- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Frank Dennis Wheeler, Edward (Ted) Hurst, Joseph Boyland, King Faisal II
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- 07 February 2005
I was always fascinated by my dad's story of his unusual encounter with the boy King Faisal II, whom he met whilst on break from duty with the Gurkha Brigade in the Middle East in 1943. I got him to write it down, and it appears below:
The Gurkha Brigade became fully mechanised at this time, and we spent many hot and sweaty hours motoring all over the Middle East on exercises. It was quite an experience transporting over 3000 Gurkhas hundreds of miles across the desert. We visited Mosul, Baghdad, Basra, Damascus and dozens of other places.
During one of our rest breaks we camped near the Mediterranean. One day, while loafing on the beach, three of us decided to ‘swan off’ the following day on a picnic. Capt Ted Hurst was the BTO (Brigade Transport Officer), Capt Joe Boyland the BSO (Brigade Signal Officer), and yours truly the BIO (Brigade Intelligence Officer). Ted had arranged for the transport, Joe had arranged for wireless communications, and I was responsible for maps. With a Jeep and a Gurkha driver we set off on our exploration
After about three hours of driving, always in sight of the Med, we drove into a wooded area and followed the track in what seemed like an estate. On rounding a bend we met a group of Iraqis, who were fully armed but, fortunately, friendly. They intimated that we were on private property, and that they would like to escort us to their employer. We spoke to them in English and French and they responded in broken English. They led us to a ‘Summer Palace’, a wonderful mansion, with lakes, gardens and ornaments.
A lady came out of the building and it transpired that she was English, from Lincoln (which delighted Ted as he too was from Lincoln!), and that she was the tutor to the boy King Faisal. We entered the palace and received refreshments served on golden trays. The boy king spoke excellent English and was very excited at our presence. He asked if we had any hand grenades and we answered no. Pity, he said, because I use them to go fishing in the lakes!
We were given a fond farewell and returned unharmed to our unit. Quite an experience, meeting a boy king in such unusual circumstances. It was only later that we would learn that this boy, King Faisal II, the cousin of King Hussein of Jordan, would be the last King of Iraq, meeting his death by assassination in 1958
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