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G3515679 Cpl Lowe C 
RAF 1953-1967

Memories (or why me)

1953
Everybody must have their own memory of square bashing (or the first eight weeks) we were all issued with  pint china mugs , so my memory was standing 'by my bed' when the Cpl drill instructor did a check, his question to me "there is a brown stain down the bottom so it's not fit to drink from, is it airman?", "No Cpl" "Right, tap it on the wall".  "NO!! from here", he shouted (about 25 feet away), a new mug cost me 2/6 from the NAAFI.............................

1953
Royal Air Force Weeton was trade training motor transport, station workshops etc..
I was on a short driving course, every night outside the camp there was a chap with an old field kitchen who used to sell hot meat pies, but he had a reputation for short changing anyone who he thought too drunk to notice, one night he picked on a pal of mine, who took umbrage and upset the oven, all the round meat pies rolled down the hill to the pond by the bus stop, yes, he fished them out and put them back in the oven.

1953-1955 
RAF Stradishall, Suffolk
I was a MT mechanic/driver, as duty fitter my job was to collect all the trolly acks and take them to the charging rooms, using a Land Rover or Fordson tractor. Only two to be towed at any one time, the record was sixteen. One evening I had twelve behind a Landrover and went over a runway light causing a bump then stopped when I was overtaken by a trolly ack on both sides but on looking back saw the orderly officer trying to dodge all the runaway acks. Whoops

At this time Stradishall was the home of 226 OCU with Meteor jets and the mortality rate was high with course pilots.
I was detailed to take the old Morris ambulance to Bury St Edmunds railway station with a coffin for onward transportation to Scotland, there was five cars full of course officers following behind.
As I left the camp the gear stick broke off (it come away in me hand) so I went in second gear all the way to the railway station; before I started back a Flt Lt came to me and thanked me for showing great respect by going so slow and said they were very moved (I thought, 'but not very fast')

These were the days of the 'war-games' and we had to defend the station from the 'enemy' (usually the course pilots)
One day I was coming back from the local town of Haverhill when I was 'caught short' so I pulled in by a hay stack I didn't want to leave the Sten gun in the Standard Vanguard pick-up so took it with me as I ran towards the hay-stack, suddenly five figures stood up and surrendered to me, the SWO said that I had seen the enemy and 'did my duty' [yes sir if you say so]

As duty fitter on week-nights one of the last jobs before going to breakfast was to light the MTO's fire,
The system for this was to fill it with coke then get some avgas  (high octane petrol) and stand back and throw a lighted match, but this time just as I was about to light a match, the ambulance bell went and as I was also the duty ambulance driver off I went (a road accident outside the camp) and took the victim to Newmarket hospital.
meanwhile after being in his office for about an hour the MTO threw a lit dog-end into the fire, I believe the ensuing whoosh and soot was something to see. Whoops

1955-1957
RAF Sek Kong, Hong Kong
The toilets at Sek Kong were door-less corrugated iron sheeting open at the bottom and top with a roof, inside were six large 'thunder buckets' - four with seats on the upright posts was fixed a CTC fire extinguisher not for any fires but to deal with any snakes that got up inside the roof, one does not look about when one is in a hurry but sitting down, one has time to look about---you can not really run with your shorts around your ankles.

In the village of Ping Shan I swerved to avoid some children and ran over a sway-backed pig (major incident) I was advised to submit a FMT3 (accident report) as the village were putting in for compensation. I am afraid I submitted one in a rather light-hearted way with graphic description and drawings.
I was told years later that it was hung on the office wall at headquarters Far East Air force

The road from Sek Kong to the nearby town of Yuen Long was the normal type of causeway across rice paddy fields about four or five feet high.
I was driving Leyland Hippo transporter on a daily run for Avtur when I had a blow-out on one of the rear tyres.
Having sent a message back to camp for assistance (lifting jack etc) I thought I would take the spare wheel down to be ready for the mechanic, the spare wheel of the hippo was situated behind the cab, so I let down the keep, the wheel was not secure and I could not stop it dropping the five feet down to the road then down another four feet and away across the paddy field (the hippo wheel is about four feet high) I saw that it was heading toward a bamboo shack and I shouted a warning, a Chinese gentleman put his head round the corner of his house as the wheel went in the other end and brought the house down, eh, can I have my wheel back.

