Visits to Limassol
I was only there twice , too much hassle to be in groups of three or more and being armed as well , the best bars were off limits for us of the lower ranks and I remember being removed from one after we had accidentally entered after complaints from gold braid .
We were reduced to the seedier haunts and there we were marked by the locals and we had to pay through the nose if we bought any drinks even the local beer which I have to admit I love and have partaken of it on most of the seventeen holidays I have had in southern Cyprus since that time .
Most of the problems took place when the lads tried some of the so called drinks the girl were having bought for them as they turned out to be just cold tea .
On one occasion I was there the lad threw the cold tea in the girls face well that was I knew going to be a major battle and as most of the Cypriots were armed with knifes my lot and I quickly retired to the toilets where we locked the door and smashed out the window frame as well as the window was really quite small and got out in time to see the MP’s rush the front entrance with batons flying .
There were many other fights and fortunately they were only just fights quite vicious at times and no major incidents ensued that I knew off .
There was a sort of bus service from the main gate into town run by MT section as a series of jeeps were stationed at the gate and you got a lift from there . These jeeps maintained at least for the twice I used them , a circular service into a square in the town and back till well after mid-night .
Compound and Pan Guard were the normal standard twelve man double shift type . two on the gate , two patrolling the Pan as far as the edge of the runway and two in guard posts on the outer perimeter . Standard issue of one clip with five rounds picked up and signed for at the armoury and had to be returned there after duty and signed back in .
The gate duty was the easiest as there were regular visits by MPs throughout the night in jeeps , the Pan guards was quite easy as well as we were moving about on a regular basis , the duty I always seemed to get was perimeter guard post and that believe you me was totally boring as we were well out from the main compound and it was pitch black . The two men were about 100yds apart and close to the inner perimeter wire , beyond that there was an Army perimeter wire which was also guarded but we never saw them at any time , beyond that we were advised that we had a third defensive ring of Turkish Police .
Most of the time we paced approximately half way between our sentry box in either direction and then back , we sometimes heard our compatriot but we never spoke or in the middle of the night saw each other . The remainder of the time was spent fitting the clip and ejecting the five bullets and reloading and repeating the action . sometimes in ejecting the round it would get lost in the sand and we would be scrabbling about in the sand to recover it as to return minus a round was a chargeable offence
The other fun thing was our orders as to when we could defend ourselves , we were issued with a small eight or was it ten page red instruction manual of when we could fire and what to aim for . The first thing was we could not see the supposed terrorist so how could we aim for a specific part of his or her body . Then we had to challenge the terrorist by shouting out our challenge in English , Greek and Turkish three times before loading and removing the safety . So it was Halt ,
Stomata , Dur three times then try to identify where the bugger was . We all knew that if that situation ever occurred if we carried out these instructions to the letter we were dead meat ourselves . So we tended to had one up the spout and the safety on for our first and I may say our only challenge before firing .
One of our guys was very unfortunate in that he issued the challenge got no response and fired blindly towards the wire . there was a short silence and then a screaming Greek appeared shouting and bawling . The sergeant of the guard was called and some light was shown on the situation and it was found that my compatriot had shot a Donkey which had somehow been able to evade the outer sentries of Turks and Army and found a way through the cut perimeter wire and now lay dead with a neat hole between its eyes . needless to say the Greek got compensation for his loss , our sentry got charged with discharging his weapon with out due cause and that he did deliberately shoot and killed a Donkey as no random shot could account for the perfectly placed shot between its eyes .
What amazed me was I was never questioned as to what had happened and the conditions prevailing at the time of the shot which I may say were a total blackout . I never saw the guy again as he was quickly posted off the island .
There was also a daily problem at least in the beginning as the locals used to be able to move their herds of Goats and Donkeys through the security perimeters onto the Runway during night hours and we had the job to disperse these animals off station before any flights could take off or land in the mornings .
I did all the rehearsals for this parade but never took part as I was posted on guard duty some way up the roadway to our Pan at the junction with the track to 13 Squadron Pan . The Squadron Commander had me in and issued me with my instructions that under no circumstances was I to allow any vehicular traffic past and onto the Runway under some obscure emergency rule as this was a very high profile parade with many high ranking officers in attendance . He kept emphasising the no persons what so ever shall be allowed to pass .
About two hours later and I knew the parade had commenced a Staff Car with wing Pennants flying came charging down the road , I stepped out and signalled it down . there was a lot of waving of braided arms behind the windscreen inviting me to get out of the way but I stood firm although shaking slightly .
