Interview with Henry Morris

Title

Interview with Henry Morris

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00:53:15 audio recording

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AMorrisH17XXXX-01

Transcription

My five and a half years in the Royal Airforce from 1941 to 1946.

My name is Henry Stanley Morris, I was born on the 26th July 1924 at Plaistow East London. Later my parents moved to Barnet in Hertfordshire. I left school aged 14 in 1938, went to Walworth and Pending. War was declared shortly after in 1939 although 1940 was quiet until the Germans overran Belgium and the British and the French army were forced to retreat to Dunkirk. Where they were rescued from the beaches. The Government in their wisdom formed the Home Guard and the Air Defence Cadet Corps. Later renamed the Air Training Corps which in 1940 I enlisted in 189 Sqn High Barnet. We were taught theory of flight, Morse code, basic navigation, physical training. In the Air Training Corps I spent a week away under canvas at the RAF School of Engineering at Holton in Buckinghamshire.
Together with several other squadrons we were told some VIPs were coming to inspect the camp and school. We then had to whitewash the road kerbs to the resentment of most of us and (our introduction to RAF bullshit). The great day arrived; the cortege was led by RAF Military Police car, driven by a very attractive WAAF. Lining both sides of the road we were told to cheer when the VIPs came by. The WAAF driver received a resounding cheer but we remained a little subdued when the VIPS came abreast. To our astonishment we later realised it was His Majesty and Her Majesty King George V and Queen Mary.
On my 17th birthday in the afternoon, without informing my parents, I got a bus to RAF Recruiting Office in Deanfoot Road, Edgeware. I told them my age was 18, born in 1923, not 1924 and I was accepted. Several weeks later, together with several other young men, we had to swear the Oath of Allegiance and received the King’s Shilling. I was now officially in the Royal Air Force and I was sent home on deferred service.
In January 1941, I received a railway warrant to report to Warrington and then I was taken to RAF Padgate where I was kitted out with a uniform and given a very short haircut at our own expense. In due course we boarded a train to Blackpool where I spent 4 months doing my basic training which involved many hours of drilling, route marches, physical training (PT), Morse code, rifle and bayonet training, rifle shooting. Being directed into a room where we were subjected to, after removing our gasmasks momentarily, various lethal poisonous gases i.e. mustard, chorine, throwing mills bombs and lots of this took place at Lytham St Anne’s. Once a week during this time we marched to Burton’s where they had us take part in a weekly Morse code speed test. Hence the phrase, going for a Burton.
My sister has enlisted in the WAAF a while before me and, having finished her basic training at Morecombe, was posted as a typist to a maintenance unit in Cheshire living in a Civvy billet. Her landlady agreed to put me up for a weekend to visit my sister. I obtained a weekend pass to Bramhall in Cheshire. Public transport was very limited so I decided to hitchhike, although road traffic was sparse. Eventually a large 8 wheeled lorry pulled up and a heavily built lady driver with arms like tree trunks, remember no power steering then, offered me a lift to Manchester, my luck was in. I had an enjoyable reunion with my sister.
After 4 months we boarded a train which took us to RAF Yatesbury No 1 RAF Signals School. Some of us were trained for ground duties and the rest for aircrew. To my dismay I was rejected for aircrew due to defective colour vision in red and green. Later driving did not present a problem, or I say later driving a car did not present a problem. There was an airfield adjoining the camp where there were twin engined De Havilland Rapids’ for the training of aircrew wireless operators.
I obtained permission to go home one weekend and bring back my bicycle; on Sunday evening left the train at Swindon and set off for camp on the bike knowing that it would be impossible now to return in the normal way by 11:00 hours. So knowing of a hole in wire perimeter fence, I broke into camp only to be caught by an SP patrol for which I was put on charge and awarded 14 jankers, which meant reporting to the guardroom in full kit at 06:00 hours and then sent to cookhouse to wash dishes in soda water for around 2000 men. My hands were raw after 14 days.
