- Contributed by
- BBC Southern Counties Radio
- People in story:
- Eric Coles, Norman Coles
- Location of story:
- Biggin Hill, North Africa, Malta, Baragwanath
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 15 November 2005
I joined the RAF in August 1942. Prior to this I had trained as a meteorological assistant and had served as a civilian at the RAF station Newton in Nottinghamshire. Light bombers operated from this base and later it became a training station for Polish pilots eager to join in the fight against the Germans.
In August 1942 I was called up for service in the RAF to continue my work in meteorology. After six months, mostly at Biggin Hill, extensive damage caused the relocation of the control ops room and Met section to a big house called Towerfields at Keston.
By February 1943 I was on board a troop ship going overseas, the Union Castle liner “Capetown Castle”, fitted out to carry a thousand or two troops. We sailed from Liverpool in a big convoy escorted by destroyers and the battleship “Warspite”. The big ships left at Gibraltar and we continued on round the Cape to Durban and thence to Port Tewfik in Egypt.
By this time the Eighth Army had been victorious at El Alamein and I was to join my unit 12 Met Unit, part of the Desert Air Force HQ backing up the Army with all the support and supplies needed at the front line, from Tobruk, Benghazi and Tripoli to the end of the campaign in Tunis.
After a short rest in Malta we went by landing craft to Sicily for that short campaign before going on to Italy in September 1943, working on airfields as they were liberated. 12 Met Unit was eventually disbanded and I was transferred to Malta to work at Luga Airport to serve out my time at the end of the war.
It was in Malta that I had the first news of my brother Norman who had been captured at Singapore and that he was still alive after being forced to work on the railway in Thailand. On release from the POW camp at Changi he was emaciated and weighed only six stone, so he was sent to hospital in Bangalore. After five months, still far from well, he was transferred to Baragwanath hospital near Johannesburg to have an operation for the removal of one lung and he made a slow recovery in the good weather of South Africa.
In June 1946 I was granted four weeks’ compassionate leave to visit my brother. With so many aircraft using Luga air base it did not prove difficult to make the journey, and I reached his hospital ward in Baragwanath on June 19th 1946, hence the title “Two brothers meet”. I am pleased to say we are now both into our eighties!
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