NEWS & EVENTS LETTER
Desert Rats Association
Notice to all members
Please note that the A.G.M. will be held on
Sunday 7th April 2019, starting at 1.00pm
And will be held at
Lynford Hall Hotel,
Please ask at reception to directions to the room meeting is being held in.
10691731 Corporal Alf Jackson - Royal Army Service Corps
23 January 1921 – D.O.D. 11 March 2019
basic and trade training, Alf qualified as a Class 1 Driver RASC, received a bit
of leave, a few weeks’ home guard-style duty on the south coast, before
shipping out on the Duchess of Atholl [the
ship was torpedoed on the return journey] bound for the Middle East, and a
posting to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.
He arrived in the scorching September heat, to be thrown into the mill with 65
Company RASC, 7th Armoured Division, finding himself within a few weeks
delivering ammunition, combat supplies and water at the hard fought 2nd Battle
pivotal battle took place near the Egyptian railway station of that name.
It is remembered now for the bold tactics employed by the newly-appointed
commander Field Marshal Montgomery, who clinched the ultimate defeat of Field
Marshal Rommel’s forces, starting with a seven-hour aerial bombardment
followed by a five-hour barrage of 1,000 guns firing 529,000 shells, followed by
a feint attack in the south and a break-through in the north, when the
German/Italian broke and conducted a fighting retreated hundreds of miles to the
west, before going firm to lick their wounds and halt the Allies on the border
Alf with a Willis Jeep in North Africa
Alf remembers observing this overnight battle from half a mile behind the front line. “The sky was lit up as bright as day, and it went on all night. The sound of the shells was deafening, and it just never stopped.” During the latter stages of the battle at Halfaya Pass, Alf came across a hastily abandoned Afrika CORPS HQ, were he came across a high-ranking German Officer dead in a Fieseler Storch aircraft. He also provided water to hundreds of German prisoners of war and liberated a German commemorative plaque, which he kept as a souvenir to this day.
|Kriegsmarine Plaque liberated from Rommel's HQ in 1942.||Desert Hospitality - a Bivouac and slit trench made for two|
As the war progressed and as the allies gained the initiative, Alf advanced through Libya, into Tunisia and the final defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa. There are many humorous stories of his time in the desert. Living under canvas, the flies, lack of hygiene, Bully Beef, the heat of the day and the cool long nights, but all Alf's stories are told with humanity, passion and with an upbeat manner only he could do, as he captivates his audiences, whatever age.
Tunisia, Alf was supporting the invaded of the so-called 'soft underbelly of
Europe', travelled the length and breadth of Italy supporting the 8th Army from
Monte Cassino and the Gustav Line to the Gothic line and the final surrender of
Axis forces in Italy.
On the 20th March 1946 Alf was de-mobbed and transitioned into civilian
demobilization in 1946, Alf rejoined the family mobile grocery business, taking
control of it as his father’s health deteriorated and getting to grips with
the rigors of ration coupons for every customer and the changes to society in
the post-war era. Women were out at work, money was scarce, food was rationed.
No cars had been manufactured since 1939.
But Alf already had his music, and soon formed an accordion band, where
he played the accordion obtained in Castelfidardo, at dances and weddings.
1952 there was little remaining business for a mobile grocer, and he joined
British Oxygen as a delivery driver, travelling the length of Southern England
with vital cylinders for hospitals. He remembers crawling through the London
smog of 1953 with a co-driver walking ahead to show the way, finally leaving the
lorry near Waterloo Bridge and going home on the Tube, with the job fully done.
his early forties he met Muriel, a widow with a teenage daughter, married and
adapted to family life. As he grew older, he moved away from the heavy oxygen
cylinders to work as a store's manager, for a company whose spare parts
department he rationalized into a profit-making sideline.
spare time, though, was devoted to music, and he continued to play for dancing
at weekends, with a portable electric organ crammed into the back seat of his
1946 Rover 16, with a speaker on the tailboard. In 1970, he and Muriel became
committee members of the American Theatre Organ Society, and in retirement years
they travelled around the UK visiting, and playing, the theatre organs that
remained in public buildings.
to South Wales came with his stepdaughter’s job promotion, and at age seventy,
the couple set up home in Llantwit Major, a few miles west of Cardiff, where he
soon set about refurbishing a neglected Hammond organ in the local hall before
starting his own organ society. At age eighty-nine, the family took him to
Blackpool, where he was able to play the Wurlitzer organ in the Tower Ballroom.
was a fanatical motorist, and had clocked up seventy-six years at the wheel when
his eyesight finally made him give up driving at the age of ninety-four.
ninety, Alf attended the annual Desert Rats Memorial Service held at High Ash
Camp, Mundford, where he shook hands with the Brigadier, was photographed with
Monty and Churchill lookalikes, had a cuddle with the Swingtime Sweethearts, and
marched in parade with Desert Rat veterans of all ages. Moved by the grateful
handshakes he received from many attending, and only too happy to talk to anyone
about his experiences as a soldier, he returned each year, his final visit being
was a real character, a keen supporter of the Desert Rats Association and an
entertainer to the end. One such recent event was when he was the honorary guest
at a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) officers’ dinner to mark
the 75th anniversary of the battle of El-Alamein, in October 2017.
Alf found himself in the place of honour at top table, in the company of
Major General Rob Nitsch CBE and Major General Mark Gaunt CBE, as well as about
seventy high-ranking officers and their partners.
to the right of the presiding General, in front of silver candelabra and
cutlery, Alf was amused to find himself reminded, several times, while chatting
to the General about his wartime exploits, that he would need to start eating,
as form dictates that no one may eat before the guest of honour!
of the officers present made their way to hear Alf’s stories at first hand,
and his enjoyment of the evening was rounded off by the discovery of a Steinway
grand piano in an adjoining bar. This resulted in Alf being asked to play, which
he happily did for the assembled horde until 1:30 in the morning.
|Alf debriefing Major General Rob Nitsch CBE||Alf entertaining the troops at 0130hrs|
passed away suddenly and peacefully in hospital on 11 March 2019, at
ninety-eight years, having spent the preceding days entertaining his fellow
patients with his stories of the wartime. He was a character that will live on
in peoples’ memories for years to come.
Alf was interviewed on video in autumn 2018, and can be heard recounting many of his stories. The two-hour video can be found by searching for The Lone Rat on YouTube. The Lone Rat is Richard Pinches, a Desert Rat re-enactor whose own father was a Rat, who is also a professional film-maker. Alf’s considerable newspaper coverage can be found on search engines by searching for a combination of Alf Jackson desert rat, Alf Jackson accordion, Alf Jackson music, Alf Jackson Blackpool etc.
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