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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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RAF Stories from Palestine

by culture_durham

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Herbert Phillips
Location of story: 
County Durham and Palestine
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
24 May 2005

At the beginning of the war I worked down the pit with Jackie Taylor and Charlie Wayman, both of whom went on to play professional football. We climbed a steep rope to get down and worked in water above the knees, with only an oil lamp to light the way.
I was called up and got told to go to Middlesbrough Town Hall. I walked in through the door and was told ‘Welcome to the RAF!’
I was posted to Palestine with Maintenance 120 MU unit and stationed 10 miles from Tel Aviv at Acca (now Akka). I was six months in Middle East HQ. Whilst there I was in a vehicle which collided with an army wagon. The gunner, driver and my friend all died, but I escaped with a bruised back. The wagon didn’t stop and I had to go and give evidence at an enquiry.
I sent letters home only to realise later that half of what I’d written was censored.
At one point I got prickly heat and was bandaged from the neck downwards, so I couldn’t salute properly for 6 days.This didn't stop one officer from putting me on report because I couldn't salute him.
I was sent to a rest camp.As it was right beside the sea we blasted a hole in the wall and at high tide when the water came in,we had a swimming pool! At low tide the water went out.There was never any need to clean it.
Because of the constant threat of attack, we had to sleep with rifles attached to our legs.Our beds were 3 foot below ground level. One night our C.O. woke us and said 'you see that dark shape,Fire at and don't stop until I tell you'We opened fire on a shadowy figure which we couldn’t quite make out in the darkness.We fired at it all night.In the morning we discovered that we had fired 250 bullets into a bullock!Whilst the arabs had been stealing parachutes.

I went in to the RAF as an air gunner, but towards the end of my term of duty I choose a very different role for which I had to retrain — a cook! We baked bread in 50 gallon oil drums half buried in the sand. This was lit with wood and we cooked 48 loaves at a time. We tested by hand to see if they were cooked and when they were ready they were cut into 9 inch squares.

Disclaimer: Submitted by Susan Brown at Shildon Library on behalf of Herbert Phillips

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