Posting to 317 MT RAF Bruggen in 1961
Written by michael whittington
My first posting overseas, (if you dont count Ireland) was Germany. In 1961 I was put on S.R.O`s and informed I was being posted to Germany. I left Blighty in a troopship from Harwich to Hook-of- Holland and from there I, (along with a host of others), were loaded onto a train to Germany. On our arrival in Germany we were sorted and loaded into trucks that took me and those with me to RAF Wildenrath where we were again sorted into trades and delegated our stations. I was told I would be going to RAF Bruggen and would be working in 317Squadron MT.
On arrival at RAF Bruggen I was allocated a billet and told to report to the section the folowing morning. The billet was an "H" block with the toilets and showers forming the bar between the uprights of the "H". I reported to the corporal of the block and was told to pick an empty bed, and locker. There were plenty of empty beds, but there were only a few with empty lockers beside them. The reason for this I found out was that the occupiers of the "empty Beds" were on the road and had taken their bedding with them. On reporting to the section the next morning I was introduced to the office staff and then given a test in a German Magirus truck. For the next few weeks I would be driving one of these with a trailer behind it to various RAF camps in Germany delivering supplies and equipment. We were often merely told which camp to go to, either to load eqipment and then progress on to another camp to deliver it, or just to deliver regular stores. The other drivers there were instrumental in giving me the right directions, and tips on the best places to stop and eat if I was to be away for any length of time. The favourite waterhole was the YMCA windmill on the Autobahn going to Gutersloh. A cup of OXO and some thick slices of toast dripping with butter were the usual order when there, although soup and other meals were available.
The nature of our job at 317 MT meant that we were often away from the main camp and could be visiting different camps taking freight from one RAF station to another before retuning to base. For this we were issued with a card that allowed us to draw money fuel and food from any station we were at should we need it. We also got to know the transit block in many of the statios we delivered to, and a F1771 was always in our inside pocket. The "cream"jobs were allocated on a fairly strict basis, unless one of the drivers had a special reason to want to stay in Camp. The prime jobs were Berlin,Sylt and Ingoldstadt, (a small detachment in the American Zone) Berlin was always arrived at on a Friday so that we had the weekend in Berlin and reoaded on the Monday.From Bruggen to Sylt usually took three days the first night was spent at RAF Gutersloh the second night was in a German Kaserne in Luneburg, and we had to phone the redcaps for an escort through Hamburg because of the size of our trucks. Ingoldstadt was a good run as you got to stay in an American camp at Frankfurt twice, once on the way down and again on the way back, and the Americans were always curious as to who we were and would want to know about England and as a result would offer drinks for the information, and their mess was something else!! We could eat like Lords when visiting their camps.
There were the occasional special jobs and I was lucky enough to get onto some of them. One was to deliver some service cars to AFCENT HQ`s in Fontainbleu, just outside Paris, giving us a couple of days in PAris sightseeing. Another was to deliver equipment to the winter survival school for pilots in Bad Kohlgrub, Bavaria, where I spent a couple of pleasant days enjoying the snow and hospitality.
Breakdowns were not something that happened often as we had a great team of MT fitters that would usually pander to every drivers wishes provided they could be discussed over a bier or two. When a breakdown did occur it was up to the driver to diagnose the problem and either repair it himself or if it was a major failure of parts to organise recovery from the nearest camp and either wait for spares or arrange a tow back to base if the problem was major.
In all the time I was at 317MT I cant ever remember using a map. The old boys would either show you the route if there were two or more trucks going to the same place, or they would describe the route to you by pointing out landmarks to look out for, and if you missed one it was a sure bet you had taken the wrong turning.
In turn when the new boys arrived we would show them the same courtesy.
Towards the end of my tour I spent a lot of time driving to Berlin and back. the reason for this was that on one of my first trips there I had met a german girl in the big NAAFi on Ernst Reuter Platz, and had written to her after seeing her again. We became engaged and the Section CO was very understanding and arranged that I should do the majority of the Berlin runs so that I could see her. I was visiting with her at her home one weekend when the Redcas called to say I had to return to camp imediately, saying the reason was by order of RAF Gatow, and they could not give me any further details. Onreturnng to RAF Gatow, where my truck was I was told to drive directly to Bruggen, non-stop with my co-driver, something that was most unusual. We found out later that it was because the east germans were closing the border between the two halves of Berlin, and the equipment we had on board could not be kept in Berlin, and not being sure how the Russians would react, it was imperative that we left Berlin before the likely hood of the corridor being closed as it had been once before. Exciting times!
For the last six months of my tour at 317MT I was married and lived in Roermond, a dutch town just the other side of the border from Bruggen. In 1963 just before I returned to Blighty 317MT was amalgamated with its neighbour on camp, 431MU. It continued to do the same job, but alas 317 MT was no more in name, but lived on in the hearts of those that served on 317MT, one of the closest knit units in 2 TAF