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15 October 2014
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From Grangemouth to Palestine

by helengena

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Ray Merrett, Emrys Morgan
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
31 January 2006

This contribution was submitted by Ray Merrett to Edgar Lloyd and is added to the site with his permission.

I was a wireless operator in Grangemouth fully qualified by the RAF but I was seconded out two or three times. I was taken over by the Ayrshire Yeomanry for about six weeks...teaching people. They had long lengths of black one side and white the other linoleum with lead weights either end, and if you were in the snow as we were on Christmas Day on Beattock you turned this thing over and it was black, and being a length about nine to ten inches wide with a weight either end, laid out flat on the ground it could be seen by things flying a result helped the army people with their gun trajectory - a hell of a place to be on Christmas Day with jam sandwiches for lunch. It was a wonderful place the people were marvellous, the scenery was rugged, and rural rugged, which I liked and I did enjoy my stay up there. I came home on leave and when I came home Peggy said what's the point of being a grade 2, when a wireless operator mechanic is a grade 1. I hadn't thought of it before.

The fellow I joined up with was a fellow by the name of Walter Yapp and he was in the photography department - he did very well. In Yatesbury we'd learned up to a certain standard everything there was about the wireless sets and tuning, and working the things and repairing them. If you went to Cranwell you did all the mechnical effects of tracing the faults in the things, repairing them, soldering them, doing all sorts. In consequence of which I went into Cranwell as a leading aircraftsman and came out as an AC plonk all over again ....I studied myself daft and eventually became an NCO, but during the time I was there I worked very hard for it. From there I was posted down to Pembroke Dock and in Pembroke Dock you had 210 Squadron Sunderlands and we were looking after all sorts of rubbish for the Sunderlands and periodically - if you were good looking - they'd stick you on one. I was with them and we had fun and games with the Australian troops.

From Pembroke Dock I got posted to the Middle East, and I went to Alexandra, from there to the Suez Canal and crossed into the West Sinai desert. We travelled to Alexandria via the Cape...I spent Christmas Day on this occasion very happily in the middle of nowhere...We stopped in Durban, I think it was three days, and I thought that was lovely..but once again we followed the Australian troops in there. They'd moved out and we moved in....from Durban I went to Alexandria and up to the Suez Canal across into the Sinai Desert and I was only in the Sinai Desert for three days and went up across the desert and landed in Palestine at Aqir and I was all on my tod and was met by an RAF van and taken to Aqir camp. And in Aqir camp I met one of the best friends I ever had...Emrys Morgan from Blaenavon and Emrys and I got on extremely well he was in the RAF aswell and he was a wireless operator. I went into the hut where all the wireless people were living and asked if there was an empty bed in there....a fellow jumped up on the bed and said: "and what do you want to do about it?" I looked at him a bit surprised and said: "what's the matter with you...I want an empty bed" Oh he said: "I thought you said there a Welshman in here!". He came from Blaenavon and he was very good, very kind to me then. The bed next to him was empty so he said "that one's empty" so I said "I'll have that one" I was busy unpacking my gear and it came about half past six, seven o'clock in the evening ...and I don't know why but I was FLW - flough - to him and I don't know what the hell that means in Welsh.....but he said: "Are you coming over the NAAFI for a drink?" and I said: "No I'm not coming I'd rather get my things done" He said: "I'ts alright, I know you're stony broke, everybody is when they get here - but I have some tonight, so come on have a drink with me". So I went with him over to the NAAFI, had a couple of drinks and that's how I got to know Emrys Morgan, and as I say he was one of the best friends you could ever have. We were together something over a year. I stayed at Aqir for a while - we used to play rugby for the station team and on a Saturday we used to get in the wagon because we had our name on DROs to be covered by insurance so we'd play rugby in the afternoon and come down to Rehova town in the evening where there was a hospital and the nurses from the hospital held a dance. I gather it was a military hospital...I met quite a few nurses from there, and then we went from Rehova back to Aqir to camp. But we did go there one night and I won a goat in a raffle....and Emrys being the sort of character he was, wasn't prepared to leave the goat behind. I'd won it - I had to take he said "You wait there a minute and I'll go and get some transport"..which he did. They had a habit there of hobbling the donkeys, they'd tie the two front legs he came back with two donkeys. So he and I rode a donkey each and towed the goat! That was just about the heaviest thing I did while I was in Palestine, apart from playing a bit of rugby and going down to Jerusalem and things like that. The days in Palestine for me were very interesting because we got round several of the little villages locally and I saw quite a lot of the different customs of the Arabs and things and I was interested in the place so I did enjoy my stay. During the summer time, or whatever I called summer down in Aqir itself in the village there were acres and acres of orange groves and while I was there the orange blossom came out and in the evening time when the dew came down on the orange blossom you could get inebriated on it - it was absolutely marvellous - marvellous to look at but the smell of the stuff was beyond.

But I was promoted then to Corporal and I went on transfer to Haifa - still in Palestine. I didn't like the place, and I certainly didn't like one or two of the people I met up with there - and I wasn't happy there and I went into the hangar one night and saw on the hangar door an advertisement for wanting troops for paratrooping to go into various places. So I applied and then afterwards received something to the effect that they'd decided not to go on with that and we had the alternative chance of going back to where we came from or we could join this certain commando unit. I didn't want to go back to Haifa so I decided to join 3232 Servicing Commando Palestine.

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