Feel free to send me your stories and memories of your time on Masirah whether it's past or present. If you cannot send by email for some reason then please send me a comment through the HOME > Contact Me page and I can send you my postal address. It's always good to know what is going on at the moment on the island that we all dreaded going to but learned to love while we were there.
Who remembers sitting outside the Water Sports hut, watching the sun go down over the mainland, beer in hand listening to Acker Bilk on the old Akai reel to reel tape deck? This will bring it back
MASIRAH MAKES MEDICAL HISTORY
Sent in by Terry Bate C.O. 1954-55
Masirah and its place in medical history
The main purpose of RAF Masirah in the fifties was actually as a staging post, a re-fuelling airfield for aircraft on their way to the Far East (No long range jets in those days!) We also sold fuel to the odd commercial aircraft that passed through.
Aviation fuel was brought in every three months by freighter from Aden, contained in 44 gallon drums. They were brought ashore by being thrown overboard individually, lashed together and then towed to the beach. Each drum was then rolled up the beach and lifted aboard a small railway and taken to the storage area.
This prime example (photograph above) of the term “Tramp Freighter” brought the fuel up from Aden. The dhows alongside brought the drums into the beach, where they were thrown overboard and pushed by hand onto the beach.
The fuel drums were then rolled up the beach and loaded onto the railway. Full of aviation fuel, a forty-four gallon drum weighs about 335 pounds, so rolling a drum up the sandy beach and then lifting it aboard the train was no easy feat, with two or three men needed for the lift. The train load shown was one of maybe eight a day, with roughly fifty barrels per trip, hence a minimum of a weeks work.
Since my total establishment was thirty RAF personnel and a few native troops, there was obviously not enough manpower on the island to carry out this monumental amount of manual labour every three months. We therefore imported from the mainland some forty Omani Arab labourers to do the work. For some reason, the Air Force insisted that they be inspected for venereal disease and cleaned up.( I suppose given the male desert Arab sexual habits in those days, not an unreasonable thought.)
We had no doctor on the island, but I had an Air Force medical orderly, whose job it was to carry out the inspection, at which I had to be present - not nice! It seems that venereal disease was always present in 100% of the labourers and it was the medical orderly's job to give them a stiff dose of penicillin to clear them up, at least until they left the island. I was assured that this shot of penicillin always got rid of the VD.
On my second fuel freighter visit, the medical orderly informed me in a total panic, before the Arab labourers, arrived that he only had a few doses of penicillin, not enough to treat the whole of our new labour force. After discussion with the medical orderly, I discovered that we had on hand in the medical stores, some glass ampoules of distilled water. We decided that the remaining labourers would be injected with water, but not letting them know that. As far as they knew, they were all receiving penicillin. The medical orderly made a big show of the glass ampoules and the water they contained and carried out all the injections.
At the regular inspection, the medical orderly was amazed to discover that all the labour force were getting clear of the VD, irrespective of whether they the real drug or the water! In fact, he actually had no record of exactly who had received what, but he did record that all were reacting as if they had had the penicillin! On the final inspection before they went back to the mainland, all the Arabs were certified clean!
Neither the medical orderly or myself had ever heard the word “placebo”, but that was the effect. Not a great scientific study, but on Masirah it was very real and made me a life-long believer in the psychosomatic propertiers that we all possess. Masirah made medical history, but we never published the results in the “Lancet”!
Another great memory from Terry Bate.
MASIRAH IS NOT MECCA
It was barely light, a rosy-fingered dawn still creeping up in the east, when I was awoken by a thunderous knocking on the door of my hut. I found one of the local inhabitants with one of my staff standing nervously outside. From the incoherent babble of the two of them, I gathered that my presence was required immediately down at the beach where the local sheikh awaited me, with a huge emergency of some kind.
No time for the toothbrush, I dressed and went with them in my jeep down to the beach. There I found the sheikh with some of his men and a gathering of men, women and children, whom I had never seen before. Not much translating required, since most of the adults spoke good English and I soon discovered that they were a party of pilgrims from Pakistan who were on their way to Mecca, and had been discovered on the beach by an early morning fisherman.
They had sailed from Pakistan on a hired dhow and paid for passage to Jeddah, the port for Mecca. This was their once in a lifetime Hajj, a pilgrimage that is one of the five pillars of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so at least once in his or her lifetime. The state of being physically and financially capable of performing the Hajj is called istita'ah and a Muslim who fulfils this condition is called a mustati. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to Allah. This was the most important event of their life and for the party on the beach at Masirah, it had just been destroyed.
The villainous skipper of the dhow had arrived off the beach at Masirah during the night and had put the entire party of some fifty-odd men, woman and children ashore, assuring them that they were now in Jeddah and at first light they would be taken on the road to Mecca.
Discovering that they were still over a thousand miles from Mecca, not even half-way through their pilgrimage, they were naturally somewhat hysterical. I learned that the whole group were penniless, all their belongings, meager as they were, were with them, they were hungry and had no food, since the dhow master had sailed off with all their supplies.