After another 4 months I passed out as a fully-fledged wireless operator AC2. Being young and stupid I then volunteered to transfer to the army, answering General Montgomery’s call for wireless operators for his tanks for the breakout at El Alamein, thankfully I wasn’t accepted. Shortly afterwards I was put on embarkation leave which happened twice. On the second occasion I was given a railway warrant to report to RAF Padgate where I was told to report to a hut, allocated a bed and realised my fellow RAF colleagues were talking about boats. At this stage of my RAF service I had no idea that the RAF had boats; I was greatly intrigued even though I couldn’t swim. The following morning I realised I was part of a contingent of 30 MBCs (that stands for Motor Boat Crew) and 1 Officer on overseas draft. We were fitted out with Icelandic kit and our kitbags were marked accordingly. We spent a few days under canvass, in tents and then we boarded a train for Gourock, North of Glasgow where convoys were assembled to cross the Atlantic. In the event we boarded the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Queen Elizabeth which, at that time, was the largest passenger ship in the world. Before we departed the RMS Queen Mary arrived having a massive gash in the bow filled with concrete having, we later discovered, collided with a Royal Navy cruiser, slicing it in half with a loss of over 600 crew members.
Returning to our situation we were told not to undress as we were going to enter a U-boat infested area which, as you can imagine, to an 18 year old was quite frightening. I awoke at 6 in the morning to hear heavy gunfire and machine gun fire to be later told that they were just testing the guns. As the troopship was capable of some 35 knots she sailed unescorted. It was January 1942 and the seas were horrific, I was dreadfully seasick. After six days we entered the Hudson River, New York in dense fog, the New York tugboats were on strike at the time so our Captain did a fantastic job of seamanship with help of fellow officers by docking this huge ship alongside Pier 52 unaided.
We had several thousand Italian POWs on board as well as several thousand Norwegian trainee aircrew. In the adjoining berth the massive France liner Normandy lay on her side, having been set on fire by German saboteurs. In an effort to extinguish the fire excessive water forced her to capsize. Our contingent was the last to disembark and eventually we boarded a bus to take us to Pennsylvania Railway Station where we boarded a civilian train for a two day journey to Miami, Florida. Being a bunch of young virile young men from all walks of life, our Officer requested that dining car attendant to add bromide to our tea, so we were later told.
I encountered American apartheid as I was sitting next to a black lady on the train having a pleasant conversation when the train entered South Carolina and crossed the Mason/Dixon line where upon a beefy American policeman came on board and a sign went up saying ‘White’s Only’ and the black lady had to move. Part way on our journey we were finally told by our Officer, Flying Officer Wilford that we were heading for Nassau in the Bahamas. On arrival in Miami Beach, which incidentally had been taken over by the United States Airforce, we were allocated to a hotel and were told to report to their mess where the food was excellent. Five days later we boarded a small American ship and sailed through the night, arriving in Nassau around 6 a.m. Nassau, at this time, was a British Colony, nothing like the tourist attraction it is today.
After disembarking we boarded a bus which took us to RAF 211 OTU (Coastal Command) Oaks Field, which was a very large RAF airfield run by Coastal Command for training aircrew in Mitchell B25 twin engined bombers and Liberator 4 engined bombers for attacking U-boats in the Atlantic. It was extremely hot, bearing in mind we were still wearing our RAF blue, after a day or so we were issued with a United States Airforce KD (that’s khaki drill) and we were taken by bus to the Montague Beach hotel which was situated a mile or so south of Nassau and had been requisitioned by the RAF to accommodate the RAF Marine Section, Canadian Army and Combined Special Forces. We were then introduced to our Commanding Officer, Flight Lieutenant Wilkinson, his deputy, Flt Sergeant Lockwood (Coxswain), Flt Sgt, Rogers (Fitter Marine – Engines), assisted by other ranks, several sergeant and corporal coxswains, motor boat crewmen (known as MBCs), orderly room clerk, a chippy boat builder, several medical orderlies, a corporal wireless operator mechanic in charge of six or seven wireless operators and one armourer and a cook. From memory the total complement of 250 ASR / Marine Craft Section Unit was around 80 personnel distributed around the three bases; Montague Hotel, Harbour Island on Eleuthera and Lyford Cay at the northern tip of New Providence Island.
