454 and 459 RAAF Squadrons
Gerald H SPRING
459 RAAF Squadron
Service No. Unknown (RAF)
Date of Birth: Unknown
Place of Birth: Swansea, Wales, UK
Date of Enlistment: Unknown
Date of Discharge: Unknown
Rank: Engine Mechanic
Information as supplied by G Spring
Joined the squadron at Burg el Arab, mid-year 1942 with a contingent of UK personnel which I believe made up the completion of ground staff. One of my tent mates – who also lived in Swansea, Dick Roberts who died several years ago used to be in touch with the association regularly and he use to pass on information regarding its activities. One person mentioned in the bulletin was Gunner Gaunt whom I well remember [see attached A Flight photo] one Aussie who is not in the photo is Sgt Patrick Unwin – nicknamed “Onions” – he may have been on leave at the time. Although all the others are still familiar to me I cannot remember their names.
I had an occasion to go on a test flip with a couple of other bods, the flight went along normally until the pilot decided to “shoot up” the camp. I can remember it well, we were so low I could see the expressions on a couple of guys on the ground, unfortunately we were approaching the wireless section which had a mast sticking up and the starboard wing hit it, at the time I was standing looking through the astrodome and in a matter of a split second a hole appeared on the upper surface of the wing, to this day I cannot figure out how the hole came to be on the top surface, the only explanation I can think of is that it was the result of a whiplash. Anyway we landed safely, I imagined a dressing down took place on the Pilot by the C.O.
The mention of Bardia brings back memories of weekend breaks which were greatly appreciated. I was told that on one occasion when swimming in the bay some blokes discovered an aircraft engine at the bottom subsequently retrieving it and getting it back to base where it was identified as belonging to one of our Hudsons lost on a raid on F boats. Maybe there is a record of this somewhere?
Other interesting incidents happened over the years and some of them are recorded in a book by Jeff Jones entitled “Hudsons at War” in which a chapter is devoted to 459 squadron, maybe you have come across the book in Australia?
I must say that I was quite happy while on 459 Squadron other than being away from home for so long and I grew to like the desert, despite the dust storms, flies, fleas and the shortage of water for washing in. we had to bathe daily due to the dust accumulating on our torsos. A bath consisted of approximately a quart of water [about 1 litre] in a cute down petrol tin, starting from ones hair, we washed down to our feet, leaving a muddy deposit in the tin, even to this day I never fill my bath at home, I guess water shortage has impressed me for life!
On a finishing note I would like to say I have a soft spot for Australians, I never forget that they, along with other dominion members came to the aid of this country in two World Wars.
Letter to Hon. Secretary October 2012 from Gerry Spring – 459 Squadron UK
The photos of the flooding in winter at Gambut bring back memories; a few tent residents dug out the centre in the tent to make more headroom - the desert tents were rather low, but excellent against Kamsin winds [Kamsin winds is a S.S.W. wind, which blows in Egypt in March and April, generally not more than three successive days at a time].
Unfortunately, no one gave a thought to the winter rain that took place – hence the flooding, who would have thought of that happening in the desert! There was mention of poisonous insects etc. – scorpions by the dozen, though these were mainly outside the camp area – sheltering under the drums at the petrol dump. I did have a companion with me one night, before we had beds off the floor, we slept on ground sheets, and one morning I awoke and picked up my toilet bag and found a horned viper asleep by the side of the bed!
Out biggest annoyance was fleas, we had to sprinkle our blankets with kerosene, I must have killed hundreds; whether they were brought in by Jerboas [Jerboas are nocturnal small jumping rodents that resemble mice] and mice, who knows? Our daily bath which was necessary as we were always in fine dust was a quart of water in a cut out petrol tin – starting from our hair and washing down – this always left a tin of muddy water.
On the whole we led a healthy life, the cooks did a good job considering the limitations of fresh vegetables and meat, but one thing there was plenty of was onions, I believe the Egyptians used to make beer with them. One particular item we had with meals was Oleo Marge, this came in large tins and must have been made with some anti-melting ingredient – it was like candle grease and on one occasion I broke a steel knife trying to get it out of the tin. We did have good supplies of bread which wasn’t bad after we picked out the baked weevils, although we must have missed some of them, anyway it all helped with the protein! Having said all that if I had the choice, I would rather be in the desert than back at some base like Cairo.
I hope I haven’t bored you with these little recollections, one never forgets old memories, not like current ones, I go into the next room to get something and forget what I came for – must be old age!