With a total establishment of sixty-odd personnel, RAF Masirah was ill-equipped to feed an extra fifty mouths, but it had to be done. A meal was instantly prepared and all the pilgrims were given a rudimentary breakfast. Porridge, eggs, a little bacon, toast and marmalade I’m sure was not their standard meal, but it all disappeared instantly. The sheikh and his people had little enough of their own, but they tried to contribute.
I radioed instantly to HQ in Aden and a copy to Air Ministry in London. After a delay, I was told that supplies would be sent as soon as possible, but in the meantime I was to take the pilgrims under the Royal Air Force wing, look after them and feed them. I don’t really remember where they all slept, but I think that the local village took them in and housed them and we fed them. They seemed to spend each day on the beach where they had landed, perhaps in hope that the crooked dhow master would return and finish the sea journey to Jeddah.
After a week I was informed that an aircraft would be sent up from Aden to fly the pilgrims there, or possibly to Jeddah. In the meantime, before the aircraft arrived, I received a letter from one of the pilgrims, called Mirza Khan, which I reproduce below. (DJR N.B. Letter is in below as an embedded file)
When I received this heart-breaking note, I made a special visit to the beach to seek out Mirza Khan. He turned out to be an upright, courteous gentleman, probably around sixty, with a wife, two grown children and an elderly mother. I explained that an aircraft was on its way to take them from Masirah, but I did not actually specify that they would all be flown to Mecca, since I did not know, but I suspected that the RAF would take them only as far as Aden. From there, who knew?
An RAF DC-3 duly arrived from Aden and the band of pilgrims were all prepared for their flight. None of these people had apparently even seen an aircraft before, but they quietly and without fuss climbed the ladder and sat cross-legged on the metal floor of the aircraft, since there were no seats provided on what was obviously a freighter. They all murmured quietly “insha'Allah”, as this next step was obviously the will of Allah, and there was nothing to worry about. I subsequently learned that on the flight down to Aden some of the pilgrims had lit an open fire in the back of the aircraft and were cooking their meal! Panic stations, fire extinguished and aircraft landed safely in Aden.
When the aircraft had taken off, I thought that was the end of the pilgrim saga. Not quite! A few weeks after the band of pilgrims had left I discovered that there was one of their number still on the island. He had taken refuge in the mosque, maybe because he was afraid of flying or perhaps to escape from the rest of the family. He was being fed by the local community and the sheikh had accepted him. After talking with the sheikh, we decided to do nothing and leave their Pakistani immigrant with the tribe. I often wonder what happened to the lone Pakistani pilgrim left on Masirah Island.
Terry Bate - A story about greeting HMS Wren to Masirah.
Terry Bate - The headless camel and the oilmen
The Headless Camel and the Oilmen
I had never actually seen the ghost of the headless camel and never actually met anyone who had seen the apparition. The Sheikh assured me, however, that many men of his tribe had seen the headless beast over many generations. The headless camel was evidently to be seen irregularly, roaming the sands of Masirah. The phases of the moon, time of year, temperature, sea level pressure, or any of the myriad factors that could possibly affect the ghost, did not seem to produce a predictable appearance. When a dead camel was discovered in front of my sleeping quarters one fine morning, the Sheikh informed me that the ghost had placed the camel corpse so that I might believe in its existence! It took a crane to move and bury the corpse!
When my squadron was disbanded in the Suez Canal Zone in the 1950s, all members, were scattered to the four corners of the Royal Air Force empire. We were offered various alternatives – posting to another night-fighter squadron, posted back to the UK and other various jobs around the Middle East. One offered job caught my eye, “Commanding Officer, Royal Air Force, Masirah.” “Where?” was an immediate question! It turned out that Masirah was an island off the coast of Oman. As a 21-year-old Flying Officer, I rather fancied being a Commanding Officer! Without too much further investigation, I applied for and was given the posting to Royal Air Force, Masirah. It was much later that I came across the following quote: "It was in the 1930s that Masirah became one of a number of staging posts between the RAF bases in Iraq, Aden and the Far East. Masirah used to be considered one of the less desirable RAF overseas postings: hot, humid, dusty, nowhere to go and little to do when you had time off.” Little did I know when I volunteered for the job, but it does bring to mind the old military adage –“Never volunteer for anything”.
I left Kabrit in the Canal Zone, two days after my 21st. birthday and flew to Khormaksar, Aden. After two weeks of briefing and learning to drive every piece of machinery owned by the RAF, including cranes, three-ton trucks, and sixty-foot aircraft trailers, I finally left for Masirah Island.
My total establishment consisted of thirty RAF airmen, with all the skills necessary to service and re-fuel all the many types of aircraft that dropped in, a wireless engineer and medical orderly. Also, in case the locals got restless, I had a detachment of 50 native troops, Aden Protectorate Levies, under the command of an RAF Regiment officer.
