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The El Adem Radio Service, RAF El Adem and Tobruk.

Stories, Views and Comments Archive 1.

Back to Main Editorial  ---- Archive 2

 Archive 3 Archive 4 Archive 5 Archive 6 Archive 7.

1. Max Morris.    (Posted 18/07/07).

2. Clare Gomme. (Posted 18/07/07).

3. Keith Thomas. ( Request for info. Posted 18/07/07).

4. Albert Lloyd.   (Posted 20/07/07).

5. Ernie Bullock (Posted 17/08/07).

 

If you have any Stories, Views or Comments that you would like to see published here.

 e-mail:- jsmoir@btinternet.com

 

 

 

 Memories of El Adem   

      by Max Morris, Stn. Workshops, 1961-63

 

Life at El-Adem was always eventful like the time I flew in one of our own Valettas from Malta in early January of 1962 bound for El-Adem.  Half way across the Med the Pilot calmly informed us that we have a problem the port engine it was loosing oil pressure to such an extent that he may have to shut it down. He circled and sent out the necessary signals to say that we had a problem and requested clearance to return to Luqa. We then limped back as power was reduced on the port engine but then the Starboard engine started to falter, never the less we made it back onto the runway with all the emergency vehicles in chase.  The pilot apologised for the inconvenience, and said don’t worry my mate is coming through in a few hours he will give you a lift back to El-Adem no problem. The second Valetta eventually turned up and I was soon on board amongst a plane full of Bird Cages full of Budgerigars and Canaries. I asked one of the crew what the Birds were for! He said it was a safety precaution if the Engines fail we get the Birds to flap their wings, the sergeant Pilot piped up asking if I knew a certain WO in Station Workshops at El-Adem as they were for him. We had a perfect landing after I had spent two weeks leave in the U/K.

My thirst for Music was starting to take effect, so I had my Clarinet with me. I shortly paid a visit to the Education Section where I met Flt/Lt Drew and F/O Sanderson and managed to get permission to use one of the classrooms for Clarinet practise in the evenings away from the accommodation blocks.  At this time I joined the camp music club which was held in one of those metal sheds on the opposite side to the one that TEARS was using. After a few months the Education Section had a new building near the Officers Mess. The music club was held on one evening a week in a classroom come library John Davy and myself used to run it. It was great fun making up the programmes of music which we had on records to put an evening of culture in the desert and it was often well attended.

Also during the spring of 1962 The El-Adem Station Band was formed I think we were about nine players to start with but it did grow to about fourteen at one period. One interesting members was the SWO he joined and played the cymbals he really enjoyed the band, on parades he much preferred being involved in music making. We played at one of the cemeteries near Tobruk on Remembrance Day and also in one of the Churches.

In early September I was asked to join TEARS as their classical music man, at first I felt a bit alienated as most of the staff were passionate about pop music. After a few weeks we all got on really well together.  Sometimes I would start the proceedings at 6pm with the news followed by concert half hour a mid week programme hoping to finish at 6.45pm and the evening announcer would fail to turn up. This meant I had to continue in the chair with the Archers, followed by record of the week and then mid week requests with all those quirky messages tagged onto records like Tell star by the Tornados Big Man and Travelling Light by Cliff Richard, while I really wanted to promote classical music, still it was all good fun and I did manage to convert a few to the wonders of Beethoven & Wagner.

During the summer of 1962 I was moved to the new ground equipment building where they had commandeered a spare land rover for section use, this is where I learned how to drive secretly.  At first it was just a little drive around the building under the cover of darkness but it eventually lead to trips around the Camp on week ends and out onto the bondu, to the bomb dump while on guard duties and future visits to German Town.

During this time Yorky Peneck who was in my room at Campbell Block  acquired a motor bike I think it was something like a Royal Enfield 350cc it was a bit of a wreck but it used to go alright. On one afternoon we made a trip across the desert road two up and Yorky became more confident on the Machine and started upping the speed a bit to about 50mph (well it felt like 50) this was fantastic until a large pool of water loomed up and we entered it up to the petrol tank in water and a broken chain we had to push the Bike back to Camp I think we missed Tea.  The Pool of water we found out later was the result of a bomb going off during the war causing an enormous crater.

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Photo of myself and John Rogers on the back of the Motor Bike , which was owned by Yorky Peneck taken outside Campbell Block.1962.