The door opened and out came a flight lieutenant looking shining like a new pin he strode up to me and demanded I salute him , I advised him that I was on guard duty and that I could not do so because of my station at that moment . He totally lost his rag and threatened everything including I would be hung drawn and quartered if my memory serves me correctly .
Did I realise this was a staff car and it had pennants flying , I concurred but said my orders were very specific , no one was to be allowed through . he went back to the car and carried on a rather heated conversation with the occupant and then came forward again slightly deflated but still very angry .
I went forward as requested but did not move directly to the car door . I saw the uniform of an Air Commodore and he sort of smiled at me and offered me his 1250 which I took and examined and checked his face with that on the pass and then stood back and shouted Sir but again did not salute .
Air Commodore said ‘ who am I airman ‘ the aide was now smiling wickedly and I replied naming him exactly as it was on the 1250 then the aide then said acidly ‘ the Air Marshals security code airman ‘ and I did so immediately .
The Air Commodore then said ‘ please instruct the driver how we can get to the parade airman ‘ I smiled as I gave the driver the directions and he looked on me with awe . I then helped him to reverse and they were on their way . I just stood there shaking after what I had done and finished the duty .
The following day I was summoned to the Squadron leaders office expecting to be cashiered at the least . He dutifully straight faced as he looked at me and then he said ‘ yesterday went well airman and I have to congratulate you on your actions of yesterday and am pleased to advise you of no action can or will be taken following that incident . Dismiss ‘ .
Cawood Guard Duty
Cawood Guard around the married quarters for the safety of the married wives and children . We carried out these as we were living within that particular community in our own billet at No 63 Kings road . This was an easy duty as we got our cups of tea from the lads and knocked off at 2am as the MPs were always around and said they did not need our help .
Guard Duty whilst locals carried out repairs on Station
Repairs to runway lighting and runway drainage ducts both of which were the direct result of EOKA penetration of the Perimeter . This amounted to two armed guards along with six Cypriot workmen to effect the necessary repairs and replacements . These workmen were very pleased with the damage that had been inflicted on the base and were extremely cocky about it all , laughing and joking and making snide remarks like ‘ Grivas for ever ‘ and such like . Although our orders were the same as when we were on normal guard duty , I myself made a special point to let the workers that I had one up the spout and was prepared to take action if it became necessary . I have to say it had the desired effect and the repairs were carried out quite quickly and properly
I was involved in all the training and rehearsals for the three main Parades in which our Squadron took part including our new colours and consecration . However I was on sick leave when it took place but I heard it all on the station radio .
but never yet attended any one of the other two either that we had in my time on Station , I was on guard for one of them and I was sick or on sick leave on Station when the others actually took place.
We did a lot of swimming off the cliffs behind out Caywood billet as during my time on the base the M.O. had deemed it unhealthy for us to work beyond One O’clock in the day , a very pleasing arrangement I have to admit as it meant that we went for lunch then and then had to walk out to our billet and then it was on with the trunks , out over the back fence , over some scrubland , check to see that the red flag was not flying above the range the on down the cliff paths to our favourite pools and diving positions .
We had on our way back from lunch stopped at the shops on the way and bought drinks and some of the delicious oranges for sale there ( you could eat the piths as it was so juicy as well ) . the idea was to drop the bottles of juice into one of the pools and leave it there to cool then when you were thirsty we would dive in and swim down the twenty feet or so and retrieve the bottles .
Some of the lads were slightly naďve and had purchased clear bottles of lemonade etc and had extreme difficulty on finding their cache , it took sometimes two or three dives before they found them .
It was also dangerous as the water was so clear that you forgot just where you were and when you looked up you could be quite some distance away from the land and with the swell the island was sometimes lost from sight which could lead to a sort of panic .
The only other danger was one day we were on leave and had gone swimming rather earlier than usual and we had done the usual checks before descending the cliffs ,
We were then swimming about and having a great time when I noticed some splashes around me , then another one of the lads piped up ‘ what’s going on ‘ . Well it didn’t take long to realise what was happening . I shouted out ‘ their using the range boys lets get to …. Out of here lads ‘
They were spent bullets from the range , but even so they could do one a lot of damage especially out in the water . When we got to the cliff top we were confronted by an irate sergeant and corporal who said we had broken through the perimeter and that we had ignored the red flag and that we were on a charge every one of us .
There were fifteen of us and we all said the same thing and that if they proceeded we would have to tell our Squadron commander exactly what had occurred and so they slunk off and left us and we , well we did nothing more and forgot about it .
My Health and the Hospital
It is unfortunate that for some reason my health suffered greatly at that time . I have no clear inkling as to the how and the why , well nearly none but I shall explain that with the following resume of what occurred as I had been at my fittest after square-bashing
The first thing was that by the 16th of May there was an Epidemic of Scarlet fever going around and more than 400 had it . By the 19th this had grown to some 600 down and I was seconded to work as an orderly in a group of
Cawood’s which had been taken over as isolation wards .
