RAF Gan! Was I unusual? I enjoyed my time there, did not drink a great deal which seemed to be the major occupation of most judging from the posts so far. Have fond memories of the Marine Bar were I did have the occasional brandy sour. I must admit though I learnt my lesson on an earlier tour to RAF El Adem were I was introduced as a very naive 18 year old to the demon drink via rum illicitly obtained from the custodian of the Commonwealth Graves Cemetery, a lesson I never have forgotten. If I recall correctly spirits were not available through the NAAFI.
I worked in the MT Section, type cast; every unit I have been on the following conversation took place on. “Right Britton, what have you done on your last unit” – “Worked on the diesel line sir” – “Did you, just what we want some one with diesel experience, we’ll put you in the heavy truck workshop”. So that’s how it went for the next 12 years. On Gan we had Leyland and AEC refuellers, a Coles crane and a Scammell recovery vehicle which was eventually shipped out, to Singapore I think. That in itself was quite a mission, it was taken out to a fairly small freighter in one of the landing craft and we thought it was going to tip over when they tried to lift it on. They eventually managed to drag it over the side and on board and secured it.
Speaking of the marine department, I recall a trip on one of the Rescue Launches, who could forget it. I am not a good sailor, came back from Cyprus on a troop ship in the late 50’s and spent 7 days as sick as a dog, the first 2 we were at anchor of Limmassol!!!! Anyway we set of out through the channel and out to sea proper. Chucking bouys over the side to simulate ‘man overboard’ and then retrieving them. The skipper was a very ancient mad Irishman, a pilot officer who I believe had come through the ranks, knew how to drive , although he just stood upstairs giving commands to who ever was at the helm. Everything seemed to be done at maximum revs. As I am sure most know the swells once outside the shelter of the atoll were quite large a times and he delighted in riding through them at top speed leaping from one to the other, it was quite frightening for me and I hate to think what it was like for those who were below deck. He came in to the jetty in the same way, slamming it hard astern hopefully at the right moment and arriving in a shower of foam. Perhaps he went on to work in the movies.
The arrival of the “NAAFI Boat” was always a highlight. New faces, the occasional female who would be whisked of the co’s house and the officers mess, never to be seen again. A few naval vessels arrived during that time. HMS Dalrymple was one I remember, a naval survey ship; the crew came ashore whilst they were in port, and added somewhat to the ambience of the place also consuming vast quantities of alcohol. A major naval exercise also went on at that time; we had a frigate call in and numerous helicopters and some of the aircraft from the carriers in the fleet. I think the Americans were involved in that. Lot’s of unusual aircraft, got photos of them all.
I was involved with the radio station for some of the time I was there, great getting QSL’s from passing ships to say they enjoyed our programmes. Great stuff on 14” LP’s from the BBC transcription service, including the Goon Shows. (Oh why didn’t I record them all) also stuff we got from the Voice of America, lot’s of good jazz. Remember when 205 Sqn came in and did there circuit training, the fire section of course had to sit out and watch it all and we would get calls at the studio to play Bobby Vee’s “Rubber Ball” for the crew, the pertinent words being “bouncy, bouncy”.
When not involved in servicing vehicles I would often get called in to help in the refuelling flight, out at all hours of the day and night, anxious to get out and see if any female pax were on board. The ‘hot loads’ on their way to Woomera and Christmas Island, the former a name that has suddenly become a bit more significant to those of us in the Southern hemisphere of late. The RAF Police and dog handlers keeping guard until it was ready to fly out again. The heat on the pan in the middle of the day, standing under the wing to catch the lumps of ice and cold water dripping down. The noise with 3 refuellers all hooked to the aircraft, one each side and the third feeding fuel into them, with the ground generators going as well and few of us wearing ear defenders is it any wonder that we have hearing problems. (Thank god for War pensions) For some reason unless you were on the refuelling flight we never were allowed to get ear defenders, how times have changed.
Recall an aircraft coming in a bit low on approach at one stage –I think it was either a Brit or a Comet- and it left parts of it flaps on the approach lights. Hung around for quite a while until they got the spares from UK. The passengers I think were held up for a day or so until they could get an aircraft in to collect them.
The bloody sigs section and there ‘siggy- siggy – siggy” in the cinema it used to really piss people off. Can’t remember any memorable movies I saw there, maybe that is why. Some good lads there though, a couple of them gave me some advice on building a shortwave receiver which I only got rid of a few years ago, still worked well, something I wouldn’t tackle again though.
I guess very few if any did not get involved in some form of water activity. We had some GP14’s about 3 or 4 I think. I was never particularly interested in driving them but enjoyed sitting up at the pointed end playing with the jib and \just taking in the scenery. Lot’s of sharks and dolphins at times, I recall one incident when we actually rammed into a basking shark in a GP14, never saw it until it was to late, don’t know who got the biggest surprise. The PSI had a V8 powered launch that I used to help to look after, it was an ex marine section one I think, it had the fuel tank in the bow which held about 2 million gallons and it was like driving down hill when the tank was full. We used to take it out for snorkelling and fishing trips.
Recall spending time in the Met Section on the other side of the airfield, watching them sending up the balloons. Fascinated with the machine they had that picked up lightening flashes, seemed all very hi tech in those days.
Went to Singers for a couple of weeks on a promotional course, was not impressed with it. Did however meet up with an old friend from Square bashing days, he was married and on an accompanied tour so spent a bit of time with him and his family. Couldn’t stand the bloody heat there though and was glad to get back. Had a wonderful trip over though on a Comet, but some sadistic air movements bastard put me on a Hastings coming back and had to dogleg through Ceylon.
On reflection I’d say it was the best 12 months of my life, must confess to having moist eyes when finally departing back to Blighty. Initially I thought it would be good to go back but on second thoughts it would not be the same without all the guys there! Even the bloody sigs! Went back to RAF El Adem on a short detachment a few years later, thought I would enjoy it, but I couldn’t get back quick enough, mind you I was married by then. Perhaps that had something to do with it.
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