In Memory of my Father - Joseph Albert Willis 26th November 1916 - 28th February 2007
The following pages recount his experiences in Africa and Italy and were written by my Father in 1991 Page 5
Left Tunis driving Canadian Ford V8 lorry for the return journey to Egypt along the same route through all the Arab villages and mountain passes and through the olive groves. Tobruk and El Alamein, to Fayid on the Suez Canal, 2,000 miles. Stayed in Fayid for some weeks – got one week’s leave and spent the week in Cairo in hotel – was lovely to have a good bath and a lovely soft bed. Went in lorry one day to Cairo Helwan Caves and collected Aero Engine for one of the Hurricanes. Was in Ismalia a few times with lorry collecting goods and was lovely to drive along the Suez Road right by the edge of Suez Canal – loved it all. Then one day we moved on to Edku, stayed in tent among date trees – was lovely – used to sit in the shade of the date trees out of the sun. Was very warm and as usual, lots of flies. Went into Alexandria a few times with lorry no. 31726. Major Taylor Young was killed. Another day I saw a Hurricane fall out of the sky and straight into the Mediterranean. Stayed at Edku (Egypt) for some time and had our Christmas Dinner – and very nice it was. I was Barman for one day. I dressed up in a white coat. Some weeks after we had our Squadron Birthday Dinner (30th Dinner). That was in 1944. Soon after than we moved to the Harbour in Alexandria. I was driving lorry no. 98837, a Canadian Ford V8. Had to drive into a large net alongside a ship and then hoisted on board ship. Soon after that we were all on our way up the Mediterranean, past the island of Crete. No lights or no smoking on deck. We landed at Taranto, Italy next day and what a sight the harbour was, with Italian battle ships laying on their sides and other ships as well, what a lot of damage (they deserved it). Helped to unload lorries from ship and then on our way to a place called Gratagolie. I was only there a few weeks doing very little work, weather warm. Then one day I was detailed to drive a Willy jeep to Naples with three RAF pilots as passengers. Arrived at Naples at about 8 pm, got some food and was told to take a heavy lorry to Pompeii, not far from Naples. Arrived Pompeii beside the volcano Vesuvius, found the RAF Unit and reversed lorry up to a large wall and got into the back of the lorry – stayed there all night. Was done out. Reported to RAF Office next morning and was told to stay with the lorry and await orders. After a couple of days, four more of no. 6 Squadron drivers arrived and had the rest of my kit with them. Kit-bag, some of my clothes and my blanket (have the blanket yet). They told me we were posted home to England. I could not have cared less, did not want to go home yet. Wanted to see more of Italy. We all slept in the back of the lorry for some time and after breakfast, a wash and clean up, we used to walk through Pompeii and along the shore and sometimes up the side of the volcano – your shoes would get quite warm with the heat of the volcano. We enjoyed it all.