(ME) in the Suez Canal Zone in the early 1950s
THE ORIGINS OF JAPIC (ME)
The Photographic Development Unit, codename MI4, was formed on 19 January 1940, with the interpretation section being named Photographic Development Unit - Interpretation and Intelligence (PDUI) on 12 June 1940. On 11 July 1940 the whole unit became the Photographic Interpretation Unit, and on 7 January 1941 was again renamed, this time the Central Interpretation Unit
After the war, in August 1947, the name was changed once more, to the Joint Air Photographic Intelligence Centre, and the codename MI4 was discontinued. On 17 December 1953 the unit's name was changed again, to the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (UK). In 1956 the various JARIC(UK) units, based in Medmenham, Wyton and Nuneham Park, all moved to purpose-built premises at RAF Brampton. More detail is available here.
The origins of JAPIC(ME) are less clear. It was certainly present at RAF Deversoir in the Suez Canal Zone in the early 1950s, and presumably its name was changed from JAPIC to JARIC at the end of 1953 or soon thereafter, in line with the change from JAPIC to JARIC (UK). Steve Benkel's account would seem to indicate some time in early 1954. Later the unit moved to both RAF Abu Sueir and to RAF Ismailia before finally leaving Egypt to set up operations at RAF Episkopi, Cyprus.
If anyone can add any more detail to JAPIC/JARIC(ME)'s presence in the Canal Zone I'd be very grateful. Photos of JAPIC(ME)
Those who were there and with whom I am in contact
Gavin Allard Deversoir and Eastleigh
Bradford ?- November 1954
October 1955 - February 1956
Reg Paley 1953
Shillam May 1951 - May 1954
I was at PPS for that time, Cpl. i/c electrics, with Sid Prince as my a/c he was projectionist at the Astra and I joined him a second projectionist and then later as manager of the Astra (in spare time). Sid and I had a bunk under the projection room to give a lot of attention to the Astra, which explains why I didnt have too much time to socialise.
My good buddy there was Dusty Miller (photographer) came from Maidenhead and was responsible for getting me a pen-friend who became my wife when I was repatriated, Dusty was my best man. Also Bobby Drew also photographer from Chesterfield. Of course I knew well Cpl Phil Philips and others less well.
I picked another cushy number in servicing all the 16 mm film projectors in the Canal Zone had use of a Standard Vanguard to travel, and an armed guard.
Chris Withers Jan 1953 - July 1955
who were there
"Nipper" Calvert Surrey
Norman Phillips Newcastle
Alun Davies Llanelli
Geoff Lightfoot Runcorn
"Taff" Lewis Wales
Sgt "Bob" Hope
"Ginger" Southern London
Don is now a world famous war photographer and covered many
Tom Seaton Lincs
John Paterson Darlington
Ray Jones Neath
Flt/Lt Metcalfe I/C PPS
Steve Benkel's account of his time at JAPIC (ME) and the move to Cyprus
In January 1954 we touched down at Fayid in the Suez Canal Zone. My first impression of Egypt was not good, having left England on a cold winters morning we were expecting it to be warm but when they opened the cabin door it was just like a furnace door being opened, and this was in the middle of the night! O.K. that was to be expected but I had not expected the all pervading wreak of diesel oil which I think was ever present for the rest of my time in Egypt.
So we had arrived in Egypt. A group of eight very new airmen who had obviously arrived too soon, there was no place for us on the JAPIC (M.E.) establishment, so the powers that be decided that we could spend the time usefully on an induction course. We were sent to an army camp called Namur where we were shown the workings of the Royal Engineers 42 Field Survey unit, they were the map makers and we spent the next three weeks having lectures, map reading exercises and photo interpretation exercises. The officer in charge was a very jolly gentleman named Sandy Cibern (I'm not sure of the spelling of his name), he was a Captain in the Gloucestershire Regiment who had just been transferred from Korea, no wonder he was jolly! During one of his lessons on photo interpretation we were introduced to stereo glasses, we all seemed to be doing quite well except for one individual who just couldn't get a stereo image. Sandy was very patient with him until the poor lad volunteered that he was blind in one eye and he wondered if that was the reason? Needless to say he was assigned to new duties and we never saw him again.