Our diesel and high octane aviation fuel storage facility was on Hogg Island, now known as Paradise Island; a present day tourist venue accessed via a toll bridge from the mainland. Admittedly we had a motley collection of boats at the Montague were 2 US crash boats P190 and P191. I was allocated to P191 as wireless operator. From memory they were about 52 ft. long with Norscot engines which were not suppressed so to use the radio it was hopeless unless engines were stopped. We also had a requisitioned Chris-Craft J656. At Lyford Cay at the northern tip of New Providence Island, another requisitioned boat J803 was on stand-by. She had been a civilian motor cabin cruiser, again from memory about 50 ft. in length.
At Dunmore Town Harbour Island, a 102 ft. ex US Coast Guard cutter P89 was stationed there, her armament had been retained which consisted of .5 Browning machine guns and the crews’ quarters were very comfortable having an ironing board and electric iron as well as a nice galley. My dear old friend and fellow wireless operator, Roy Smith, was a member of the crew.
It is interesting to know that the principal islands had a Commissioner, answerable to the High Commissioner in Nassau (the Duke of Windsor). My friend Roy fell in love with the Commissioner’s 16 year old daughter Barbara Mulhern; having got special permission from his parents and his Commanding Officer, they got married on the island. Later, P803 was de-requisitioned and replaced with a Miami Chaser P712, later renumbered to HSL 2779 which was an American designed rescue launch.
At this time the Royal Navy had a flotilla of 12 MTBs stationed at Port of Spain, Trinidad, they were disbanded and the RAF were allocated MTB 339 for use as an Air Sea Rescue Long Range Rescue Launch to which I was allocated as wireless operator. We turned to harbour, the crew had a confrontation which the local white lads over who should dance with the five local white girls and a punch up ensued when one was knocked out cold by one of the crew members who was an RAF champion boxer. Subsequently 339 was sent to relieve P89, the crew of which were brought home in disgrace.
At that time there was no means of communication with Nassau other than sending a telegram in Morse code by the Government wireless operator who maintained a 2 hour watch every morning. For the remaining 2 at 22:00 hours the remaining 3 operators on 339 maintained a 24 hours watch with Oaks field, Nassau. So, if an aircraft ditched in the sea, we would put to sea and hopefully rescue them, but sadly this didn’t happen very often. On one occasion we did have a very successful pick up when the crew of a Mitchel B25 bomber were located in their dinghy and we took them on board. The skipper, Flt Lt Wilkinson, told me to contact Oaks Field and arrange for an ambulance to be at Princess Wharf, Nassau as some of the crew were injured. I tried to contact Oaks Field to no avail so I retuned my transmitter to a local Bahamas telegraph, who were transmitting between the islands. Eventually they responded to my request to contact Oaks Field to listen out on my frequency. Thankfully there was an ambulance waiting when we docked. For this I was complimented for my initiative.
We had to spend 3 months at each of our bases so on returning from Harbour Island, together with other members I was posted to Lyford Cay where the crew of Miami Chaser HSL 2779 resided. There wasn’t a lot of activity at this end of the island. I should say there was not a lot of aerial activity at this end of the island but on one occasion we were called out to search for a 4 engined Liberator that had ditched somewhere off Grand Bahama, which is one of the largest islands in the Bahama Group. Sadly all we found was a nose wheel of the aircraft and a leather flying jacket whose owner we were able to identify. On return to Lyford Cay, which was in the dark, we ran over a reef and damaged one of the propellers and we subsequently had to return to Nassau for repairs.
On the trip back we ran into a storm and we saw a water spout, a phenomenon indeed. We gave assistance to a banana boat that had complete engine failure so we were able to offer a tow back to Nassau. In gratitude bananas were on our menu for some time after.
Apart from rescue duties we had 2 trawler type boats T170 and T70, these boats were fitted with 2 power winches on the stern so that we could tow a massive steel target which, with the aid of the power winches, we could assimilate a U boat-surfacing or submerging. When the target submerged it released a green dye so that when the Liberators came out from Oaks Field they could practice bombing. I was in radio contact with the pilot and gave him his results. We would also go out into the Atlantic at night so that these Liberators could locate us with their lead light activated by their radar. The purpose of which was to catch unsuspecting U-boats on the surface at night recharging their main batteries.