 


 

A Teenager in Tobruk

By Clare Gomme (nee Donald) 1968-1969

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Reading the cue sheets and having taken part in nostalgia trip 2005 I realise that my experience of Tobruk was different from that of other TEARS members. I was 13 when my Mum, sister and I made the journey out to Tobruk to join my father who was stationed there with the RAF. We lived in Jebbel flats, a 2 storey building next to the Palace hotel. It formed a U-shape against one side of the hotel, with a courtyard in the middle. It was in this courtyard that I made friends with the children of the other families who lived there. On the first day, I was questioned about my age and whether I attended a grammar or secondary modern school. From this information I was told that I would be in form G2 at the forces school in Tobruk. This surprised me until I actually went to the school. It was so small! The senior school consisted of 6 classes M1-3 and G1-3. There were 13 of us in G2 aged between 13 and 15. The classrooms were huts known as Twynams. The very word brings back memories of writing ‘lines’ which reflected my misdemeanour (‘I must not be in the Twynams at break’).

The maths teacher used to play the piano during morning assembly. I don’t know how he spent his evenings but he was always tired the next day and regularly nodded off during the headmaster’s morning address. When the final hymn was announced the pupil nearest to the teacher would have to give him a prod and he would then launch into the introduction – playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order!

Princess Suleima (the adopted daughter of King Idris and Queen Fatima) was friendly with one of the girls at the school and it was agreed that she would spend some time with us. This went well until one particular day during maths. The teacher may not have been much of a pianist but his aim with a piece of chalk was deadly. He had a habit of throwing chalk at anyone who dared to talk when his back was turned. On this particular day it was only as the chalk was heading towards its target that he realised the chatterbox was the princess. Suleima never attended our school again and the maths teacher never lived it down. Although I never saw Suleima again I saw King Idris on several occasions when his car and cavalcade drove through the town.

School started early but was finished by lunchtime so most afternoons, for Tobruk children, were spent at the beach. El Adem children spent their afternoons at the pool. Weekends were also spent at the beach. There was little else to do so it was fortunate that I loved swimming and snorkelling. I occasionally went to the pool at El Adem to meet up with friends who lived on the camp. On one occasion I was asked by some young army lads to jump off the top diving board, to demonstrate to one of their less confident mates that ‘even a girl can do it’. Being a bit of a ‘show off’ I decided to dive off the top board. In those days I had a pink bikini, which I thought I looked pretty good in, but as I hit the water the force of it pushed my top down. I managed to get it back in place before I surfaced and hoped nobody had noticed. However, the winks and grins that greeted me soon had me blushing and I’m told my face matched my bikini perfectly! My Dad was always telling me that ‘pride came before a fall’ and how right he was.   

Paul and Joe, who lived in the flat below us, taught my sister, Lyn, and I how to fish using dough purchased from a local shop. Our flats overlooked the harbour and, if we were tired of the beach, this was where we would go fishing. At other times we would just explore the area. A group of us found the submarine pens used during WW2. With no sense of danger, we went down inside them - well worth the telling off I got from my parents when I got home! At other times I would shop at the NAAFI in the hope of finding records that were still in the charts or go to the Sally Bash to buy teenage magazines, which weren’t too out of date. Fashion didn’t exist as we were strongly advised against wearing shorts, trousers or mini-skirts in the streets. If we weren’t out with our parents we went out in a group for safety and generally felt responsible for each other. Paul and Joe taught my sister and I a few Arabic words to use if the local youths were annoying us. Looking back, they were such practical jokers, that I dread to think what we might have been saying! 

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Clare with Jayne.

(Paul & Joe's Sister).

On the way home from the beach, I would often stop at the Palace Hotel and sit on the veranda enjoying a coke and a chat with Fawzi, the owner’s son. He spoke fluent ‘text book’ English which he enjoyed using. He was a few years older than me and my father was wary of our friendship. However, he needn’t have worried. Fawzi was always the prefect gentleman. Talking to Fawzi helped me to appreciate our different cultures and lifestyles. Although I found life in Libya restrictive he envied my freedom. I was surprised to learn that Fawzi would be expected to have an arranged marriage. He was curious about why I spent so much time on the beach that my skin was quite tanned. Fawzi wished his own skin colour was paler and I was shocked to learn that he had experienced racial prejudice from some of the English people living in the town.

Before dinner I could often be found sitting on the flat roof of our apartment listening to BFBS on my transistor radio (no TEARS in Tobruk by this time). In this position, looking out over the harbour, I would watch my 18-year-old neighbour, Michael, water skiing. Whenever he looked up I would wave like mad and he was far too nice not to wave back even though this invariably caused him to lose his balance and fall into the water. I don’t think he ever realised that this had been my intention all along.