This was quickly followed by a Major Dysentery Outbreak which laid low several hundred more .
By the 25th May I was feeling awful and nearly fainted in the mess . I went sick and was taken into Hospital for the first time suffering from acute Tonsillitis .
By the 27th May I received a double whammy as I was diagnosed as have Scarlet fever as well .
1st June moved to rehab convalescent Cawood 74a alongside the Hospital .
2nd June I was quickly removed form 74a and told I should have been in 74b as 74a was for those with Dysentery . I was Cleared from Hospital and given four days sick leave so was then going to miss our Consecration and Presentation of new Colours .
6th June went sick again and I was found to have severe sweat rash to my right arm for which I was given another six days sick leave and to report three times a day for treatment . I was not at all well over the next few days and went sick again and was given pills and duty
But on 14th June went sick again and was put in the Isolation Wards where Dysentery had been rife following the Scarlet fever outbreak . I was asked to give stools for examination but I told them I had not been to the toilet for well over a week and then on the 15th June I collapsed in the toilets and was rushed to Hospital in what was described to me as being in a bad way .
I don’t much remember what happened over the next week or so as I was so delirious from fever . The R.A.F. did remember as I had my pay deducted for breakages which seemed to have happened in my delirium .
22nd June I was x-rayed from head to foot which took about three hours in the motorised x-ray unit that was used at that time as the Hospital had no permanent department to do so . Some on the medical staff said within my hearing ‘ out by Christmas ‘ and they were so nearly right as by Christmas I was certainly back in the U.K.
I was by this time in a side ward on my own and I was still feeling terrible but some how it didn’t seem to matter to me what happened .
On 23rd June I had my most traumatic run in with death . I still find it hard to reconcile but my mind is very clear about what happened next and much as people say it was in your delirium it is as clear today as it was then .
I was lying in the bed and I was drenched in sweat and I mean drenched in it , it was literally pouring out of me and I felt euphoric and was very happy , there was no pain or discomfort and I was looking down a sort of tunnel which was totally black and I could see a pinpoint of light at the other end which was moving slowly towards me . it was bright and it was incandescent , oh it was so slow in coming and I was wishing it on when the door of my room opened and in came a nurse and I heard her scream as the light continued getting ever bigger and more welcoming to me .
Suddenly I was being fussed over by hands and I heard the gasp of ‘ 110’ oh god its not possible , get ice lots of ice quickly ‘ I wanted to stop them as the light now almost filled the tunnel and I was now it seemed moving towards it . Then I felt as though hot water was being poured over me and then the light started to retreat and I started to struggle as I wanted to follow it . Then slowly but surely the tunnel grew dark and then faded away and I was back with all these nurses and doctors standing over me nodding and gesturing about me I supposed and I was not pleased at all .
I was immediately moved into the general ward , I was told this was so I could be supervised constantly by all the staff . I was wrapped in hair blankets till only my head was exposed and I sweated and sweated . I had an orderly posted by my bedside whose duty was to keep me awake at all times and I spent most of each night waking him up so that he would not be on a fizzer .
On the 25th June I was checked over by an Air Commodore Medic who had been flown in from U.K. especially to examine me . He seemingly at the end of his visit did not know what was wrong with me , but I do know that the Squadron and many others cursed the day I had arrived on station as for the next ten days they were required to give stools for testing and analysis .
I started to improve thereafter and I was able to get my record player and records into the ward I became the wards and other who could hear it , their D.J. and made many people very happy with my music .
During all this time I had not passed anything at all and so I was given what was laughingly called the ‘
Akrotiri Cocktail ‘ which consisted of Liquid Paraffin , Cascara and Glucose four times a day till one day when we were sitting to attention waiting for Matrons rounds I just had to go . The screens were erected and I was sat on the pot and we all waited and to my chagrin I started and at that very moment rounds began . The screen was pulled aside and the matron stood there looking at me and then she eased me up off the pot and smiled ‘ Well done airman well done ‘ then left me sitting there .
6th July I was told I had , had Para-Typhoid a notefiable disease and that I had to be recorded in the U.K. I spent two days working in the kitchen before someone in the nursing staff realised that I was a hazard and was ordered to stop doing anything . I was also told I had to drink no less than six pints of fluid a day and that could be water , soft drinks or beer . I chose beer and I think that is where I got my taste for Keo beer .
On 16th July I was discharged from Hospital with a temperature of 105’ and weighing just six stone and that was me well on the way to recovery along with a leave pass to a Re-Hab Camp at Famagusta .