Meals were cooked on these boats surprisingly on a coal fired range. My first Christmas overseas in 1942 and away from home I felt very homesick. Our chef prepared a traditional Christmas dinner served by our officers and senior NCOs. I received an autographed book as a Christmas present from Peggy Evans, my WAAF fiancé back in England and in it she had composed and written the following program:
There’s no need to hang a lantern in a tree to light the sky
There’s no need to tell my wishes to the folks a passing by
For the stars will light the heavens in a way they always do
And my wishes for your Christmas are especially for you.

A month or so later I received a letter saying that she had met someone else, was devastated to the extreme (laughing).
Vera Lynn was another cause of homesickness, on occasions I would tune my receiver to the BBC Overseas service and, if she was singing ‘there’ll be bluebells growing on the white cliffs of Dover’, there would be some wet eyes among the younger crew members.
HSL (MTB 339) and crew, having finished their 3 month stay at Harbour Island, were ordered back to Nassau and to be relieved by P89. On the appointed day we cast off and headed out of harbour for the ninety mile trip to Montague, our Nassau base. Midway we encountered P89 and pleasantries were exchanged with an Aldis hand held signal lamp. On arrival 339 was secured to our mooring in Montague Bay, both Packard 1050 horsepower engines were shut down and I signalled Oaks Field that we had returned to base, although before doing so we had refuelled at Hogg Island. The crew then boarded tender J252, had a meal and went to bed only to be awoken at around 1 a.m. by Flt Sgt Lockwood and told to dress immediately and get down to the dock and board the tender to take us out to 339. A marine fitter was already aboard warming up the twin Packards which, being marineised aero engines, were noisy. We were quickly under way, I signalled Oaks Field our estimated time of departure (ETD.), apparently I was told by an MBC that we were going to the assistance of the US Navy sub chaser 1059 on exercise that was stuck on a reef. Fenders were placed along our port side 339, by our MBC crew members and our skipper, Flt Lt. Wilkinson brought 339 alongside the US Navy stricken boat allowing, so I was told, several US sailors to jump on to our foredeck. We left the sailors at Princess Wharf, Nassau, back to our moorings, formalities dealt with, a good job accomplished.
There were no street lamps outside Montague so it was very dark when one evening I was sitting on a beach, being bitten by sand flies, feeling lonely and miserable when a young girl approached me and we struck up a conversion. Initially I thought she was a white girl with a good sun tan, I invited her to come with me to the cinema in Nassau the following evening and she accepted. I Met her the following evening and we started walking into town, no buses at that time, as we entered the area of street lighting I realised she was a coloured girl, commonly referred to as ‘Conky Joes’. It must be said that like all British Colonies at that time, there was no apartheid but it was frowned on to consort with black members of the population and coloureds were classed as black. Nevertheless lower ranks did associate with black girlfriends over the hill. However, bought 2 cinema tickets and was shown to our seats in the darkened cinema and, oh dear, during the interval when the lights turned up the contemptuous looks I received from local white people. Later felt very saddened when I had to tell her that I could not see her again as I was infringing RAF instructions.
I feel that when we first arrived here we were told that VD was rife among the local population, horrific films were shown to us mostly young lads of the effects of contracting the various forms of VD. Once a week we were paraded and issued with complementary condoms.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor resided at Government House, the Duke being High Commissioner and heavily guarded by a contingent of the Canadian Army for fear of him being abducted by U-boat members and taken to Germany. The Duchess was well liked as she had no side and was regularly to be seen at the Bahamian Forces Club outside Nassau where dances were held and she would dance with the lads. As for the Duke if he drove by we had to stand at the kerbside and salute, frequently he was intoxicated. I was led to believe that he was a man of the people but on the frequent times he came aboard our launch he confined himself to the skipper or the coxswain at the helm, not a word to crew members.
On one occasion at Montague we were given an opportunity to have a dental check-up if a filling was required the dentist sat astride a bicycle on a stand peddling very quickly to drive a drill very painful. I developed a large wart on the side of my second finger of my right hand which made it difficult being a wireless telegraphist to hold a pen or pencil, so was taken to hospital at Oaks Field, given a general anaesthetic to have root removed, I was not totally under for the whole operation and I recall hearing something which sounded like scrapping on concrete and also asking for water and a hand coming under the sheet with a wet swab and then passing out again.