One of the reasons I got the job was the fact that I could speak passable Arabic; in fact, I received additional language pay of seven shillings a day (About 35 cents!) My briefing in Aden included instruction on how to deal with the ruler of Oman, Sultan Said bin Taimur, with whom I was to liase when he was out of the capital, Muscat, and established in his summer palace at Salalah, just down the coast from Masirah. The Sultan was renowned for his cruelty and dispensed justice by cutting off the heads and hands of his subjects willy-nilly. In my opinion, the Sultan was slightly bonkers, which was not an opinion I shared with anyone!
Oil exploration was in the early stages in Oman in those days and all the oil companies were hustling the Sultan for drilling rights, as I discovered on my first visit to Salalah, shortly after I arrived on Masirah. The summer palace was not very grand by today’s standards, but was still an extremely comfortable collection of luxurious tents. Along one side of the enclosure was a long palm-covered carport, with an enormous array of Cadillacs, a Rolls Royce or two, and a dozen trucks. Since the extreme heat ruined rubber tires, all were jacked up off their wheels and in some cases, the wheels and tires had been removed and stored elsewhere. These vehicles were all gifts from the various oil companies trying to curry favour and obtain the valuable drilling rights, none of which the Sultan had seen fit to grant. The vehicles were all displayed as very visible signs of the ruler’s wealth and status.
Three months into my tour on Masirah, I was ordered by signal from Air Ministry in London to proceed to Salalah, where an American oil company was in advanced talks with the Sultan and his advisors to contract the drilling rights. I was to act as a liason, offer my translating skills and assist in bringing the talks to a conclusion. I always assumed that I had been ordered down to the talks because the Americans badly wanted a friendly presence who would know roughly what was going on, both above and under the table. How incongruous, a 21- year-old Flying Officer of the Royal Air Force with language skills worth the grand sum of 35 cents a day, in the middle of multi-million-dollar oil contract talks! There were the Texans on one side, with accents I could barely understand even though they allegedly spoke English, and the all-powerful Sultan on the other. Despite innumerable roadblocks, the negotiations came to a logical conclusion, contracts were signed, and everyone appeared happy. I do remember that the oil men were ecstatic with the deal, figuring they had taken the Sultan to the proverbial cleaners.
My duties done, I headed back to my island and I figured that was the end of the matter. However, barely a couple of months later, I received a frantic wireless message from London, ordering me back to Salalah. My presence had been requested by the Texas oilmen, since it seemed as if war was about to break out between the oil companies and the Sultan. Apparently the Sultan had pulled a very wily and totally un-anticipated move, at least by the Americans. As soon as the ships arrived off the coast of Oman, near Duqm and their drilling equipment was unloaded, they were prevented from moving the trucks and equipment inland to start drilling. The Sultan was demanding import duty on everything the Americans wished to bring in! A value had been placed on all the equipment totaling some millions of dollars and the Sultan had imposed an import duty of 100%! Until that was paid, nothing was allowed to move.
The Americans had a very good deal at the contract stage and assumed they had taken advantage of the Sultan. As I said, he was totally bonkers, but in this case like the proverbial fox. I translated in my amateur fashion and sat in the middle, not authorised to offer advice to either side, but I did advise the oilmen that the outcome was pre-ordained in the Sultans' mind before they even signed the contract. They paid! One other small item from this multi-million-dollar standoff has stuck in my mind all these years. The Sultan refused to allow the oilmen to bring into Oman their after-shave lotion under pain of death. No amount of duty or bribery could sway the authorities, because the after-shave contained alcohol, and alcohol in any form was completely taboo in the country! (With the exception of RAF messes!) It was this ban on alcohol consumption, that proved conclusively, at least to my mind, the existence of the ghost of the headless camel. The only logical explanation for its sighting would be a series of drunken orgies by the Masirah natives, but in booze-less Oman that was not possible. Hence the ghost must really exist and to this day or night, still roams the beaches of Masirah Island.
Getting drunk, or as the British say, getting “legless” was no solution to seeing the "headless"!
Remember this letter? Sent in by Dave Hancock. - Thanks Dave, I remember it but I don't have a copy.
Chris Poulter 1973 - 1974
First oversea's posting from training. Was met at the bottom of the steps by one on the "lineys" from RAFC Cranwell, which is where my first posting was, with an extremely cold can of Amstell.
After a fifteen hour flight on a Britannia, with a short stopover in Cyprus, it was most welcome. Some parts of the nine month tour were, sorry, are a bit hazy, I did enjoy it. I had a stint on the Radio 65, ending up as Director of Broadcasting.
Some of the people who came there could not hack it, but if you got involved with something, as did I, it was great. Long walks round the beaches, fishing, sunbathing, although some took it to the extreme and were casevacd back home. Not too good on names but here goes. Phil Trapps, Andy Mitchell, Mel Kay. Mmm sorry thats it.
Best I put my name on. Chris Poulter. Seem to remember we had some t shirts made, "Siggies Masirah" in blue with black writing on them. Tour dates were Dec 73 to Aug 74.