One final word for the hospital and staff that is to thank them for all they did for me over that time and to thank the designers of the nurses uniforms at that time as they were the best medicine for the lads , these thin see through dresses and the bright sunshine through the windows of the wards was one of the best tonics the lads needed.
Re-hab after Hospital , Famagusta , Golden Sands Re-hab Camp
20th July to 27th July 1957 .
I had received a fourteen day pass to recuperate form my ordeal and it was to be at Golden Sands Rehabilitation Camp outside Famagusta . However it turned out that I was only to be allowed seven days there and no explanation was given as to why it was cut to that . On the day I was to travel the transport went early and I missed it so I had to cadge a lift on the back of a lorry to
Dhekalia Base and then another on to Famagusta and the Camp .
The camp was about a mile outside the town back up from the beach areas and In some scrubland . It was a tented village to be precise and there is a photo in the list sent to you .
We slept in these with the flaps wide open and We were awakened at 0730hrs every morning on the dot with a nice cup of tea in bed and not much else . I palled up with a guy from
Dhekalia , I for the life of me cannot remember much about him or even his name but we got on well together so we hired bikes as these were available at the main entrance to the Camp .
We mostly went into Famagusta old town as it was more interesting than the outer spread of the town , we drank coffee ( Turkish ) as this part of Famagusta was mostly Turkish . They were polite and I would say tolerant of us and we watched them play chess and a few other games we could not understand and they smiled at us , smoked their pipes and drank the thick black coffee .
We visited some of the temples in the town and found one dedicated to snakes we supposed as one of the priests at least we though he was covered in snakes as he sat in some sort of medication trance it was weird and we left quickly .
One day we left a bar and cycled back to the camp when I found out I had left my camera on the table we had been sitting at . I hurried back and lo and behold there was my camera sitting just as I had left it and the men looked at me knowingly , smiled and nodded then continued with their game .
One night we went to a Cabaret Club called the Ambassador which we later were advised was off limits for Military Personnel of any rank . The show was somewhat racy I have to say and it’s the first and last time I saw copulation on the high wire over the packed tables and we sneaked out without being seen I think .
We went to the beach and it was a sight to behold as it was a beautiful half mooned stretch of sand that seemed to go on for ever and it was packed with sunburnt bodies in the water and sitting on the beach . behind the beach were some what my well have been the first high-rise style buildings in Cyprus .
The other thing about the place was the continued insistence by taxi drivers to drum up business for the local ladies of the night with the call of ‘ Jig a Jig Johnny ‘ . My friend did partake of that dubious pleasure but as he said it all came to soon for his liking and cost the extortionate sum of 5/- .
When I returned I was again medically examined and I was sent back to the Squadron to carry out light duties on 31st July and assigned to the tool store where I remained apart from working on movements in and out of the pan in our depleted Squadron .
Other incidents and duties we carried out .
Every Tuesday one of us detailed to carry out laundry duty at our billet . This called for that person to stay behind when all the others had gone for breakfast to gather all the blankets and sheets and set them in piles for each bed and clean out the billet with a brush and shovel , put out the waste bin for collection . Then when the laundry lorry came to load on ours and pick up the clean stuff and lay it out on each bed . We then had to sign for the pick up and for the delivery in triplicate .
As our billet was the last in this particular run I would get a lift to the laundry and then I went and got a late breakfast and had to walk the mile or so from there to our pan to start work . After my illness I found that I was being designated for this duty more than once every six weeks as would be normal , but it was a cushy number so I didn’t mind at all .
Problems with Flight Lieutenant Wallace No 1 Flight Leader
Flight Lieutenant Wallace lived opposite our
Cawood and had always maintained that we were a blight on Married Family Quarters and had kept up a continual list of our so called misdemeanours as they were in his words unacceptable to his and all the other families in the area and that we should be immediately moved to proper barracks .
I don’t think we had done anything except had a few late nights as did he himself which kept us out of our beds till late in the morning .
He was not a popular officer in the Squadron and he certainly did not enjoy us laughing at him on one particular occasion . There had been a tremendous storm and the rain was of monsoon standards which very nearly washed out our
Cawood but fortunately we managed to build a sort of storm drain which diverted the water onto the road and into the storm drain which ran along his
Cawood’s front garden . He had a car as most officers had for their use and for getting their children to school on the base . he was home and the car was on his driveway and he had a sort of wooden bridge over the storm drain . the water was so heavy that it eventually wore down the sides of the drain and soon his bridge was washed away and his car was stranded on the wrong side of it . when the storm had passed we all went our to see what damage had been caused . He saw that we had done to protect our billet and immediately claimed that we had done it deliberately and tried to press charges against us and I’m afraid we just laughed at him as he ranted and roared at us . I have to state that this was another of the complaints against us that did not stand up and he was once again humiliated .