After about two years we were given the opportunity to go on leave for two weeks either to Havana Cuba or the States, you were granted fifty dollars only and my American uncle, my dad’s brother, generously sent me 100 dollars. So then with my two pals Stan Matlock and Frank McPhail we all hitched a lift to RAF Windsor Field, calling at the flight office; Frank having the gift of the gab persuaded the pilot of a United States Airforce C47 transport plane to take us to Miami US Airforce base. I don’t remember any mention of parachutes; on arrival got a taxi to Miami railway station our ticket included a bunkbed as we would be spending one night on the train arriving in New York late the next day as I recall, forgotten exact location but found the Salvation Army Red Shield Club which provided a clean overnight bed for servicemen for the night. The accommodation and food were excellent and also the basement showers and swimming pool were clean too. Having cleaned and refreshed ourselves we found the nearest USO (that’s United Services Organisation) where coffee and sugar coated doughnuts were freely available, and free tickets were given to servicemen and women to theatres, roller-skating, restaurants and many other forms of entertainment. Wherever we went, recognising us for Britons, the reception we got was wonderful; tickets were obtained for a television show and I was called to the stage to participate in a quiz show and I won Twenty Six Dollars which enabled me to treat my two pals and also buy myself a ‘Bulova’ wristwatch which I still have in working order.
I left my pals for a few days to make contact with my uncle Charles, we arranged to meet at Grand Central Station and as soon as I saw him from behind I knew it was him he was so like my father. He treated me to a wonderful day out taking me to several interesting places and all the time asking me questions about conditions back home. Unbeknown to the family at home he had married a Russian born eccentric lady, so we boarded an electric train to Bridgeport Connecticut to meet his in-laws who had a seventeen year old daughter called Helen. We were going to play cards so several dollars were put in my hand and Helen and I boarded a local bus into town to enjoy ourselves and we did; she was a nice girl still at teacher training college and we vowed to keep in touch. Later on arriving at her home my uncle wanted to take me home in his car way out in the sticks to meet his strange wife. During the drive I inquired from my uncle why he drove so slowly apparently at that time third party insurance was not a legal requirement so he drove very carefully. His wife whose name I cannot recall now made me very comfortable as best she could but oh dear the house was so isolated cold and draughty. I let my uncle introduce me to his nearest neighbour who was half a mile away and took me to Ansonia where he worked for a Birmingham engineering firm and found that he was highly respected designing huge machinery for moulding tyres all sizes. The canteen manager had lived in the states over thirty-five years and still retained a Scots accent.
So it was back to join my two pals in New York; one night we met up with three girls for a fun night out and at one o’clock in the morning we all linked arms and walked along fifth Avenue singing ‘Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey and a kiddley divey too’. We were far from intoxicated but for a moment a burly policeman swinging his long batten truncheon approached us with a look as if we were drunk and disorderly.
Public toilets at that time came as a shock to me as toilet compartments had no doors possibly to combat homosexuality. Now our time at New York almost at its end, Stan decided to sort out the time of our train back to Miami, returning he said it left at 09-30pm but to our dismay on arrival at Pen Station the one train a day had left at 09-30am. We quickly realised that the possibility we would be AWOL (absent without leave) which is a serious offence. Booking on a train going south via Washington, where on arrival all passengers had to get off due to some fault on the track, we were advised to find somewhere to park our tired souls for a few hours. We finished up sleeping on the floor in the reception area of a large hotel. Later we re-boarded the train and continued on the long haul to Miami arriving at US Customs and Emigration. We responded to a request over the public address system to report to the British Embassy where I was entrusted with responsibility for delivering two sealed embassy bags to Nassau. This meant we sailed through the formalities and arrived by air back at Nassau, where I was relieved of the official bags and we returned to our unit Absent Without Leave I alone was told to report to our commanding officer expecting a severe dressing down and was handed a cablegram from my eldest sister informing me my sister serving in the WAAF had died, he expressed a lot of sympathy as I was pretty devastated so no further mention was made of being AWOL and my two pals were absolved too.
