National Service Life in Trans-Jordan 1951-53

From: Ken (Jack) Frost

In October 1950 when I came home from work a letter was waiting for me from the war office informing me that I had to report to Pownall Square [Liverpool] which was just by Exchange Station for a medical with a view to me doing national service. A week or two later I reported to Pownall Square. There were about one hundred young men all of my age waiting for a medical. We went into a large room in groups of twenty, we were then told to strip down to our underpants they poked and prodded us all over like cattle, needless to say the most embarrassing part was when they told us all to drop are pants, you did not know which way to look. They then checked my hearing and sight, with me being so short sighted I thought that I might fail the medical but there was no chance of that, the doctor said as long as I could see with my spectacles on I was all right. One of the sight tests was to see if you were colour blind I passed that test ok but a bloke next to me tried to pull a fast one he was getting all the colours wrong including red, after the test he sat by me after a few minutes one of the medical orderlies came over and said to him report to the doctor in the room with the red door, the daft so and so got up and walked strait to the red door opened it and walked in he told me later that on the other side of the door was another orderly who told him that if he tried to fail the colour test again he would be prosecuted needless to say he passed. Some of the young men would try everything in the book to fail the medical. After all the tests we were told that we would get the results by mail. In two weeks I got a letter saying that I had passed my medical first class and that I would be getting my call up papers in the near future. I just sat down in a state of shock because even though the doctor said I would be ok I still thought that with my short sightedness I would fail my medical. It took a day or two to sink in that I would be joining the army but I decided that I would give it a go when I was called up.

In the first week of January 1951 I received a letter and train ticket and all the relevant instructions telling me to report to the Royal Signals Training camp at Catterick Yorkshire in the second week of February. I was expecting it but it still came as a shock and excitement at being called up. On the 1 February I packed a small case and went down to Lime Street Station. On the train were other boys who had been called up; they were all going to Catterick but to other regiments. We had a good discussion about our expectations in the army, the majority of them wanted to get it over with; there was one who was just about ready to desert there and then. Every one who was going to Catterick had to change trains at Darlington so it was a bit of a culture shock to see all the different styles on the station platform especially the boys from London in their long hair and Teddy boy outfits. The other thing was the different accents, you have to remember that in those days with no televisions and on the radio every one spoke with a public school accent it was amazing hearing the different accents like Geordies, Cockneys, West Country, and Scottish, mind you they must have said the same thing about the Liverpool accent. On arrival at Catterick we where met by a lot of trucks and a sergeant then told us which truck to get into because the trucks were all going to different regiments in Catterick. About thirty of us got into the truck that was going to the Royal Signals camp.

The Royal Signals had four training regiments 1TR was to train as a radio technician, 2TR was for underground and overhead linemen, 3TR was for Teleprinters etc, 4TR was were one did basic training or learning how to be a soldier We were supposed to spend four weeks at 4TR doing basic training and then four to five months at one of the other TR learning a trade before being sent out into the big wide world.

At 4TR there were two basic training camps Baghdad and Mons they were very near to each other and only a main road separated them. The difference in the two camps was startling, Baghdad were first world war barracks of single floor wooden construction they had two coal burning stoves in each barracks, the wash room and toilets were attached to each billet they only had cold water for washing. Mons was a two story brick building built in the 1930 the buildings were centrally heated and plenty of hot water the toilets and kitchens were in the same building each barrack room took thirty soldiers, and I was lucky as I went to Mons barracks.

We were shown to our barrack room and allocated an iron bed and locker. Our company corporal told us that we would be inspected every day and woe betides us if one speck of dirt was found in the barrack room. Later we all assembled on the main parade ground were an officer welcomed us to the Royal Signals Regiment, we all thought it looked nice and cushy until the sergeant major took over. He told us in no uncertain terms what a motley looking bunch we were and then proceeded to lay the law down to us telling us how hard it was going to be for the next four weeks and what we learned here could save are lives in time of war he also said that if we did not make the grade in the four weeks we would stay there until we did. Back in the barracks we were told by are company corporal that the next day we would be kitted out, but the first thing would be a visit to the regimental barbers for are first army hair cut (he had a big grin on his face when he told us this) to make matters worse it had just started to snow. We then went to the stores and were given our bedding and eating utensils, after making our beds we went for our first army meal and by this time we were all so hungry that we would have eaten anything but as it turned out the meal was quite good. The start of the next day was the first shock. The corporal came in at 5.30 and started banging on a tin pan to get us up, and started shouting get up you lazy so and so or you will get no breakfast, as it was February it was still dark and freezing. After we had washed and shaved we went down to the mess for are breakfast which consisted toast and thick lumpy porridge which you could hang wallpaper. After breakfast we were taken to the regimental barbers for are first haircut. Unlike today were the fashion is short hair in those days it was medium and long hair only convicts and soldiers had short haircuts. In the barbers hut was four barbers and outside was a queue of about forty soldiers waiting to get their haircut. When I came out after having my haircut I had been well and truly scalped, a number one in today's barbers and as it was about 9 am and there was snow and ice every where my head felt like a block of ice. The Londoners with their long stylish hair took having a short hair cut the worst.

After the barbers, we were marched to a big hall were a soldier quickly run a tape measure over us, we were then given a form with the measurements on and told to report to the clothing stores. At the stores we were given two fell uniforms, underwear and two pairs of army boots. It was a complete waste of time measuring us because the uniforms did not fit, we were told to take them to the camp tailor to get them altered. The only thing the army tailor did was shortening the trouser legs. The boots were too big but this did not mater because it was so cold you had to wear two pair of socks. When we got back to are barrack we got changed into are uniforms and then paraded by our beds for inspection. The corporal came in and wiped the floor with us, he said that after dinner we had to clean and polish the barrack room until he could see his face in the floor we also had to press our uniforms with the three irons we were given. After dinner for the next four hours we worked our socks of to get the barrack room up to scratch. The only snag was a lot of the lads could not iron their cloths to save their lives so I suggested that two of use would do all the ironing whilst they did the cleaning this was agreed so me and another soldier got cracking ironing all the uniforms, we had just about finished when the corporal came in for the inspection. We stood by our beds and he came round and inspected everything the only thing he had a go at us for was our boots, he said the next time he inspected them he wanted to see his face in the toe caps, the rest must have been ok because we got are tea on time unlike some of the other barrack rooms who ended up having late cold tea.

20 Trp Royal Signals Marcg 1951

I had been in the army three weeks when this picture was taken it was my first picture in full uniform. I am seated on the front row far right. The next day after breakfast we were taken to the Regimental Armoury. We were each issued with an Enfield 303 bolt-action rifle and bayonet, for the first time we felt like a real soldiers. We were then marched to the parade ground with our new toys to do some rifle drill, what a laugh that was all you could hear was soldiers dropping their rifles on the floor the drill sergeant went mad, he dismissed us to our barrack rooms and told us to practice drill for an hour, we would then be taken out to the parade ground again. He then informed us of our responsibilities in having a rifle, and if we lost or damaged it we could be court-marshaled. We kept the rifle in a steel locker next to our bed until it was required for either drill or the rifle range. Later the company corporal showed us how to strip the rifle right down and oil and clean it to keep it in tip top condition, and then put it back together again.

In the afternoon the whole company of about 200 soldiers lined up on the parade ground for our first booster inoculations. They had six tables laid out with all the needles etc on them. Six medical orderlies with smiles on their faces were waiting to give us the inoculations. Each orderly used the same needle to inoculate about six soldiers, for the first three it was ok put when they got to number six it was like having a blunt nail stuck in your arm (I know because I was number six). The soldier behind me was a big fellow from the West Country but as we got closer to the tables his face was turning whiter when I got my inoculation I heard a crash behind me, the big fellow had fainted, and he was not the only one either. My arm swelled up like a balloon, it took about three days to settle down.

After the first few days we did regular foot drill on the main parade ground. With the new boots and uniform I had big blisters on my feet and felt sore all over, By the second week my feet were ok. For the first ten days all we did was foot drill, and exercise in the gymnasium it certainly was a crash keep fit course, I was not too bad, and it must have been all the exercise that comes with ice skating at the Liverpool ice rink.

Scarborough Physical Training Camp 1951

At the beginning of the third week we were taken in trucks to the rifle range which was just outside Catterick, where we were to fire our 303 Enfield rifles. When we arrived there we were taken in groups of twenty on to the range. The range officer gave us a lecture on range safety; he said the rifle should be on the ground until ready to be used, when live ammunition was loaded, if it misfired call the range corporal but always keep the barrel of the rifle pointing down and never point it at anyone. Each of us were then given a five round ammunition clip and in the prone position told to fire at a target 25 yards away. I was the first to fire so I was not expecting the loud bang when I pulled the trigger, all I was waiting for was the thump into my shoulder from the stock of the rifle, it made my ears ring, needless to say I missed the target, once I got over the shock I hit the target with the next four rounds. Whilst I was standing at the back waiting to fire again, one of the soldiers got up, turned round with his rifle pointing at us and shouted to the corporal that his rifle had jammed. The corporal in a very loud voice shouted" everyone hit the ground" I went face down onto the ground as fast as I could, he then told the soldier to put his rifle on the ground facing up the range, I suppose in fright at the corporals voice, he dropped the rifle on the floor and the rifle discharged a round it was a good job that it was pointing up range or it might have killed someone. The range sergeant flew into a rage and marched the soldier off the range. Later we found out he got court marshaled and was given one month in the glasshouse.

Twice a week we did physical training in the gymnasium, on the third week we were given some tests like climbing up a rope press ups etc, I could do all the tests except one that was on the beam, you had hold the beam then bring your insteps up to the beam, no matter how I tried I could not do it my stomach muscles were not strong enough. At the beginning of the fourth week which was the last week of basic training, I was called into the corporals office, he told me that I was to be transferred to a physical training camp in Scarborough. I asked him why and he said it was to build me up, I found out later that it was because I could not do the beam exercise. This was a joke because I was fitter than a lot of the soldiers in my barrack room.

The next day I was woken up at about 3am and told to get dressed, I was being taken to Scarborough with twenty other soldiers, at that time of the morning in Yorkshire it was dark and freezing. We were marched down to the motor pool where we got on some trucks for the journey. Scarborough was only about fifty miles from Catterick so it should not have taken us very long, but because it was dark and all the roads were icy it took us ages, we were bounced all over the place, how we stayed on the road I do not know. We got to Scarborough at 6am. The camp was about a half mile from Scarborough overlooking the sea. A staff sergeant from the physical training corps met us, he showed us to our barrack rooms which were in an old building which used to be a boarding school it was all very nice, we thought we had come to "Butlins Holiday Camp" were we in for a surprise. We all went down to the mess hall for breakfast, we could not believe what we were seeing, they had the lot, bacon, various eggs, sausages, fried bread, coffee, tea and orange juice and to top it all you could have as much as you liked. After breakfast we were taken to the large gymnasium on the right. The camp commander came and told us why we were here, he said that each one of us had some physical problems which had been high lighted at our home camp in Catterick and that by the end of three weeks they would try to fix them, it all sounded to good to be true until the staff sergeant had his say, he said we would be worked harder than we had ever been worked before, and at meal times we were to eat as much as we liked because we would be burning off a hell of a lot off calories, ( he did not say it in those words more like we are going to work you xxxxxxx lot into the ground so eat as much as you can).