Eventually we were told that we could join our unit. We were bundled into the back of a three tonner with some other unfortunates and drove off into the desert stopping on the way to deposit individuals at various inhospitable locations. Then we arrived at our new Camp, R.A.F. Deversoir. We were introduced to our new billets in the tent lines and were split up into three men tents. Then we were taken to our new section. We had arrived at the JAPIC (M.E.) compound. We were confronted by a single storey building which formed the four sides of a square with an open garden area in the centre. It had a continuous covered veranda around the exterior walls and the veranda was enclosed with wire mesh fencing. The building sat in the centre of an enclosure which also had a high wire perimeter fence. At night the whole enclosure was illuminated with an array of powerful lamps.
We settled into a routine much as you describe and we new erks started our trade training as Tracer P.I's. When we passed our tests we were made up to L.A.Cs and eventually S.A.Cs. Because we were segregated from the rest of the camp, i.e. Guarding our own compound and not the rest of the camp and the supposed mystery of what went on inside JAPIC we became known as the "JAPIC Girls", this didn't bother us and we soon became a close knit unit made up of R.A.F. and Royal Engineer personnel. It was about this time the unit became JARIC (M.E.) and there were subtle changes in the type of work we undertook.
Photo by Chris Withers
We were moved from the tent lines into Nissen huts which were partly below ground level and stayed comparatively cool. I believe they were constructed by the Americans during WW2, when they flew bombers from Deversoir. Deversoir could be called civilised, mainly because of its location, it is situated at the northern end of The Great Bitter Lake where the canal cutting heads north, through Lake Timsah, the town of Ismalia and on to Port Said. the camp had its own flotilla of sailing dighies which were built by local craftsmen to a specification supplied by the club. There was also a very good social club run by a Scottish church, I can't remember which one. We also spent many afternoons on the banks of the canal watching the ships passing on their way to who knows where? We did see one French troopship passing on its way to Indo-China. The French troops were allowed on deck but while they were passing through the canal they were kept in great cages made of rope netting to ensure that wouldn't go A.W.O.L
Late in 1954, JARIC (M.E.) was relocated at R.A.F. Abu Sueir, the unit was allocated a very substantial brick building which came complete with flushing toilets, what luxury! The downside was that the building was considered secure enough not to need exterior guard patrols and a reduced guard occupied the building in non-working hours. This meant that we were now available for station guard duty, a twenty-four hour stretch, the only saving grace was that guard personnel list was much larger so the duties came around less frequently.
Our living quarters were a wooden hut left over from WW1, the spiders and bedbugs reigned supreme. Soon after moving in, we stripped the building bare sealed all the windows and doors and had the building fumigated. We tried to keep the crawlies, bedbugs and mosquitoes at bay with a combination of DDT,mosquito nets and standing the feet of the beds in cans half filled with oil. This seemed to discourage the little varmints.
In the adjoining shower block we had the luxury of a bathroom which had running hot water at certain times of day. this was very unusual but it might have been because the other end of the shower block was in the WAAF compound.
By mid-1955 we were preparing to pull out of the Canal Zone and there was a marked improvement in relations with the Egyptian authorities. It meant that we were free to visit nearby towns without armed escort. We visited Ismalia frequently and we also made several trips to Port Said and Port Fuad and were allowed one visit to Cairo, the Giza Pyramids and the Cairo Museum where we saw the treasures of King Tut long before they came to the U.K.
During our posting to Egypt we had two leave passes to Cyprus. One trip was spent in Nicosia and on the beach at Famagusta. The second visit was more adventurous, four of us hired car and we discovered a great deal of the island including Nicosia, Famagusta, Limassol, Platres in the Troodos Mountains, Kyrenia and St. Hilarion Castle to mention just a few. These visits were long before the partition of the island and the existence of the green line. I doubt very much if I could ever repeat that trip.