43 Signal unit at Sek Kong worked in three locations away from the camp and the MT drivers had to take the watch keeper to and from duty, one location was in the middle of paddy fields on stilts with a bridge to it but no windows to the road, so we had a call sign in morse to let them know we where passing and would pick the up on the way back after turning the vehicle, call sign- dit dit dit, dit dit dit dit, dit dit, dah, one day behind an army one tonner I saw him speaking over the mike so I gave him my call sign, the army was not amused. (dit dit dit is the morse code for S)
it apparently was heard all over Hong Kong.

1959-1960
RAF Chivenor, Devon
The duty ambulance driver had to be in the station sick quarters during flying and every so often would take the ambulance around the block to keep the engine warmed up.
When the helicopters of 22 Sqdn were scrambled for air sea rescue the drill was for the driver to take the ambulance to the nearest dispersal point and open the rear doors ready for people in need.
One day in a PR exercise (that nobody told me about) the Press were ready to witness the smooth running of this occurrence, unfortunately when I opened the rear doors I revealed a medic and his girlfriend in what they call a compromising situation (he thought i was just warming up the engine)

1960
RAF Valley, Anglesea
Battle of Britain march past at Port Maddock
Three coach loads of RAF Personnel.
After the parade all were invited to the RAFA club for some beverage's, I was driving one coach and on returning to camp I had just left the Menia suspension bridge when the passengers began singing that old favourite 'does the driver want a wee wee' I pulled into the lay by on the old A5 on the steep hill, most in need went over the wall into the field but looking in my mirror I saw about eight lined up facing my coach, so I let the hand brake off and rolled back leaving them exposed to a stream of Sunday drivers going down the hill.

1961
RAF Patrington, Hull
It was an early warning radar station.
One night in a local pub a chap came up to me and said "are you from that radar station?" when I said yes he replied "well it's not much good, I went past at 80MPH and wasn't stopped"

1962
RAF Sharjah , Persian Gulf
On route on posting from Patrington to Sharjah my pal Harry and I spent two or three days in Aden, where Harry a smoker bought a cigarette lighter with a camel skin cover, at Sharjah on the very first night in a billet with walls three feet thick, in the middle of the night he awoke and reached out for the lighter to light up, as he was flicking it to get it to light, it suddenly wriggled free and ran away, at his yell I woke up to find something heavy on my face, that too suddenly ran away, the place was infested with rats.
On investigating the next day we heard them in the old air conditioning system, so we kidnapped one of the cats from the Airmen's Mess and put him inside the system, it seemed to do some good, after three days we were all put in new billets, and left the rats to transit army types.

A signal from the UK to RAF Sharjah was concerned about too much use of air freight and instructed the station to make more use of the trains ! (the nearest train track was at RAF Maseria and was all of one mile from dock to stores.

RAF Sharjah had lots of dogs, people would hand over pets to others as the one year tour was completed, most of the dogs were 'piard' type (middle east type dingo) but some were of a different breed. A MT mechanic was so attached to his dog 'Leo' that he went to the expense to bring him home to the UK, a huge dog , I last heard of him guarding his masters service station down the west country.
The MT's dog was called Fred when he came to us, unusually he had a long haired coat, we used to take a three tonner to the local safe beach, a creek that had sand bank that stopped the sharks etc, Fred used to love to swim and play in the water, so on time to go back to camp he was lifted into the back of the truck where he used to run up and down underneath the seats, as everybody was in shorts his wet hair used to wet everybody's legs, up front we could hear the comments so Fred became 'Arfur' as the most heard comment was "ah for GOODNESS sake" (it wasn't GOODNESS but you get the picture).

One day on getting stores from a Blackburn Beverley I spotted among the rubbish two plastic flowers they used to give away with soap powders, at the MT office was an air conditioner that dripped water onto the ground outside, one day I made a big show of planting a mango stone, a couple of days later I put in some green plastic, the Flight Sergeant was most impressed and got the Arab cleaner to make a little fence around his 'garden' a week later I put in the flowers !!

Among some rubbish in a transit aircraft I came across a cardboard sign about four foot by three foot, well known in the UK it depicted a toy horse and the words read horse, go suck a Zube (throat lozenges) I put it up in the tea room and the Arab workers came in their droves to see it, then one day an aide to the local Sheik came to see it and the Flight Sargeant gave away my sign to the Sheik (he never forgave me for the flowers) the Arabic word for the male member is Zuberick so go suck a Zube suddenly has a whole new meaning.