Scarborough Physical Training Camp 1951

After the lecture by the staff sergeant, we were given a medical to see if we were fit enough to complete the course, three of the soldiers failed the medical, and we were told later that they were to be discharged from the army. They then put us through a series of physical tests like climbing up ropes, press ups, beam and horse work, we then ran round the gym for about one hour. The results of these tests were put on your personal chart every Monday and Thursday for the three weeks we were here. In the picture I am in the back row far right. By dinner time every one of us was just about knocked out, after a shower we went for dinner, the meal was soup, steak, roast potatoes, fruit and ice cream it was unbelievable, the only snag was most of us felt so sick we did not feel like eating. In the afternoon we went back to the gym and did some more work but not as much as in the morning. After tea we went back to our barrack room and were told that until 9pm the time was are own, but at 9. 15pm there would be lights out. This was to be the routine while we were there, but no one disagreed with this because by 9 pm we were just about dead. Although it was very hard at first I began to really enjoy it, I had never eaten as much in all my life, mind you in those days I could eat until it came out of my ears and never go over 9 stone 10 lbs I was like this until I was about twenty three.

One of the hardest things we did was the five-mile march and jog; we did this three times a week. On the morning of a march we only had a cup of tea and toast; we had our breakfast when we came back. At 7am we were marched down to Scarborough promenade in long trousers and jerseys like in the above picture, we must have looked like convicts, with the wind coming of the north sea I have never felt so cold in my life it just went right though you. We jogged along the prom and coast road for about five or six miles. Most of us found it hard going and about 10% dropped out. I found it hard but managed to complete the run ok. After the next one I used to look forward to are run along the prom, although it was cold the air was nice and fresh and the faster you ran the warmer you got. When we got back to camp, we had a hot bath in a very large bath like the footballers use today, after the bath we had our breakfast and believe me after the run we were all starving, so we ate like a horse. Each day basically consisted of eating, exercise and more exercise so after all the aches and pains you could feel yourself getting fitter.

At the end of the first week we were told how we had progressed, the sergeant said, I should not be here as I was quite fit, I said I could not do the beam exercise but he said that would come. In the third week we were taken to a local athletic club to do some training there, why we went there I do not know because as I have stated most of us were not fit, that's why we were sent to Scarborough in the first place. In the afternoon some of us were told we would compete in the 100 yards and 3000 yards with some of the club athletes which was crazy. I got picked to run in the 3000 yards. I could not run fast but I had plenty of stamina so I felt ok. The race was 12 laps of the track, for the first 8 laps I was well behind but then I noticed that I was starting to catch them up and by lap 11, I was third, but then disaster at the beginning of lap 12 I got a really bad stitch and although I tried to carry on I had to stop. The sergeant came over and asked me what had happened when I told him he went mad and said I should have run through the pain barrier as it was only a stitch. Later one of the local lads came over and congratulated me on my effort, he said I should consider joining an athletic club when I leave the army, I said I did not know if there was any athletic clubs were I lived, and the only running I did was to work.

On the Friday of the third and final day we went to the gym, we were told that we were to be put through a series of tests, if we passed them we would be returned to Catterick, if we did not then we stayed until we did, it was tempting to fail because I liked it here, but no matter how long you stayed you still had to complete your basic training at Catterick, and I don't think you could pull the wool over the sergeant's eyes here. For the past three weeks I had done everything that was asked of me with the one exception the dreaded beam no matter how I tried I had not managed to lift my insteps to the beam, I sailed through all the tests until it came to the beam, you had to lift your insteps to the beam five times or more to pass, well when I stood under that beam I did know what to do as I had not done it once in three weeks, but I decided to give it my best shot, I jumped up to the beam and gripped it with two hands, then I gritted my teeth and lifted my insteps to the beam well you could have knocked me down with a feather my insteps came up and touched the beam, I did this seven times then dropped to the floor in shock. One of the sergeants who had been watching came over and said, "That was a surprise Frost" I said I don't know how I did it, all he said was willpower.

On the Friday afternoon I went on my last run along the prom, this time we did eight miles. All but two of us finished the course; I came joint first with another soldier called Dave Burgess we finished about ten minutes ahead of the rest. Charlie who came from Birmingham was quite small, he did not finish and he also had a rotten time on the course he always seemed out of breath. We found out earlier that he only had one lung; I could not understand how he got into the army in the first place. We were told later that if he did not pass the course he would be discharged from the army. As it turned out he fooled us all because I was to meet up with him again in 12 months time in a completely different environment, but that's later on in the story. This last run was done on a beautiful clear winter's day you could see for miles, when you think that only seven weeks ago I was in Liverpool with all its smog, this place was a different world. When we got back to the barracks we were told that we would be returning to Catterick the next morning at 7pm. The evening meal was really good because they always laid on a special meal on completion of the course. On Saturday morning we returned to Catterick by army trucks. When we arrived I expected to go to Mon's barracks but to my surprise I went to Baghdad barracks instead. March 1951 was a very cold winter and as Baghdad barracks were old wooded huts they were freezing, each hut had two free standing coal stoves the barrack room held about forty soldiers, we had a fire rota duty which consisted of two soldiers whose job for two days was to keeping the fires going 24 hours a day.

For the next two weeks it was back to basics learning how to be a soldier again. On the third day back I got out of bed to the shouts of the corporal when I looked outside there was about five feet of snow all round the hut. We were told that we had to clear all the paths before breakfast; by the time we had finished we were sweating cobs. After breakfast we cleared the parade ground and as it was still snowing we thought we would get away with foot drill, but no the corporal came and told us we were to have rifle drill on the main parade ground. After about two hours of rifle drill you could not feel your hands as they were freezing with the result that some of the soldiers dropped their rifles which meant they got extra duties in the kitchen, although my rifle was wet we were told that we were to have a rifle inspection after tea, so if you did not want any extra spud peeling duties you had to make sure your rifle was dry, cleaned and oiled for the inspection.

During our basic training, one of the hardest things we had to do was polish our boots, and I mean polish! The main part of the boot had to shine, but you had to be able to see your face in the toecap. One way to achieve this was to smear polish over the toe cap then set the polish on fire with a match, the trick was to put the fire out just before it burnt the leather, if you did this the leather became very hard, and with a lot of elbow grease you could get them highly polished. I remember one of the lads putting to much polish on the toe cap, when he set it alight he could not extinguish the fire with the result that he ruined his boot. He had to pay for another pair of boots, he also got extra duties for destroying army property. At the end of basic training I was told that I was going to 2TR to be a linesman, I did not know what a lineman was, but I certainly was glad to finish basic training. On the Thursday of the last week we went on a passing out parade in full uniform, before the Commanding Officer. After the parade we were all given a bus ticket and a 48 hour pass which meant we could go home on Friday afternoon, but we had to be back in camp for seven on Monday morning.

On Friday the journey home took about five hours, and the thing I remember most was the smoke, most of the people on the bus smoked so when I got of the bus outside the Royal Liver Buildings and the cold night air hit my eyes, they started to sting like any thing. The bus driver said the bus would return to Catterick at Sunday midnight. I was lucky because I got the last tram (no14) home.

I went right to bed when I got home; it was quite funny sleeping in a room with only George. The next day I told mum and George all about army life the way Mam fed me she must have thought I was being starved in the army. On Saturday night I went to the ice rink, and although it had been only seven weeks since I was last there, it seemed longer than that, although I felt a bit uncomfortable I went in my uniform, but to my surprise some of my mates were in their uniforms. The next day I went down to see Grandma, Florrie and Margaret, as usual they fussed all over me. It soon became time to return to Catterick, so I got the bus outside the Royal Liver at midnight. The return trip was murder as there was no motorways, we had to travel on A roads and across the Yorkshire moors, the bus had no heating and it was a freezing cold night, every one huddled up on the seat with their overcoat round them, needless to say I could not get much sleep on the return journey, we got back about six am, it was one mad rush to get ready for parade inspection at 8am.

After parade we were taken by army truck to 2TR, which was only about a mile away. On arrival we were allocated a barrack room; when I went in and asked if this was barrack room 22 someone shouted yes scouse take any spare bed, my Liverpool accent stood out a mile. When I joined up I did not realise that the Liverpool accent was the most well known in the army. I was to spend the next five months at 2TR learning how to be a linesman. The linesmen provided underground and overhead line communication for all branches of the army. What they did not tell us at the beginning was in times of war, it was one of the most dangerous jobs in the army, and in the last war linesmen had a higher fatality record than the infantry.

One event which had nothing to do with the army, that I shall always remember whilst I was at 2TR was a world boxing championship fight. On Saturday Randolph Turpin who was the British boxing champion fought Sugar Ray Robinson who was the undefeated World champion and the best pound for pound boxer the world had ever seen, and generally reckoned unbeatable the fight took place at Earls Court London. We all gathered round the barrack room radio to listen to the live broadcast of the fight, we did not have televisions in those days. The fight was a cracker and in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history Turpin won on points. At the final bell when the referee said Turpin had won, there were cheers all over the camp and the next day the whole camp was on a high.

I was to stay at 2TR from April to August 51. At 2TR we did one guard duty every four weeks, which consisted of a rota of two hours walking round the camp and four hours in the guardroom. On my first guard duty I reported along with eight other soldiers to the guardroom where we were inspected my officer of the guard, he gave us a right rollicking saying we were a right mess. The best turned out member was put in charge of the guard room for the night, which meant he did not have to patrol the camp, as I was the best of a bad bunch so the officer said I was put in charge, what I did not know was I had to keep the fire going all night and make sure that was tea available for the soldiers when they came of guard, which meant that I got no sleep but the guard got two four hour sleep periods. For any future guard duty I did I made sure that I was not the best dressed.

Each training regiment excelled in a particular sport 1TR was rugby, 3TR was football, and 2TR was boxing. Whilst I was at 2tr they had 2 A. B.A. and 4 forces boxing champions. After one morning parade the company sergeant major told us that there was to be a boxing trial in the gym that evening to select people to join the boxing team. Later we found out that if you got into the boxing team you were excused all kinds of other duties, so a lot of the lads in my barrack room me included put our names down for the trail. That evening we reported to the gym, we were told that we would be matched we some one of the same weight to box for two two-minute rounds. When it came to my turn I got into the ring and in the other corner was my opponent who was a bit smaller than me, I thought this should be ok, we went into the middle of the ring and a corporal who was acting referee said when I blow my whistle start boxing. When he blew the whistle I went to the middle of the ring with my gloves up and feeling great, the next thing I remember was seeing stars and wondering why am I lying on my back looking up in the air, the referee helped me to my corner, after a few minutes I was ok, later on I found out that my opponent was only the northern Ireland under 18 and later on he went on to become the A.B.A. boxing champion, thus ended my boxing career.