Brian Packham, RFA Bacchus, 1973
I served aboard RFA Bacchus in 1973. We called at Masirah can't now remember the exact month, we sailed onto Salalah to drop some gear off for the SAS, then returned to Masirah. Managed to get ashore a couple of times thanks to the RTC and a mexi-float raft. had quite a few beers in the NAAFI and witnessed the 'pyramid of cans' I remember one of our stewards getting `shiters' he was apparently found at the controls of a Vulcan, he was returned to the ship by the Snowdrops!! We called at Diego Garcia en route to Masirah, nobody had ever heard of the place before.
From Mike Grierson, Victor Navigator, 57 Sqdn 1970/71 Mike visited Masirah on detachment to refuel Phantom F4's on the way to Singapore non-stop. This is his story of the exercise and his time at Masirah.
Thanks to Mike for the story and the photographs which are posted in the Aircraft gallery.
An introduction to RAF Masirah In Febuary 1970 I joined No 57 Squadron at RAF Marham as a newly qualified Navigator (Radar). I had been destined for the Vulcan, but completed my bombing course at RAF Lindholme at the very time the Vulcan OCU moved from RAF Finingley to RAF Scampton. Three of my course were posted to the Victor 1, one to the Victor SR2 at Wyton whilst the remaining two waited for the first Vulcan course at RAF Scampton. On joining 57 it became apparent this was a fairly elderly Squadron, many of the Navs were Ex Javelin, Canberra, Meteor and Valliant; only two of us were under 30. My first encounter with the boss was after he had seen me at the rear of the Mess with my head under a car bonnet; I was reprimanded for not having my hat on! A few days later ,I got the good news, my crew were to go on Exercise Bersatu Padu to Singapore to support a record breaking attempt by 54 Squadron to demonstrate how quickly they could reinforce Singapore with their new Phanton FGR2 aircraft after the proposed withdrawal. The plan was to establish a record by flying four Phantoms nonstop from Coningsby to Singapore which would involve basing tankers at Akrotiri, Masirah Island and Gan. A total of 12 tankers were required to get two Phantoms to Singapore nonstop. The Singapore detachment involved 3 crews from 214 Sqn and the fourth crew, mine, was from 57 Sqn as was our aircraft XA926. On 14 May 1970 we departed for Akrotiri where we enjoyed the usual Kebab and plenty of Kokinelli. The next day we followed the CENTO route over Turkey and Iran, past RAF Sharjah and down to RAF Masirah. The base at Masirah was basic to say the least. We were accommodated in Twynham huts made of aluminium with an air conditioning plant that sounded like the engine room of a ship. They were dark and cool inside but as you walked outside you were greeted by the desert heat and your eyeballs were almost burnt out. This was to be our home for the next week; the best part was that my crew would continue on to Gan whilst the other 57 Sqn crews would return to UK. On the night of 18th May the first pair of Phantoms would be refuelled by us on their way to Gan. My crew, the McEvoy crew named after the Captain, was to head North from Masirah and rendezvous with the two Phantoms as they travelled South over the Arabian Peninsula. The RV technique was simple; we would establish radio contact and home towards the southbound Phantoms using UHF DF. We had air to air TACAN which allowed us to measure our range from the other aircraft. Approximately 40 minutes North of Masirah, we had still not established contact with the Phantoms and the AEO was trying everything he knew to find out why. He had tried to contact the Shackleton, which was providing SAR cover, but again without success. Eventually, when we found the correct frequency, we made contact only to discover the Phantoms had passed us and were now 300 miles south whilst we were heading north. We turned to face each other and had 150 miles, about 20 minutes, before the RV. The RV procedure was known as a parallel head on, which involved the UHF Homer and the Air to Air TACAN. At 12 miles the tanker rolled right through 90 degrees and the fighters rolled left through 90 degrees. In theory we would then finish up directly above one another with the tanker 1000 feet higher. We then continued right 90 degree onto the required track. Minor refinements were made using the aircraft NBS radar. Whilst designed for bombing, a correction was made to the radar to eliminate the height hole from the centre of the radar picture so that the first ground return was in the middle and not 7 miles away. On the tanker we were able to switch out this correction leaving a circle of free space in the centre of the screen looking like a goldfish bowl. It was called Fishpool, and we could see any aircraft below us within a range not greater than our height above ground. With this we could talk the fighters into position if they did not have visual reference. I recall well that this was the first time I had refuelled a Phantom, previously it had been Lightning and Buccaneer aircraft. The phantoms appeared behind but had no probes! My first thought was, how had they managed to come all the way from Coningsby without a probe? As I pondered, a door opened on the side of the aircraft and out came the probe. We topped them up and were by now well out over the Indian Ocean heading for Gan. Once complete, we returned to Masirah. Meanwhile, the other two Victors from Masirah