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15 October 2014
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Desert cricket

by Lynneg

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Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by 
Lynneg
People in story: 
Clifford Gascoigne
Location of story: 
North Africa
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A8782220
Contributed on: 
23 January 2006

Winners of the RAF Berka Cricket Cup 1944? (Back row, far right; Cliff Gascoigne)

Extracts from Cliff Gascoigne's RAF memoirs, 'The Life of an Erk.'

Whilst out in the desert I was a member of 55 Squadron cricket team. It was a funny thing but most of the squadron cricket team turned out to be in servicing flight, this had not been arranged it just happened that way.

We played a few games in Alexandria but there was one in particular that I remember well. We were playing Alexandria Cricket Club. A jockey who rode at Alexandria race course was watching the game and kept plying me with beer, I could not understand this at all. When I had been in to bat and got out first ball he asked if I had seen two balls coming towards me, I said yes and did he not see that I had knocked the middle one for six! The poor fellow had made a bad mistake; he wanted to knobble our best batsman, and I was the opening bowler. By the time I came to bowl I was feeling alright again. I really enjoyed that match!

During a rest period in Helwan we really did get some cricket! I went to one match on a Saturday and stayed the night in Cairo, then met the cricket transport the next day and went to another match from there. My reason for staying in Cairo was because I met some chaps who had been posted from the squadron, so obviously we had a few “bevvies.”

From Helwan we were sent to Palestine, to Aqir, which had a very fast outfield to its cricket pitch. There were three runways which were all joined together just outside the camp perimeter, this made quite a large area of tarmac to use as a cricket pitch. It was not very often that an aircraft wanted to land, but one day when we were playing, a Wellington circled round and came in to land. The match had to be temporarily stopped. The Wellington taxied over and parked near the boundary. Our camp Commanding Officer (CO) was playing and walked over to greet the pilot, who like our CO, was also a wing commander. I don’t think the pilot got the greeting he expected. “What the devil are you playing at? You might have waited till the end of the over before landing.”

I was playing cricket one day at an Australian army camp. They had not been at the place long and had put down a concrete strip for the wicket, not quite as level as it should be for a cricket pitch. I was batting when a ball came up rather quickly towards my face. I pulled back smartly and just managed to avoid the ball. It stopped just behind the wicket, hitting the Australian wicket keeper right in his face and broke his nose. Later on in the Australian canteen we had a couple of pints together and he told me he was so sure the ball was going to hit me that he was not thinking about having to stop the ball; he was coming forward to catch me as he thought I would be unconscious. At least he could see the funny side and laugh about it, even if he had got a broken nose. He had saved four runs with his nose and not many wicketkeepers can say that!

By the time the war in North Africa was over we had won the RAF Berka Cricket Cup and I have the medal to prove it. I think there was only us and one other team left to play for it!

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