For the next few months I was to learn how to be a communications lineman. It was all a very new experience to me, as up till then I had hardly used a telephone never mind working on them. The first time I had to climb and work on a tall telegraph pole with my safety belt on was frightening but I took to it like a duck to water. I remember one chap from London was so terrified of heights that no matter how much they shouted and threatened him he would not climb the pole in the end he was transferred to another training regiment. The real hard work was digging trenches and laying cables, we also learnt how to join lead cables together with molten lead everyone burnt their hands before they got the hang of it. At the weekend if you were not on guard duty we used to go down to the N.A.A F.I. in Catterick to play darts and snooker. I used to enjoy talking football with the lads from other parts of the country.

After being there for six weeks, on 19/5/1951 we were given 10 day mid course leave, we all got a return rail ticket so I travelled home in luxury rather than a cramped bus. At 2TR I got friendly with a bloke called Dave he lived just outside Ormskirk, he told me that he had always wanted to travel on the Liverpool Overhead Railway but as he worked on a small farm he did not get into Liverpool very often and when he did it was with his mother shopping. I said to him that on our next leave I would show him the Overhead. Railway. On the Monday I met him at Lime Street Station and we went down to the pier head for a ride on the Overhead Railway.

The Overhead Railway or the Dockers' umbrella as the Dockers called it, because they used to stand under it out of the rain it was about 25 feet above ground on an iron track, there was a station at every dock gate and it used to run from Dingle docks South Liverpool to Seaforth docks North Liverpool. Because of the high maintenance costs it was demolished in the 1950s. Dave was so thrilled at the ride and seeing all the ships unloading in the docks that we did the journey twice. The ride was no novelty to me because I used to use the Overhead Railway when I was with United Typewriters to take stationary to all the dock offices along the line. After the trip we got off at the Albert dock and went for a bite to eat in one of the many dock road cafes. It was an experience for Dave as he had never been in one before. The tea was served in cracked mugs which no two were alike, the egg and bacon was done on a 3 feet by 2 feet hot plate you always got large greasy portions and the bread was about one inch thick. The meal might not have been cordon bleu but it was great. After a few drinks at a local watering hole I went back to Lime Street for Dave to get the train back home. The next few days flew over and then it was back to Catterick by train.

About two weeks after I got back from leave we were told that we all had to participate in two events in the forthcoming regimental athletic meeting, so they put my name down for the 100 yds and three mile events even though I told them I was hopeless at running fast. On the day I only made it to the second out of 20 heats in the 100yds, but the three mile was my best event, although I could not run fast I could keep up a steady pace for ever. There were two heats with about thirty in each heat and the first ten in each heat went through to the final. I came fourth in my heat, and then in the final I was going really well in sixth position and feeling as if I could get into the first three, when I got a terrible stitch in my side I eventually had to stop because the pain was so bad. After the race the staff Sergeant came over and gave me a right telling of for stopping, he said I should have run through the pain barrier, and he was right. He asked me if I had done any running before, I told him no he then said if I was to be eventually stationed in Catterick I should join the regimental athletic club. I did not tell him if I was stationed in Catterick I think I would have deserted.

While I was at 2TR, Brian Close joined us to do his national service, at the time he was the boy wonder of English cricket. He was an all rounder, bowling and batting for Yorkshire and England at 18. Because of his cricketing commitments he was away from the camp for long spells. When he was at the camp he used to train on the camp sports field most of the time. One day as part of keeping fit we were taken down to the sports field for a game of cricket, when we got there Brian was doing some training running around the field, our sergeant picked two teams to play a light hearted game of cricket, as I was taking up my position in the field without asking any one Brian Close picked up the bat and went to the wicket, nobody said anything we all thought that he was a right big head, the way he took guard you would think he was playing for England. The first few balls were hit all over the place you had to jump out of the way or we could have got hurt in no time he got to forty, then he hit one towards me it came so fast that I did not have time to duck out of the way I just stuck my hand out, and to my utter amazement I caught the ball and even though I thought it had broken my hand I held on to it. I shall never forget the shouting from the lads that I had caught an England cricketer out I must admit that it was pure luck. When we went in to bat Close bowled first, in his first over he hit two and bowled out four batsmen. In his second over he bowled so fast that he was in danger of badly hurting someone. The sergeant called him over and said some think to him he threw the ball down and walked off, if anyone else had done that they would have been on report. All the adulation he was getting must have gone to his head. Mind you I suppose being so dedicated to your sport and hating to lose is what made him such a great cricketer, to him there was no such thing as a friendly game of cricket.

On our last week of training we were taken out to the Yorkshire moors. Each troop of twenty was given maps, compasses and a large drum of cable; we were then told we had to lay a stretch of cable in trenches and across a road on poles. The project was ok it was the weather that was terrible, for July it was cold and bucketing with rain and to top everything we had to spend the night on the moors in two man tents. We finished our project about eight o'clock and by this time we were all wet through. I remember having a mess tin of soup which we heated up on a small petrol burner in between nearly burning the tent down. The next day we had to take up all the cable and roll it back onto cable drums. After this we all boarded the army trucks and returned to Catterick. The next day on parade the commanding officer told us that we had all passed the course and on Thursday we would be transferred to Ribbon. Ribbon was a transit camp about 60 miles from Catterick. Soldiers from all the different training regiments in England were sent there; they would be told the place they were to be sent to, this could be in England or anywhere in the world where the British army had a presence.

On the Thursday we all said goodbye to Catterick for the last time and boarded buses to Ripon. When we got there we were allocated a barrack rooms, and then told that we had to assemble on the parade ground the next day, were we would be told were we where to be stationed till then we had free time. Most of us went down to the camp N.A.A.F.I. for a drink and a bit to eat. Up to now I had only been with soldiers from the Royal Signals, but at this camp there were different regiments like the Kings Own, Lancashire Fusiliers, Armoured Corps, Service Corps etc, it certainly was a different experience. The next day as events turned out, was I think one of the luckiest days of my life. All the soldiers from the various regiments turned out on parade, we were lined up in regimental groups with about thirty soldiers from the Royal Signals lined up along side of me. A sergeant started to call out names in Regimental and alphabetical order; he then shouted out where you were being posted you then marched out and was given an envelope with your postings in it. After what seemed ages he got to the Royal Signals, the first four names were posted to various parts of the U. K the next name went to Cyprus then my name was called out, I was posted to Trans Jordan in the middle east, the next six names were posted to Korea which did not mean much to me. When we got back to our barrack room we started to discus our postings no one had a clue where Jordan was, but one of the lads was on his bed crying we asked him what was wrong and he said he had been posted to Korea, it was only when he told me that the British army was a part of the United Nations force fighting in Korea that I realised what a close shave I had had, because at Catterick we were told that in times of war, a linesman had one of the most dangerous jobs in the British Army, the more I thought about it the more I went into a cold sweat. When I opened the letter it said that I was to be sent to Aqaba Trans Jordan, which was about 500 miles from Egypt. It also had a seven-day embarkation leave pass and train ticket to Liverpool in it. The next day a sergeant came in to are barracks and read out ten names, one of them was mine, he then told us that after are embarkation leave instead of coming back to Ripon we were to report to Huskisson dock Liverpool as we were the advanced army party on board the Empress of Australia the ship that was to take us to far off places and our job was to make sure the accommodation was ready for the army troops that were coming on board. I was made up because Huskisson dock was only about three miles from our house.

When I got home and told Mam where I had been posted to, she started crying she thought that there was still a war on in the Middle East. I told her not to worry there was no trouble in the middle east that the Palestinian conflict had finished two years previously, what I did not know was that in Egypt there was a lot of unrest and in a years time it would explode. During the week I went down to see Grandma, Florrie and Margaret and told them I was being sent abroad Grandma was unimpressed but Margaret and Florrie were like two exited little girls they wanted to know when I was sailing so they could come and wave me off.

On the Monday I packed all my gear and got a taxi down to Huskisson dock, on arrival a soldier on the dock gate took me to a big shed about fifty soldiers from a number of different regiments were all standing around. After about half an hour an officer came in and told us to get in regimental groups he then said that the Empress of Australia was docking in the afternoon and that each group would be allocated a deck area to look after, he also said that if we were to volunteer for mess duties on board the ship when it sails we would miss any drills or guard duties. I did not know what to do but I kept thinking of the saying "don't volunteer for anything in the army". One of the soldiers by me said it would be a cushy number because all you had to do was wash a few dishes and clean the odd decks, well I disregarded the little voice in my head which kept saying don't volunteer!!! And volunteered, later I was to live to regret it.

This is the ship I went to Egypt on The Empress of Australia In December of 1946 she was altered for peace-time trooping, her lower decks had had hammock rings fitted to increase her troop carrying capacity, however she was never repainted from the wartime gray. She continued to carry troops up to late 1951. The following year after her 70th trooping voyage she was sold, she sailed from the Mersey on May 8 1952 to Scotland to be broken up for scrap.

In the afternoon the ship docked, I got the shock of my life when I first saw her she was a real rust bucket it was amazing that she was still in service. We were all taken on board and split up into groups of four and then shown what we had to do, for the next four days we had to clean all the troop decks and then get about five hundred hammocks and bedding from the stores we had to tie the bedding in each hammock and then hook them on the rings on each mess deck, there was only about three feet between hammocks it was so cramped, at the time I hated to think what it was going to be like when all the soldiers came on board, the one good thing was that we got to pick the best positioned hammock. As it was very hot we picket the ones by the port hole. It was like working in an oven because in those days the ships did not have any air conditioning. On the Thursday the Liverpool lads asked the officer in charge was there any chance of leave to go home, much to our surprise he said yes as long as we were back by 8pm.

Mam was surprised to see me when I walked in, I told her that I was sailing on Saturday at 4oclock; she said that she would tell Grandma, Florrie and Margaret the news and that they would come down with George and David to wave me off. I had a very relaxing day and at 7pm I got a taxi back to the ship.

On Friday the soldiers started coming on board, and by five in the afternoon it was about 90% full. On Saturday at six am the ship moved to the Pier Head to take on the remaining soldiers and crew. We were told that the ship was sailing at 3pm, at 2oclock we were all allowed to go on deck to look for our families. I looked every were but I could not see Mam, but then about 2.30pm I spotted them on the quay side, I started waving and shouting like mad they eventually saw me and I remember Dave who was only about six jumping up and down and waving ( in later years he told me that it was a thrilling experience seeing a big ship at close quarters and waving me off. ). When the ship let go the ropes and took up the anchor there were a few tears shed not the least by myself it was all very emotional, I kept waving until the ship was in the middle of the Mersey.

Empress of Egypt As soon as the ship got under way we were told to assemble on are mess decks, were we were told what are duties where during the voyage to Egypt. As I along with six other signalmen had volunteered to do mess duties we reported to the deck mess officer. We were told that each day we had to collect the meals from the ships kitchen which were in large steel bins and lay them out on the deck mess tables, after each meal we had to wash and clean up the deck. This did not seem too bad as we were to miss drills etc what we did not know is that we had to be at the kitchens up to an hour before we got the meals, and the washing up was the worst of all, we had to take the dishes etc to the galley were there where six big six foot long stainless steel wash basins which the whole of the ship used, so you can imagine how long you had to wait. If you got there to early the water was scalding hot and if you got there to late you could stand your spoons up in the water, for me wearing glasses it was murder as they were always steaming up. In a full day from six in the morning till nine at night we had about an hour free time.

