© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons
454 RAAF Squadron
John "Crash" Culbert
Service Number (tba)
This article was sent to me by Mr. John Culbert,
ex-454, then transferred to 451.
John is Secretary of 451 and is on our Association's mailing list.
I was a transport driver from 451 when I joined 454 at Gambut 3 which was on the 3rd escarpment from the one and only road in the desert, midway between Tobruk and Bardia. It was my 3rd trip in the desert. We were back at St. Jeans in Palestine for a short period, then forwarded to Benghasi, back to Cairo for equipment checks then to Italy, where I left them for home. It was four years since leaving OZ.
I was a wrecker of trucks, (hence my nickname "Crash"), UNTIL the facts came out. One truck had an engine seize, records showed it was taking a pint per day trip, where in actual fact it was 3/4 gallon, had breakfast before we went out, ate another 24 hours later. Another truck used to cut out hitting a bump, start again when switched on, got the Sgt. to drive (doubting Thomas) until I pointed at a spot where it would stop, it did, and when we got back S/Sgt. said I remember this one when we were in Iraq, it has a broken wire, right here. Right, and that was a year ago??????
John Culbert with 454 badge on his truck , Benghazi 1943
(from T. Kelly's collection)
I was on five charges in Benghasi, one for speeding on the drome at night, until I said that I had to prevent being cut to pieces by a Beaufighter that was preparing to take off. Another for running the Wing C/O off the road into a ditch, I didn't see him coming up behind me?? Rudder trouble on 12 kites, convoy coming up that we had to cover, had to be replaced in three days, couldn't get them into DC3 or 459 kite, road down past Cairo and back in three days, well we made it with 4 hours sleep. The C/O said we had done a great job, NO MORE DUTIES FOR THE NEXT 24 HOURS!! Where do you go from Gambut?, hundreds of miles from anywhere. Went to bed after tea, then the boys said you had better get something to eat, I just had tea, all I want is sleep, OK, alright Crash, BUT THAT WAS YESTERDAY.
I am enclosing a Forbidden Leave that John Preston and I took, never got charged, in all my service of 24 years, NOT one red mark. Don't ask me how. When we were preparing to go to Italy, war one set, take one set of clothing, toiletries, the remainder will be left on a heap over there, blankets will be included in your kitbag, YET, aircrew were taking each up to seven trunks, flying gear, folding beds and wash stands and whatever else they needed. We got to Italy, transport at Bari, troops further south, altogether and moved to Pesaro. Next the order to move north. Some Aircrew had been into town with a truck, loaded it with furniture to have in the next camp. "What about the men's gear". Go without! Naturally we went on strike, during a war that is called mutiny, punishable by death if found guilty, how does that work on 300 plus ground crew. The C/O finally gave in, unloaded the truck, but some said the Aircrew loaded it, they can unload it, they did, just threw it over the side, smashing every bit of it. Unit feelings were off to a bad start in Italy.
The next BIG trouble we had was at Ancona. A cook had severe stomach pains and the M/O as usual was not on the base, he was a Photographer Botanist. I was in charge of running transport at that time and I got the cook into a Jeep and took him over to the Wing doctor who refused to treat him. I will not take him back as there is nobody there qualified to treat him. I was to be charged for that, but the cook was treated. When I got back to camp the word had got around what was going on, I was asked what happened and I told a few who may have been the ringleaders of the uprising, first the C/O asked us to get to work, NO, not until that ???? Doctor is out of the unit, we have had enough. Then it was the Wing C/O, same answer, then it was to the Group C/O, he was the one that offered us the ultimatum, with the same result. A tinderbox needing only a spark. At this time we were only a few miles from the front and Jerry had to be taken care of, but not whilst this was going on. Group gave in and as soon as the M/O arrived back he was escorted out of the unit and our lives. I didn't get charged either.
A new C/O was to take over as little later than this event. The driver of the water wagon was TOLD to fill up 2 jerry cans of water by a person in shorts and singlet, sorry mate, but you only get 1, that's on orders, I don't care what is on orders, fill them up. Look mate, one can per man per day until further notice OK? If you don't like it take it up the C/O. not me! My phone rang and I was asked who the driver of the water wagon was, who was I, and when the driver gets back both of you down to the C/Os office. Bill Dodd got back and I told him what happened, that Aircrew joker tried to bounce me around so I just told him. Up we go, me in first, then Bill, sitting there was the new C/O, W/C Pete Henderson, the sight of him on Bill's face was hilarious. Holy ???? you, Yes its me, your new C/O, now if I ask you to fill up 2 water cans will you? Bill came out NO I B....y wont, its on orders, if you don't believe me, read them. The C/O spun on me then, that's right Sir, goes from top to bottom. Good, you are the types I want in my unit, carry on and if there is any little thing bothering you have it addressed to me. Whew!!
I was to meet Pete a few years later, joined the RAAF Active Reserve, 1950, when Korea started up. We were stationed at Richmond in the old tin city, given the dirtiest hut the furtherest from the main gate. I was a Cpl then, got the place going. Pick up trucks, bedding from stores, brooms, buckets, soap, rags, anything to make the place livable for the weekend. While they were away, the rest was to clean up the area, break open the fire hose, spray it from top to bottom, inside and out. Things were really moving and a joker from the married quarters came over. Corporal, who are you people, what are you doing here and its against orders to break open a fire hose UNLESS there is a fire. I gave him the answers and he was looking at my uniform ribbons, Italy, what unit, 454, then he looked at me, I know you now, Culbert in Transport, and I at the same time, Baldy He!!! Oops yes he said Baldy Henderson. The ice was broken , we were to bump into each other over the next six years, I was in 2 SOC Radar, he was in Richmond 21C.
RAF/RAAF Drivers & Mechanics, Benghazi 1944
Top right John Culbert
& 2nd row from front - 2nd man from left Tom Kelly
(from T. Kelly's collection)
A recent photo of John with his wife Marie
Here is a very funny story read on:
WE ARE THE SURVIVORS
"We were born before television, before penicillin, contact lenses, videos, Frisbees and the Pill. We were before Radar, credit cards, split atoms, laser beams and ball point pens, before dishwashers, tumble dryers, electric blankets, air conditioners, drip dry clothes, and before man walked on the moon.
We got married first, then lived together (how quaint could you be???). We thought fast food was what you ate in Lent, a Big Mac was an oversized raincoat, & crumpet we had for tea.
We existed before house-husbands, computer dating, and when "meaningful relationships" meant getting along with cousins, sheltered accommodation meant where you waited for the bus. We were before day care centres, group homes and disposable nappies. We never heard of FM radio, tape decks, electric typewriters, artificial hearts and processors, yoghurt, or young men wearing earrings.
For us time sharing meant togetherness, a chip was a piece of wood or a fried potato. Hardware meant nuts & bolts and software was not a word. Before 1940 made in Japan meant junk, the term "making out" meant how well you had done in your exams, "stud" was something you fastened to your collar and "going all the way" meant staying on the bus to the bus depot. Pizzas, McDonalds and Instant Coffee were unheard of in our day, cigarette smoking was fashionable, "grass" was grown and "coke " was kept in the coal house, a "joint" was a piece of meat you ate on Sundays and "pot" was something you cooked it in.
"Rock Music" was a fond mothers lullaby, "Eldorado" was a ice-cream, a "gay" person was the life and soul of the party and nothing more, aids" just meant a beauty treatment or helping someone in trouble.
We who were born before 1940 must be hardy bunch when you think of the way in which the world has changed and the adjustments we had to make. No wonder we are confused and there is a generation gap today. By the Grace of God we have survived, HALLELUJAH!!!"
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