I only spent one term at the school in Tobruk before taking the decision to continue my education back in England. So at the end of the summer I travelled back to the UK and only returned to Tobruk for the holidays. These were spent on the Sgt’s beach and after a swim I would go into the café for a coke and a Mars bar. This was obviously such a regular occurrence that for years afterwards whenever I went swimming I would get a craving for a coke and a Mars bar. The last bus back from the beach was always crowded. If I took my time getting on the bus I would be ‘forced’ to squeeze in with the boys or accept their offers of a lap to sit on for the journey home. The evenings were either spent at the garrison cinema, at the youth clubs in Tobruk and El Adem (fortunately held on different nights) or at the home of someone who was babysitting. I had my first ‘smooch’ at the Tobruk youth club, dancing with John to Peter Sarstedt’s ‘Where do you go to my lovely?’ At the weekend, there was often a party or a beach barbecue to go to. If I stayed home in the evening I would read, listen to music or play cards or board games with my family. I don’t ever remember missing TV.

When I went out to Tobruk in the summer of ’69 I hadn’t realised that it would be my last trip.  On the plane out I found myself sitting across the aisle from a lad a couple of years older than me. He had just left school and was going to join his parents and younger sister in Tobruk for the first time. I was delighted to find that his family had moved into the flat next to ours. I remember we were both a bit put out to find that our parents were going to a mess ‘do’ that evening. (My parents hoped I wouldn’t mind and felt sure I’d need an early night after the long journey. Dave found himself babysitting for his younger sister). I managed to get home just before my parents, having spent the evening getting better acquainted with my new neighbour and listening to his collection of Beach Boys albums. (I think he had every one!) 

I was in Tobruk when the Revolution started. It was the day of the ‘cross the bay swim’, which went ahead in spite of the uncertainty of what the revolution would mean for us all. It was also the day that Dave locked himself out of his flat and I ‘broke’ in for him by climbing over my balcony on to his and then in through the front room window. Dave ‘forgot’ to mention that his Dad was asleep in the front room at the time but, fortunately, I managed to get in and open the door without disturbing him. (Dave told me afterwards that his Dad was like a bear with a sore head if woken from a nap, which was the real reason I had been asked to ‘break’ in and not because he was scared of heights!) For my remaining few days in Tobruk, life continued much as before although a curfew was imposed. This did not impress me. It meant that I couldn’t see my boyfriend in the evenings as he lived in ‘Hole in the Wall’ flats. On my last night I tuned in to BFBS to hear the ‘goodbye’ messages and requests, which had been sent in for those of us leaving the next day. My parents had requested Otis Redding’s ‘Dock of the Bay’ (which still reminds me of Tobruk) and Dave had requested Thunderclap Newman’s ‘Something in the Air’ (about a revolution) which was the record the DJ played for me. Leaving Tobruk the next day was harder than it had been the year before but, thanks to the revolution, my Dad’s tour ended 6 months early and I was permanently reunited with my family by Christmas.

 

 From Keith Thomas, SSQ, 1964-66

I was just exploring the TEARS Website, really for the first time, and was astounded by the fantastic amount of information is contained therein.

Anyway, I was having a browse through the names of those for whom more info. would be welcomed, when I thought of a "mate" who I used to spend a few hours chatting to when I was on Medical Standby Duty at the Tobruk SSQ.    As you know the building to the right of SSQ as you face the front entrance was BFBS, and was a very interesting relaxation venue.   Now, this "mate",  (I use inverted commas because he was not a mate in the accepted sense of the word, but was extremely friendly whenever I chose to pop-in for a drink or a chat.  Now, his name was Alan Hargreaves, and he became a regular announcer on the BBC on his return to the UK.

Now I left Tobruk in February, ' 66 and spent the next 9/10 months at RAF Hospital Ely, before being 'demobbed', and I took-up residence in Colney Hatch Lane, Muswell Hill.  This was about the time that some pretentious Irish fella by the name of Wogan, was larking about on the radio, playing discs and running some phone-in competition where you had to guess the celebrity by their (distorted) voice.    Well, I became quite attached to these programmes and listened-in at every opportunity.

Okay, I'll stop rabbiting on!!!........One evening I heard the voice of another announcer who was acting as a link-man, and recognised it as being Alan Hargreaves. He became more popular, and more frequently heard on the radio, but he gradually melted into the past, so much so that his total disappearance came unnoticed.

I still think of him when I hear the name Hargreaves,  but I would dearly like to know where he is now, and perhaps be able to lure him into our midst.  Perhaps you may know of someone who might be able to point us in the right direction ???

 

 Albert ‘Woodbine’ Lloyd,

RAOC, 1963-64

 

Hello Everybody, I am a 68 year old Ex Serviceman doing a Computer Course at my local Megabytes Cafe, and when learning about the Internet came across the TEARS web site, I got in touch with John Moir, and now I am a fully paid up member.