For five days we did the mess duties, and then I said on behalf of the other six lads I would have a word with the deck officer about changing the rota. I went to see the deck officer and he laughed and said he thought we would have been in to see him before this as he realised how hard the mess duties where. When I saw the other lads they were made up when I told them that as we had done five days mess duties we were taken off them for the rest of the voyage. On the third day out we went through the Bay of Biscay which is just of northern France, we were told beforehand that it got pretty rough in the Bay and they were right, it was like being on a roller coaster, there was so many soldiers sea sick on the top deck that they had to keep the hose pipes going all the time and you had to stop yourself from slipping over it was murder. I remember feeling absolutely rotten but I still had to do my mess duties.

After two days sailing we where told that we would be sailing past Gibraltar at about eight in the morning so when we went to bed that night we were all looking forward to seeing Gibraltar the next day. When we got up the next morning the lights of Gibraltar was in the distance, we had passed it at six am, the next stop was Malta. The next few days were very boring with not much to do but an hour or two a day of deck exercises. The thing that surprised everyone was the Mediterranean, after sailing through the Bay of Biscay and down the Atlantic we expected the Mediterranean to be quite calm but as it turned out it was quite rough with plenty of the soldiers still being sick. It was on this voyage that I started to smoke cigarettes and by the time we reached Malta I was smoking 20 a day. On board you where allowed to smoke on your mess deck. so you could imagine what it was like with 40 soldiers smoking, we had to keep all the port holes open all the time to clear the air, theses days it would not be allowed. We where about 100 miles from Malta when the ship slowed down and the sirens sounded, it turned out that someone had shouted man overboard. We went on deck to see a small motor launch being lowered into the sea, it circled round the ship for about an hour then they took it back on board. Later we all went on deck for a roll call and later we found out that it was a false alarm as no one was missing. It was about 3pm when we sailed into Valletta harbour Malta, it was a great sightseeing all the brightly coloured Mediterranean type buildings in the sunshine they were so different from the smoke black buildings of Liverpool. We docked in the middle of the harbour and about 200 servicemen disembarked to do the remainder of their two years national service there. About 50 soldiers were lucky to go ashore to get provisions for the ship, the rest of us were told that we had to stay on the ship and that we would be sailing for Egypt the next day, we were also told that swimming in the harbour was not allowed because there might be sharks in the water. After tea, the temperature on board ship was still in the hundreds with the sweat pouring of you. After we cleaned the mess deck some soldiers from other regiments came in and started to throw ropes out of the port holes with one end tied to are beds, they then stripped of and climbed through the port hole and dropped about four feet into the sea, in about five minutes there must have been about a hundred soldiers in the water, soon after a voice from top deck though a loud hailer shouted at them to get back on board ship immediately. The soldiers then started climbing up the ropes and through the port holes back onto the mess decks only to be greeted by the military police who took all there names and told them that they would be charged when they got to their final posting, it was all quite exciting while it lasted. The next day with everyone back on board we sailed out of Malta on our final leg to Egypt which would take about five days. Whilst we had been in Malta a training officer from the Royal Signals came on board and for the next three days we had refresher classes on the top deck going over the things we had learned at Catterick and how we were to use these skills when we got to our postings. We all enjoyed it because it relieved the boredom.

Map of the Suez CanalWe docked at Port Said Egypt about three in the afternoon and the sights sounds and smells that greeted us were like nothing I had experienced before. It took until about 7pm before we started to embark, we were taken to the dock side in motor launches where army trucks were lined up, I got on a truck with ten other Signalmen and we were told that we were being taken to a camp called El Ballah which was about sixty miles away The journey was a bit rough as the roads in Egypt at the time were terrible, but once again only this time a lot nearer, the sights sounds and smells were certainly exotic.

When we reached El Ballah it was dark and we reported to the guard room where we were given some bedding and taken to a large tent with ten iron beds in it and were told that we had to spend the night there. The tent was over a concrete pit about three feet into the ground. We had started to make up are beds when one of the lads gave a big yell out that there were scorpions by the bed. One of the soldiers who patrol the camp came into the tent and took one look and said that it was a dirt beetle as it was an about an inch long it made a loud crunching sound when he crushed it under his boot. He said we should clean out the tent before we went to bed, we did this and collected about 20 beetles. After a long full day even though it was still very hot I slept like a log, and next morning there were 10 new beetles in the tent. After breakfast on the way back to the tent I got quite a surprise when about 200yards to my right I could see the top of a very large ship that appeared to be sailing along in the sands, what I did not know was that it was sailing along the Suez Canal, it was certainly a very strange sight.

Later on that day Dave Monk and I had to report to the commanding officer, we were a bit apprehensive because you only see the C. O. when you have done something wrong. We were marched in by the company sergeant major shaking in are boots, the C O. with a big smile on his face told us to relax, he then went on to tell us that in two days time we were to be flown out to 10 Construction Group Aqaba Jordan, he said that the C.O. in charge of the group was his brother and he asked us to take a parcel to him, he said it was very fragile so be careful with it. I fount out later that it was six bottles of Gordon's gin. After tea we went to the camp cinema to see Frankie Laine in Girl in the wood, it was odd sitting in the open air with the sweat poring off you watching a film.

The next day was Saturday and we were told that if we wanted we could go on one of the army buses to the local town of Ismailla which was about one hour away, we jumped at the chance to see a bit of Egypt. We arrived at French Square Ismailla at about midday, the square was the stopping off place for servicemen from the Canal Zone it was named after the French people who built the Suez canal. it was packed with servicemen from the Army Navy and Air Force. Although it was a new place to all the new national servicemen from England we felt very confident being there, this was our first mistake as we should have been more aware of the surroundings. After a short time five of us decided to go for a walk down one of the roads off French square, The road had bazaar type shops on both sides of the road, we had no sooner started down the road when lots of children came pestering us to clean are boots, when we refused they started kicking and spitting at us, by the time we had got to the end of the road we had been called every name under the sun, and had lots of small stones thrown at us I have never been so scared in my life because if we had retaliated I am sure we would have ended up in hospital. After a bit of a discussion two of us decided to return to French Square. On the way back we took a wrong turning and got lost, some of the Arabs were looking at us and drawing their fingers across their throats and laughing, we did not know what to do, when two Air Force military police came running up to us, they took one look at us and realised that we had just come from England as we were all white with no tan. We told them we were lost, they took us back to French Square and gave us to some Army military police who gave us a right telling of, it also turned out that we should have been issued with a small booklet telling us what we should and not do when visiting any of the towns and villages in Egypt. The one thing that was always stipulated was that you should only go sightseeing in groups of six or more.

In French Square was an Army canteen were you could get a beer, so we stayed there until it was time to return to El Ballah. That night at tea we realised how lucky we had been, because not far from were we had been in Ismailla, a soldier had been fatally stabbed. The next day we were told to pack our bags as we were to be flown out to Jordan At 10am, Monk and I were taken in an army truck to an RAF airfield just outside Suez When we arrived we drove straight onto the airfield next to an American Dakota twin engine transport plane that was being loaded with all kinds of freight, I had never flown or been this close to an aeroplane before in my life it looked massive. After loading had been completed an RAF corporal came over to Monk and I and three other soldiers and told us to climb on board, we had a laugh because one of the soldiers said to the corporal "I have never flown before and I don't like heights "he was told in no uncertain terms to get on board or else? On board there was a bench type seat that ran along the fuselage, I sat just by the wing window. When it was time to take of and the engines were at full revs the vibration and noise was defining, when I looked out of the window I got one hell of a shock, all the rivets in the wing seemed to be jumping up and down. Once we got into the air it was great I was thoroughly enjoying my first flight, after a short while we saw the Pyramids in the distance, we flew over the Sinai desert to Aqaba.

It was just after midday when we touched down at the RAF airfield just outside Aqaba. When they opened the plane doors the heat hit us I thought Egypt was hot but this was because unbelievable it was just like stepping into an oven, the temperature was about 130 degrees, I found out later that this was because of the mountains around Aqaba making it one of the hottest places on earth. The flight sergeant told us to take our kit bags and stay by the plane till someone came to pick us up. We were there for about an hour in the blazing sun before a land rover came to pick us up. A corporal came over to us, and after looking at are papers told us he was taking us back to camp. In 1951 Aqaba was a garrison town there was about five thousand troops from various regiments stationed here. We drove along the main road with all the large army tents and buildings on each side of the road, there were soldiers everywhere, but much to our surprise we drove past them all and out of Aqaba. We drove through a wadi musa (which was a dried up river bed) it was only about fifty yards wide with hills on each side and it was the main road to Amman, the heat in the wadi was unbearable. We had gone about twenty miles when we came upon three army trucks and soldiers working on telegraph poles, I said to the corporal fancy working in this heat, he laughed and said they are from our camp and you will be working with them in a few days.

Camp in AqabaI can still picture my first view of the camp; it was just like something out of Laurence of Arabia. The camp was sixty miles from Aqaba it was set up in the open, about twenty meters off the road, there were 14 tents, each of ten tents could house six soldiers and the rest was used for the mess and officer quarters, compared to the large tents in Aqaba and all the spit and polish that went with them, these looked like a tramp's accommodation.

On arrival we were taken to the commanding officers tent, a Lt Collins. I always remember him as being about twenty six, tall blond and very good looking just like a film star of the day, he was a regular soldier not a national serviceman, he spoke with a public schools accent but as it turned out he was just like one of the lads. He asked us to sit down (which was a hell of a surprise because up till now I had always stood to attention in the presence of an officer), he then went on to tell us what life was going to be like in the camp. He said on behalf of the Jordanian government we had to upgrade the telegraph pole route to provide better communications between Aqaba and the capital Amman, it was a very important project as Jordan was a very good ally of the British government. It would take about a year or more too complete, he said it was going to be very hard work but as a result of this there would be no parades or spit and polish or saluting him in the camp, we had this job to do which took priority over everything. We worked six days a week from 8am till 6pm, because of the heat we had to shelter in the trucks from 11.30 till 1.30.

About 5.30 the trucks started to return from the line, when the lads got out most of them where stripped to the waist with just army khaki shorts on, they were all as brown as berries, Monk and I stood out like a saw thumb with are white bodies. At the back of the camp was a large mess tent that we had are meals in, all the lads made a bee line for it so we followed them, in the tent as soon as we opened are mouths they new were we where from, Monk with his Birmingham and me with my Liverpool accent. Frank Smith and Tony White were both from Liverpool so after a bit I felt quite at home. Dave was from Bootle and Tony from Anfield not far from where I lived. Dave had a very strong Bootle accent which took some getting used to. I asked Dave what it was like here, he said if you were not afraid of hard work it was ok. After the meal I asked Tony what was the strange taste on the food he laughed and said you will get used to it, he then told me the reason for it. It seems that every time they set up camp they put up a six foot pole with a platform on top which was placed a large drum of diesel from this a pipe was taken down to four burners that were used to cook the meals, to fire them up they used to wrap petrol rags round them and light them when the burners got hot enough to produce diesel gas they would the light the burners, the only snag was while they were cooking the meals if a gust of wind came and blew out the jet before the cook could switch of the jet the food would get a spray of diesel and that's what I could taste on the food as this happened a lot Tony was right you got used to it. In charge of the cooking was a national serviceman cook who was attached to us from the army catering corps, and considering the conditions he had to work under and plus the fact that as a civilian he was a clerk the meals were not bad.

