LAC. Wallace Jackson in North Africa and Italy with 70 Squadron, RAF, 1941-1944


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 LAC John George Walker  535122 (1)


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Contributed by his son,  John Walker

   My father is John George Walker, born at Ashington, Northumberland on 2.10.1918.  

   He enrolled in the RAF on 5.10.1936, three days after his 18th birthday. 

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RAF Reception Depot, West Drayton,Middlesex, where I presume all recruits had to attend.  

Dad said this was a terrible place and if he had had any money he would have returned home immediately, but he was penniless and had to stick it out. 


He boarded the Troop Ship Somersetshire at Southampton on February 9th,1939, bound for Karachi, India (now Pakistan).
The men were given a rudimentary map of where they were heading for in Iraq – Habbaniya, and how they would get there, see cartoon, and were warned about perils to drivers in the desert.



The squadron changed ship at Karachi and completed their sea journey aboard the S.S.VARELA, which stunk of camel hides. They had to put up with this for the next four or five days, until they reached Basra, and finally Habbaniya.



Once settled in at their new base 70 Squadron had their photograph taken. Aircraftsman 535122 Walker is in the back row, the tall figure immediately in front of the fuselage. I believe this was taken in March,1937. 


70 Squadron flew Vickers Valentias, which they used for transportation and for bombing. 

Valentia K 4630 X was undergoing a 40 Hour Inspection in ‘C’ Flight hangar. 


Taken inside a Valentia; Jack Walker is on the right, opposite him is the rigger named Sutton, and the third member is believed to be Sergeant Hardisty, although I am not 100 per cent sure of this. He appears in a lot of my father’s photographs. 


A similar photo taken at the same time includes a fourth person seated in the centre of the fuselage. I believe him to be Sergeant Clements; Sutton is still there and Sergeant Hardisty was where Jack was seated.




The Valentia flight deck had an open cockpit. In this photo the left hand wheel has been removed for ease of access. 

K 8848 W over the River Euphrates. The rear of the photo being annotated.






One of Jacks friends was Ted Wallace seen here on the banks of the Euphrates on 9th July,1939, 

 - but he couldn’t get rid of the next one quick enough.


Jack is seen here with Ted Wallace and Whinney.

Summer days were hot, too hot to work on occasions; he is seen here swatting flies in the billet, and trying to rest in the stifling heat.


Four Supermarine Southampton flying boats of 203 Squadron on the Euphrates 
near camp.



Sutton has his left arm over B.Power's shoulder, Jack is crouching, not sure of the others. 


Jack volunteered to train as a rear gunner on the Valentia. The rear gun turret was open to the elements and a flying jacket ,goggles and helmet were essential as it is cold at altitude. I still have his goggles, helmet and fur-lined leather gauntlets. He is seen here on the left, having enjoyed the training.



On 12th September,1939, just after the war broke out a German submarine was spotted off Sharjah in the Persian Gulf. This was one of the British Imperial Airways refueling stations on their way to India and the far east. A two plane detachment was immediately sent to Shaibah where they were to receive further orders( to collect personel and convey them to Sharjah). Jack was on Aircraft No 1 with P/O Garrard –Cole. Captain. P/O Skeet, Sgt. Hardisty and LAC Taylor. On Aircraft No 2 were F/O Hesketh. Captain. Sgt.Clements, ACLGrayshon, ACL Wilson and ACL Fayers.
Aircraft No 1 was Valentia J 8921, and Aircraft No 2 was Valentia K 2801. Allowing for maintenance inspections on the aircraft, four to five days had elapsed before the return journey could be made. 

On the return journey they re-fueled and rested over night on Bahrain Island. That night his two pilots drank too much and the next day upon take-off were the worse for wear. After taking off they played tricks by flying low over Arab boats on the sea. They flew too low and struck the mast of one which became embedded in the lower wing, causing the plane to dip its undercarriage in the water, but the pilot managed to pull it out. As they were flying low and at a speed of about 60mph, Jack decided to walk along the wing through the rigging and kick the mast to dislodge it, but before he reached it, it fell off, exposing a badly damaged main wing spar. He informed the pilot and advised him to make an emergency landing as he feared they could crash. The pilot landed the aircraft safely.

P/O Skeet can be seen examining the damage to the wing, and in the other photo he is with Captain Garrard-Cole (seated in the doorway) and an Arab who had been sent to guard the plane.

Garrard-Cole, Sgt.Hardisty and Jack had to spend five weeks on Bahrain island awaiting the delivery of a new wing in a huge crate aboard a dhow from Iraq. This meant Jack had an unexpected five week holiday which included his 21st Birthday on 2nd October,1939. Whilst there the local sheik allowed them the use of his private swimming pool and the use of a free taxi twice a day.

Both pilots were disciplined and transferred. 



Sometime during 1939, 70 Squadron were ordered to smarten up a Valentia to take members of the Royal Family to Iran for the Shah’s forthcoming wedding. Here are two photos, one of which Dad annotated on the rear to explain what was happening.




Three Valentias the nearest one being K 2795 Z, visiting Mosul, northern Iraq. I have previously seen on the internet a similar photo to this at Mosul with different Valentias, but I have forgotten where.


A photo of ‘C’ Flight erks. Left to right No 1 from Liverpool and a good footballer,name not known. No 2 a Welshman from Pontypool. No3 Jack Walker. No 4 Shorty Martin from West Wales. No 5 Matthew Loughlin (see photo of Harold Branson and friends: he is the man on the right. He was a close friend of dad’s). I don’t know the others although the chap in the front wearing a wrist watch may be Ted Wallace.



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