My Service History
As a 17 yr old I joined the RAF Regiment Auxiliaries. I served with 2605 LAA Sqn at RAF Honiley in Warwickshire from 1954 - 56. I went into signals and reached the rank of SAC.
In August 1956, I began my National Service and, like most, I went to RAF Cardington for initial induction and then on to RAF Hednesford for basic training. Because of my previous aux service, I only did 6 weeks training and at the end of that time I was reinstated to my rank of SAC. I was immediately drafted into the RAF Regiment as a trained SAC signaller and posted to RAF Innsworth, on standby for the Middle East.
I was initially kitted out for a posting to Egypt but, in fact, in November 1956, I was placed in transit at RAF Nicosia. I spent two nights there before being flown down to RAF Akrotiri, where I joined 28 LAA Sqn. At the time of joining the Sqn, it was deployed on the Akrotiri peninsular in defence of the airfield during the Egyptian/Israeli/French/British war. I spent 21 months with 28 Sqn as SAC i/c signals first in Akrotiri and then in Nicosia.
I returned to the UK in August 1958 and was demobbed at RAF Innsworth.
During my time at RAF Akrotiri, in 1957, I participated with 28 LAA Squadron in a number of escort/protection duties for celebrities visiting Cyprus to entertain the troops. One popular singer of the time who visited was Edna Savage. I remember she was so natural and down to earth. When we arrived at her hotel in Limassol, having escorted her from the camp, she gave us all signed photographs and asked if we had any requests for a show she was about to do on her return to the UK. We all put in our two bob's worth and then forgot about it. I was coming off a Sunday stag about two months later when I heard a great whoop from the tent I shared with Curly Gates. "She's on, she's on," he shouted. "Edna Savage is doing a number for the boys of 28 Sqn". Sure enough, she was singing Pat Boone's "I'll be home", a favorite song for my girl and myself; the girl I married in 1959, a year after my demob. We are still married and have the song on CD.
This account is given entirely from memory. Any inaccuracies are unintentional and may be the result of a lapse in time of some 43 years.
This tragedy took place sometime in 1958 when 28 LAA sqn was stationed at RAF Nicosia.
The CO's car team were always the first to be called out whenever there was a flap on and Curly Gates, the driver, whose name I have forgotten, and I were called out at some time about 3 am. We kitted up in KDs, webbing belts small packs, ammo pouches and tin lids and drove directly to the armoury. As signaller, I drew a sten, Curly drew a Le Enfield 303 and I think the driver was allowed to draw a hand gun. From the armoury we drove to the COs house in officers' married quarters. We were invited into the house and while the Sqn Leader got ready, his wife gave us tea and biscuits.
We left the house and drove to the sqn compound, where we linked up with rest of 28 LAA sqn. Even when we passed the guard room and through the main gate, we had no idea where we were headed but, it was my job to maintain contact with the sqn convoy through the built-in TCS 13 sets fitted into selected vehicles. We were second in line in the convoy, the lead being taken by the sqn adjutant and the rear being brought up by one of the junior officers.
We drove through Nicosia and headed north and it was sometime before the convoy came to a halt, in the pre-dawn, a mile or so outside a Turkish Cypriot village. There was a seniors' ranks pow - wow, which included the participation of some pongo officers and the reason for our presence in this location gradually filtered down to all of us. Apparently, there had been a severe altercation between the Turkish Cypriot inhabitants of the village and some Greek Cypriots the previous day which had resulted in a number of deaths. The Greeks had been on their way by bus to Nicosia to protest the gaoling of some of their compatriots. An army unit had stopped the bus, disembarked all the passengers, confiscated the bus and ordered them to walk back home.
The Greeks were understandably upset and when they came by this Turkish village, they decided to have their revenge by setting the fields alight. On seeing the blazing fields, the Turks grabbed whatever came to hand, including pitch forks, axes, machetes and any other implement and went out to the fields to get stuck into the Greeks. The Greeks, being unarmed, were at a serious disadvantage and many of them were cut down as they tried to run for their lives. The army had apparently secured the village after this and had imposed a curfew overnight. It was our job to now go in, maintain the security and clean up the gory mess.
We drove into what was a deathly quiet location. There was no one to be seen and the impression was that no one was there. The CO had us set up the HQ in one of the local school classrooms. The patrols, under the leadership of the sergeants, picked up 31 sets and, with roughly drawn mud maps supplied by the army, set off to round up all the males in the village and bring them to the school playground, where they sat in rows. Women and children were allowed to stay in their houses, though some did come to the school with their men folk, leaving older women to mind their homes. The patrols then went out into the surrounding fields, equipped with sheets to retrieve bodies and body parts. I didn't actually see the extent to which some of these Greeks had been physically abused but, a number of our men, including a couple of sergeants who had seen action in previous postings, were physically sick on returning to HQ.
The outstanding memory I have of this incident is of Turkish cheers every single time a bloodied sheet was brought in. There was absolutely no sense of having done anything wrong. Whether anyone was brought to account for this event, I don't know. I do know that, on so may occasions, the authorities were not able to apply sanctions or impositions sufficient to deter the population from acts of this nature
For so many years I detached myself from the 21 months I spent on that island and now, at the age of retirement (65) I have a sense of nostalgia and I suppose pride in that I did something to serve my country. It is easy to feel that way since I became an Australian citizen. Aussies take so much pride in their military history and, being so small a population, those who served are known throughout all the states.
I remember a couple of specific EOKA incidents at Akrotiri. One involved a young fellow on a motor bike who had smuggled some explosive into the camp. He had just cleared 28 Sqn tent lines and was riding up a hill when he literally blew up. Some of his body parts were found in the tent lines.
I also remember them setting fire to the brand new Sergeants' Mess very close to its building completion. Following that incident, the RAF Regiment were posted as armed guards on all station building projects.
On another occasion, a senior EOKA character, together with a much younger fellow, both wounded during their capture were brought in to Akrotiri hospital. I recall our sqdn was detailed to provide 24 hour guards inside their room and outside the door. They were cuffed to the beds I think. There
were some incredible nurses in that hospital !
Frightened? Yes, especially in my first 6 months or so. We were called out at times, sometimes at night, to go to where British personnel had been ambushed. I was very scared on those occasions. I learned it was OK to feel fear but not OK to show it or to let it interfere with my performance. The
power of one's peers was awesome! As time went on, like most I suppose, I thought I was bullet proof and I used to volunteer for escort duties. I did armed escorts for entertainers and escorts for convoys to satellite stations.
I was also involved with the Sqn in providing armed security in the shopping areas of Nicosia for homeward-bound service personnel.
The thing that stands out most is that during a period of some 4 weeks prior to my demob date, there were serious civil riots in Nicosia. 28 Sqn spent periods of 4 to 5 days and nights on the streets, sorting out riots and attempting to maintain curfews. At this time, I really did fear for my life and I was relieved beyond belief when my departure to return to England was not delayed.
I was a National Serviceman and I was demobbed on August 12th 1958.
Later that year, I entered Teachers' Training College and in 1959.