had departed South towards Gan to RV with the Phantoms and accompany them to a position where they could reach Gan with no further top ups. The procedure was for one Victor to top up the second Victor and return to base leaving the now full tanker to go with the fighters. At a predetermined point the Phantoms would be topped up again and sent on their way to RV with another tanker from Gan and repeat the process. The third tanker then returned to base. We had all briefed together but arrived back at Masirah after quite different sortie lengths. All of this had been in the middle of the night and we were scheduled to do the same the next night. The Shackleton eventually returned several hours after the last Victor, during the debrief we mentioned that we had been unable to contact the Shackleton; we then discovered it had a different route towards Ceylon whilst the rest of us were headed South to Gan! After the first 4 non-stop flights, the remainder of the 54 Sqn aircraft would fly out with intermediate stops. The next day, we heard that there had been some changes to the plan following our RV incident and another at Gan. The new plan only required two tankers instead of three. Much to our surprise we were rescheduled and sent to Gan on 21 May to join the 214 Sqn detachments. The 54 Sqn flights on 19-20 May had establish a record for a nonstop flight from Coningsby to Singapore of 14 hours 8 minutes. During our 6 day stop over at Masirah we made some attempt to explore the island! We weren’t allowed to go to the local town leaving only a patch of desert, a donkey, the turtles on the beach, who were busy laying eggs and the British Eastern Relay Station (BERS) just up the coast, where there was another bunch of Brits living in the desert. Some Wagg had labelled a door in the Mess “TV Room” you opened it and stepped out into the desert! We arrived at Gan on 21st only to be told we were no longer required there, and after a single night stop we continued on to Singapore and RAF Tengah which became our home for the next 6 weeks. As the first crew of the Victor detachment to arrive, we secured the best accommodation and managed to visit all those places we were eventually told were “out of bounds”. The others didn’t miss much! We returned to Masirah again on 5th July, this time for just a night stop. I do recall the departure the next morning for RAF Akrotiri, it was a flight of just under 5 hours which required 50,000 pound of fuel plus reserves. With the temperature at Masirah, the maximum fuel we could uplift was 64,000 pounds. The Victor 1 was well known as the camouflaged runway gobbler and on this occasion we rotated just as the tarmac gave way to desert in a huge cloud of dust. We had just enough fuel for the trip and no spare capacity to give any away. Little did I realise this was the second of many trips to the island over the next few years on the C130. Mike Grierson 57 Sqn 1970/71
My job at Masirah was far more difficult that most other RAF units mainly because we were constantly using 5 different currencies. We used Bahrain Dinars, Qatar and Dubai Rials, Omani Rupees, Sterling and US Dollars. The unit cash account which recorded all cash in and out of RAF Masirah had to be balanced and the figures submitted to MOD every month. This was very difficult because Oman had purchased a defunct Indian set of paper Rupees they also used their own Arabic coins called Baisers. The Rupee converted to 13.333 recurring to the Pound (therefore it never balanced) there was then 64 Baisers to a Rupee. At 13.333 it meant that a rupee was about 3 Shillings and a Baiser was 1 , 64th of 3 shillings. There was of course a complete shortage of Baisers and we would get a packet of chewing gum, a raffle ticket with 5 Baisers stamped on it as our change.
(I now digress a little) By the way everything on Masirah was old money, We used Pounds, Shillings and Pence. The temperature was in Farenheight and I was told that it was 148 degrees on the pan the day I landed and I did not see a drop of rain for thirteen months.
With the exchange rate at 13.333 Rupees to the Pound everything was fine as a beer in the NAAFI was 1 Rupee then, lo and behold, the NAAFI put the price of beer up to 1 Rupee and 6 Baisers . This was an absolute disaster imagine all the chewing gum and raffle tickets people would have to carry.
This is when we made our own currency The ‘YimKin’ (YimKin as you all should know is Arabic for ‘Maybe’)( We already had ‘YimKin’ airways in the form of the two Argosy’s per week maybe they com maybe they won’t)
We got ground equipment to make up 200 or so ½ inch aluminium squares with the letter ‘Y’ stamped in the middle and a number on the back. We gave them to the NAAFI and then when we went in for a beer you would give them 2 Rupee’s and receive a bunch of ‘Yim Kins’ as your change, after that every time you wanted a beer you just handed over a Rupee and a ‘YimKin’. It worked brilliantly right up until I left.
9 Months No Sex is a Goeshomeme A goeshomeme is a man who has just served 9 months in the desert at R.A.F. Masirah, no female company for those 9 months, so it was a very happy time for all of those going home not so good for the ones left behind. This was 1974
George Edwards SS Daphne Incident RAF Masirah 1968 - Information Needed
Anyone who can give the information requested please contact David Rose who can supply contact info for George.
