“I’ve attached some photos – I’m afraid they’re not too orderly. I imagine that the aerial one of Glorious, Dekheila, and the official one are not my fathers’ own. I don’t know the occasion or date of the official one. I can’ read my father’s rank, which might have helped. Why he should be in a smallish committee with seamen, and Navy and RAF/FAA officers, I don’t know.”
I have enclosed a set concerning a reception given in May 1938 near Nice, as maybe your uncle mentioned it. My father remembered it vividly, as a lad just turned 20. (I obtained copies of letters exchanged between Glorious’s clerk and the local authorities, from Nice archives, but only officer’s names were mentioned.)”
“The one of what I have been informed is Hal Far barracks, I had developed from a negative I have. I do have another one. (I somehow found myself the other day on www.halfarairfield.com – maybe they would be interested in them). I understand the barracks were destroyed during the siege, and it was a few days before they could get to the men buried under the rubble.”
“My father trained as a Cranwell apprentice as Wireless Operator mechanic, and also became Air radio fitter while with 802 Sqn. While at Hal Far he unpacked and fitted various aircraft, including the Gloster Gladiators which were to become Faith, Hope and Charity which later defended Malta. He said as the smallest in the team, he got the fiddly jobs inside the fuselage. The packing crates were then used to make huts (I have a photo of one in Dekheila). While in Gibraltar and N. Africa (late 1941-44) they used one as a radio station from which they broadcast a Forces’ Favourites programme.
He was posted home in Feb 1940 so was not with Glorious when she was sunk in June, along with many of his friends and colleagues. He spent most of his time in the pre- and war years seconded to the Fleet Air Arm or Navy. As they had their own aircraft and pilots, they were short of radio and technical engineers which they ‘borrowed’ from the RAF.
He married my mother in Jan 1945 and was sent later in the year to SE Asia – India, Burma and Hong Kong, returning in 1947. They then had very many postings and homes, before he retired as Sqn Ldr. in 1976. We moved to Norfolk where he took a civilian job until complete retirement. He died in 2009, aged 91.”
HMS Gloirous went on a spring patrol cruise from 16-31 May 1938. My father was evidently most enthusiastic about discovering the Mediterranean and particularly the French Riviera, judging by the photos he took. He seems to have been impressed by the scenery and the towns they visited. (In the 1960’s we went as a family to the region, and although it didn’t mean too much to me at the time, he was keen to show us places he’d seen all those years before and remembered them well).
I’m not sure if he went into the Casino in Juan les Pins or in Ajaccio as mentioned in the book, but he took several photos of the one in Monte Carlo. (photo)
During their stay in Golfe-Juan, near Nice, he had vivid memories of a visit to the perfume factory in Grasse, especially as they were shown around by a yong lady who struck him as being the epitome of French “chic”.
As for the reception given for the British fleet 23 May (see previous set of photos), Hugh Garlick says (p.73) the “airmen on board went ashore in uniform and encountered the full force of French hospitality”. My father told me they were showered with flowers (orange blossom maybe) when they left. He had an embarrassing moment onboard as he was hailed by the tannoy to report immediately. It was to collect a bouquet labelled “Willy the Wireless Op”. It turned out it was not for him. (As he had not yet met my mother, I have no reason to doubt his word…)
Their next port of call was Ajaccio (photos – beachx2 and town) It seems that after having a tour of the town in uniform, they had got hold of a local boat to enjoy a couple of beers and game of football on the beach.
From what my father told me, he spent some time in Dekheila, Egypt – either a relatively long stop, or several visits, I’m not sure. The beach was once again a popular place to relax and cool off after a hot, dusty day in the tent camp (beach photo and Camp in previous set).
Hugh Garlick describes aircraft packing cases which were transformed into offices. This photo of one was labelled “Dekheila” (photo) though I don’t know what it was used for. I imagine there were others in Malta too. When my father was later in Gibraltar (1941-44 with the Royal Naval Air Service, and RAF 727 Sqn) he said they used one as a Radio hut, from which they broadcast a sort of Forces’ Favourites programme.
While at Hal Far, he officially learned to drive and got his licence – the rules of the road were “avoid the goats, and drive in the shade whenever you find any”. I suppose anyone with a car had a good number of friends, or it’s ownership was shared. (photo) The loose stone wall was a typical feature of the Maltese countryside. On Page 66, Hugh Garlick explains how essential they were for protecting the soil from erosion and to what lengths the locals would go to rebuilding them – even if from a pilot’s point of view they were quite a hazard if one missed the runway. They also got in the way when driving after a drink too many (page 90).