Royal Air Force
Administrative Apprentices Association

Multum A Parvo

Member Articles

Derek Pitman (3rd Entry)

It was with amusement and a significant flood of memories that I read Derek Gould’s account of Iraq in revolutionary times and about his posting foul-ups. It is quite obvious that the expertise of new administrators had not yet hit the corridors of power in the overseas postings department of the Ministry by infusions of ex apprentices from St. Athan. His experiences of being mis-posted exactly echo mine.
I was put on PWR and took a relaxed view that I had some time to sort out my arrangements for my wife and newly born daughter. Wrong! A few weeks later I was on my way to the Personnel Despatch Centre (5PDC) at Lytham St. Annes and from there on the troopship “Empire Clyde” bound for Cyprus. “Ah yes”, thought I, “always fancied Cyprus”. Wrong! 10 days (yes, ten whole days) later we docked at Limassol after viewing the delights of ports at Gibraltar, Tunis, Algiers, Malta and Tobruk (I think that was the sequence). Into a transit camp tent at Nicosia…”no we don’t want you here, wait for a posting.” So why the blazes did I get only a short time from PWR to being on my way? No answer to that poser. Two weeks later “You are posted to Habbaniya” OK, not what I expected but at least I can get sorted out there. Wrong! “No place for you here – why have you come?” So into transit for a week. Then “Your posting is to Basra and you are on a train from Baghdad tomorrow”. Finally, travel stained, weary of being fooled around (you know what I mean, Harry) I arrived at Base Supply Depot Basra. “Where the hell have you been” said my boss, a catering officer. I was not to be an Equipment Assistant (remember that trade title?) but a Commissariat Clerk dealing with Catering provisioning calculations, supplies and storage for the whole of RAF Iraq. I protested in the hope of some sense being restored. Wrong! Now there was a subject that AAPS had not trained us for. And yes, it was my third unaccompanied tour. You can imagine perhaps, that I was NOT a happy bunny. And then the revolution came – just before I started one all by myself. I shall not repeat Derek G’s excellent account of those chaotic, confused months of being held incommunicado, bored, concerned and disillusioned with a waffling government to whom, I firmly believe, we were an acute embarrassment. To Derek G and Dixie Dixon, I shall add but one additional remembrance. Do you recall when we were finally given the clearance to send a consignment of food to RAF Habbaniya, who were in danger of running out of supplies due to the blockade
on movements that the Iraqis had imposed? The SOS that they sent us was for beef. A Hastings aircraft was sent down to Basra airport to make the shuttle. We loaded as much iron-hard frozen beef onto the plane as that old sit up and beg bird could carry. “The hell, with C of G calculations”, said the loadmaster, ” stick it all in and let’s get out of here” In 110 degrees F. of heat outside and probably 130 inside the aircraft, the water and melted fat from the hessian covered ex frozen meat ran
in stinking ripples down the floorboards of the aircraft and disappeared somewhere into the tail section! If any of the ex- Habbaniya bods are reading this, then, I can only say, “Sorry about that, chaps, but we did the best that we could in difficult circumstances and I hope that your stomachs have now recovered”. Suffice to say I am happy to verify his account as D.G. suggested. Well remembered, Derek G.