Germans did their best. Tobruk had been the target, a strategic coastal port where supplies could be landed. It was 18 miles away from El Adem and had been reduced to rubble. In my time out there a lot of it was still not more thyan rubble – re-building did not seem to be a priority. Shell scarred and patched up, it was not attractive. The next settlement was Derna - 120 miles away. Then Benghazi – 300 miles.
So there was a lot of fighting in the area and each occupying force had planted minefields around El Adem - all uncharted. The camp was not surrounded by high fences or walls so walking around the outside could get you blown to bits. Now and then you got a gentle reminder as heat and corrosion caused a thunderous WHUMP – an explosion !
The most neat, orderly and depressing thing in Tobruk were the War Cemeteries – with their military rows upon rows, ranks upon ranks of uniformly laid out crosses and headstones.
So this God forsaken spot was to be my new home. 50,000 flies immediately welcomed me ! Otherwise I was solitary – I had no companions on this posting. Well, I was not back in the Canal Zone. As I checked in and did the records and was allocated a billet etc., there was none of the tension of El Hamna - more an air of lethargy. “Tough Shit !” was the welcome. This was revised later to “You lucky bugger” when they learnt I had served some time in Malta !
The camp was basically a ‘bus stop’ for aircraft to re-fuel between Egypt and Malta. There were a lot of people with very little to do. We were told to keep out of the sun and a midday siesta would be a good idea. Unless you were on some sort of shift or duty, work usually finished at midday. It certainly did in the Orderly Room – no shift work there.
Occasionally Duty Clerk though where you had a camp bed in an orderly room office and would be expected to wake up and answer the ‘phone and, in the case of an urgent signal, pass it on to the appropriate department. This very rarely happened. I was very happy being Duty Clerk. It was one of the few times and places you could be absolutely on your own. Dormitory and camp life denied any privacy. Something I valued and missed.
I was billeted in Gibson Block (after Guy Gibson, the war hero) and there were two dormitories containing, I think, about 24 men in each. I am not sure about this, it may have been more – there was always a milling mob at off duty times. People came to visit friends, there was always a lot of comings and goings and rowdy behaviour. One of the reasons for high jinks when I first arrived was because a batch of about half a dozen were about a month away from returning to the UK and de-mob.
Although there was tension and trouble fermenting in Egypt and the Suez Canal Zone, this was not Libya’s problem and the native Arabs were quite well disposed towards us. The camp provided lots of work for the locals (manual labour and poorly paid, it’s true) but they weren’t hassled and smiles were commonplace. The sullen resentment was not there. Payrolls and worksheets presented problems as there was a scarcity of names ! There would be five Ben Ali Mohammeds so they had to be given numbers. The fact that they were nearly all illiterate didn’t help.
One name used to shine out like a beacon, Fadlalla Kraim. I’ve no idea who he was or what he did but I bet he got paid first ! I’m sure he would not have been on the ‘shit wagon’. This was the worst job in the world. Our toilet block was a place of horror. Cubicles contained thunderboxes – large wooden boxes with a toilet seat and a lid. They contained a large galvanised bucket – that was it. No flushing facilities – someone had to come round with cans of antiseptic and then once a week the ‘shit wagon’ came with 50 million attendant flies. It was a tender-type vehicle and the buckets were poured in by hand. Where they took the effluent I never knew nor asked. There were some things in life you just did not need to know ! A cloud of flies heralded its imminent appearance throughout the camp and you didn’t want to get ‘caught short’ when the shit wallahs were in action ! Happily the shower blocks was in no way connected and had a separate location.
There were seasons at El Adem – there was a time when we reverted to the blue uniforms as worn in the UK but it was not cold – there was no need for overcoats apart from Guard Duty at night. Then the desert could be chilly and there may even be a dew. Rain – almost never. I only ever remember one downpour and that was in the hot season. We all rushed out into the hot night shrieking and whooping and very naked !
One sandstorm I got lost in the middle of camp. I could not see or find Gibson Block. Eventually I found the nearby tents by tripping over a guy rope. I couldn’t even see the lights in the windows until I was close enough to tap on one of them so someone could let me in. The storm was howling and a blanket had been rigged over the door to stop the sand and dust taking over.
I've been looking at the TEARS website and was wondering if there would be enough interest in my late fathers 35mm slides from about 1959-61 when we were there. We lived in 2 hirings in Tobruk, first near the square where the noisy coaches used to stop, then nearer Windy Corner almost opposite the Post Office and close to the Kings Baker. So there are quite a number of town pictures (including illegal ones of the Palace when the flag was flying) and the cemeteries.
My father was 625204 Flt Sgt Stan Pepper. I believe he worked in Cash Accounts.
Much as I'd like to revisit Tobruk health issues would seem to prevent it. Incidentally one of my ex work colleagues was chatting one day about foreign food and then mentioned Tobruk. Turns out he's the son of 'Kiwi' Clare who was SIC to an Aussie. So not the best of mates and was sent home due to the misdemeanors of one of his sons. Something to do with live ammunition being set on fire in a brazier in the hospital caves.