A small draft of MBCs and Wireless operators arrived from UK via Canada and were distributed among the boat crews, so I was brought ashore to assist Corporal Johnny Aram in our maintenance and repair workshop. He resolved minor repairs to American built radios and transmitters from the boats, also bringing the large twenty-four volt batteries ashore for re charging. Several times in a choppy sea transferring battery from boat into tender we would accidentally drop it into the sea. I learned to do properly metal filing and soldering, which I became quite adept at. During this time Helen from Newhaven and I had been exchanging romantic letters; Christmas 1944 came along with the usual festivities, before dinner a large group photo was taken of the compliment of 250 ASR/ MC Unit except those on duty at Lyford Cay and Harbour Island, it was rumoured that a large number of men at Oak Field and ourselves were going to be returned to UK via Canada, naturally we were overjoyed. So in January 1945 we were all conveyed by trucks to Prince Georges Wharf to board a United States transport ship for Miami where we boarded a troop train bound for Monkton Nova Scotia Canada. Leaving Miami at 85 degrees Fahrenheit and after a very long train journey up the eastern seaboard of the United States, through New York to the United States/Canada border and customs we eventually arrived at Monkton to a temperature of minus 12 degrees Fahrenheit, oh god it was cold. On the train we had discarded our KD for our warmer Airforce blue, nevertheless a lot of men went off sick with cold etc. I recall there was thick snow everywhere but the Royal Canadian Airforce three storey wooden barracks were warm and comfortable, should there be a fire a slide was fixed on the outside to evacuate the building quickly. Apparently we had just missed a troop ship sailing from Halifax to UK, so the Canadian Airforce didn’t know what to with such a large body of men so it was suggested we could either unofficially get a local job or visit relatives for three weeks in the United States; free railway travel warrants were available. I very joyfully elected to get the train down to Newhaven Connecticut to stay with Helen’s family. Our relationship had seriously progressed and she met me at Newhaven station we had a wonderful time together and permission was granted by her parents and we became engaged. Sadly I received order to return to Monkton it had to be recorded the English are not liked by French Canadians as they have not forgiven us for taking Quebec by force in 17 something, I transgress for in due course we boarded a troop train for Halifax docks where we embarked on the 35,000 ton ex Dutch liner MV New Amsterdam. Interestingly there was a lot of sexual activity, with many hundreds of American WAC’ars equivalent to our ATS girls aboard at one point; the captain of the ship had to make an announcement to those responsible to refrain from releasing inflated condoms for fear of disclosing our position to enemy U-boats.
After an uneventful Atlantic crossing, during which time I acted as a batman to some ungrateful jumped up Wing Commander, we docked at Liverpool. Customs came on board and demanded duty on all the cigarettes we had and any other items that were subject to duty. After all these formalities we eventually disembarked to be put on a train for West Kirby the following morning, given railway warrants to our home town.
After two and a half years away I was given a wonderful welcome home by my parents, elder sister and neighbours. Two weeks later I received a railway warrant to report to RAF Chicksands Priory, a wireless enemy and allied interception station, in Bedfordshire. Coded messages received were sent to Bletchley Park for deciphering; it had been established that information received had helped to shorten the war. Chicksands was home to around 2000 RAF and WAAF wireless operators who had been screened for overseas duty. In order to get home on a weekend pass I bought myself a second hand Coventry Eagle 250cc two stroke motor bike. When I managed to obtain petrol with the help of my dad, I would bring home on my pillion Annette, also a wireless operator from Scotland. As soon as the European war ended in June 1945 all the RAF lads, including me, having been back in the UK for six months, were put on overseas draft, I was bitterly upset as I thought I had done my stint overseas, however I had to go. After a period of leave, at which time I celebrated my 21st birthday at home, bearing in mind Japan was still fighting fanatically and at the time nobody knew for how long, I decided that, as Helen did not want to live in England and at that time I did not want to live in the States it was time to break off our engagement as my parents had lost both of their daughters and to have their only son leave the country would have been a great loss to them. I was due to be condemned for some time for this decision.
