I had been in the Canal Zone for quite some time when I heard from my Aunt Grace that my eldest brother, Norman would soon be sailing to Korea.
Because he had worked on a farm he had been deferred from National Service but when he left the farm he had been called up to do his two years.
He had joined the Northants & Beds Regiment in which he had made his mark as a boxer but now the Regiment was on a posting to Korea where the Korean War was still alive as such but much quietened down now.
Aunt Grace had told me that he would be sailing on the SS Asturia and when it was due to sail so I kept a close eye on the local english printed newspaper until the due arrival date of the Asturia was posted
Now I had my work cut out. As clerks, we were often allocated to do escort duty on the 10 ton lorries used to fetch supplies daily from the docks at Port Said and also move stuff around the Canal Zone. I went into the PSCO orderly room and wangled myself an escort duty up to Port Said on the day when the Asturia was due to dock.We set off that day on the 90 mile trip and pulled into the docks where I could see this large troopship moored up so I went into the Dock Office and told the duty sargeant that my brother was on that ship on his way to Korea and I would like to meet up with him.
" Right " he said to the bods in the office. " which of you lot has a boarding pass with a picture that looks like this man ? " A pass was duly found and I was then hustled onto a launch and taken out into the middle where the ship was and we arrived at the bottom of the boarding steps where my request was given to the officer of the watch. I was then taken up the steps and directed in to the orderly room where I spelled everything out again.
They could not have been more helpful because next thing the ships tannoy blared out with " Private Norman York, Northants & Beds, report to the orderly room now"
A few minutes later, Norman appeared wondering why he had been summoned and fearing the worst but then he had the surprise of his life when he saw me standing there !!
It was a wonderful half hour we had together. Norman took me up to his bunch of mates on the top deck and we talked and took a few pictures but all to soon my visit came to an end because the midday convoy to sail south through the Suez Canal was gathering and it was a case of " all ashore who`se going ashore "
I returned to the launch and we set off back to the dockside where I stood and watched the great ship slowly steam off down the first leg of the traverse to the Great Bitter Lake.
When I rejoined the 10 tonner it took a few more hours before we got underway again on the return leg to Kasfareet on the shores of the Great Bitter Lake. As we travelled down the Canal Road I implored the driver to speed up and eventually , after we had passed Ismailia, I caught a glimpse of the Asturia ahead of us. We never caught up though because bad luck struck and the engine that sat between me and the driver suddenly started spouting steam. We had overheated in the effort to catch up with the ship !!
We eventually got back to Kasfareet before dark and as I got back to my tent, I was happy to be able to see the Asturia, all lit up, moored up in the Great Bitter Lake for the night
When I woke up early next morning the horizon was bare. Norman had sailed off to Korea. Funny thing was, I was still in Kasfareet when Norman sailed back up the Canal for demob. I knew he was coming and I planned to repeat my first meeting at Port Said. Unfortunately I had badly sprained my ankle playing football so I was confined to hospital and the M.O. refused to let me out. !!!
Fast approaching the troopship SS Asturia
past two bumboats and a service vessel.
My older brother Norman
Norman and two Northants & Beds Regiment mates.
Me and Norman. I had borrowed a midget camera
so pictures are poor.
The ship is preparing to depart and as our launch moves past, Norman and his mates are among the topmost group
of squaddies under the derricks.
The Asturia moves off her mooring toward the
head of the Suez Canal