diary of bruce johnston diary of bruce johnston





February Summary

Johnston starts flying as Second Dickey on Liberators in Transport Command.

His first major trip, in February 1945, sees him flying to the Middle East and back with stops in Tripoli, Cairo, Shabah, Karachi and Calcutta.

Selected diary entries from this period appear opposite.


Throughout February, Johnston is based at 246 Squadron, Transport Command, RAF Holmsley, South Hampshire

A/C - Aircraft

W/C - Wing Commander - head of two or more squadrons

Slip crew - Second crew that went along on very long flights, and relieved the original crew about half way through

Jilek - Flight Officer at 246 Squadron

Lyneham - RAF base 100 kms west of London, near Swinton, that was used by Transport Command

Churchill - Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister

Billets - Lodgings for military personnel

Mess - Room where meals were eaten

Bev - Bevington, pilot who flew with Johnston in Transport Command

Pritchard - Pilot in Transport Command

624 - Their specific plane, as identified by its code number: EW624

Shaibah - Airbase in Iraq, 450 km south of Baghdad near the border with Saudi Arabia

Karachi - Port city in Pakistan on the Arabian Sea

Calcutta - City in eastern India near the Bay of Bengal

Drome - Aerodrome, airfield

Barrackpore - Suburb of Calcutta, India, now called Barakpur

Dum Dum - Airport on the outskirts of Calcutta

U/S - Unserviceable, or unusable

Allahabad - City in north central India near Nepal

RT - Radio transmitter, for voice communication

Sun bath - Sun tan

Malta - Island in the Mediterranean Sea 100 kms south of Sicily

Whitaker, Len - Friend of Johnston

Big Three Confab - Meetings held between Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt in Yalta (south coast of Ukraine) from February 4-11, 1945

Nissen huts - Shelters consisting of a sheet of corrugated steel bent into a half cylinder, with masonry walls at each end

Lib VI - Liberator, type of American four engine bomber, also used for transport

Benghazi - City on northeast coast of Libya on the Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea

Med - Mediterranean Sea

GMT - Greenwich Mean Time

Stratus - Unbroken sheet of low-altitude clouds

Climbing the Great Pyramid

February 1 - 28, 1945

(Selected diary entries from this period)

February 2
Met the Engineer today. He’s a Westerner and doesn't know any more than me about the A/C. Haven’t seen anyone else yet. My trip on the fifth is scrubbed!

February 4
Had a lecture by the W/C at noon on a little bit of everything - apparently we need a little bit of the "old school try".

February 7
Found out we’re going as a slip crew to Cairo with Jilek.

February 9
Finally got off. Took half an hour to get to Lyneham arriving there about noon.

February 10
Took off at 8:35 for Tripoli (Castel Benito). Were going to Malta but there’s some rumour of Churchill calling there on way back from conference.

Quiet but very monotonous trip – arrived at 4:10. A very nice place – looks just like a picture, pink buildings and date palms etc. A very nice mess and good meals.

February 11
Took off about 7:30 for Cairo. After uneventful flight arrived about 12:30 (GMT). Got billets and sat around all p.m. This place is really desert! Arabs scooting about all over the place, in the mess too (they really give excellent service too. Hardly got time to finish eating before the next course is sitting in front of you!).

Saw the pyramids in the distance as we came in to land. Sat around the mess until 9 p.m. then went to see “Presenting Lily Mass” at the camp theatre. Not bad, but a real desert cinema. Going to Cairo tomorrow. Had some banana’s today – a real treat!

February 12
After dinner Bev and I hitched into Cairo. Got a ride in an Army truck – did about 50 mph – nearly threw us out the back!

Went within a mile or two of the pyramids – gosh they’re big. I never fully realized their size before. Cairo West is about thirty miles out and it takes nearly an hour to go in.

Cairo is rather a confusing place to visit for the first time. There’s so many different impressions. They have modern buildings, oodles of cars all tooting like mad, jaywalkers, persistent street vendors, confusing coinage, and streetlights and neon signs, and above all an undefinable odor permeating the city. In other words – it stinks! It’s an interesting place though.

February 14
Pritchard arrived with 624 today but no slip crew – they had too many VIP’s – 17 to be exact, as well as some freight – the A/C was jammed! We’re to take off at midnight for Shaibah to catch up on the schedule again.

February 15
Left Cairo at about midnight Wednesday and flew to Shaibah. Got there just after dawn. After a couple of hours and an awful meal we took off for Karachi which took about seven hours – what a trip! With no sleep we nearly died – did I feel rotten! After we got to Karachi we had supper and went to bed. The meal was OK and we sleep in tents with a lantern!

What a crew! Bev says the Wireless Operator hasn’t a clue and the cooperation between Pilot and engineer is conspicuous by its absence! About 12 hours flying today. Don’t think much of India after what I’ve seen.

February 16
Got up about 5:30 and left about 7 a.m. (before sun up). Another wild take-off – what a life! Got to Calcutta after about seven hours and had a time finding the drome – then the Wireless Operator couldn’t contact the tower! Landed at an American drome (Barrackpore) and came over to Dum Dum by bus. Had the usual formalities and then got our billets – it’s quite hot here. We leave at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

Jilek is down halfway across India with an U/S A/C. Boy, I hope this trip ends OK – and soon! Think even less of India today.

February 17
Took off at 11 a.m. It’s quite hot here in Calcutta even now. Summer must be awful! Landed at Allahabad after three hours flying – it’s one of the nicest dromes I’ve hit yet! Went on to Karachi – landing there just at dusk. There was the usual panic about R.T. landing and taking off – especially Barrackpore. It’s getting me down!

February 18
Got up at 5:20 a.m. (late) and had breakfast at the field while the others were being briefed. Off before dawn (7:15) and landed at Shaibah at noon.

February 19
Lay in bed till noon. Had a bit of a sun bath (it’s been a beautiful day) in the p.m. Got some money changed to Egyptian dough for tomorrow and had a shower. I’m tired as the devil again tonight – I don’t know what’s the matter with me lately!

February 20
Got up in time for lunch at 12:30 meaning to catch the 12:30 bus to Cairo, but missed it so hitchhiked in. Got some bananas to bring back to England and that’s about all we did.

We’re leaving tomorrow at 8 a.m. for Malta, so I'm off to bed.

February 21
Off quite early this morning – we’ve got more baggage than the passengers. A very uneventful trip. We arrived at Malta about 3 p.m. Met Len Whitaker there on his way back from the Big Three confab. It’s a very nice mess there but Nissen huts for sleeping. It was cold as the devil too! Worse than England!

Had a Lib. VI today – good A/C too. Weather good to Benghazi then squally over the Med – quite bad in spots. All the passengers were sick.

February 22
Up at 2 a.m. GMT (Gosh) and left at 4:40 GMT (forty minutes late) for Lyneham. Wonderful weather all the way except for low stratus over England. We got in OK and Lyneham was in the usual mess – no organization at all! Took off immediately for base. Took us over eight hours to Lyneham.

Bruce Johnston in Egypt

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