Eventually it was time for us to leave Egypt. JARIC (M.E.) was on the move again. A convoy of 10 ton lorries arrived at the unit and loaded everything that moved. We drove to Port Said and embarked on a T.L.C. named the "Snowdon Smith", and sailed for Cyprus. After a very pleasant overnight voyage, during which we slept on deck because it was too hot and noisy below decks, we arrived in Famagusta. We drove to Episkopi where we greeted at the main gate by an S.P. in very casual dress, I seem to remember that he was sporting a tartan shirt and stood outside his guard hut which had a notice informing us that it was the Sheriffs Office!
Episkopi was very much in the early stages of construction, and it seems that JARIC were one of the very first units to arrive at the camp. We obviously had to guard the vehicles until they were unloaded but as far as we could see our only neighbours were a few goats and some Turkish construction workers who were very friendly and offered to share their bread, grapes and wine with us.
I think we
were in tented accommodation within a wire enclosure. Our
first impression was that we had landed in paradise when comparing it
to Egypt and one of the first excursions, when we had some free time,
was to take a path down to the beach.
And from Barney Bourne
Bourne Canal Zone May-September 1955, Episkopi September 1955 - January
Most of my time in Ismalia was spent all over the town picking up the dialect. No place was out of bounds and I got away with it by using my French passport as I had dual nationality; this also provided other extreme perks as I could enter the most hallowed of French establishments, like the French Club something no British troops could do, so life was pretty sweet. It got even better when I was sent to Alexandria to do an intensive language course at the university.
I thought it was too good to last and I was detached to Eastleigh in Kenya; I think by this time withdrawal from Egypt was on the cards. Eventually I was posted to Cyprus never going back to Egypt. I was now brushing up on my Greek and being introduced to Turkish. I didn't do any photo work other than my own prints because I had been trained for PR.
Suez took me on detachment to Akrotiri interpreting for the French ; their photo units put ours to shame; completely self contained with all the most up to date equipment. I did not like Akrotiri and was glad to get back to Episkopi.
My all time friend in Episkopi was a Turk, Irateen--you might have known him as he ran a lorry and taxi firm and owned the bar on the main road in Episkopi; many are the times he ferried lads back to the camp after a long night at his bar; do you remember those wonderful kebabs he used to cook ???? I still visit him, in the North now, of course, two or three times a year, when it is cooler, he just had his 97th birthday, recently we attended the funeral of Rauf Denktash, another life long mutual friend; they were friends from childhood born in Paphos. As an aside they were members of the Turkish resistance movement at the time of eoka.
Early in 57 I was posted to Akrotiri, 13 squadron they had finally realised I was PR photographer; I hated the place; it was so restrictive compared to Episkopi and besides that the living accommodation was riddled with bed bugs - the place was alive with them. I got into hot water when after all of our protestations went unheard and I got in touch with my MP. Solution we were re -housed in tents at the back of the pan -the best of results .One good thing came out of Akrotiri; I met my future wife in the hospital there.
Back in England I went to Air Ministry and then to Wyton 58 sqn and finally Brampton where I bought a dilapidated house near the Black Horse-that was to set me up quite by accident in property development, in which I still dabble.
http://rafinegyptandaden1950sduddings.co.uk/Egypt.aspx Many photos of RAF Abu Sueir and of Ismailia
www.suezcanalzone.com/ Words and photos by servicemen
http://britains-smallwars.com/Canal/index1.html#his More words and photos
http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/20/newsid_3204000/3204331.stm Report of the events of 20 November 1951
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Canal History of the Canal
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/john.boon/John%20Boon%20Extra%20text2a.htm John Boon as a schoolboy in the Canal Zone 1950-53
https://picasaweb.google.com/jaricme/JohnBoonInEgyptAndCyprus195053# Photos in the Canal Zone and Cyprus 1950-53
Photos of Deversoir
Photos of Ismailia