, , , , , , , , , , , , RAOC Base Vehicle Depot Egypt in 1955
Written by Roy Jacklin
Having served my 12 months in Korea I was posted to Egypt, arriving there in December 1954. My unit was the Base Vehicle Depot at Port Said. My trade was Clerk Technical, I was the chief clerk there and NCO I/c unit transport.
Our unit was responsible for receiving and shipping vehicles to units around the middle east. I was there in 1956 when the military contract ended with Egypt and witnessed the last vehicle to be shipped out of the country, a Land Rover. See Photo. Some of the depot personnel went to the UK and other overseas postings. The last two RAOC
to leave Egypt was myself and a NS man. I was posted to 625 Ord Depot Famagusta where I ended my 3 years overseas tour. It was in Cyprus where a Capt Lane, who had been one of our officers at BVD(E) had been posted there earlier, was shot and killed by a 15 yrs old youth. EOKA terrorist?
PS:- Although I’ve stated that the Land Rover was the last vehicle shipped out of the country, this was a publicity stunt. There were still dozens of vehicles left when all military had left. UK officers, in Mufti, came over to see the disposal of the remainder. There was no military supposed to be in the country after the leaving date had passed. Some of the vehicles were sold locally. I was told a motor bike, just ?5. I recognized one of the civilians, he was my department head at Chillwell, a major. I introduced myself and asked if he’d retired, he replied, shush Jacklin, I’m still in.
Whilst working at the depot I was involved in a vehicle recovery from the Sweet Water Canal. I was on Guard duty when a call came from a major asking for our Scammel tractor to assist with the recovery. I told him our duty officer wasn’t available to sign the work ticket. He said to send the Scammel out and he would authorize it.The recovery was a success but our duty officer put me on a charge for sending the Scammel out. I couldn’t contact him for his permission as there was no phone connection to Navy House and he had the only duty truck. I got off the charge when I explained the situation to my OC. More about the duty officer later.
Anyone familiar with this canal with most certainly remember the smell coming from it, almost everything was deposited in it, village excrement, rubbish etc. I once saw a dead camel floating by. We were informed that anyone having the misfortune to end up in this canal would be subject to several injections to combat all the diseases in the water.
As mentioned, our depot was responsible for the storing and trans shipment of vehicles. There was a maintenance bay where vehicles were cleaned and sprayed with protective materials before being shipped to other countries. It was a dirty job but the lads wore the minimum of clothing, usually shorts and boots. Too hot to wear denims.The officer I mentioned was in charge of this operation. He would sometimes chivvy the lads to work harder which didn’t go down too well with them. After all, they were a good set of lads, but had a moan like most when asked to work faster. This officer heard the occasional mutter and would offer the grumbling lad out behind the store shed. No one took him up on the offer, although some were tempted. He was an officer with a long memory and although he’d offered them ’outside’...well, who would dare. He was an officer and a bully.
As previously mentioned, I was the unit clerk and I/C depot transport. I was responsible for the drivers duty and guard duties rota. On several occasions the duty driver, when on night duty, would complain to me about this officer keeping him up at Navy House into the small hours until returning back to the depot where he slept in a small caravan. I was Guard commander one night when the duty driver returned from Navy House. It was early morning, he was in a right angry mood. He was only dressed in shorts and blouse and was very cold. He’d been kept outside in his 15Cwt open truck for hours awaiting the officers return back to the depot. He said this always happened when this officer was on duty. Anyone out there will remember how cold it gets during the night. The officer’s married quarters were a short boat ride to Port Fouad! The Royal Engineers lighter left at 6am. The officer was dressed in whites and had to catch the boat, then return for muster parade at 8am in KD uniform. I sent the driver to awaken him, there was a lot of shouting and swearing and the driver came back saying the officer had threatened him. We tried several times to arouse him, without success. He missed the boat and got a rollicking from the OC who asked him why he was in whites.I was up before the OC to give my excuses for not getting him up for the boat. I’m sure he knew about his visits to Navy House.
Note:-Navy House:- Officers relaxation establishment!!!
I enjoyed my time in Port Said, although the weather at times got a bit wild. Dust storms were a nuisance, especially if you were in tents. When I first arrived there my quarters were in a brick building, the 30 yrds range was just 50yds away, and although there was a high brick wall backing it, it was decided it was unsafe for us to billet there, hence the move into 4 man tents. These had a wooden door and roll down window flaps which didn’t keep the sand out when the wind blew. Note: It was on this range where the first new automatic rifle was tested. Was it the FN80! I mentioned the Sweetwater canal. It ran alongside the Suez canal for miles. It was interesting to watch ships going up and down the canal, and to wave and shout to passengers on board, and sometimes transporting forces personnel going to far east postings. You could do this as the boat was low down in the canal. As it got further up the canal it eventually disappear from view, or so we thought. The canal was straight for miles, but eventually turned slightly, giving the impression the boat had disappeared from view. When next you saw it, it looked like it was sailing across the desert. Ships of the desert! I don’t think so.’ Isn’t that what camels were referred too?’
I think we’ve all heard stories about Cliffty Wallas! thieves...and how clever they were, Well, when the forces contract with Egypt was nearing the end, the garrison at TEK was vacated. We got some of the RAOC personnel transferred to us. Our OC was stationed there previously, then transferred to us before it closed. He lived in a mobile caravan with his wife. The van was parked on ground 100 yds from our guardroom. They had a spaniel dog which would bark and growl incessantly if you went near their caravan. I mentioned this to the OC’s wife, she told me because of it’s barking it was a good guard dog, or so she thought, but it failed when they were robbed when living in TEK garrison. They woke up to find they’d had a break in whilst asleep. The dog was still sleeping soundly and didn’t alert them to the break in. The thieves out here were very good at their night time stealing. You never saw or heard them, but you knew they’d paid you a visit when you couldn’t find your possessions. One of the lads from TEK told me that on one occasion when patrolling the perimeter wire, a donkey had been seen tethered to a stake, some distance away. Thinking this strange the alarm was sounded. Three Arabs were seen running around trying to escape capture. They were eventually caught and duly punished!!! They were covered in grease and sand, difficult to see them in the dark when crawling through the wire. Good camouflage.