Private George Crook, 1st Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment, remembers his surprise when a secret, experimental army vehicle proved no challenge to an Egyptian village elder.
George Crook
Private George Crook

You were getting these vehicles in to test?
Yes. We had to go on the Humber and we had to take this Humber out and it is this one tonne Humber truck with a Rolls Royce engine. Heavily governed with little lead seals and carburettors but it is a beautiful thing. Still painted dark green. It hadn’t got the buff coloured treatment yet. We had to go to Port Said in it. So we left Tel el Kebir, went to Port Said, and on the way there we used to have these Compo rations. It would be a cake, Carsons chocolate, which was a laxative, and boiled sweets and one or two other little goodies and unfortunately the Egyptians used to let their children get in your way to slow you down to see what they could steal from the back of your trucks. You know, no disrespect for the Egyptians, but at that time if they could get anything, I think I could use the word buckshee [Arabic for free], if there was anything that could be taken from the back of your truck they would take it. It is 50 years since I have used the word. So if the kids used to get in the way, used to slow you down. They used to clamber on your truck to see if there was anything so what I used to do is to throw my Compo ration out and they used to love the chocolates, bless them, they used to leave the road open for you to drive a little faster to stop them doing it and of course your co-driver used to do the same with his. Well on the way back you have a fresh supply of Compo rations. Well on the way back, at Ismalia and right at the wrong place at the wrong time, your truck broke down and you sweat. I'm in the middle of Egypt, Ismalia, on a very hot day but my sweat wasn’t hot it was icy cold and my tunic was sticking to me and it was the same for my co-driver. "Well" I said to him "Well, there is nothing we can do". We’ve broken down. What do we do? Of course, from nowhere, like a hoard of flies every youth came around. You know little ones, big ones, they were all there pushing each other who was going to be the first one and then they would take a stab and step back and then somebody else would push somebody else forward and then when somebody got brave enough they all started to converge onto the truck and I didn’t know what was going to happen but I mean all I had was 6 rounds. He had a sten gun with 28 rounds but what do you do? I mean you don’t know what to do other than panic. Then all of a sudden we heard these funny noises, grunts if you like, and the crowds stopped and this very, he probably was only about 50 but he looked 100, this chap. He was obviously an Elder. He come and he said no, he couldn’t talk. He could only grunt and he’d come, well he could not say anything, he was going like this to me to get out of the cab. So I thought well I have got to get out of the cab so I got out. Walked to the front with him and he banged the bonnet. Well it is not rocket science he wants me to lift the bonnet up. Well it is a trial vehicle, it is supposed to be a secret. Well it is not going anywhere, it has broken down. So I go back into the cab and he had one of these luxury pull things which was new in those days to operate the bonnet from inside the cab. Bonnet sprung so he lifted it up and there was this lovely Rolls Royce engine. You could see him drooling over it. With all these wire and lead seals on it and he goes ... We all carried a lovely tool kit. A real leather toolbox. Chrome spanners, this was luxury. So I thought where is it. I looked around and of course there was the container for it. Bring it out and give it to him and he is looking for cutters to cut the seals on the carburettors. So he cut the carburettors and seals and he has the screwdriver and he is tweaking these twin Webbes carburettors up and I thought what is he doing. He goes so I go in there and the thing springs into life and he is listening to it, tweaking away and the thing is purring. This big Rolls Royce engine is purring and I think this man is a wizard. You know he has got a tuner in his head. He knows everything there is to know about engines. I’m lucky enough he found me and I found him. So there was nothing I could give him. He has done it for us so he goes like this to all the kids, melted away, and a couple of them stayed behind. Patted him on the back and I said to one of them who could speak English "What is it all about?" and he said "You are the kind driver who throws the rations out for the children" so he fixed my truck on the strength of that and I was absolutely amazed. It was a lovely straight road coming out of Ismalia going best way back to Tel el Kebir and I thought I wonder what this can do. For the first time in my life I had done over 100 mile an hour in a one tonne truck and we were absolutely amazed and we couldn’t tell anyone about it otherwise I would have been on a charge but I had to report the fact that it had broken down and a stranger who could not talk got it going again, not only did he get it going again he got it going ten times better than it was. That was amazing.