June 15th 1941 – Bahrein, en route India


Route:

Habbaniya-Rutbah: 190 miles
Rutbah-H4: 130 miles
H4-LG22: 81 miles
LG22-Asraq: 20 miles
Asraq-Ma’an: 137 miles
Ma’an-Akaba: 62 miles
Akaba-Ismailia: 180 miles

Leave in 6020 (Hart) at about 6am with suitcase and kitbag in the back seat. First stop Rutbah, despite my formation leader, a Hurricane sergeant, doing his best to lose the way, and doing a sudden steep turn across my bows. Essex Yeomanry mob look on whilst we refuel, a lengthy process for 11 Harts, but we are able to get tea and bread and jam from the troops in the fort. Then on to H4, where an ME110 had been sighted the day before and one machine’s undercart is written off. Then along the pipeline and away at LG22 to Azraq and Ma’an. On the way Metcalfe, leading the formation, sees an unmarked L.G. and goes down to investigate and of course all the other nine Harts land too. But reach Ma’an 3000′ up and decide to stay the night. We three, and three more out of a Rapide – Pollock, Dunlop-Mackenzie and an American from Beyrout – are all put up one Warren of TJFF (Trans Jordan Frontier Force). An excellent dinner, booze and breakfast. Lovely, sleeping out on his verandah after my first dinner since bully and biscuits.

I take Col Pollock to look for Petra and on the second attempt, the map being wrong, we get the right place near Wadi Musa but can’t find Petra. A mass of great pink canyons, and the most wicked country I ever saw. On 10th flew down early to Akaba, thinking Lawrence all the way, then across the Sinai over low cloud to Geneifa. We land at the wrong place first, where Allan lets a South African take up his Hart dual and shows off, without telling him of the luggage stowed in the fuselage.

Geneifa’s just a camp, newly built, and nothing is known of us. But we are told to clock in and stay. the Mess sergeant was a bit doubtful about quarters so after one thing and another we dump our kit and go off in a lorry with a suitcase each with Metcalfe (84th Squadron) to Ismailia, where he is stationed, intending vaguely to take French leave and stay the night. Go through miles of tented camps in the desert, all sorts, including an Italian prison camp and a military detention camp, very grim, where could be seen the prisoners in rows on their knees picking stones, which were then thrown down for them to do it again.

Tea in the Mess at Ismailia, where we saw two halves of a ship blown up in the canal by an ‘acoustic’ mine, then Allan says “How far to Cairo?”, someone says “I’m just going and have two seats”, so he drags me off there much against my will, as I fear that damn adjutant in Geneifa. We go to the Carlton, then on to Tommy’s Gezira Club, some Egyptian girl, horrid, produced by a hotel bearer, and end up with Teddy Humphries watching cabaret at the Continental. He says we are due for India, Haig and I, so the next morning we go round to Air HQ, and find a signal from the Air Ministry ordering our return to India to “complete training”. They decide to send us by air and one Squadron Leader Jolley, Movement Officer, produces a staff car to take us down to Geneifa for our kit. We arrive back about 5pm and are told we can’t go next morning after all, but must wait till the next plane. Then at 6pm, having tea in the Carlton, we are ordered to leave tomorrow and go round now for weights and to get an identity photo. Christ! Allan Haig is sulking because he has to return to India and refuses to co-operate in my bandobast making (JDW: a word relating to ‘bandaid’ – a ‘tying together of things in an organised fashion’. Still used in India today – see the Times of India. Presumably in this context ‘packing up’?) and is a wet blanket.

I go to the Continental, like the old ‘Brass-arse’, full of Brigadiers with hats over one eye, some with only one eye, and all a bit drunk. Then I take Tiny to Tommy’s bar, Teddie joins us, and then off to bed. Up at 4 and are shepherded from Shepheards Hotel to the (flying)boat and off. Land at Akaba, circle Petra and down at Basra, where we meet Gordon Arthur. Then reach Bahrein at 6.30pm. After dinner we get in a taxi and drive to the BAPCO club (British American Petroleum Company), asking for Scottie Anderson, Joe Cooper and the boys. They can’t be found, but some old fossil looks after us, introduces us to the Club Secretary, and we have free drinks and dances the rest of the night. Bacon and eggs in his house and get to bed on the rest house roof at 3am, to be woken by dawn flies and hot sun at 5am.

I bought a new watch in Cairo, foolishly, as with no duty here (Bahrein, at the time of writing) could have got a good one. We shall get to India before news of our arrival I hope. Very sticky here and having my jacket and wings on last night made things a bit difficult.

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2 Responses to June 15th 1941 – Bahrein, en route India

  1. Cynny says:

    This is interesting as we (his family, less James) lived in Moascar, very near Ismailia, in the Canal Zone in Egypt, in 1955/56, just before the Suez crisis.

  2. Kalyan says:

    (JDW: a word relating to ‘bandaid’ – a ‘tying together of things in an organised fashion’. Still used in India today – see the Times of India. Presumably in this context ‘packing up’?) Nicely summed up – Bandobast is a all encompassing term pertaining to ‘preparation’ for any endeavour / eventuality!

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