Churchill was determined to retain India, the jewel in the crown, and also wanted to make a big presence in Burma and I think to impress the Americans. So I was sent to RAF Northwield in Essex to be kitted out for India. Subsequently, with other Chicksand bods, entrained for Oxford station and by RAF Lorries to RAF Broadwell, a satellite airfield to RAF Brize Norton. I spent the night at Broadwell meeting George Lefay, a wireless Op from 250 ASR Marine Craft Unit Nassau, small world The following morning twenty two of us boarded a twin engined DC3 transport plane enroute to India and the first staging post was Sardinia to re fuel; very turbulent over the Mediterranean. We were next scheduled to land at El Adem in Libya but at about 01:00am we made a forced landing on one engine at Benina airfield near Benghazi where there was still much evidence of bitter fighting during the Eighth Army Desert Campaign. We were made comfortable in ex Italian Airforce barrack huts; in the morning, engine repaired, we set off for Lydda (Aqir) airfield in what is now Israel but then Palestine, two days under canvas and sampling the luscious Jaffa oranges, continued in same aircraft but with a new aircrew to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf. We arrived in the early hours of the morning exceedingly hot to very primitive toilet latrines, many crates of grapefruit were put aboard our DC3 so when we re-boarded there was little room to move about, However we started moving and, with both engines at maximum rev’s, our pilot got the aircraft into the air and we set course for Karachi in India our final stop.
Seven hours later I recall we landed and when the main door opened I was delighted to see my old dear mate Jack Westing from Signal School Yatesbury standing there holding a clip board with a passenger list, I was able to get away from my fellow passengers and meet up with Jack. Apparently he was now grounded from flying although was last to leave by parachute from a stricken Wellington bomber over Japanese positions over Burma having just bombed them. He was rescued by friendly Burma natives and restored to allied lines. He showed me some of the local sights and, getting very tipsy, we vowed to stay in touch, made our goodbyes and I returned to our billet to re-join my other mates only to find they were all packed to proceed to railway station to board an Indian troop train bound for Lahore. It should be noted that we had all been issued with a Sten gun which could be dismantled and stored in kitbag. The Sten gun was a close quarter automatic machine gun and not very accurate. The carriages were very uncomfortable with wooden seats no windows and a hole in the floor for a toilet. Whenever Indians stopped we would rush along to the driver for hot water to make tea. Milk and tea were sold by the wayside by young Indians dispensing everything.
The crossing of the Sind desert was very hot and we saw first-hand the primitive living conditions of the inhabitants and small mongooses galore. Some two or more days later we reached Lahore, a bustling city of Muslims and then taken to the RAF cantonment beside a massive maintenance unit. I was shown to the signals cabin where a 24 hr watch was kept with the rest of India and United Kingdom. I am not proud of what I am about to relay but first must emphasise some of the men had been away from home and stationed in India for over five long years. Remember no skype or cell phones. So the RAF in India and Singapore at the appointed hour at ten o’clock formed up in an orderly fashion and marched out of camp to the cantonment. Later the camp Commander called us to the camp cinema; we were warned of dire consequences we subsequently, reluctantly returned to our duties. At some camps the army moved in with rifles and fixed bayonets and the ring leader in Singapore was arrested and imprisoned for seven years, however it did speed up demobilisation for some. India was becoming a hot bed of unrest between Hindu and Muslims with mass slaughter taking place; myself and an IOR (India Other Ranks) wireless Op would be taken out by truck to an isolated radio hut in the jungle to receive a weather report at specific times from somewhere in Russia, forgotten name, it was a little unnerving on my own to hear noisy illegal political meetings taking place in the jungle very near to us. Later I was posted to a very large signals centre in the New Government building in New Delhi. When construction and drainage was completed it was attached to Old Delhi and became known as just Delhi, Capital of India. The signals centre handled vast amounts of Morse plain language traffic so I introduced the use of a typewriter to record messages instead of handwriting for this I was made up to a Corporal, more money. I did not enjoy good health in India; first I had a very bad dose of tonsillitis, in hospital they were going to remove them but because of the high risk in such hot climate of infection they decided to leave it in abeyance.
My demob number came up and I was sent with others to Bombay transit camp; in due course embarked on the SS Georgic to sail home via the Suez Canal, Mediterranean, Gibraltar and Liverpool and then West Kirby to collect my civilian suit, shoes, overcoat, hat and two months leave for my five and a half years. I was awarded three medals; the Atlantic Star was my prized one and India gave me Pulmonary TB which in those days was often fatal but in my case a complete recovery after several years. Hope you have found this narrative of some interest THE END

Citation

“Interview with Henry Morris,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 16, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/46779.

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