On the 27th March1968 station personnel at RAF Masirah responded to a fire onboard the SS Daphne a 6000 ton Greek registered cargo ship that was sailing close to Masirah Island. I was a young RAF Fireman at the time and along with Flight Sergeant Gordon Ditchfield and two other RAF Firemen Ian Easter and Jock McVey were the first to board the Daphne and commenced basic fire fighting. It transpired that the Daphne was carrying a dangerous cargo and other RAF Firemen and additional station personnel from RAF Masirah were brought out to assist in extinguishing the fire and then pumping out the ships hold. Flight Sergeant Ditchfield was later awarded the British Empire Medal for his actions. Interestingly a 1969 BBC Television Royal Family documentary pictured Her Majesty making reference to the Daphne Incident and mentioned Flight Sergeant Ditchield specifically who was also voted the RAF Man of the Year in 1969.
Sadly Gordon Dichfield and Jock McVey have passed away however there are still quite few of us around who took part in the Daphne incident. Given that this was at the time a major incident at RAF Masirah involving many station personnel. I am trying to obtain the names of all those station personnel (none firemen) who participated in the Daphne incident and we can include their names in our records .I am also keen to make contact with ex RAF Firemen Ian Judge and John Farrell who were part of the fire fighting detail.
Yours sincerely George Edwards BEM
George has also written a book about his time in the RAF and beyond.Available from Woodfield publishing Babsham Lane, Bognor Regis, West Sussex, PO 21 5EL or at www.woodfield Cost £9.95
Adventures of a former RAF fireman at home and abroad 1965-2005 In this enjoyable and entertaining memoir, George Edwards looks back on his eventful RAF career as a fireman during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. George joined the RAF as a teenager in 1965 and the book follows his progress from naive sprog to experienced airman and senior NCO, relating his experiences at a wide variety of RAF bases in the UK and abroad, including Marham, Honington, Masirah, Mombasa, Church Fenton, Sharjah, Lindholme, Brize Norton, Gutersloh, Laarbruch, St Athan, Coningsby, Stanmore Park and RAF Stanley in the Falkland Islands. George's candid and enthusiastic descriptions of his on and off duty escapades when he was young, free and single and enjoyed an energetic social life and an equally enthusiastic love life are guaranteed to amuse and entertain readers of all ages, whilst his descriptions of life in the RAF are certain to bring back many memories for those who also served during this period. The final chapters follow George's post RAF career as a probation officer and Air Cadet Squadron Commander in his native Liverpool - which resulted in his being awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in later life.
Len Hewitt - Operation Moonflower and Vulcans
I visited RAF Luqa on several occasions on detachment with Waddington's Vulcans and Masirah once as Transit Sevicing Party back in 1972 when we had 4 Vulcans staging through on their way to Darwin to do live 21,000 lb. bombing - the last time they did so before the Black Buck operation.I was a J/T at the time of our sojourn in Masirah -Centralised servicing at the time, so no Squadron other than Line Sqn.
In fact we ended up staying there for rather longer than originally intended, our initial transport (a Britania) having gone sick in Cyprus and being 'dumped' in Masirah 24 hrs. later than intended by C130 with no no kit whatsoever - our small packs having already been used in Cyprus.
We managed to beg a pair of shorts each off the guys and 2 days later or kit was flown in by a 35 Sqn Vulcan from Akrotiri. You can't imaging the delight we felt to put on clean KD fresh out of the pannier and icy cold! (DJR N.B. Oh, I think we can!).
A couple of days later we got a lift off a staging C130 taking Marham groundcrew out to Gan where the next day we managed to get ourselves onto a VC10 on its way to Changi - at the expense of a family making their way to re-join their husband/father.
After 5 wonderful days in Singapore with nothing to do we were eventually flown out to Darwin on a C130 from Fairford, where the JENGO said "You've had a hell of journey out here, you'd better have 2 days off, lads!" That was a great "Moonflower" as East-abouts were known.
The official version of 'Last Man Left in the Air Force'.
This poem was written by Peter Wyton [pen name] when he was serving at RAF Wyton in the early 70s. There is no objection at all to the poem being circulated but please ensure that it is always attributed to Peter. More info about him at www.myspace.com/peterwytonpoet The poem often turns up in a rather muddled form, the correct form is copied below. Regards L. Fisher [Peter's manager].
THE UNKINDEST (DEFENCE) CUT OF ALL
I'm the last man left in the Air Force, I've an office in M.O.D. And a copy of Queen's Regulations Which only apply to me. I can post myself to Leuchars And detach me from there to Kinloss Or send me on course to Innsworth Then cancel the lot - I'm the Boss.
I'm the last man left in the Air Force But the great parliamentary brains Omitted, when cancelling people, To sell off the stations and planes, The result is, my inventory bulges With KD and camp stools and Quarters, Plus a signed book of speeches by Trenchard That I keep to impress the reporters.
I'm the last man left in the Air Force, I suppose you imagine it's great To be master of all you survey but I tell you, it's difficult, mate. I inspected three units last Thursday As A.O.C. (Acting) of Strike, Then I swept half the runway at Laarbruch And repaired Saxa Vord's station bike.
