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Sunday, 8 July 2018

A Far East Wartime Journey: 52 Ancestors - Wk. 28

Travel is the theme of this week's prompt in the year long challenge "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks", initiated by Amy Johnson Crow. 

My father, John P. Weston. served in the RAF Codes & Ciphers Branch Here is a story from his wartime memories that he wrote down for me/  Left  is the only photograph I have of him in tropical kit.

"VE Day I spent at Wiesbaden in Germany.  The following day a signal arrived from London saying I was to go the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean, where there was a tracking station.  


I flew back home via Paris, landing at RAF Benrose, Oxford and then by rail home for 10 days leave.   I then received instructions to report to RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire to fly out east.  On the last night there, I made a telephone call home.  I said to the operator "I am off to the Far East, will you give me some extra time" - she did - which I did not have to pay for." 
"Then off on a circuitous route because we were not allowed to overfly certain counties.  My travel documents said I was priority three – there were ten degrees, with Generals number one. We flew to Marseilles, then to Sardinia (refuel), over Malta to El Adam, near Tobruk., along the North African coast past Cairo and onto Palestine for a 36 hour break and went to Bethlehem.  Our base was Lydda right on the coast.  The flies were a major menace!" 
 

"We flew onto Bahrain in the Gulf and then to Habayra (RAF airfield in Iraq) – temperature 104F when we landed there at 4a.m.  I could hardly breath.  Then onto Pakistan, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and across to Ceylon.  I went by rail to Mountbatten’s HQ some 8000 feet in a tropical town of  Kandy.

My stay there was brief, but I remembered the good food.  I was told plans had changed and I was rerouted to Bombay. 


It was take off in Colombo and we had almost reached the point of no return when the plane burst a tyre, which delayed us 24 hours. We took off at 4am on the second occasion. 


"In Burma things were moving to a close.  I was there at the ceremony in Rangoon when the Japanese capitulated.  I was based at the university.  We were always short of tea, which seemed odd in that part of the world, but there was plenty of cocoa.  I also had a ration of one bottle of gin and one of lime juice a month.  I used to drink that under my mosquito net at night watching the mosquitoes  run up and down the wall. 

In November 1945, I was called back for demob.  A driver took me by jeep to the airfield some 20 miles away.  I sat with a rifle (loaded) on my knee since we had to travel through some forests frequented by Dacoits (a terrorist organization in Burma).  The time was 5am. and we made it all right. I flew to Calcutta again and was there for some days.  Calcutta was an awful experience.    Flies crawled over people sitting in the gutters day and night.
We were due to take a train across the desert to Bombay, some 3000 miles.  But there was rioting against the English  in Calcutta and we had to return to camp.  Later we were taken by armoured cars to the station.  On the long journey across India, we stopped at stations to get some food.  We had this on trays, and as we walked along the platform back to the train, hawks dived down and snatched the food.  
I had a short break in Bombay before sailing on the "City of Asia" for home.  I was in charge of a deck of some 200 men.  We eventually arrived at Liverpool on Christmas Day and went to a camp at Birkenhead.  Then I caught a train to Blackpool and arrived home by taxi at 2pm. 

One of the first things I did was to cradle you in my arms – you were shy – no wonder!" 


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The travel documents above I found amongst my father's papers, following his death. I was so proud to have these wartime accounts by my father and they have formed the basis of a nrrative I wrote on his experiences.  


Dad would have loved the world of blogging!  
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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 

5 comments:

  1. That is really a treasure, to have his own words, as well as the documents that substantiate the travels. Thanks for sharing! I'll be checking to see what else you have to say!

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  2. That was some journey, Susan! He must have been so relieved to finally get home to you.

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  3. You are so lucky to have the documents & stories, and your memories too. I've enjoyed reading your post.

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  4. What a wonderful piece of family history! He has such a great way of describing his travels. Although he writes briefly at each place, I can easily visualize each part of his journey, and hear his narrative in his voice. Those memories that he left for you must be so special to you!

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  5. The photo of your father is wonderful! And what a blessing to have his wartime memories written down.

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