Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Moving On

Royal Air Force Operations in the Middle East and North Africa, 1939-1943
Imperial War Museum
Corporal Willis O'Donnell watched as Leading Aircraftman George Frasier closed up the engine compartment on Flying Officer Reginald Morley's Hurricane, C for Charlie. He had to admit, the lad knew his business.

"Where'd you learn how to do this laddie?" O'Donnell asked.

"I worked for Hawker Siddeley before the war, Corporal. I'd still be there if it wasn't for the Huns going into Poland."

"I should have thought chaps like you would get a deferment, that's automatic for a war industry isn't it?"

"Wasn't drafted, I volunteered Corp, right after we learned that my brother had been killed in France. I wanted the infantry, like my brother, but the government decided that having me work on Hurricanes in the RAF would be just the thing. So here I am."

"Well, I for one am glad we've got you."

"So Corp," Frasier hesitated for a moment, unsure if he should be talking about the rumor he'd heard in the Other Ranks mess the other day, "are we really going off to Egypt?"

O'Donnell turned to the young airman and said, "Well, it ain't official as of yet, but yeah, we are. The Eyeties¹ are gettin' frisky, Mussolini claims that he's going to resurrect the Roman Empire, Egypt's his first stop."

"Think we'll see the Pyramids then?"

"Dunno lad, if we go it'll be to fight a war, not do any sightseeing, but ye never know. Ye never know."

Reginald Morley sat with his new wife, Janice Worthington-Morley, he took another sip of the champagne that she had managed to acquire and looked with longing at his lady, her face still showed the scars from her injuries received in a Luftwaffe bombing raid, but he rarely noticed them at all.

"Do you know when?" she asked him.

Distracted, Morley set his glass down on the table, "When what, love?"

"Egypt, when are you lot off to Egypt?" she had a surprise for him, but wasn't sure how to broach the topic.

"Ah, Saturday next. We're off by ship, apparently we're transitioning to Spitfires once we get there. Don't know where the aircraft are coming from, we'll probably still be in Hurricanes for a while. Not that I mind, the Spitfire is a sweet aircraft, but I know the Hurricane inside and out. I like flying it and it's kept me alive so far."

Morley took another sip of champagne then said, "You know Janice, that you can rely on my Mum and Da' for anything and everything while I'm out East, right?" He noted his wife's nervous smile, then set his glass down.

"I assure you love, my parents think the world of you ..."

Janice interrupted him with, "I've had a posting of my own you know."

"What? Where? Dear God I hope the service isn't sending you off to ..."

"Cairo darling, I'm going to Cairo, to work in the headquarters there."

Morley sat for a moment, flabbergasted, "Cairo, why would they send you to ... Oh Lord, you asked for it, didn't you?" Morley sounded upset.

"Of course I did, d'ya think you men are the only ones worried about stopping Hitler and Mussolini?" Worthington-Morley had an edge to her voice which Morley recognized, he had no desire to fight with his new wife.

"Of course not, love. Just that I worry about you, England is safer and ..."

As he said that, the air raid sirens were going off in the near distance. Another German raid was inbound.

Both realized that as the world sank further into darkness, there were fewer and fewer safe places to be.

¹ British slang term for the Italians.


  1. Fewer and fewer indeed. Still, people DID survive.
    Interesting addition to the team, Sarge; will Frazier also transition to the Spit? Knowing the business will help regardless.
    Glad Janice prevailed; they nearly always do, don't they?
    Boat Guy

    1. I see the Spits have the sand filter installed. Doesn't do much for the looks, but necessity rules

    2. Frasier probably will transition to the Spitfire as well, he's an engine guy and the Hurricane and Spitfire both used the Merlin engine. Now if he was an airframe guy, that would be tougher.

    3. Those sand filters were absolutely needed in the harsh conditions prevailing in North Africa.

      But yes, they're ugly.

    4. When you're transferred to a new air plane you learn the new airplane. looks like they are going to be using the aircraft hard so there will be plenty of opportunities to learn it's idiosyncrasies...

  2. Not much in the way of motor transport on that airfield, lots of fuel(?) cans lying about though. Out of the frying pan into the fire for Janice.

  3. The desert sand was hard on our vehicles and our lungs. I've no wish to do that again. It made me appreciate what it was like for those men serving in the WW2 desert campaigns with equipment that was, to us, primitive and with lesser logistics support.

  4. That was not the news I expected from her. Life always finds its own path through the world.

    1. The Muse is always ready to throw a curveball.

  5. A really enjoyable installment, conveying an awful lot of information succinctly with both the emotional personal inferences and the strategic context. Your characters are interesting and endearing, so we always want to learn more about their adventures.

    Now, since you once again have a great photo, that raised a question, enquiring minds might want to know...
    What's with the lad with the paint pot touching up the (yellow/white?) outlines for the fuselage roundel? Note they are not on the wins, just the fuselage.
    John Blackshoe

    1. The RAF had (and still has) a system for its roundels painted on aircraft which originated in the First World War. You can read more about it here. The roundels on the wings were, by design, different from those on the fuselage. In Asia they used first white, then pale blue in the center of that roundel because in combat the red center could, and was, often mistaken for the red sun painted on Japanese aircraft.

  6. Maybe I have an active imagination, but I can really see this installment playing well on a big screen. It just reads like something I'd see in a movie.

    1. Or a really good mini-series.

    2. Tuna - That's kind of how it plays in my head.

    3. Beans - Would have loved to have David Niven play Morley.

    4. That way you'd have a combat veteran playing a combat veteran

  7. Very nice. Heard that the Hurricane pilots really liked them, relatively rugged and good handling. Kind of the plough horse to the Spitfire's thoroughbred.

    1. The Hurricane was very popular with its pilots. Due to their construction they were able to take quite a bit of damage and get its pilot home.

      Of course, any German pilot shot down during the battle always claimed to have been downed by a Spitfire. Which goes far towards proving your plough horse / thoroughbred analogy!

  8. When I was flying for the Corps (just after Wilbur and Orville, according to my grandkids) it was a hard process sometimes to change into a new aircraft. I can understand the need. Those things I flew were expensive! The only "relaxed style" check-out I ever got was transitioning to the T-Bird from the Phantom as an IP. There were some students who had come to us from, shall I say, larger aircraft, perhaps less maneuverable. They wanted the "war time experience" for their personnel folder. Anyway they were not good at flying around at a few hundred feet (AGL) at 450K or so. So someone thought we should fix the guns in the T-Bird (P-80) and do the air ro ground thing a little slower, say 300K or less in the pattern on the range. It was fun (ahhh, the smell of cordite in the morning. AND the guns went "to-pak-ata, to-pak-ata, instead of grrrrrrrrrrrowl, one second burst on the fancy gatling gun).
    Anyway, they assumed I had been in the T-Bird for Primary PT (hadn't everyone?). I got a quick reminder to turn the spark on, then the fuel, two touch and go's, and behold, I was a P-80 IP! I didn't tell them that I had never flown the T-Bird. I was in the very first T-38 class at Randolph! And I didn't kill myself or more importantly, let a stud kill me (that's another story). The range was fun, the landings a challenge. God bless the T-Bird!


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