© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons
Dessert Air Force - Italy 1944-45
Wilf Darby - Radar
Wilf Darby would like us to note the carefully pressed shirt ! ha ha.
Service Number tba
Email received from Wilf Darby received 8th February 2006.
"I served in the Radar section of both 454 and 459 when the Squadrons operated over the airfield at Berka 3 Libya. As a matter of fact, for about a month or more I was the only and last Canadian to serve on 459 when the Squadron was disbanded.
Subsequently, there was the dubious pleasure of a posting to Khormaksar (near Aden) - one thin layer of paper from Hades - humidity 70º F- 90º F and temperature unbearable.
Here are some recollections I can share with you.
There was a time on one of the Squadrons when word spread among the ground crews that there was to be a hair growing contest. A contest of no rules, no judges, and no rewards. Some individuals shaved their heads bald, others shaved their heads and left a fetlock down the centre of their skulls and there were full blown beards and moustaches. The more creative individuals had a one half moustache or beard while the other individual had a half moustache and a half beard. I believe this went on for several weeks.
Another recollection; the Squadron was on the move and the truck convoy stopped for a morning break at the top of one of the passes, the area was flat and desolate but there were signs that it had been occupied by some military unit. As I mentioned the area was desolate except for three desert lilies (urinals), they were separated by several hundred feet, and were designated individually as: officers latrine, senior NCOs latrine and other ranks! Tongue in cheek, I explained to F/L Beaton that the reason for the segregation was to avoid embarrassing the Officers since they must have smaller attachments than the enlisted men.
Various establishments in Cairo carried on the same segregation policy - i.e officers only, NCO's only and other ranks. The Kiwi Club and The Canadian Club were in the same building in Cairo and the four Canadians encountered W/C Charles Payne in the boges. As we were in the midst of conversation, four members of the same crew entered - all were feeling no pain (all were wearing flying officer's uniforms); this of course enabled the entire crew to attend "officers only" establishments. One was a Sergeant Air Gunner sporting "Pilot's" wings and F/O Rank. The Wing Commander asked the Air Gunners "where did you get that uniform?" (the rest of the crew had disappeared ), the gunners reply was "I beg your pardon Sir". The CO repeated his question and the gunners response was "I'm drunk Sir". The CO's final comment was - "I can see that now so F--- off".
W/C Charlie's reputation went up another notch in the Canadian's opinion."
From an email received from Wilf Darby - Ontario - Canada - dated 8 February 2006.
The following poem was written by Wilf in June 1994 and was included in the Addendum to the 50th Anniversary Booklet issued with the Xmas 1994 Bulletin
A RADAR MECH'S PROMOTION
Remember back in '42
When we put on Air Force blue?
We were young and so naive,
expect to wear a ring on sleeve!
Don't you remember? C'mon, confess,
You surely fell for the B.S.!
Later - an idea, a notion -
There'd be no damn promotion
On either side of that bloody ocean.
Rumours flew - so much 'duff gen'.
Posted here, there now and then.
Studied airborne - a ground course too.
Texas beckoned, both me and you.
There, as guests of the U.S.A.,
Did you get to Monterey, or Houston, Dallas,
Remember, we trained with old Tyrone!
(Tyrone Power that is)
Back to Clinton - short stay, at least.
Then posted to - the Middle East.
Boyhood yarns of history,
Africa, with all its mystery.
Place names with romantic sounds,
Chinese Gordon and Beau Geste towns:
Lagos, Accra, Kano, Khartoum.
Any promotions yet?
....It's too damn soon!
No longer don our Air Force blue,
It's khaki battle dress, quite new.
By desert train, go "up the blue",
Through Alemain and mersa Matruh,
Sidi Birani and Tobruk too.
And....sure enough -
Recall the green of Wadi El Kuf?
Flies, fleas and grit, they do us greet.
Bare ground was our bed and no groundsheet,
You're an L.A.C. and that's your lot.
Get a commish and they provide a cot.
Expect there were personnel, who..
Happened to be stationed at Cairo, H.Q....
Sand in our hair, ears, eyes and nose,
Sand in our tea, food, bed and clothes.
Rations we shared with the flies and fleas,
As time went by, we browned our knees.
From time to time, I will confess,
"Where in the hell is the R.C.A.F.?"
Foolish lad, I almost forgot,
The R.C.A.F. gave us no thought.
Two years passed and, H.Q., of course,
"Joed" radar mech's to the Tiger Force.
The posting's cancelled, the signal stated,
Because the Japs had -- capitulated.
So, my friend, just like thee,
I left the Force on L.A.C.,
There came then - an unusual twist
A request from "them" to re-enlist.
With no vacancies in Air Commodores' ranks,
My response was brief,
I said: "No Thanks".
We came back from overseas,
Went our ways and earned degrees.
One became a biologist,
Another an oil geologist.
Doctor, lawyers, engineers - it's true.
There were even a C.A. or two.
And -- what's more,
Won promotions by the score.
Can't say the same for personnel, who -
Served at H.Q. with their lower I.Q.
Gotcha! Gotcha! Gotcha!
Wilf Darby (June '94)
Wilf Darby as Financial & Tax Executive- Stelco Inc. (at the time Stelco was Canada's largest steel company with 23,000 employees). The watch he is wearing was purchased in 1943 when he was on his way to the Middle East, the South Atlantic Ferry Command provided the transport (The Ventura). They made watches to last in those days
In Wilf's words --- "Old Geezer" Wilf, aged 84 - retired in his garden, Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Celebrating Anzac day 2015
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