Bed with ammo box storage underneathAfter tea I was allocated a place in a tent that Smithy was in, you slept on an iron bed with a steel ammunition box at the foot of the bed to keep your cloths in. One of the most important items was the mosquito net, there were no mosquito's there but it was good for keeping the flies out of your bed, but the main use, and the reason you had to make sure it was securely fixed round your bed at night was scorpions. In Jordan there were lots of different types of scorpions some of them were extremely dangerous and could kill you, every time you put on any item of cloths you had to make sure there where no scorpions attached to them, and before putting your boots on you had to give them a good shake just in case one had crept into it, in fact the officer told every one of us that if we got bitten by a scorpion while putting our boots on we would be charged with neglect of duty.

The next morning we got up at 6am and after a wash and breakfast which consisted of porridge that you could hang wallpaper with, bacon fried bread and tea, After breakfast Monk and I were told to report to the sergeant who's name (and this is true) was Pig, much to are surprise he told us that we were to go with the rest of the lads to work on the line, he also told us to cover up as much as we could so as not to get sun burnt. We started off at about 7.45 when all the trucks were loaded with supplies we arrived at Wadi Musa about 8.30am. It was hot but bearable, but by 11am it was just like working in an oven I was told to wear gloves all the time because if you picked up a pair of pliers or a length of copper wire you could burn your hand.Water truck We towed a 100 gallon water truck with us and were told to drink from it every half hour, to stop dehydrating, the only snag was that after a bit the water would get quite warm, the water truck is on the left of the picture on the right, we also had about ten goat skins which we got of the local Bedouins, once you filled them up with water and left them for half an hour in the shade by one of the trucks they would get nice and cool. By 2pm Monk and I started to feel unwell with the heat so the corporal in charge took us back to camp. We went to see the medic who blew his top when he found out that we had gone to work in the Wadi on our first day in the camp, He went and seen Lt Collins who said that for the first week all are duties were to be in the camp so that we could get used to the conditions here. The first week I was the camps general dogs body I used to help Tom our cook prepare the meals for the lads, when Tom was cooking I would keep an eye on the burners and if they went out I would quickly switch the diesel off to stop it getting on the food, I would then re-ignite the burner. I became quite popular with the lads as it was the first time in ages that they could not taste diesel in their food.

One of the horrible duties that I had to do was cleaning the toilets. Ten toilet pans were put next to each other across a three foot wide by five foot deep pit, and a six foot canvas wall put round them there was no privacy in the army. The smell was revolting and the gas build up was dangerous, so once every few weeks we had to put a lighted petrol rag down the toilets, the bang was so great it would lift the toilets about two feet into the air. One of the tricks Sgt. Pig did to anybody new was to not tell them about the big bang, put just ask them to drop the burning rag down the toilet, with the result that they would get covered in excrement. Smithy had told me about that one, so I was well away when it went bang, never the less it was still a horrible job cleaning the toilets afterward.

After a week in camp I went out to the Wadi with the lads. After doing various jobs I was given the job of putting wires on telegraph poles. A truck would reel out two copper wires on each side of the pole for about a mile, and then using leg irons I would climb each pole to put the wires on the pole arms ready for the next group to tighten the wires up. As an 18 year old I had bags of energy so even in the desert heat I could keep going all day. When I look back to those times I now realise how lucky not only me but the rest of my mates were The reason for this is that unknown to us, in Egypt there was a lot of gathering unrest with daily attacks on soldiers. As I have stated before in Jordan our troops where there on the invitation of the king so all the Arabs treated us great, which was just as well because most of the day I would be on my own in the desert climbing up the poles thus becoming a sitting target to anyone with evil intent, mind you at the time it never entered my mind that I was in any danger.

I remember one time when I was out on my own putting up wires on the telegraph poles, when over a hill only two hundred yards away from me came a group of Bedouins on camels, they stopped just by me and looked at what I was doing it was all rather nervy. One of them who was not much older than me started to say some think to me in broken English, I could not understand him very much so I came down the pole and tried to talk to him after a bit I got the jest of what he was saying, I told him we were putting up a telephone route at the request of his king. He turned to the other Bedouins and told them what I had said, to my surprise they all started clapping and then got down off their camels and made a brew of tea on a little primus stove. We all sat down and had a cup of tea in a small glass; the tea was as sweet as honey. One of the Bedouins showed me his rifle it was about four feet long and it looked like an old blunder buss rifle of the 1800s they asked me would I like to fire it, not to offend them I said ok. To my surprise he put old bits of scrap iron down the rifle barrel he then told me to shoot at some stones about fifty yards away I brought the rifle to my shoulder like I would do with my army rifle but before I could fire it the Bedouin grabbed at it and indicated I fire from between my hip and shoulder, I did this and the bang nearly deafened me and the recoil threw me backwards on the floor. All the Bedouins started laughing and slapping me on the back. Later on I developed a great big bruise on my chest were the butt of the rifle had hit me. After about one hour of gabbing and drinking tea they started to pack up. Before they went I gave them about three packets of cigarettes I had in my bag they were thrilled to bits with them, we all shook hands and then they where gone.

Later on I was picked up by our lieutenant and as it was only my third time out on the line on my own he asked me how I was getting on. I told him what had happened and he laughed and said that as far as firing one of their rifles it had a 50% chance of blowing up on me, he also said that the Bedouins knew we were working for the Jordanian government that why they were always so friendly to us, not much went on in the deserts of Jordan without the Bedouins knowing it. After about three or four weeks I had become acclimatised to the heat and had started to enjoy my new life in Jordan.

One of the first things we used to do when we set up camp was to make a football pitch, this entailed clearing all the small stones and scorpions from an area next to the camp, by the time we had finished we had collected over thirty scorpions. Sergeant Pig (no kidding that was his real name) the sadist he was used to pour a ring of petrol on the ground about five feet in diameter he would then light the petrol and then drop the scorpions into the middle and watch them, when the scorpions realised they were trapped and could not get out, one by one they used to commit suicide by poisoning themselves they did this by bringing their tail over and striking themselves in the head, in about ten minutes there would not be one left alive.

On Sunday we would pick two sides one from the middle and south of England and the other from Liverpool up to Scotland, being football mad I used to really look forwards to Sundays football. We used to play all day with a rest from 11.30am to 2.00pm because it was too hot needless to say we used to get cricket scores. I remember one Sunday when I played centre forward and every time I touched the ball I scored I must have scored about ten goals by the finish looking back I think it must have been one of those days, because I certainly was not the best centre forward you have ever seen. During the coming months we had some great games kicking hell out of each other, mind you our commanding officer told us that we had to cool it down when one of the lads broke his foot, mind you he did this by kicking a stone instead of the ball.

At the beginning of October we took all the tents down and packed them with everything else onto the trucks, ready for our move to the next site eighty miles up the line. The final job was to take down the toilet tent, set fire to the excrement, then fill in the trench.

New camp

New camp

These pictures are of Jock and Smithy by the new camp, and me by one of the aeroplane hangers which we used to garage the vehicles.

Maan, which was 1/3 of the distance from Aqaba to Amman it also took us from the low flat desert region to the high hilly region that extended all the way to Amman the capital, it was about 15 degrees cooler and at this time of year and quite pleasant to work in. When we got there we got a pleasant surprise because we were staying at a vacant old World War 2 RAF camp, and instead of tents we where billeted in three barrack rooms with two stoves in each, we kept all the stores in two old aeroplane hangers. To top everything there was even a football pitch. We were told that the RAF had moved to a new air station in Amman two years ago, after the previous months in tents this was luxury.

The only down side was that we had to travel 25 miles each day down a narrow winding road to get to our work place on the flat plane below, and believe me the way our drivers used to drive their three ton trucks it was no joke, you where shaken to bits, it was amazing that we got there in one piece.

In December we used to get rain and sometimes an occasional flash flood where it would bucket down for about two hours. One day when we started out it was nice and sunny and bone dry, then at about three in the afternoon the heavens opened and it poured down because it was so heavy we had to shelter in the trucks for an about two hours. When the rain eventually stopped we decided to return to camp. What a shock was in store for us, the road to camp ran though a few wadis which are dried up river beds but not anymore, the wadis were raging rivers about six foot deep. We tried different routes to get back to camp but were blocked each time in the end we had to sit tight till the water went down. We got back to camp about two in the morning and it was freezing a completely different experience from the burning sun of the day time. Lt Collins was their to greet us, give him his due he had a meal ready for us with free beer laid on, we all got to bed about three thinking we would have a lay in, but no chance we were up at seven ready to go out to the line again.

In the months leading up to Xmas we all chipped in to a kitty for Xmas booze, by December we were able to buy a load of booze from the Army stores in Amman, which they shipped down to us by train. By Xmas week we had come up from the flat planes and where only about five miles from camp and Mann. Just by there was an Arab Legion camp and we got very friendly with some of the soldiers who were not much older than us, so we invited them to our Xmas party.

On Xmas day 1951 we had a great time we all got stuck in preparing the meals and laying out the tables. We managed to get a few chickens but they where not very big so the cook bought two whole sheep from the local Arab butcher, we built a spit and roasted them on it. After our meal an officer and about fifteen Arab soldiers who we had invited turned up they brought with them all kinds of Arab food and drink and although some of it was revolting like sheep's eyes a lot of it was quite good. Lt Collins had managed to get a record player and some records so we had plenty of music. Later on we had a game of football with the Arab Soldiers. After tea we all got stoned it was the first time that I can remember that I was well and truly drunk, I was told that I collapsed about 10 o'clock and had to be put to bed. On boxing day a high ranking officer from the Arab Legion came to see us, he thanked us all for showing hospitality to his soldiers, he asked us if we would like to have a football match against a team of his men we said yes so it was arranged for new year's day.

On new year's day even though a lot of us was a bit under the weather due to the new years eve drinking we turned out for the football match, as I was one of the few who had not been drunk (I learned my lesson on Xmas day) I got picked to play on the wing. As it was quite cold we played in our work uniforms, a lot of us had football boots but the Arabs played in their army boots.

From what I can remember we won very easily 12 nil or something like that, as I have said before we had some good footballers in the camp.