The Big Small Game Hunt
We were infested with mice which at first did not bother us as it seemed to be general in all the billets . But we decided to do something about it as pest control on Station was not available and we were told it was our problem so deal with it .
Our answer was to have regular big small game hunts , we had beaters and hunters , the idea was that we used two rooms for sleeping quarters and it was the main what was used as a
living room in other billets and four of us slept there and that was where the mice seemed to congregate . So first we identified where they entered the billet and to our surprise they had two entry points one of which was in fact a convenient exit point if the other was closed . We arranged our beds to allow the entry point we had identified open and had sealed the exit securely . Then we set out the bait and waited on our beds till we heard them scuffling about the bait then the beaters quickly closed of that entry point as well and moved them towards their usual exit where the hunters were all armed with one large boot would clobber them as they darted for the exit . We must have killed hundreds that way and it provided us with some excitement . Others paid good money for special bait which was poisoned and then they found the decomposing corpses all over the place . All in all I think ours was by far the best method and humane method of dealing with the problem .
When we first arrived we all had the usual pinups of scantly clad women and or the girl friends etc , I don’t remember seeing any of mummy or daddy amongst ours anyway . we were them plagued with bed bugs and we were covered in bite which were very aggravating . It was one of our visitors who was playing cards with us who noted our continual itching and scratching who went over to the walls above our beds and balled his fist and ran it down the pinups which immediately turned red and the blood flowed quite copiously down the walls and when we removed what was left of our pinups and found hundreds of bed bugs duly squashed to pulp in our blood . That was the last time we put up anything in our around our beds .
Another was the unmentionable between our legs of which all of us suffered in one way or another and the cure was according to the M.O. was the liberal use of Jensen’s Violet in that area . Now this was alright when one was wearing Blues but with Kaki it was fatal as every body knew what it was you had as the uniform was almost totally stained that colour . It took a lot of hard scrubbing to remove it and it never was ever quite clean thereafter .
Other Leisure Time Activities
The Astra cinema was a big attraction and we went there quite often and it was seldom not full to bursting point , some evenings we would go there and then move onto the P.U.M.B. club for more movies . We even had a World Premičre in the Middle East of that wonderful film ‘ The Amazing Shrinking Man ‘ without the red carpets or star guest appearances
Apart from our Swimming we had Football Squadron against Squadron , Flight against Flight , A Home Country’s England , Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland in a Home Countries Tournament . There were many lads who were signed up with well known Clubs mostly English Clubs it has to be said but the rest of us were not overawed by their presence on or off the pitch .
Our Cawood played cards a lot after our days work and leisure , our game was six handed Bezique which would some times depending on our duties could and did stretch well into the night and even at one time we played for three full days and two nights with breaks for meals etc and some catnapping in between .
For all its ups and down and my prolonged series of illnesses was a great time and the Squadron was super to be in and I certainly did miss the wonderful camaraderie we managed to generate amongst us over my service with 32 Squadron.
Return to UK via Nicosia
13th November 1959
Up at 0500hrs finally cleared and left Camp at 0600hrs . Arrived 0900hrs R.A.F. Nicosia .
The had no notice of my arrival on base , I was taken to a tented area just off the runway and there I met two or three hundred others awaiting repatriation to U.K. Some of them had been there for two or more weeks awaiting flights . I was told it could take even longer for me to clear as they did not know of my arrival . Went for lunch and during this I was sought out and told I was going on a Dakota and to get my kit immediately . I can tell you I was not a popular fellow amongst all those others but I was soon on my way at 1400hrs . First stop R.A.F. Luqa Malta 1900hrs , then left at 2030hrs on to Southend arrival at 0200hrs GMT taken by Lorry to R.A.F. Hendon 0300hrs . received a pass and a voucher for a Bus to Paddington Station and caught the 1100hrs train R.A.F. Gloucester I was shunted around as they did not know what to do about me . Eventually I was given another pass and railway warrant to Glasgow and told I would be hearing from them in due course and to hold myself ready for duty . Left Gloucester at 0545hrs , Birmingham arrive 0700hrs and Change . Left Birmingham 1110hrs . Arrived Glasgow 1900hrs and home 2000hrs on 14th November 1959
It was a hectic journey home , I was later posted to R.A.F. Leuchars in Fife Scotland and to 151 Squadron flying Gloucester Javelins .to see out the rest of my service before discharge after some 18 months in the R.A.F.
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