1964-1965
RAF Old Sarum, Salisbury
There were more Navy and Army personnel at Old Sarum than airmen, and the CO was a marine. An odd happy station, one day I was driving an army car with a Naval Captain in the back when he got out at Lee on Solent I slammed the door too soon and trapped his sword in the door, thus a very angry officer with a little dent in his sword on a big parade.

Took a coach load of German Officers to lark hill for demonstration of heavy dropping by Beverley's, some kind of vehicle was dropped but only one of the six parachutes opened, when the dust had cleared a bulldozer came out of a wood and filled in the hole. I curled up and the Germans did not think it funny at all.

The winter of 1964 and a very heavy fall of snow, I had the job of driving a fuel bowser around the camp and local roads to keep them open, so all night I went round and round and to Salisbury railway station. Every so often a Naval Land Rover would appear and a medic would give me a mug of cocoa heavy with rum. I was not the only one so employed and each time he came the driver would have a tot as well. by early morning the medic was driving and the matelot was asleep in the back.

There was a problem at RAF Lyneham with their Coles cranes and they wanted to borrow an extra one for an engine change, so I was detailed to go to Lyneham, it was to be an overnight job, When done I went to breakfast and then went back for the Coles crane that was still in the hanger, at about nine o clock I got up into the crane cab and swung the jib back to it's normal position, then from the high-up crane cab moved the crane forward away from the aircraft, some Sgt waiting in line at the Naafi van saw the crane moving saw nobody in the cab, quickly dashed up to the crane with an aircraft chock to stop the runaway crane. many people started to clap his prompt action when the driverless crane went backwards then forwards around the chock

1966-1968
RAF Stafford 2MT Sqn
Excess baggage chitty boxes, for personnel to and from Germany went by train to Woolwich then by (2 MT) RAF Pantech to and from RAF Bruggen it made a change from driving the hippo and trailers or Queen Mary's.
I had never driven 'on the wrong side of the road' and got hopelessly lost in Antwerp. Kilometres and things were a mystery so I went down this road and suddenly stopped I was too big for the underpass, coming back to the UK during the trip on North Sea Ferries I borrowed some tools and had a look on top of the vehicle it was peeled back like a just opened tin of sardines, I repaired it the best I could with a hammer. When I got back to RAF Kidbrooke there was a driver from Stafford with another vehicle for me he had to take mine back for servicing but first he was taking some canoes from RAF Cranwell to Bala lake. in the hurry I forgot to tell him about the accident with the roof, when I got back to Stafford a week later I found out he had hit a tree near Bala lake and he had damaged the top of the van. (there's lucky for me).

Near Stafford there was a small unit that we used to park at for night stops , in the mornings we used to climb over the Hippo and trailer to check the ropes and sheets, it seemed that each time we were on top the whistle would sound for raising the RAF standard (standing orders require you to turn towards the sound and stand to attention)
so we would do this about fifteen feet up off the ground many years later I met an ex RAF policeman who was one of those there. They used to wait till we were on top before blowing the whistle

I had some stores for RAF Ternhill on a Leyland Hippo and trailer, at the entrance to the camp some very bad planning had put a beautiful half circle of flowers on an island with an in and out road just before the station road down to the main guard room, fine for normal traffic but not a 60 foot long 'Hippo 'n' drag' only one thing for it, straight across the flowers.
On booking in at the guard room the Station Warrant Officer was there and he said "2 MT, the last time they were here they ruined the flower bed" he then glared at me and started walking up to the main road, I unloaded the stores then went to the MT section and asked if there was a back way out of camp I could use, lucky for me there was; I wonder how long he waited for me ?

One night about midnight I pulled into the jungle transport café at Shap and the young girl was more interested in talking to me than doing her job. A Scottish driver who had not been given his knife and fork stood waiting for her attention; after a long while with his supper getting cold he shouted "gi us a fork an knife" the girl went into the rear and started to cry and her mum came and told him not to swear at her little girl, by this time the place was in an uproar.

Hope this will do, if not you may have a chuckle over it any way.

All the best

Cliff Lowe

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