- Contributed by
- People in story:
- John Ernest Graham Phillips, Gwendoline Phillips
- Location of story:
- Swansea, Wales, UK, and Cairo, Egypt
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 November 2005
Jack Phillips 1941 Great Pyramid of Giza Egypt
The photograph is of my Father, John (known as Jack) Phillips, taken in 1941 shortly after he was posted from the UK to Egypt where the Allies were fighting the North Africa campaign. In this photo, he is sitting astride a Camel, dressed in desert uniform and wearing his 'dress cap' with the badge of his regiment, the Royal Engineers, to which he was attached. At that time he was 31 years old and a Sapper in the Postal Section. The picture was taken on leave from Cairo where he was stationed, near the 'Great Pyramid of Giza' in Egypt.
The Postal Section had no home leave for the duration of the war. This was because of the u-boat threat. But there was leave to Alexandria, N Africa.
Jack volunteered for service via the Territorial Army in April 1940. He trained in Bournemouth. When Jack embarked from the UK for Egypt, troop ships had to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, the Southern tip of Africa, very dangerous because of the u-boat threat, and a journey of over two months from 5 February to 22 April 1941, by the time they reached Suez. Despite plentiful food rations, the long voyage put strain on provisions; but ships could be resupplied en route and stopped at Freetown and Capetown. The troops were delighted to be given canned fruit upon reaching port.
Initially in 1941, Jack's Army career began as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers at GHQ Cairo Postal Section He was promoted to Corporal at Postal Directorate Cairo GHQ and later in 1941 served in the Air Formation Postal Unit for a short time. His service also included duties at army camps in the Egyptian desert where temperatures soared to over 38'C and nights were freezing cold.
In 1944 Jack was promoted to Staff Sergeant and was awarded the Africa Star for his duties in the theatre of war in Feb 1945 while serving at the Postal Directorate GHQ Cairo. He was released from Cairo to the UK in Jul 1945 and remained as a reserve until Feb 1946.
Jack's wife, Gwendoline Phillips, endured the duration of the war in Swansea without her husband for over five years while he was in Egypt. Her family home was bombed in the Blitz on 16 February 1943, in the last recorded high explosives air raid on the city. The family survived only by Gwen’s remarkable premonition. She awoke in the night and awoke her mother and daughter taking them safely under the steel table shelter under the stairs just in time, as the house next door received a direct hit, killing the occupants and demolishing Gwen’s house. There had been no warning. I was born after the war. Jack worked as a counter clerk at Swansea's main Post Office until his death in 1954 from a heart attack.
The Phillips' family history records show that the male line as far back as Jack's Great Grandfather, Isaac, were employed in the Post Office or GPO telegraph services. The 1881 Census records show that Isaac, born in the old county of Pembroke, was the Postmaster at Dale Post Office near Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire. Jack's Grandfather was a Telegraph Officer in Bridgend and his father was a Telegraph Inspector in Swansea.
J Phillips’ Release Papers Record.
Trade: Clerk and Telegraphist
Military Conduct: Exemplary
Testimonial from Major, Commanding Officer:
J Phillips has served in the Army Post Office for five and a half years attaining the rank of sergeant. He has proved himself to be very trustworthy, reliable, tactful and intelligent, and to possess excellent powers of command. He can confidently be recommended to give energetic, loyal and efficient service.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.