The Berlin Airlift

Neville Jackson who served with his father,
Major (QM) Bob Jackson in Berlin during the Airlift recalls:-

Berlin was a long time ago and although we often think in our youth that we will never forget - We Do. In some ways the fact that Berlin was filled mostly with "Duties", so much of that time was of a mundane nature. I have memories of individual incidents such as the time when the battalion was on parade practising for Trooping the Colour and the Soviet fighters decided to 'buzz' us. I remember seeing the plane coming towards us and just wondering was this just to annoy us or was it the real thing. We would have been like targets at a fair if it had been the real thing.

At one stage Lt Charles Millman as he was then became the weapon training officer and I was his sergeant. We discovered we had a large excess of explosives in the magazine which was required to ·be either returned or used. I therefore became in charge of the sound effects for the battalion exercises. The first time we used them was to give the effect of shelling as the battalion practiced an advance to contact. In front of the battalion we therefore set off thirty to forty gun powder slabs in ones and twos at a time. It was quite effective. My wife who was in hospital having our first son (who later died and is buried in Berlin) told me later that the German nurses became quite agitated because they thought the Russians were coming. She was able to reassure them it was only her husband playing games!

I can also remember providing "noises off" for one of the rifle company platoons who were training the National Service soldiers in the training area, the Grunewald. We had been firing bren guns into a pit using live ammunition for sound effects. The platoon commander felt that his soldiers were not taking the exercise seriously so decided to give them a shock. He said live ammunition was now going to be used and they were to take extra care. Then shortly afterwards he arranged that they were to be told one of the soldiers had been shot. Unfortunately the signaller was not in the know and reported the accident to BHQ. 'Doc' Watret was not amused when he arrived on the site with his ambulance! ('Doc' Watret was the Medical Sergeant)

For me personally Berlin had connotations far more personal. My father (Bob Jackson) had joined the Queen's in 1918 at the age of 17. He spent the whole of his service in the Regiment. As I grew up it was always assumed by him that I would join the Regiment and if possible obtain a commission. No other option was ever considered. When I joined the Army therefore early in 1945 I joined the Queen's. I was posted to a Leader Training Battalion and from there went to OCTU fully believing I would be commissioned into the Queen's. When I passed out of OCTU there was a shortage of officers in the Gunners and I was commissioned into the Royal Artillery. This was a blow for me and even more so for my father. I served my time with a War Service Commission and was finally discharged. For someone who had spent his whole life in the expectation of being a Regular Soldier this was quite traumatic. I resolved the problem by immediately joining up as a private in the Queen's. The authorities immediately promoted me to Sergeant and posted me to the 2nd Bn The Queen's in Berlin where my father was also serving. Although I had worn the Queen's badge before, this was the first time I actually served with the Regiment. It was like a homecoming. For the whole of my 21 years of age I had been pointed in life you might say for this moment - and at last it had happened. I remember clearly fronting up before RSM Noke and feeling at last I had made it.

Subsequently I was to serve with 6th Queen's, The Kings African Rifles, 1st Queen's again from which I was posted RSM to 6th Surreys just prior to the amalgamation. From there served as RSM of the 1st Tanganyika Rifles with Colonel Roly Mans as CO. On returning from Africa I was once again commissioned and because of my previous commissioned service promoted to Captain. In 1965 I transferred to the Australian Army and served in the Royal Australian Regiment as a Company Commander.

 It was at this point I decided to become an Anglican Priest and after Training and Ordination returned to the Australian Anny as a Chaplain - finally retiring from the army in 1984.


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