Life in this camp was ok because although it was cold we always had the stoves in the barrack rooms on full blast. At the end of February Lt Collins was told by HQ in Amman that the Arab Legion would like to play us at football again we were all made up when he told us, so on Saturday we arranged to play them. Because we beat them so easily before we did not take it too seriously and with working on the line every day we could not do any training for the match. On Saturday a lorry pulled into the camp and out got about fourteen Arab soldiers all kitted out in football boots we nearly fell over when we seen them. They all went over to the football pitch to do a bit of warming up one look at them and you could tell they were no novices, we found out later that although they were getting on a bit two of them where Jordanian Internationals. Geordie who was are football captain and a real hard nut took us into the barrack room and said that the Jordanians had pulled a fast one on us by bringing in some players from Amman. He was blazing mad, I shall never forget the way he shouted at us and said when required we should whack them, and he said a lot more which would set this paper on fire if I wrote it down. Although in those days there was no such thing as substitutes, we agreed that so we all got a game there would be four subs for each team. The match started with Lt Collins as the referee we realised we were in for a match when the Jordanian team took the lead and played really well but by half time we were level at two each. About ten minutes into the second half I was told to go on and stick like glue to one of there players who was causing are team a lot of trouble, I was not a skilful player but I had bags of energy and could run around all day. By the end of the match I had never ventured more than a foot from this player, he was a fair bit older than me and I could see he was running out of steam he started to give a lot of fouls away by kicking me instead of the ball. We ended up winning 4-3 and at the final whistle he came up to me and shook my hand and in perfect English he said well done (it turned out that he was a Jordanian officer who had served with the British army in the last war).

We had just started to get changed in the barrack room when our sergeant came running in and told us to get out side right away. We all looked at each other and wondered what all the fuss was about, but when we went outside we nearly fell over because coming up the drive into the camp was a about four vehicles with Jordanian and British flags on them and on the football pitch the Jordanian team was all lined up. We went on the pitch and where told to line up with them. The vehicles pulled up and some high ranking Jordanian and British officers, we did not know which way to turn because we all looked like tramps covered in sand dust and in our old work uniforms with football boots on. They shook hands with every one of us and had a few words with us. When he got to me I was shaking like a leaf he asked me were I was from and did I play football with my glasses on, he laughed when I said I tied them on with a piece of string to stop them getting knocked off. They stayed until half time and then they were gone.

By the end of February we had gone our 25 miles past our present camp so it was time to move camp 50 miles up the line. We packed up all the trucks and headed up the line. Are new site was on a flat plane right out in the open and unlike the last one it was back to tents. The first thing we did was to set the kitchen up with the diesel pole and dig our toilet trenches. It was certainly back to basics after are luxury of barrack room life.

On the second week in our new camp, in mid march it started to get very windy, so we built a large wind breaker along the tent line it was a good job we did this because one night about three in the morning all hell let loose. The wind was so strong it blew half the wind breakers down and ripped a lot of the tents down mine included.

Tents blown down

Tents blown down

(The above pictures were taken the next morning, the bottom picture also shows the telephone poles we were working on). Our blankets on the bed were blown off and it was a good job that we put our clothes in our large ammunition boxes or they would have gone as well. We quickly got dressed and with sand in our faces making it difficult to see we started to repair the damage in the dark. By mid morning the wind had quietened down so we took the trucks out to look for the gear that had been blown away, we found some of the blankets about two miles away, and by evening we managed to find most of the other equipment that had been blown away. It eventually took us about three days to put the camp right again.

In April I went to see Lt Collins, he said he was very pleased with my performance out on the line, and as a result he promoted me to corporal, he also said that I was to take charge of our stores in Aqaba. I really did not want to go I wanted to stay on the line, but in the army you did not question an officer's order. At the end of May I went down to Aqaba in Lt Collins jeep he said I was to stay there for about four months.

The stores were in a large compound by some hills overlooking Aqaba. the personal consisted of me and one national serviceman signalman Dave who was the same age as me, and Mike a regular soldier who was about six years older than me. Into our tent was fed wires from the pole route, one of are duties was to test the line at regular intervals. At first Mike resented me being in charge and to be honest he had a point as he was a regular soldier and the army was his life, but after we had a talk he changed his attitude and we got on fine. The stores held all the poles, copper wire and iron work, the lads needed on the line, and our job was to keep them supplied. Lt Collins used to phone me on the field telephone when he wanted anything; and it was our job to keep them supplied. After working on the line in temperatures of 80F it was a shock to come to Aqaba and find it in the hundreds and rising, I was told that by July it could rise to 135F.

After a week Lt Collins came down to do an audit of the stores, after he had finished we found that we were missing one pole jack and two mule cans (you could keep about ten gallons of water in each mule can) he said that they were there when I took over. I said they could not have been, and any way I said surely I was only responsible for the stores after the audit, he agreed and I thought that was the last I would hear of it, but no it was to haunt me till the day I left the army. Before Lt Collins left he asked me to arrange for a consignment of telegraph poles to be delivered to the base camp up the line.

Water truck

The next day I phoned up the local Arab haulage contractor, he said he would be at our stores the next day. The next day I nearly died when he turned up with a massive sixteen wheel diamond tee American truck with two trailers on the back and twenty local Arab workmen, it took them all day to load the poles onto the truck. This is the type of truck without the trailers after loading up he left the truck in our compound and said he would pick me up the next day. Later on Mike said that one of us had to travel with the truck to base camp, I said as I was new to the job I would go this time. Early next day before we set of Mike gave me a harness that he had made for me to wear in the truck he said it was to stop me from being thrown around in the cab it was a form of old fashioned seat belt when I got into the cab I could see what he meant a bench seat was right across the cab and it was like sitting down on a trampoline.

The first few miles of the journey where ok because the roads were tarmac but when we hit the dirt road it was murder even though we were only doing 25 mph the truck was bouncing all over the place, it was a good job I was tied down in the harness or I would have been though the window. After about four hours on the road we reached Mann the old capital of Jordan We stopped outside an old traditional Arab house Mohammad the driver said it was his home and he invited me to have meal with him. Inside he introduced me to his wife and two sons who then brought out large bowls of traditional Arab lamb stew it really did smell lovely, and it tasted great. After the meal one of his sons who was about my age and could speak a little English started speaking to me he said he wanted to improve his English. I had to laugh because it would have been funny to hear him speaking Arab English with a scouse accent. After a short while he started to tell me that up to a few years ago his family lived in a large house in Palestine with quite a few acres of vineyards that had been in their family for years, but when Israel occupied Palestine in 1948 his family was forced off their land without any compensation, it is little wonder that the Palestinians hate the Israel's, mind you I never thought that in fifty years time that hatred would be as strong as ever.

After the meal we continued our journey to the base camp. We arrived at 5pm and it took no time at all to unload the poles, they just took the pins out of the trailer side arms then jumped out of the way while the poles fell to the ground. After seeing Lt Collins it was back to Aqaba The journey to the base camp was bad, but the return journey was terrible, with no load the truck bounced all over the place and most of the journey was in the dark, we arrived in Aqaba at two in the morning, that was the first and last time I accompanied the pole truck up the line from then on I pulled rank and asked one of the lads to do it.

About half a mile up the road from us was the main Royal Signals radio station, it was manned by two officers and ten signallers it was used by all the regiments in Aqaba to communicate with the rest of the world. Lt Collins rang me up and gave me a message that he wanted to be sent to Egypt, so I took it up to the radio station. I reported to one of the officers at the radio station who took me to the radio room. When I went in I got the shock of my life because there on the radio was Charlie. Back at the Scarborough fitness camp Charlie was the one who was always out of breath it turned out he only had one lung, how he got in to the army in the first place is beyond me, we all thought that he would be discharged on health grounds, but no he turns up in one of the hottest place on earth, we had a good chat and later we went out for a few beers.

The next two months were pretty boring after all the hard work as a linesman. One day Lt Collins came down with some documents and two boxes, he said that I had to take them to Egypt personally as the documents were security classified, he also said I was to look after the boxes, as the contents where fragile he said all arrangements had been made for me to fly on one of the RAF cargo planes flying out of Aqaba.

The next day I flew to Egypt, when I arrived to my surprise a land rover was waiting for me which then took me to El-Ballah some fifty miles away. When we arrived I was marched to the commanding officers tent by the camp sergeant major and in tow were two soldiers who carried the boxes, I had brought with me. I was surprised when the O.C. asked me how Lt Collins was, it turned out he was his younger brother, he then told the sergeant to open the boxes and inside each of them was bottles of Gordon's gin little did I know that I had carried booze all the way from Jordan, but it seemed that Gordon's gin was unobtainable in Egypt. He gave me a box to take back with me; I later found out that it was parts for Lt Collins supped up jeep. The C. O. then told the sergeant to take me to the sergeant's mess for a meal and then put me up in a tent for the night as I was returning to Aqaba the next day. At the sergeants mess the meal was the best one I had had in the last six months. The next day after breakfast I was taken down to the motor pool and me and another six soldiers where to be taken to an RAF airfield in Ishmael. On the way there we stopped at a road block we were told that some Arabs had planted a bomb at the road side and the army bomb disposal unit were defusing it. I was quite shocked because only about six months ago when I came to Egypt it seemed ok, after talking to one of the soldiers he said that the Egyptian terrorists where stepping up there protests at the British armies presence in Egypt. After about an hour we Continued are journey to Ishmael,I was never so glad to leave Egypt and on the plane I realised how lucky I was because my job as a linesman up a pole or repairing a cable made me a sitting duck for any terrorist, believe me I sweated a bit just thinking about it. We landed in Aqaba at about ten pm, and with all the travelling I had done over the past three days by the time I got back to the stores I slept till midday the next day.

Water truck

At the weekend I went to watch the final of the Aqaba cup, between the Lancashire fusiliers and the Kings own regiment. The kings own was mainly made up of soldiers who came from Liverpool so needless to say I cheered them on, it was a very tight game with the kings own winning 1-nil. After the game a sergeant who was standing next to me asked me where I came from, when I said Liverpool he said I thought so the way I was cheering his team. He invited me to join him at the N. C. O. mess for a drink. I had a great time it was like home from home with all the scouses there. My time in Aqaba was to end sooner than I thought which a good thing was was because I was getting bored stiff there. Lt Collins rang me up and said he had another job for me to do. A few days later one of the lads came down in the land rover and took me back to our base camp which was now about 20 miles outside Amman.

The next day I had a meeting with Lt Collins in his tent, he said that he wanted me to organize three maintenance groups consisting of a signalman technician and a driver each group would cover about 70 kilometres of line each and our job was to make sure the line was in good working condition it would be about two months out on the line to complete this job. I picked (Geordie) Steve as my driver because I got on well with him. I pulled rank and took the Maan section this was because the old RAF station was there and we could use this to park at night. Jeff a Brummie from Birmingham took the Aqaba to Maan section and Paul a Londoner took the Amman section, we arranged to hook up to the line at 6pm on each Saturday to give our reports. Each group where given a truck to make into a workshop and mobile caravan with 2 beds and kitchen. We took a Bedford three ton truck and bolted two iron spring beds onto the floor of the truck and at the back we sectioned of about three feet into a kitchen and stores area under the beds we kept our cloth's and line stores we made use of every inch of space in the back of the truck, below is a diagram and picture of me in the truck.

After we loaded up the truck with all are provisions, we started out to our designated section of line with instructions to meet the Amman to Aqaba train every two weeks to pick up our stores and provisions.

