The Berlin Airlift

Crack Troops

The 2nd Battalion The Queen's Royal Regiment was based in Dortmund when they were ordered to Berlin. During the chaos of packing up, eight "soldiers" including myself from B Company went down with measles. We were immediately transferred to a field hospital so as not to spread the plague around the camp. The battalion departed as the wireless, (that is what we called it then) reported how the Russians were growing increasingly intransigent delaying progress of the Queen's convoy along the autobahn. As the battalion trickled through the last checkpoint the road closed behind them. As our spots faded orders came to rejoin the battalion by air.

Next morning, eight pale and wan figures climbed onto a well used Dakota and took off, seated in uncomfortable bucket, canvas seats. They used an air corridor not yet busy with the air armada which was to supply the city with food and fuel for over a year. We young soldiers were not encouraged when one of the engines ceased to work and even less as we became air sick. Relieved, we landed at a deserted Gatow airfield, which was awaiting the gathering storm of aircraft landing at one a minute. We did not know that we were one of the first flights of the Berlin Airlift - nor did we care. A truck took us to the battalions billets in the Olympic Stadium where we slept the sleep of the sick and tired.

Next morning we awoke to the bustle of army life in the strange surroundings of the Stadium to find ourselves minor celebrities. We were presented with one of a stack of British newspapers specially flown out for the battalion. The headlines blazed:-

"Crack Troops of The Queen's were yesterday flown into Berlin"

That is the first and last time that I was ever a 'crack troop'.

Private Matthews P (Retired)

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