A s a 16-year-old Devonshire lad from the village of Shaldon, near Teignmouth, Rupert Extence joined the RAF in August 1939 as an aircraft apprentice, just one month before Britain declared war on Germany. After undergoing training and serving briefly in the UK, he was posted overseas and would spend the next four years away from home “getting his knees brown” – RAF parlance for a tour of duty overseas.
His recollections include descriptions of his life as a RAF apprentice in the early days of the war, witnessing air raids in Devon and London, becoming a RAF Aircraftsman at 18 and being posted to the Middle East soon afterwards. After a long voyage by troopship he joined the staff of 263 Fighter Wing Beirut, where, amongst other things, he helped unmask a German spy. Then came a posting to 18 Sector Operations Room, Gaza, part of the air defence of southern Palestine, where he was involved in preparations for the Battle of Alamein and took part in a memorable victory parade in the desert.
His next posting was to Air Headquarters Levant in Jerusalem, where he was involved in intelligence work, before moving on to Aleppo in Northern Syria, to help set up an Advanced Air Headquarters in preparation for a possible invasion of Turkey by the Germans. here he spent a freezing winter before returning to Palestine and 120 Maintenance Unit, a huge stores depot where nights were spent guarding its long perimeter fence against Zionist terrorists. Finally to Air Headquarters Aden, a barren, hot and humid place, where promotion to the rank of Corporal literally saved his life…
All this and more is described in this enjoyable memoir, which will give modern-day readers a fascinating insight into the everyday realities of serving in the Middle East during the wartime years.