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Thread: Unidentified (specialist wireless?) RAF units - WWII - North Africa

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    Default Unidentified (specialist wireless?) RAF units - WWII - North Africa

    I'm new to this forum, so please forgive the lengthy first post. In brief I am hoping those more knowledgeable than myself may be able to help make sense of my grandfather's service record attached below.

    I am researching his WWII service which the family believe was almost entirely served in the deserts of North Africa. Given the ad-hoc way in which specialist teams can be formed and disbanded during wars we may never make sense of all he did, or where he went. However if anybody can fill in the blanks or even if they can make an educated guess to expand upon what I have outlined below, I would be very grateful for any suggestions.

    My grandfather died in old age having never spoken candidly about what he did in WWII. Coming from a family who ran a successful maritime salvage business he was already a skilled engineer and a well qualified wireless telegrapher before joining the armed forces. He always maintained that he had enlisted in the RAF sometime before war had broken out, though the evidence suggests this may have been in some sort of volunteer reserve capacity rather than as a full time career.

    His eyesight was such that he would never have passed the medical for any kind of active combat role, nor would he have been quite as young as most RAF recruits when war was declared. However, odd comments he did make lead us to think that whilst in North Africa he may have had a somewhat isolated and nomadic life in the RAF. That he was living mainly out of tents and trucks as part of a small (specialist?) communications team working ahead of, and separated from, the main military occupation. It was during his military service that he acquired a hatred of camels; His photos of military figures on camels along with images of my grandfather in Arabic desert robes hint at some sort of slightly unusual military duties, or at least some eccentric recreational activities when on leave!

    Our suspicions of his wartime activities possibly being a little unusual had initially been enhanced by the fact his brief military service record simply showed that after a few brief months he was discharged from the RAF as an "air gunner" on medical grounds (presumably poor eyesight?) before war was even declared. Until we recently discovered that he had a second personnel service number we had no official record of him ever having gone to North Africa, let alone what he actually did for the RAF whilst there.

    Anyway, whilst the discovery of this additional service record attached here hasn't yet answered all of our questions it is starting to fill in a few blanks.

    Based upon suggestions made by other more knowledgeable individuals I am building up a picture of a reservist stood down until such a point as hostilities were declared. That he may have been part of a large body of men nominally recalled upon the start of the war, but which the RAF lacked the facilities to process quickly. That as a consequence of this my grandfather may have not have been actively re-enlisted until the autumn of 1940 where upon he was bounced in and out of training units for a while; either bringing up to date his RAF wireless training, or fulfilling general duties whilst waiting for more spaces to become available within various other signalling training centres. There has been a suggestion that No7 Recruit Centre (7RC) was based in Morecambe and was a specialist training centre for signals units as was No1 Signal School (1SS)

    That at some point in 1942 he was shipped out to the Middle East Signals Section (MESS). That as part of the HQ/wing establishment he would have been passed from place to place in the mobile war in North Africa before moving across the Mediterranean into Europe.
    Our real challenge is now putting names/dates/locations/activities to the various units he served with having left England; to work out what sort of activities his units may actually have been involved with.

    I have been told that 328Wing was involved in the liberation of Sicily and in the later part of 1943 was based out of Protville II airbase northwest of Tunis, but this may have been before my grandfather was part of this unit. Based upon the limited number of war time photos we have of my grandfather's we also know he must have been in Egypt at some point, where one caption mentions Burgh-el-Arab, and where another Mediterranean looking building bears the name Monopoli, which hints he may have been in southern Italy.
    However there is still a lot of vague uncertainty about my grandfather's actions in the Middle East which remain hidden behind unfamiliar units whose activities we know little about.

    So, if asked to speculate based upon what we so far understand of his service record, and what he did mention of his own activities, my best guess might be to infer that my grandfather eventually ended up working in the North African desert as part of a Wireless Observation Unit reporting enemy movements back to HQ. However I have no idea if the activities of the units listed on my grandfather's service record actually support such a hypothesis or indicate something different about his service.

    Many thanks


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    Hi

    Welcome to the forum

    From his record he began as a Wireless Operator and later retrained as a Wireless Operator Mechanic.

    He would have been placed on the reserve in September 1940 to await a place on a training course, which began at Cardington but was transferred to 7 RC at Morecombe, but this didn't specialise in Signals, that was No 10 (Signals) RC at Blackpool.

    From Morecombe he was on a holding posting at No 10 Balloon Centre in Manchester before beginning to train as a WOp at No 3 Signals School, Compton Bassett, which was followed by another holding post at an RAF Station that I cannot make out and then more training at No 1 Signals School, Cranwell. A further holding post at RAF Wittering was followed by his posting to the Middle East.

    On arrival in the Middle East he attended the Middle East Signals School (not Section) and it's here he may have retrained as a WOM, but the dates are hard to make out.

    He is than posted to AHQ Western Desert, at the time in Malta, then to No 1 Sector Operations Room at Habbaniya, Iraq. Transferred to North-West African Air Forces he was assigned to No 338 Wing at Reghaia and four months later to No 328 Wing at Alghero. He may have remained at Alghero when he joined No 63 Staging Post as it operated a detachment there.

    On returning to Home Establishment he joined No 19 Flying Training School at Cranwell, finally being discharged from No 102 Personnel Dispersal Centre at Cardington

    Malcolm

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    Quote Originally Posted by malcolm_raf View Post
    Hi

    Welcome to the forum


    Malcolm

    Thanks for the response and apologies for the delayed acknowledgment as I've had a busy few days where I've not been able to check back in here.

    There are certainly one or two entries on my grandfathers records which are difficult to read, but you've certainly been able to expand upon what I previously knew so thankyou very much for that.

    Cheers

    HH

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    HH, Hi,
    Yr man may have been a WOP in one of the 'Spook' organisations (PHANTOM Units, or involved in the Rx of ULTRA sigs, etc), who knows what they got up to - and where?
    Living in tents in N Africa is an art-form.
    The dislike of camels, in my case, was completely mutual.
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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