Royal Air Force Certificate of Service and Release. Issued to Edward Beaven on August 20, 1946.Edward E.C. Beaven
Service medals awarded to Edward Beaven (Left to Right): 1939-45 Star; Africa Star with North Africa Clasp; Defence Medal; Victory Medal; Queen's Jubilee Medal.Edward E.C. Beaven
"Overall, I would say, yes, at least I saw parts of the world that I knew I never would see otherwise. And the Middle East is a very fascinating country to see, you know. It’s amazing."
I guess I was probably there about a year and a half in Benghazi. I was there when the Americans came into the war. We were, we were the people that actually controlled the American raid on the Ploiesti airfields in Romania. Yeah, after, when the Germans withdrew from North Africa, they decided to send us all into, well, a group of us, into Turkey.
So I was in Turkey for maybe the best part of a year, maybe 18 months. And we were doing the same thing there as we were doing in North Africa, more or less suggesting to the Turks how to control their aircraft on bombing raids. Though I don’t think the Turkish air force ever went on a bombing raid.
We were in civilian clothes going into Turkey. We went to Aleppo in Syria and there they dished us out with civilian clothes to wear while we went into Turkey, because Turkey hadn’t declared war then, when we went in. They were, I think it was another six or eight months before they declared war.
Actually, when we were supposed to be technical advisors on the wattage and radar communications to the Turkish air force. We actually had no equipment whatsoever. So it was quite an experience actually. I quite enjoyed Turkey.
We had our own base and what we did was to go to the Turkish bases by, by transport and do our little lectures and then, or demonstrations, and then come back to our own base. We were in civilian billets, a little town just outside of Smyrna. Some German sympathizers around, you know. Most of the Turks were quite, well, they were quite interested actually in seeing all these British guys going in. You know, there was only about 2000 of us altogether. We were scattered in, you know, three towns in Turkey.
So there wasn’t a, a big presence. But it was, there was a presence there. Before Turkey declared war. But we were there for I guess eight or nine months before Turkey officially declared on the side of the Allies. And then we could put our uniforms back on. And I was there for about another two or three months and then the whole thing sort of seemed to have finished and we were all sent home again. Well, not sent home, but sent back to other places.
When they officially declared war, they decided that their own military would be sufficient to defend their country and they wanted all these foreigners out, especially those that seemed to have uniforms on. (laughs) And even when the war finished, they didn’t just, everybody packed up and went back home again. They decided that relating to your age and what you did in civvy street, and whether you were married or not, would determine a number of your release.
And this system was created because in the First World War, they had so many people released at the same time, a lot of people were out of work. As example, my, my, my dad never worked after 1921. And they didn’t want the same thing to happen to the guys in the Second World War. So they had what they called a staggered release. So even though the war had finished, I still was serving in the air force and my last post was to the north of Scotland, which didn’t help me at all for being home because my, my home was in the south of England. (laughs)
The last posting up there, we were dismantling Short Sunderland Flying Boats, taking all the radio equipment out and then they were towed out by motorboat out into the Irish Sea and sunk. They just got rid of them in that way. Just got off all the, all the equipment that they thought they could use and that was it, they got, just got rid of the aircraft. That was my job. That was my last job in the air force, for the last, oh, six or eight months I guess.
They did give me a chance to go to Northern Ireland because I went out with one of the boats there and after they sunk the, the aircraft, we went into Belfast, had a good meal, a pint of Guinness and back home again. (laughs)
The food usually was pretty good. Because they would get their food from local suppliers. So you, all of us ate the same sort of food as local people ate. The, the eggs were a lot smaller in Egypt than they were from Britain. You very seldom got bacon because Muslims don’t eat bacon. So that, that wasn’t readily available. You usually get it from, usually get that from England or from the United States and, and in sort of a frozen lump and the cooks who weren’t all very good, you know.
I never, I never saw things like Corn Flakes and things like that but you did get porridge maybe two or three times a week. There was, there was always a beer ration, well, they called it a beer ration. You were allowed, I think it was about, if you were on the base camp, you were allowed about two bottles a week. But you were lucky to even see beer if you were up in the desert.
But you, you got your leaves if you wanted, you know. I mean, I went on leave for seven days to Cairo and saw the pyramids and the Sphinx and all the things you’re supposed to see. I, I went to what they call the, the reception centre in Cairo, chummed up with five other guys. We went around everywhere together. And we usually went to the nightclubs. They had the old belly dancers there and if you wanted to, you could dance with the girls. Just a normal sort of nightclub thing.
Overall, I would say, yes, at least I saw parts of the world that I knew I never would see otherwise. And the Middle East is a very fascinating country to see, you know. It’s amazing. There’s, there’s a place in Aleppo where they still have the remains of a crusader castle from the 12th century. And all these things are very interesting.
One of the most interesting things I thought was when Jerusalem was under siege in back around about, I think about, about 1,000 years before Christ, the local inhabitants dug a conduit under the, under the walls to supply fresh water to the inhabitants inside these, this fortress. And I walked all the way along that conduit and it, the water is still fresh, still very very cold and it’s about maybe a foot deep.
And I just had me boots around me, tied around me neck and I walked through this conduit with a couple other guys. And it’s about, probably about three quarters of a mile long. And it was a secret thing at the time I gather but you could, you could use it and it was very interesting. And like I say, I was in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve in ’44 I think it was, and we were singing carols in the shepherd’s fields there. So I quite enjoyed my stay in the Middle East, it was pretty good.