The next two months were to be the most enjoyable since joining the army, although it was hard work and living with very basic amenities (no toilets etc) it was great being are own boss and Geordie and I got on great. I now know why gipsies like the outdoor life so much.

On the first Saturday we went to pick up our stores and rations at Maan station which consisted of one small building. Our rations consisted of bread, tea, eggs tins of fruit and various other things, the meat rations consisted of about fifty tins of corned beef (just for two weeks). When we got back to the old RAF station we put all the perishable food in our goat skins to keep fresh. After a few weeks we got quite good at bartering with the local Arabs for local food, they liked corned beef so we used to get chicken and pieces of lamb for corned beef at the time I used to think we got a good deal but I soon came to realise that they got the better of the deal, but as every one was happy why worry. The only snag was that they used to go up to a live chicken ring its neck and then give it to us which was quite a shock to a city boy, but we had to pluck and clean them before cooking them. After a while we came quite adept at cooking, mind you when you have to eat your own cooking you soon learn what to do. At the end of the first month Lt Collins said he would come and see us, so we got a leg of lamb of one of the local Arabs and made a lamb stew. When he arrived the first thing he said was what was that lovely smell I said it is your dinner. He was amazed at the meal we laid out for him, the only down side was he liked the meal so much he said he would visit us again in two weeks time.

When we first went out on the line we were told that we had to be very friendly to the local Arabs and it wasn't very long before the Arab Bedouins would stop and invite us into their tents for tea. We would drink tea out of small glasses the tea was very sweet like treacle, there was always one or two Arabs who could speak a little English so we could communicate with them in a fashion mind you how they could understand a Geordie and a Scouse I do not know. In one of the tents was an old man of about 70, one of the younger Arabs told us that he had marched with Lawrence of Arabia when they had ousted the Turks from Aqaba in 1917 the old man said Lawrence could speak fluent Arabic they treated him like one of themselves. At the time although it was very interesting it went in one ear and out the other as I had never heard of Lawrence of Arabia. He showed us the rifle he used it was a big blunderbuss type of rifle that could fire anything from bullets to bits of metal, how they beat the Turks with weapons like this I shall never know.

One day in late October I was up a pole repairing a section of wire when I noticed in the distance the sky was black, even though where I was there was not a cloud in the sky and at that time of the year we did not get any rain, I asked Steve did he have any idea what it was, and he said he did not have a clue so I kept on working. About fifteen minutes later and the dark cloud getting closer something started hitting my head then Steve shouted for me to come down the pole right away. When I got down on the ground there where quite a few large things like grasshoppers they turned out to be locusts and in the distance we could hear a buzzing sound getting louder, I said to Steve drop everything and get in the truck's cab and pull the canopy down on the back of the truck. We had no sooner got in the cab when the sky turned black and all hell broke loose, millions of locusts descended on us, they started smashing into the truck windscreen you could not see out and the noise was deafening it was quite scary. This went on for at least an hour before the sound started to subside. Eventually the sound stopped so we got out of the cab and the sight that met us was quite mind boggling, on the floor all round the truck up to about 18 inches high were dead locusts and the truck was covered from top to bottom with them, in the distance you could see the swarms of locusts and it looked as if they were heading to Aqaba. It took us hours to clean the truck of dead locusts they were everywhere, we tried to start the truck but it would not start then when we looked under the bonnet the locusts had got into the air intake and radiator. It took us all day and the following morning to clean the engine carburettor radiator and all the air intakes of locusts before we could get the engine started again. On the way back to our base at the old RAF station we met some soldiers from the Arab legion their officer came over to us and I told him about the locusts, he said that they where on there way to Aqaba to help out as the locust had caused quite a lot of damage there, he also said that it was the largest swarm of locusts they had had for the last fifty years. I found out much later that the swarms of locusts had flown to North Africa and on there way they had stripped the land bare of everything green. Whenever I hear of locusts I always think back to those times.

About a week after the swarms of locusts I was up a pole repairing the wires, the pole route was about two hundred yards from the main road, as no traffic came along this road I was quite surprised to hear the sound of a few vehicles in the distance, I was even more surprised when along came about six land rovers and the first two had English and Jordanian flags on them. They stopped about a hundred yards from the pole I was working on. Out of the second land rover came an English officer with red braid on his uniform which made him a very high ranking officer he started to walk towards my pole then he shouted for me to come down, well I don't know about coming down I nearly fell down I have never felt so nervous in my life, here was me standing before a smart English high ranking officer looking like a tramp in dusty boots a uniform that had not seen an iron in years and wearing a Arab head gear. The officer could see I was very nervous so he told me to stand at ease he then asked me where I came from in England and what I was doing in Jordan, after I told him what we were doing he said that the young Arab in the land rover who happened to be king Hussein of Jordan had stopped the convoy to find out about the soldier up the pole he thought I was an Arab because of the Arab head gear I was wearing. whilst we were talking king Hussein came over and introduced himself to Steve and me, he was very young I think he must have been about sixteen or seventeen he spoke better English than me, then he asked me about the headgear I said the I had got it of one of the local Bedouins with a little smile he asked me what I had given them for it when I said a tin of corned beef he laughed and said as usual his Bedouins got the better of the deal he then asked me, how I got on with the Bedouins, I said they where very fine people and that they were always inviting us to their camps for tea even though there was a language barrier we used to communicate with each other, by this time it was just like talking to another teenager. I said to him that Steve had just made a pot of tea would he like a cup he turned round to one of his officers and said something to him, I though that I had put my foot in it but he turned round and said yes he would like a cup of tea. I took him to our truck and he was very interested in how we had made it into our own caravan. We gave him a mug of tea and Steve asked him if he would like a corn beef sandwich as he had just made some for our dinner. He had a small sandwich and we had a good talk for about fifteen minutes he asked me about Liverpool and he told use that he had been educated in England; he said he was on his way to Aqaba he then thanked us for our hospitality and then returned to his land rover. Before they left the English army officer came over to us I thought we where going to be told off for being to cheeky to the king in asking him to have a cup of tea, but to my surprise he thanked us for the way we had treated King Hussein he told us that he had not long become king which was a big responsibility for one so young, and that it was the first time that he had seen the king so happy in a long time, with that he returned to his land rover, I shall never forget that King of Jordan waved goodbye to a nineteen year old Liverpool lad, from that day until his death in 2001 I always kept an interest in his life and I could always see him as a young teenager out in the desert having a cup of tea with two young British soldiers.

On the Saturday we hooked up to the line to give Lt Collins our weekly report, after we had given him the line report he said was there anything else, I said there was an unusual thing happened and then I told him about the visit of King Hussein, he laughed and said he knew all about it, the Aqaba Brigadier Adjutant had rang him up and thanked him for the way we had treated the King he said that it was one of the first trips out of Amman without all the pomp and ceremony since he became king and he made a point of telling the Adjutant how much he had enjoyed talking to us, It also turned out that the British army officer with him happened to be a the Brigadier General in charge of all the troops in the middle east, I went a bit weak at the knees when I heard this. After all this I needed a hat two sizes bigger. Lt Collins said that as the camp had had no leave for the last year he wanted us to return to camp the next day and he would tell us what he had in mind for us.

On Sunday we arrived in camp to be told that we were to have three days leave and Lt Collins had arranged trips to Jerusalem, Petra and the Dead Sea and word had got round how we had treated King Hussein with the result that some Arab Legion soldiers were to accompany us to smooth our way around theses sites, we were all told to change into our civilian clothes because he did not want it to look too official. On Monday we started out at about nine am to the dead sea, the roads where just dirt tracks and it took us a few hours to get there. When we got there it was quite spectacular with the water glittering in the sun. In those days there were no amenities, we stopped by a few small huts near the waters edge the Arabs had rigged up a shower made up of a large oil drum on a pole which was fed by water from one of the streams that ran into the sea. We put on our shorts and ran down to the sea and jumped into the water, in those days I could not swim so I kept in the shallow part, the swimmers swam out to an old Arab boat that was about 100 meters out, they climbed on board and started diving and jumping into the sea they only did this once or twice then they swam back to shore they said that because of the high density of salt in the water it was just like diving into a brick wall even swimming was quite difficult because you had a job keeping your arms underwater, the only good thing was it was dead easy to float. We did not stay into the water very long as the salt stung your eyes, it was great to get under the showers. Whilst we had been in the water some of the Arab soldiers had been away when they came back they had brought with them some chickens and legs of lamb, we built a fire and roasted the meat and had our dinner by the side of the Dead Sea. We washed it down with the local beer; all in all we had a great time there. The next day we went to Jerusalem, the roads were ok so it did not take us long to get there, it was a good job we had the Arab soldiers with us because there was quite a few road blocks in Jordan, but when the boarder guards saw them we just passed through. On arrival at the Israeli border Lt Collins gave them a letter I do not know what was in it but we passed straight through and in Jerusalem we were met by a an Israeli Officer who said that he would take use round all the historical sites, it turned out that he was an historian in civilian life. I later found out that Lt Collins had been to Eaton and one of his school friends was now a high ranking officer in the Israeli Army and he had set up our stay in Jerusalem. We had a great time in Jerusalem we were taken to all the main historical sites like the birth place of Jesus and the wailing wall etc. To be honest as a 19 year old I did not comprehend the significance of it all it went in one ear and out the other. In the year 2000 whilst on holiday in Cyprus Joan and I went on a two day trip to the Holy Land and we visited the same sites that I had been to in 1952 but this time the whole experience of being in those historical sites was mind boggling and very emotional.

The last day of our leave was a trip to Petra. When we arrived there we went into the Arab Legion fort which was about 200 meters from the entrance to Petra old city, Lt Collins gave the officer a letter it was from the Jordanian Government telling them to look after us I also recognised some of the soldiers that we met out on the line who used to have a cup of tea with us, they came over to us and I introduced them to Lt Collins. We all had a cup of tea with them and then went outside, and in the court yard was about twenty horses, the soldier said we had to use them as they where the only way to get into the old city of Petra. We all looked at one another I was a bit apprehensive because the horses looked very big and the only animals I had ever been on was the donkeys on Southport beach. We mounted them and I must say the saddles were like arm chairs, We reached the city of Petra through a ten foot wide passage through the rocks. when we reached the end of the passage the sight that met us was the Treasure house it was very impressive. in 1952 unlike today there was no tourists and in those days the Bedouins lived in the ruins with their families. We spent about three hours exploring every nook and cranny, what I liked best was riding my horse I felt like John Wayne it was a wrench giving the horse back as I realised that I would not be riding a horse again as there was not much call for riding horses in Heyworth Street Liverpool This was the best day of the last three and we were all very sad to leave Petra.

The next day it was back to work. We had just about finished building the line so it was time to move camp for the last time our new site was on a hill overlooking Amman, it was just across a road from a RAF station which had two airfields and about 200 airmen running it. When we arrived at our new camp it was worlds apart from the camps we had been living in for the past two years, the tents where pitched over s concrete base and the toilets were chemical toilets. they were changed every day by Arab workmen. The best part was we did not have to cook our own meals we could use the RAF mess which was only 200 yards from our camp, so for the first time in ages we had meals not tasting of diesel. Our first meal at the RAF mess was a real eye opener we had a choice of a three course meal which was as good as you get in a 4 star hotel. After we had settled in it was back out on the line for Steve and I to maintain the last 10 miles of line but unlike before we returned to our camp in Amman each night.