I'm the last man left in the Air Force, My wife says I'm never at home, When I'm not flying Hercs I'm at Manston, Laying gallons and gallons of foam, Or I'm in my Marine Craft at Plymouth, Shooting flares at the crowds on the Ho, Or I'm Orderly Corporal at Uxbridge, It's an interesting life, but all go.
I'm the last man left in the Air Force, I'm A.D.C. to the Queen, I'm Duty Clerk at St. Mawgan, I'm the R.A.F. rugby team, Tomorrow I'm painting a guardroom And air-testing several planes, The day after that I'm for London To preach at St. Clement Dane's.
Photos I fear I have none. Remember we were airmen on 5s 6d per day (27p) and our up to date cameras were little box brownies
Memories I do have.
There were I think 13 airmen and 1 officer on the island on 6 month tours in 1948. I had volunteered to go there so that I wouldn't have the parades and guard duties in Khormaksar. The choices were Ryan , Salalah and Masirah.
We weren't overworked and made lots of activities to keep ourselves amused. We had fixed up a tennis court on and aircraft hard standing surrounded by 33 gallon fuel drums Incidentally the island was generally known as tin can island because there must have been millions of gallons of fuel (I think diesel).
I believe that Americans had left a narrow gauge railway with many trucks and two engines. We used the wagons to go down to the jetty - free rolling as it was slightly downhill.
WE did a lot of swimming until we were visited by an RAF medic who said when we did we had to take a sharp knife, some cord and travel down in motor transport in case were bitten by the poisonous sea snakes. Swimming wasn't so attractive after that especially when two rather large sharks were spotted under the jetty.
In the evenings we drank mostly lime juice and occasionally spirits (spirits were much cheaper than beer- whisky cost 8d (3p) gin cost 2d (1p)
Mail came up form Aden by aircraft 3 times a fortnight- initially Wellingtons and later Dakatos.
A gazelle shoot was organized one day which resulted in half a dozen sheep being killed and personally I so nearly shot the Scotsman in front of me The bullet landed beside his foot and my immediate concern was not hat had killed him but that I even now swear that all I did was release the safety catch because the scot had said he could see scores of gazelles just over the rise.
Wandering round the island I saw the memorial raised in memory of the passengers and crew who were massacred from the SS Baron Inverdale (I now understand that it was a mistake of name and was Baron Innerdale)
There were quite a few interesting lizards. hares snakes and scorpions. One moonlit night we watched turtles come ashore and lay hundreds of eggs. If the turtle saw us when coming out ot he sea it would just turn back but if it had stared laying it just carried on
Also on the island were stationed a squadron of Aden Protectorate Levies with two RAF officers They were considerably smarter than we were whenever some notable visited'
My daughter now works in Dubai which was I think was a scruffy fishing village when I was in Masirah. On the occasions I have visited I never been able to find anybody who has any idea where Masirah is.
It would be great to be able to visit the place again but very unlikely, pleasant just to recall it all.
Dave Brown - 1960-61
I was on Masirah from October 1960 to October 1961. I was a wireless mechanic and this was my first posting after initial training at Bridgenorth and trade training at Compton Bassett. I worked on shift at the transmitter station which was as I recall fairly small and you had to go down into it although you could see the top of the building above the ground. A new building was build on the other side of the the sealed runway when that was completed. Costain’s was the company who built the new runway and they employed a number of RAF personnel as drivers of tip trucks. This was particularly appealing to those of us who did shift work. I think there were only about 40 RAF personnel when I arrived and I was billeted in a Nissan hut. However, the Twynhams were being built and I moved into a Twynham not too long after I arrived. There was a great deal of building going on at the time because I recall that a new mess and recreational building were completed before I left the island. I have attached a number of photos from my time on the island which I hope you can use. N.B. Photos are in the Photo Gallery section.
Creepy Crawly memory from Ian Hourston
In my short time at RAF Masirah (3 months, 1962) I had experiences, good and bad, that stick in the memory. On a hygiene inspection of the dry food store (can't recall its 'official' name) I found an open bag of atta flour that was fairly hotching with flour beetles. Consulting my handbook - AP1269B if memory serves - I learned that if flour beetles swarm on the outside of the bags as well as in the flour itself, the beetle-faeces/flour ratio is likely to make the flour unpalatable and mildly toxic. So I condemned the bag as unfit for human consumption. Moving on, I found the unopened sacks similarly crawling with beetles on the outside. I condemned the lot. The Catering SNCO accompanyng me nearly threw a fit. "We'll have a bloody strike on our hands! You've just prevented all our Pakistani tradesmen getting their daily chapatis. What do you expect them to eat - digestive biscuits? It'll be days before we can be resupplied from Aden." Remembering I had just enjoyed an Eid feast as a guest of said Pakistani friends, and had enjoyed the chapatis without after-effects, I conceded that the least infested sack could continue in use, but better stuff must be obtained as a matter of urgency. I left the island too soon to know whether 'better stuff' ever arrived, or whether atta flour in southern Arabia is always home to hordes of hungry flour beetles, and humans are content to share it with them.
