454 and 459 RAAF Squadrons
LAC Fred (Spike) EDMONDS
459 RAAF Squadron
Service No. 1036099 (RAF)
Date of Birth: Unknown
Place of Birth: Unknown
Date of Enlistment: Unknown
Date of Discharge: Unknown
Rank: LAC Flight Mechanic
The Pommy Who Served with the Aussies
I had finished my training as a flight mechanic, which meant that I could do anything on a aeroplane, except the engine. I had a weeks leave and then I was put on a boat in Liverpool. I met Bill Barlow as he was on the same table and we set sail via Freetown to Capetown.
We had two wonderful weeks in Capstad then we went up to Egypt and stopped at Cairo. Here we were organised according to our trades and I thought I was to say goodbye to Bill Barlow. The first trade called out was mine - about 40 of us. Then they started calling out the engine fitters and that was Bill's trade. We did not know what happened to the hundreds left over. We were loaded into wagons again and went to a place called Burg-El-Arab. I think its now a shrine to the Aussie 459'ers.
Meeting the Australians for the first time was an experience. We were fully dressed, Bombay hat, collar and tie, a four pocket K. D. Jacket and boots. It was February so we looked pale and pasty. We also wore long trousers. Suddenly a couple of naked men stood staring at us and they burst out laughing and soon all of the Aussies were out of their tents. Some had sandals on their feet, other were barefooted. Not one had a shirt on and they were coming out with funny comments and plenty of swearing. Eventually they quietened down and we were shown to our tents, four men per tent. In my case Bill Barlow and two Irish lads, we stayed together in the tent for over a year.
The day after our arrival, two Padres and our CO called us together for the Blessing and Foundation of 459, RAAF Squadron. We had a Protestant and a Catholic padre, but they acted together and at the close of the Blessing I received a photo of the Banner of 459 Squadron and I became a temporary Aussie. My impression of the "old type" Australian at that time was they were anti-British and pro-American. I think they wanted a 100% Australian Air Force but it didn't work out, as they needed our expertise.
A replica of the banner to all former members of 459 by the Acting Commanding Officer (Squadron Leader Phil Howson RAAF) and the two Padres at Burg-El-Arab Egypt, 10th Feb.1942.
After the Desert:
I received9 medals. The best two I think were the African Star and the Burma Star. After the Middle East was ended and Rommel had been pushed back, and the Western Desert was clear, we were not needed in the middle East. I parted from Bill Barlow and went to Burma and India with our English units. I boarded a ship in Alexandria and being a married man had to do three years and Bill being single had to do five years. I landed in Bombay with less than two years to serve. I had a wonderful job working on an Arvo Anson Aeroplane. There were two surveyors, a pilot and myself. I lowered the undercarriage to land and I had to wind it up when we took off.
We were selecting landing grounds for future aerodromes and we covered an area from Bombay to the coast where you cross to Sri Lanka Ceylon. We always stopped at a RAF unit. The job lasted three months and I saw a lot of India.
Then I was sent to A.C.D.R.E. Chemical Defense Research Establishment. All my ex-mates were there and our job was to drop gas bombs on our soldiers who were unfit for war. We were on a beautiful beach with palm trees and fruit for free and I served my time out there. I came home via the Suez Canal.