His late father – also called John, but known as Jack – served in the RAF during the war, and John has contributed memories of his father’s wartime experiences for the project, together with photographs and documents.
Dad, like most of those serving in the War, did not really speak too much about it to us, and I am sorry that I was not more enquiring whilst he was alive.
I know that prior to joining the Royal Air Force, in June 1941, he had been an Air Raid Warden in Walthamstow during the evenings – whilst still working in the City during the day.
He was almost 33 when he joined (I don’t know if he was called up), so may not have matched the age requirement at the commencement of the War in 1939.
He was married to Edna on 4th October 1941, and served overseas from 8th December 1941 through to October 1944 as an RTO (Radio Officer) supporting air cover to the advancing troops.
I remember him telling me that he was on a troop ship from England to Egypt via South Africa, and that he found Durban “beautiful” when they stopped off en-route.
He then followed the Eighth Army through Egypt and Tunisia; he took many photographs of his time there, including visits by Winston Churchill and Wendell Willkie (Roving Ambassador for F. D. Roosevelt) to a desert airstrip.
He constantly recited the legendary cooking routine of frying eggs on the bonnet of jeeps as it was so hot! He also talked about the incredible noise of the famous barrage at El Alamein that he could hear clearly, although some miles away at a desert airstrip.
At one time he found that both sides were advancing and retreating so often, that although at the start they were destroying their dug-outs before moving on, they so often found themselves in the same dug-out later, that eventually both the Germans and the British saved each other the trouble by starting to leave them untouched – so that they could turn up “plug their equipment in and get started again”. Jack then landed in south-east Sicily and spent some time in the hills above Palermo before being hospitalised with malaria; this was followed by some months’ convalescence in the ‘Grande Albergo’ (The Grand Hotel) on the south slopes of Mount Etna.
He spent some time in Italy, but was eventually returned to the Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Liverpool where he spent many months; my mother travelled from London to see him as often as she could, with some rail journeys taking up to 13 hours due to the train stopping during bombing raids.
Dad was released from service, and returned to his previous job in ‘Civvy Street’, on 1st November 1945.