N.B. If you want to know what Ian encountered you can see it HERE
Dave Green - 1973
I was only on Masirah for about four days late 73. I had been sent down from 12 SU CommCen Cyprus to purchase items for our Christmas raffle at Kimjis out on the bondu. I was made very welcome by all the lads I met.
DJR N.B. - I thought it was a long way to come to visit Kimji Rhamda's shop so I asked Dave why. Reason was the very cheap prices of watches and camera at Kimji's made it a viable trip and the spoils from the raid on the shop were used in the Christmas Raffle as mentioned by Dave. I guess when the jolly is free it does make sense. :-)
Dave Rose - Approaching Masirah in July 1968
My very first recollection was approaching Masirah in the traditional Yimkin Airways Argosy, after leaving Muharraq and staging through Sharjah. As we were descending I was watching, fascinated at the barren scenery and the sparkling sea on either side. When we were quite low and rapidly closing on the runway threshold the engines roared into life and we were ascending again. The pilot made a short announcement to the effect that 'Apologies for the aborted landing, we will have to wait until ATC get out in their landrover to clear the runway of camels'. Oh my goodness, I thought, what the hell am I going into! It was only about 30 minutes later that we landed and I was welcomed to Masirah by the grinning guy that I was relieving.
I remember sitting outside the 'Sailing Club' in the late 60's, beer in hand, watching the whales in the distance. They used to migrate along the Masirah channel between the island and the mainland. They were just a little too far away to go out in the boat, there were a lot of restrictions in those days, but it didn't stop Les Griffiths wanting to grab his fishing rod to go out and try to catch one - He was an intrepid fisherman but we had to convince him that was a 'fish' too far!
The Crazy Horse Saloon
Not a lot to say except it was built during my time in Masirah. There was the NAAFI airmans bar and the occasional invitation to the RAOB Lodge bar so a few of us got together and thought that somewhere a little different was needed and we came up with the idea for The Crazy Horse Saloon. We were kindly given a hut to use by permission of the station commander (Can't remember if it was Sqn Ldr Grattan or Wg Cdr Cunningham at the time) and set about doing the place up with any North American Cowboy paraphanalia we could beg, borrow or steal! It was a great success and I have seen photographs of later years taken in the Crazy Horse.
Eugene 'Robbie' Robinson - Memories before and during a tour of Masirah.
My first memory of Masirah came about whilst serving at RAF Habbaniyah in 1958. The Navigator for the station Pembroke went down with appendicitis, his relief was not Wireless Op trained. An urgent flight to Bahrain had me called in as Air Signaller, a post in which I continued.
Then a flight to Aden and return. We gave a lift to a Sgt back to Masirah so he could clear for his return to a Married quarter, just allocated in Khormaksar.
Whilst on Finals at Masirah the Tower directed us to go round again – sheep on the runway. On disembarking the Capt remarked to the CO we hadn’t seen any sheep. No there were no sheep, just wanted to give Sgt Jackson a last look at the place before leaving, was the reply.
As we left next morning I looked back and thought – what a desolate and deserted island. Little knowing I would be back for a tour.
1976 and I was back. Quickly volunteered as a Radio announcer on Radio 65, counted as a secondary duty so missing i/c Barrack block. Whilst compiling my programme one afternoon I hear the announcement “The Station Commander has declared a National Holiday on the occasion of his 50th Birthday. He will broadcast to the Nation on the day”.
Excitement ran throughout the camp, Fairground stalls built, roll a coin down, Hoop la, Darts, Tin can alley, Striker (hit the peg with a hammer), get ping pong balls out of the water with your mouth, hook a camel. Stocks with water and sponges. 5 a side football knockout. It’s a washout in the pool.
On the day I was in Radio 65 early for the Nationwide broadcast, having noted the Tower was displaying the height ASL as 50. The broadcast was made, the CO came out of the studio and said “What did I sound like Chief” “Pity it wasn’t being televised Sir” I replied. His face lit up with a big smile as he said “Really, Thank You!”.
An RFA ship anchored offshore for a few days doing resupply. On its last night the Officers Mess were invited for farewell drinks. On leaving the ship a few didn’t make it down the scrambling net to the boat, finishing up in the water.
Some days later the Loadmaster with the Hercules slip crew said they were going down to Salalah the next afternoon, could I get some empty beer cans and flour from the mess. They were going to bomb the RFA ship as thanks for the booze-up.
I bagged some 20 small bags of flour and three sacks of cans. Loaded them the next day, getting onboard for the flight. The ship was spotted 50 miles off Salalah. Tailgate down and a low level dummy run saw everyone on deck waving.
Final run had the Navigator and Loadmaster harnessed to the fuselage, ejecting the ammo. I declined to be a dispatcher, too dodgy standing on the tailgate. Captain confirmed all direct hits. Victory flagwave brought tears of laughter.
The crayfish were better than steak on Friday at 50p. The Wali reportedly got 50p per crayfish tail landed.