It was 44 years this June when I first set eye on EL-ADEM, myself and about 40 other bods stepped off a a very hot Civilian Viscount and made our way to reception, we where the focus of quite a lot of attention as we where not RAF types at all but Pongos, Brown Jobs, Army call us what you like and we where to be with you for the next 5 years.

I was a Pte. in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and we where the advance unit of the Tank Vehicle Park down at the end of the runway, the Malta Garrison RE had just finished laying the hard standing and putting up the hangars and we where ready to get to work. We were billeted in the old Italian blocks first and were bitten alive by the dreaded bed bugs the biggest I have ever seen, we were there for about a month before moving into our new shining aluminium huts.  By this time our Centurion Tanks had started to arrive and it was a very busy time ferrying them up from TOBRUK.

By now I had made quite a few friends, being one not for staying in the Billet reading or writing letters home I became a regular visitor to the NAFFI. it was at this time that I acquired my nickname, being a Welsh valley boy and ex coal miner the only cigarette I ever smoked were Woodbines, most of my friends who were smokers smoked Rothman King Size and other assorted American brands, so from then on I became "Woodbine".  So if you were in EL ADEM between JUNE 1963 and JUNE 1964 and remember a  little Taffy Pongo called Woodbine that was me, one of the best  mates I had at this time was called Rick I  can't remember his surname he told me his job was a rigger and he came from Yorkshire, also the lovely Yvonne who worked behind the bar in the NAFFI, everybody had a crush on her including me, the "Hat Club" was anther place where we would meet once a month, the only thing that was required of you was that you wore a hat and drank everybody under the table.

Well that's about it for now, so if you are out there and do remember me please please get in touch you get me on this E-mail address :  albert250438@yahoo.co.uk

 

Memories of Tobruk Garrison

by  Ernie Bullock,  Clerk to Families Officer, 1961-63

 

I was sitting here at my computer when the post arrived, and Richard Lane’s article " The Garrison at Tobruk - How good is your memory ?" interested me. I actually have a lousy memory (except for faces), however I do have some photographs which will answer some of the questions posed. The photos were taken at various times between May 1961 and May 1963.

Photo1.   

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This is the main gate. In the background you can see the medical and dental sections. Behind the medical and dental sections was Medical Block which was living accommodation. I lived in this block along with many others for two years. On the right as you go through the main gate is the guardroom (with the arches). Just past the Morris Minor there was a path on the right which led down to the Station Headquarters. The first door on the right as you went through the door was the Station Warrant Officer's Office; the second door on the right was the Station Commander's Office, and the door at the end (which faced the entrance door) was the Families Officer's Office. This is where I spent my two years. As you go through the front door and turn immediately left, this led to the Orderly Room, and facing that was a small store room. If you walked up to the Medical/Dental Sections and turned left, the next building on the right is the PSI Shop and the Coffee Shop. The coffee shop was run by Rena Know, whose husband Jim Know worked in one of the Messes up at El Adem.

 

Photo2    

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A view from the inside.

 

 

Photo3.   

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The Fire Section taken from Station Headquarters.

 

Photo4.   

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 Station Headquarters.

 

Photo5. 

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   Canon outside Station Headquarters. To the left of the canon, just above the bush, you can see a fire engine outside the Fire Section. I cannot remember the Sergeant's name, but the Corporal was Syd Little.

 

Photo6.

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    Medical Block.  Shortly after this photo was taken the block was painted.

 

Photo7.

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 This is what the parade ground is normally. The parade ground was not inside the garrison, it was about 100 yards (perhaps a little more) away. I seem to remember we turned right as we went out of the main gate. Only the army used it as such. The RAF used it for football, as you can see. This is a match between the Garrison team and the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry. The player in the foreground is me. We also used the ground for Donkey Derbys.

 

Photo8.

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    This is the Cyrenaica Defence Force trying to copy a Tattoo carried out by the Royal Scots some time earlier.

 

Photo9.  

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  This is the Royal Scots Tattoo.

 

The tennis courts must have been either in the Officers' Compound or in Tobruk centre, because I cannot recall seeing any tennis courts there.....but I could be wrong.

The Met Office people had an Office adjoining the Station Headquarters. I remember one of the guys was called McCabe, I can't remember is first name.

The Airmen’s Mess if I remember correctly was somewhere near the fire section.

The Parade Ground was not inside the Garrison, it was about 100 yards (perhaps a little more) away. I seem to remember we turned right as we went out of the main gate.

 I don't know whether any of this information will help Richard Lane.... I hope it will.

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