It was three weeks to Xmas 1952 and the previous year at this time we had started to get all our booze and food in for our Xmas party. This year we were told that the Xmas party would be held in the RAF camp so there was no need to get any booze in. On Xmas day we had a really nice dinner and they laid on some Arab entertainment it was all very civilized, I remember thinking at the time that the previous Xmas out on the line was a lot better, although it was very cold and we had to make our own dinners we where on our own there was no regimentation and we could do as we pleased, it was a completely different environment.

My time in the army was coming to an end; my demob date was early Feb. 1953. In the first week of January Lt Collins said I was to prepare to fly back to Egypt for the return sailing back to England. He said he was sorry to see me go, then asked me if I had thought about signing on in the regular army if I did I would stay with his company and there was a strong possibility of me being promoted to sergeant, I said I would let him know the next day. That night after giving it a lot of thought I realized that although I liked it in Jordan our work there was nearly finished and we would be going back to Egypt with all the terrorism there I would be crazy to sign on. I gave Lt Collins my decision and he took it ok. The next day after saying goodbye to all my mates I started back to Aqaba. On the way we passed all the telegraph poles we had worked on and the camp sites we had stayed at over the last 18 months, although I was on my way home it was very sad seeing all theses places it left a lump in my throat. On reflection I realised how lucky I had been being posted to Jordan little did I realise that the experience I gained there was to change my life forever, by the time we reached Aqaba I was feeling really depressed. My life in Jordan remains with me to this day I suppose it was being young fit and with 30 other lads all of the same age, it was a great experience, with no spit and polish just hard work it made the time fly, I realise that I was very lucky to be in that kind of environment, I could so easily have been posted to a main camp were appearances was every thing, and even worse to a dangerous place like Korea or Egypt where getting out in one piece was the main thing to concentrate on.

At mid-day we took off for Egypt the flight took only 30 minutes, on arrival we transferred to trucks that were to take us to El-Ballah, in the truck were two soldiers with sub machine guns we were told to keep our heads down as terrorists had been active along the route the day before, was I glad when we reached El-Ballah. On arrival we were told that in two days time we were to sail for England and until then the time was our own i. e. no parades.

The next morning I was in for a shock, I was lazing around in the tent when the company sergeant major marched in and shouted Corporal Frost parade before the C. O. in 15 minutes; I had to quickly get presentable. He came back with two military policemen who marched me to the C. O office, not knowing what it was all about and in a complete state of shock I was marched in before the C. O. with one military policeman in front and one at the back the sergeant shouted "stand to attention in front of an officer "by this time my legs were shaking. When the C. O. looked up I immediately recognised him it was Lt Collins brother, he had been promoted to Lt Colonel and was now the company C. O. much to the sergeant's surprise he told me to stand at ease he asked me how his brother was, and then you could have knocked me over with a feather when he said he had heard from his brother about the King Of Jordan visiting our truck, he thanked me on behalf of the Royal Signals saying that the King was the one person that the British government was keen to be friendly with because in the future he could have such an impact on the Middle East, at the time I thought he was going over the top a bit but he was right. He then said the real reason that I was before him was about the mule can and cable jack that had gone missing when I took over the stores in Aqaba, I said that they were not on the inventory when I took over the stores, he said although he could not write them off by the time the paper work was competed I would be out of the army, I could see that he was annoyed at having to deal with such a trivial matter. He then asked me if I had thought about staying in the army, I said his brother had asked me the same question and although I would have liked to sign on my dad had been killed in an accident two years ago leaving my mother with two other children and as the bread winner I felt it was my duty to return home, my excuse must have gone down well because he said he thoroughly understood, he then turned to the sergeant and said he would like me to eat in the N. C. O mess as a guest of the CO. Outside, I said to the sergeant as I was going to Port Said the next day he need not worry about a meal I would eat with the lads, the change in him was amazing he said he had been given an order by the C. O, he said he would make sure that I would not feel out of place, he was true to his word the meal that evening was great and later we had a beer and a game of snooker.

The next morning transport Lorries came to pick about twenty of us up for the journey to Port Said; on the way there we stopped at other camps and by the time we reached Port Said we had picked up about 200 solders who were going back to England. We all lined up on the dock side and then were transported to the ship in small launches it took about four hours to complete the boarding.

The ship that was to take us home was the SS Aurora it had been a cruise liner before being used as a troop carrier, it had come from the Far East thus there was already servicemen on board, unlike the Empress of Australia (the ship I had come out on), instead of hammocks it had cabins which held 12 people in double bunks. The meals were served in a number of mess halls by merchant navy personal and they did all the cleaning what a difference, in my cabin there were eight soldiers and four royal navy national servicemen who were going home to be demobbed.

We departed that evening, and seeing the lights and the smells of Egypt disappearing in the distance once again left a lump in my throat, although I was glad to leave all the terrorists behind. Next day we met the deck officer who was in charge of ten cabins, he told us that the voyage home would take two weeks and what we would do during this time. Each day we were to do two hours physical exercising on the main deck, the rest of the day was our own, I thought this was going to be one boring voyage.

On the fourth day out I reported to the deck officer, who told me that being a N. C. O. (none commissioned officer) I had to do a guard duty in charge of the ships cells during the voyage he told me I would have to do the next days duty because the N. C. O who was supposed to do it had gone down with sea sickness, The next day at seven in the morning I paraded on the main deck with six other soldiers from various regiments, we were inspected by the deck officer then marched down to the cells which were below deck at the front of the ship. At the guard room I was handed over the guard log by the outgoing guard. I checked the log and saw that there were three prisoners in the cells it gave a brief history of what they had done. The first one from London had gone AWOL in Singapore, the second from Swansea tried to sell a truck full of supplies to the black market in Singapore, the third was from Liverpool he had broken an officers jaw in Malaysia. While I wrote my first report one of the lads made some tea, then to my surprise one off the cell doors opened and out came the prisoner from Liverpool, he said I will have two sugars in my tea, I said what the hell are you doing out of your cell, he laughed and said don't worry since Singapore the cell doors had not been locked as there was no where to go, and there would be no trouble from them as they wanted to get to England as bad as we did. He asked me where in Liverpool I came from when I said Heyworth Street he said what a small world we live in he lived of Everton Road which was only about two hundred yards from where I lived. I asked him how he had ended up in prison he said that in the camp in Singapore there was a officer who had a profound dislike for any one from Liverpool and him in particular, in the six months he had been there the officer had made his life a misery, one night in town whilst this officer was on patrol duty, he came in this bar and started on him in front of his mates, having had a few to many drinks he lost his rag and hit him on the jaw breaking it in the process, he was given two years in a military prison, he had spent a year in Malaysia and was going to England to spend the rest in Colchester Military prison.

One of the duties was to take the prisoners up on deck and put them through a series of exercises in the morning and afternoon, we also had to bring their meals from the kitchen, with all the waiting on them, I don't know who the prisoners where them or us. At night to pass the time we played cards for cigarettes. The next morning we were up at six am to clean all the cells and guard rooms ready for the next guard. At eight am we changed guard and were I glad to get that over with.

We stopped at Malta for two days to pick up supplies and more soldiers. The deck officer said I along with six others could go ashore for four hours leave, so with about fifty other servicemen we went ashore by motor launch. Not knowing anything about Malta I was really surprised to find that nearly every one spoke English, we had a few drinks in a local bar and the people where really friendly in fact it was just like being at home with every one speaking English. Later we had a look round Valetta there was an awful lot of buildings that had been damaged in the war which had not been repaired which was a shame because it was such a nice place. I did a little shopping for souvenirs and then it was back to the ship.

The next day we set sail about eight in the morning, there was a surprise waiting for us on board, it seems that they must have picked up some films in Malta so they opened up the cinema on the main deck which could hold about two hundred people, they showed different films every two day so needless to say the cinema was always full. We passed close to Gibraltar a few days later it was very impressive with all the royal navy ships there, it was the first time I had seen Gibraltar because on the way out to Egypt we passed Gibraltar at night. When we sailed out into the Atlantic the weather changed dramatically, the seas became very choppy and the ship started to roll all over the place needless to say there was a lot of very sick servicemen including myself. They started giving out sea sickness pills it took about four hours for them to start working and after that it was ok, though the smell was terrible for the next two days. By the time we reached and passed through the Bay of Biscay the weather was terrible we had a job standing up it was the worst journey I had ever been on. Once we turned into the English Channel the weather started to get better and not before time.

We were told to clean our cabins out after breakfast as we hoped to dock at Southampton just after midday, and if they did not pass the inspection later on we would not be leaving the ship until they where, so needless to say you could have had your dinner off the floor they where that clean. On arriving at Southampton we collected all our kit bags and paraded on deck ready for disembarkation, after being abroad it was freezing being back in England, it felt kind of strange being back in England again, it had been only 18 months but it seemed a lot longer. Once off the ship we marched to the railway station where we lined up and where given a card that told us which train we were to board. The train I was allocated took me to Newton Abbot which was just outside Torquay.

On arrival at Newton Abbott we boarded army trucks and where taken the five miles to an army camp. Newton Abbot Army camp was where all national servicemen from all the various army regiments went to be discharged after two years in the services. I was allocated a place in a billet with about another twenty soldiers. After settling in we got talking about our experiences over the last two years, it turned out that amongst us we had served all over the world, you could tell the soldiers that had served in Korea they were in a shocking state, and although they did not say a lot, some of their stories where horrendous one told how he was the only one out of 20 men who came back from a patrol who was not shot or injured. When I realized that I could have gone to Korea I realized how lucky I was.

The next day we assembled in the main drill hall. the company sergeant major asked for volunteers to give blood to the local blood service about 20% put their hands up, but when he said those who volunteered would be excused mess duties about 70% put their hand up. When we started to give blood you could tell what part of the world the soldiers had been stationed by the colour of there blood, bright red meant you had been to the middle and far east and dark red to Germany and England. After giving blood we were given a medical and an interview with an officer who then tried to get us to sign on in the regular army needless to say he did not get many takers. We were also told much to our surprise that we had to keep are uniforms because we would not be fully discharged from the army, until we had completed three two week camps (one a year for three years) in the A. E. R. Army Emergency Reserve.

There were so many soldiers waiting to be demobbed that it was three days before I got my final pay and ticket for the journey home . The next morning we were taken to the railway station by army trucks, on arrival there must have been about 500 soldiers waiting for their train, trains to London where packed solid. My train came at mid day and all the soldiers going to Manchester, Liverpool and the North West got on it. The journey to Crewe where we had to change trains took hours, in my carriage there were ten soldiers and we all chatted about our last two years in the army, it was funny because it turned out that 50% hated it and 50% thought it was a good experience. We had to wait two hours at Crewe for our connection to Liverpool. We finally arrived at 8pm.