You mention that sometimes some locals come to visit when you're there in Tobruk. If by chance one to visit is Nahji, our houseboy who would be in his sixties now, then please give our kind regards.
My father was stationed at El Adem between 1967 -1969. We lived in Tobruk for a while before moving to El Adem. I started school at El Adem and still remember my first teacher Miss Willoughby. I have the first school report she wrote for me. I have found your site very interesting and will be urging my Dad to dig out to old photos.
Miss Willoughby is now Judy Jones who has been involved with the Friends of TEARS since 1992 ~ Ed.
By Jack Freeman, Telegraphist, RAF El Adem, 1961-63
I did a small amount of work at TEARS about 1962 I think. I was interviewed for an Announcer's job by a really clever announcer whose name escapes me but he was very innovative and used several parts of different records as his signature. The engineers were impressed with him. I met him a few years later in Singapore - about 1966.
I am however interested in a name on your list, Bryn Hughes, who I believe I shared Twynham 16 with between 1961 and 1963. He was a Telegraphist like myself but also worked on Desert Rescue. He may have been the one who one night sent in a signal about finding the wreck of a USA WW2 bomber which may have been the Lady Be Good. This report mentioned finding bodies which contradicts with the Lady Be Good story as those bodies were found in 1959/60. Perhaps it was a different aircraft ? However I definitely remember the incident and would like to know more and also to contact him as we were both Brats together - 36th Entry Cosford.
Another weird event at El Adem was the day 6 MIG fighters landed. It was during or near the time of the Cuban crisis so was quite momentous in its implication but turned out to be a false alarm as the planes were obsolete and being given to Algeria by Egypt. But the sight of those large red stars was quite something.
by Roger Jones, RAF Cook. 1958-61
I was Junior Tech, Roger Bryan Jones 1931172 on de-mob. I came across the El Adam web site as I was playing with the computer today.
I was posted to RAF El Adam at the end of December 1958 as a cook in the Airman's mess I also worked in the Officers Mess, Sergeants Mess, Air movements and a couple of short stints in the bakery in Tobruk.
I departed El Adam on about 20th may 1961 being posted to RAF Innsworth where I remained until de-mobbed on 2nd of October 1967.I then immigrated to Australia where I remain to this day.
I also found my way in to that little radio shack, but only very briefly probably in 1959,1960. I was responsible for forcing Johnny Cash down the ears of my contemporary's as he was a great favorite of mine at the time.
On departing RAF El Adam in 1961, I thought it a great idea to walk back to UK overland. I got a lift on a Blackburn Beverly dressed as a hostess dishing out tea, coffee and biscuits as far as Malta where I was arrested and questioned by the RAF police who thought I was a deserter because I was seen giving the unwanted uniform to a Maltese cleaner.
The police sergeant did ask why I wanted to walk back when there was a perfectly good plane free of charge to take me to UK. I still don’t know the answer to that one. Anyway I was released to go on my way getting a fishing boat across to Sicily.
I then walked through Italy, Austria, Germany, France and back to England at the end of June 1961. It was one of the best adventures I ever had.
Whilst I was given a decent send off by my work mates with words like "he will never be seen again” I have never met up with any one from El Adam since those days. I have many photos of my time there and often think it would be nice to visit the base.
Well, I was not sure what was required of me when I set out to send you this e/mail. I hope we can stay in touch.
by Jackie Small, 1969
I'm not in the military, but my dad was posted to Tobruk in 1969. It was an accompanied tour so we all lived close to the Garrison in Tobruk. I can remember it fairly well even though it was 40yrs. ago. My dad was a cook at El Adem ---- Cpl William (Bill) Hawthorn. I can vaguely remember the radio station TEARS.
I was taken on a trip down memory lane as I was looking at the Tears web site. I saw a picture of the flats where we used to live. The flats were next to a Mosque where they used to play load music all day. It looked over 'Windy Corner'. Tobruk Harbour was behind us and there was some kind of clinic for the local people in the building opposite.
By R.D. Spencer, RAF Stores, 1946
You mention Bir Hakeim in your Nostalgia Trip 3 letter. You may be interested in the subsequent happenings to the battle of Bir Hakeim in 1942 (May or June?). Long after the battle, in 1946, the French built a monument to those killed in this battle and invited the Next of Kin to a ceremony of dedication. This was before the graves were moved to Tobruk. I have pictures taken at the time. This ceremony was attended by the combined forces of the UK.
That weekend I was on duty so I did not attend, the RAF party went out on the Saturday afternoon and spent the night under canvas. On the Sunday afternoon a fleet of ambulances passed through El Adem. I found out later when my colleagues returned what had happened. Unfortunately after the ceremony some of the Next of Kin went off and crossed the white tape to look at the nearby wrecked guns and tanks etc. not only did they look at the wrecks they must have moved something that exploded and killed 5 to 7 of them.
It was, and maybe still is, a dangerous place to be if you go off the known track. I know because I was blown up once and nearly and I fell down into an oil/petrol tank in Tobruk on another occasion.
© tears.org.uk 2007