The Suez Veterans Association

The main aim of the Association is to re-kindle and promote a spirit of comradeship amongst those who served in the

Suez Canal Zone, Egypt.     

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Suez Veterans Association.

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Re: William James (Jay) McDowall, RASC.

I also have cancelled my membership of the S V A. Two reasons, 1 the monthly meetings have been moved to some remote venue in Leics. This would mean two buses, I had to give up driving which would mean a two hour bus journey each way.
2.tThe one meeting that I did attend there was no sign of a welcome , even when winning the raffle and handing back the bottle prize, I felt that I was an intruder,.

I still retain membership of the Canal Zoners, although they meet in Bham I find that it is easier to attend and that the welcome was there
Incidentally it is 66 years today that I travelled to Heathfield Camp, Honiton to start my 2 years N.S culminating in 16 months in T.E.k.A

Re: William James (Jay) McDowall, RASC.

Hi all, I too think it would be a shame if the site closed altogether. I know there are fewer contributors and contributions but it does keep we members overseas up to date to a certain extent.We do have a British Veterans group who meet once a month. But it is not just Suez vets there, We have them from all over, Malaya, Germany, Suez. We are now down to about10-15 members who attend the meetings but there are about another 6 or 7 who are members but are unable to attend owing to sickness or other reasons. This does not keep us up to date with everything because there would be a lot of things coming up at your various meetings and functions that we do not get to hear about.
I know that we are running out of things to talk about regarding Canal service but surely there must be humerous incidents that happened that we could bring up instead. Let us get our thinking caps on and try and stir up our memories.
Cheers, all Taffy.

Re: William James (Jay) McDowall, RASC.

Taffy, I'm not sure if we are running out of things to talk about, more likely we don't think what we have to share is of interest. We couldn't be more wrong.

For instance, I have seen The Suez Canal Zone called "Britains largest Garrison". Wrong! It was a military zone made up of many garrisons ( maybe as many as twelve.- twenty?). Because of this, we had different experiences. Some of the garrisons were sparse and forbidding " hellholes" while others had lidos, spas and lakeside boating.
I visited TEK a few times on convoy duty and (right or wrong) my memory of it is "Desert, desert, desert" and tents as far as the eye could see.
My impressions of Ismaelia and Fayid were of a little tropical location with paved streets and some palm trees (close?).
My own Garrison (Suez) was somewhere in between - Right at the south end of Treaty Road which ran right past our camp gate, about half a mile further on and you were "In Egypt". We were close enough to the Gulf of Suez, and.the Red Sea, that we had monthly outings to the beaches there (another recovered memory).

The geographic location of our garrisons not only determined our comforts but also how involved we got in "the goings on" with the Wafdists and other baddies. e.g., the Suez Garrison was located just outside the city of Suez ,which we never saw but could hear at night (especially during Ramadan).

What I am trying to say is -- we all have something to tell about our time in the Canal Zone.

Our dear departed friend Tony Tolan lived a nomad's life as a member of a RAF Airfield Construction crew. He had no camp, no Garrison, no place to call home - his tent was pitched where he was working and then he moved on.
As I said, the Canal Zone was not the same for all. So if somebody's experience doesn't match yours, just remember -- it wasn't.

JimW.

Re: William James (Jay) McDowall, RASC.

Bill, Rod, Bob,:
Regardless of how the Forum finally ends I think we can all agree it has been of considerable value to all of us. At the very least it proves we are still around.

Being in contact with Suez Veterans over these few years changed my outlook on my time in the Canal Zone. For many years I thought my time spent there was an empty hole in my life, but exchanging experiences with all of you changed my mind about its importance in my life.
I spent my nineteenth and twentieth birthdays (not much more than a teenager) in a small army camp in the desert at the foothills of Mt. Atiqa, just north of the Gulf of Suez ( Believe it or not - I just recently found out the desert had a name, "The Eastern Desert").

I used to think of my buddies back home continuing with their lives and I was stuck in "this hell hole". On perimeter patrol I would stand staring out into the great Wadhi which had created the Lawrence of Arabia landscape and wondering what my pals at home were doing. I was wrong - they were doing nothing. Through talking to you lads I finally realized it was me who was doing something:

How many of my pals were rushing out in the middle of the night to man a road-block to stop a stolen supply truck on the Treaty Road. Watch it crash through our barrier, go racing around a bend to be blown to smthereens ( the Airborne didn't use barriers, they used road mines).
How many of my friends got involved in rescuing a submerged truck in a canal (not the 'big one') and rescuing the troops sitting on the roof.
How many of my friends visited an Egyptian tavern (Auberge de l'Atiqa) pretending to be merchant sailors and running for our lives from a gang of Egyptian taxi drivers wielding starter handles.
I had many adventures during my time in Suez, I just didn't know that was what they were. I just knew I was missing all the fun my mates at home were probably having.
How many of my friends drove as an armed guard on a convoy up the desert alongside the Suez Canal ( that duty was called "riding shotgun")?
How many of my friends spent New Year on foot patrol in the Sinai Desert and not knowing why?

When I came back home my friends were just the same
. . . I thought I was but I wasn't.

The Forum opened my eyes to what I couldn't see . . . That I was having an experience which would last lifetime.

JimW.

Let the Forum outlast us all. Let the Forum itself be "Last man standing" - Maybe I will turn off the lights.

Re: William James (Jay) McDowall, RASC.

Hi Jim/Lads, As you say Jim, my memories of TEK are sand, sand and more sand. There was a swimmg pool there, but believe it or not, I never knew it existed util a mate of mine showed me a photo of it a couple of years ago I can vividly remember the searchligt posts around the perimeter having spent a lot of my time on numbers 10, 11 and 12. Did have about a month at Qassassin and some time at Fanara doing our annual range qualifications. Our Company also had about six months at Lake Timsah. Firstly setting it up as a holiday camp then, as a reward for all the hard work we put in, we had a month as resident company. For some reason I was appointed "Life Guard" and spent a lot of that month just wearing swimmers sitting up in a small tower watching the swimmers. Typical Army psychology giving me that duty, I was certainly nowhere near the strongest swimmer in the Coy. Maybe they decided I was not fit to do anything else.
Owing to that duty, when I lay out in the desert sands at night I looked like a shadow. I was as black as the ace of spades.
Cheers all, Taffy.

Re: William James (Jay) McDowall, RASC.

Taffy, we had floodlights right around our camp perimeter. It took me a while ( I was slow) to figure out why they pointed away from the camp and we patrolled inside in the dark.

The Suez Garrison was not a bad looking Garrison, the Treaty Road and a railroad split it in two. We had a really nice swimming pool, open air cinema, small row of shops, a theatre (for ENSA shows), an MMG tea room and several churches. Not a tree in sight. I don't think we had a NAAFI, but I'm sure some of the larger camps had their own.
Plus a hospital, where I spent a couple of weeks. I was considered "ambulatory" and therefore unpaid help. I didn't complain, because they had nurses (which I think contributed to my longer than usual recovery period).

I mentioned the ENSA shows - I saw Terry Thomas, Ivy Benson, Joyce Grenfell, Ronnie Ronalde, Ruby Murray and a couple of talent shows put on by the lads themselves. Correction: Terry Thomas had to turn back because the Suez Garrison was in lockdown during the Neguib/Nasser revolt.

JimW.

I just realized it - as I am writing this I can see the camp gate vividly and many of the other places I mentioned.