Whilst at RAF Weeton near Blackpool I foolishly volunteered for over seas duty. So, after the course I was sent on embarkation leave. Word came to me with railway warrant too report to a place on the Wirrel to be kitted out for overseas.

The name has slipped my mind for a moment, if it comes back then I will print it in.
I think it was called HOYLAKE, from there we were sent to digs in Blackpool to await our boarding orders, in about two weeks they came and we were put on a train to LIVERPOOL where we boarded the troopship HMT HOULTAN. Within 24 hrs the ship left and sailed to GREENOCK in SCOTLAND. There we formed up in convoy and left the UK. It was the biggest convoy ever to sail to the Far East and the last to travel around South Africa. (Of course) we never knew where it was going. The convoy was so big that on a clear day you could not see the last either side. I know that we had a Carrier and a Cruiser also lots of Destroyers. Our first stop was at FREETOWN in Africa, mainly for water. Nobody was able to leave the ship and it was as hot as HELL.

The next stop was at DURBAN and various sections were allowed off the ship. It was wonderful to be on land and you would not think there was a war on. Everything was normal and you could buy what you liked if you had the money. We were now told where we were headed for and the next stop would be MOMBASSA. Because of enemy submarine activity we did not stop there and went right across the Indian Ocean to BOMBAY in India. But during the Indian Ocean crossing we had several scares and my position was on top deck at a rocket position and during this time we actually fired our two six inch guns mounted on the stern. If we had to fire them in anger I am sure it would have blown the stern off, we thought the Ship had been struck by a torpedo. Altogether it took us three months; of course there were away incidents during that long voyage. All the RAF chaps were on deck and that was the one where the propeller shaft was. During heavy seas when the stern came out of the water. ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE and you would think the ship was shaking to death. Sometimes we could go up on the sun deck and once while there, they decided to test the AA guns, the noise was unbelievable and the cordite smell was awful. Many tines we were at action stations.

From Bombay we were taken a long way to a tented camp called DULALLEE, there were thousands of men, mainly army. It was here for the first tine that I was able to put my knowledge of being able to speak HINDUSTANI into action. You see my brother-in-law who was married to my eldest sister Emily, had spent 5 year in India while in the army and of course me being the youngest, he took great delight in teaching me all he knew about India. Long before world war two broke out. (I became extremely popular with the CHARWALLA, tea man.)



I think we were at there for about 3 or 4 weeks, mainly to get us acclimatised to the heat and conditions. Then we were taken to Bombay main railway station and put on a troop train, nobody had a clue where we were going. It was a very long train with two engines, the slowest train I have ever been on.

We were stopped and shunted from pillar to post for the next 11 days. Only allowed off to stretch our legs. Every time we stopped hundreds of hindoos would come around trying to sell things and asking for backuhees. Of course I was in big demand because I could communicate with the locals, eventually my use came to the notice of the officers who were in the carriages at the front of the train and one day the warrant officer in charge came and told me to shift my gear up to the front. Aha! I could get hot water from the engine to shave and my food went up a gear. But I never forgot my mates and they too benefited from my shift. I had some very good friends, more like brothers really. We dropped people off at every major station and eventually when we finally emptied the train, we were at Calcutta main railway station. There the RAF people were taken by lorry to a transit camp outside Calcutta.

My first manual job was to erect dummy Hurricane aircraft at Calcutta main airport. When we eventually left Calcutta there was about 88 of us, we boarded another train and travelled two days to the side of the Bramaputra river which was in full flood, all put on to an overloaded steamer very gingerly and off we went. How that ship kept a float, well it sure beats me. To moor it on the other side a long way down river. (It was a work of art.) Here we go again on the most rickety railway line you ever saw. The line was held on to the sleepers by one large headed nail each side and every one of them on the move, it is a good job we were only doing about ten miles an hour. You never saw such an out dated system in your life.

We eventually arrived at a place called Chittagong in East Bengall. (Now called Pakistan) We were marched through the town to a school and police station where we were to be billeted. You see the airfield and camp were not yet finished being built, (so we were told.)

 



My accommodation was in a police cell with two other chaps, in the cell next door was a prisoner. We were there for about 4 weeks, maybe more, while the airfield runway was being finished and some of the accommodation was also being seen too. WHILE WE WERE AT THE SCHOOL WE WERE ASKED IF ANYBODY COULD RIDE A MOTORCYCLE, I said I could, so I was told to take the dispatches up to HQ. The motorcycle was an Indian with a gear leaver over the petrol tank. Of course I forgot that the motor cycle had been standing in the burning sun for quite some time and as soon as I clapped my knees to the tank I screamed because my legs got burnt and I fell over with the motor bike. Of course the sergeant said, I thought you said you could ride? Of course, when he saw how badly I was burnt, he understood.

During that tine I put my knowledge of Hindu to good use. We were all issued with the colonial toupee made of cork and very awkward. I found out where the locals got their hats made of dried banana leaves from and negotiated a deal to buy 40 for a cut price and then sold them to our chaps at a good profit. Of course it did not end there; I made local friends all over the place and made good use of them. When we eventually did go up to stay on the airfield, we were in bamboo huts, even the floor was made of bamboo. My very first job was to tow an office trailer up to the airstrip for the DEBRIEFING officer. This trailer had torsion bar suspension and because the tracks were not yet made it bounced all over the place, it took me ages. Within a month I had dysentery and was sent to the casualty clearing centre just outside the town. I really thought that I was going to fade away. It was awful.
never mind, I made it back to camp, eventually. I think it was three weeks later and then it was work, work, work! The Lockheed Lightning, were still there and they gave us a lot of extra work, the Japs must have found out because we got shot up every day. I remember the Americans had a large water cooler hung up under the trees and the Jap machine gun bullets went right through it, according to them it was now useless, but we got our fire section to weld over the holes and so we ended up with the best cool water vessel we ever had, it was fitted with four taps which made it doubly useful. In fact when they did leave, all sorts of useful equipment was left behind including really good food.

Of course our own squadron of Hurricane aircraft were up every day, the air was SO thin that they took longer to get up to meet the Jap aircraft & they always carried extra fuel tanks one under each wing, each holding 125 gallons. One day I was sent to the docks to refuel the Air Sea Rescue boats. I had to back over 8 sets of railway lines, (oh dear what a job) the refueller I had was an American international with one hose reel in the back. I had to pay the hose down the dock side to each boat in turn, (three in all.) After I had finished, the fuel had to be signed for, so, down I climbed & the crew man said where do you come from? I said Cornwall. He immediately shouted to his skipper, there’s a country man of yours here. He came over and said what part of Cornwall? Of course, I said Torpoint, he then asked my name, I told him Banks, he then said is your father called Fred? It turned out that they both came from Flushing and knew each other. From then on when there was refulling to do he asked for me and I always had a real English meal on board. His name was Francis Monk and he had been at school teacher in Flushing. The fuel used was special and I had to fill up from the Burma Oil Fuel depot. There, I became friendly with the managers daughter. She was called Marie Ann Kamen and my friends and I had quite a few meals in their house, Of course we were waited on hand and foot by the many servants.

An other time I was driving the ration truck and my business mind took over, talk about rackets, I was in then. I even bought things and sold them on camp. Even the officers used to ask me to get things for them. Of course being able to communicate in their tongue was a gift in its self. Mind you it could not last because we had to do all sorts of different work; I only had about three weeks of rations. Then I had several weeks of refuelling our own aircraft.