By Brett Gibbons

BATTLEFIELD memories will be fresh in the mind of former aircraftman Ray Durkin on Remembrance Sunday.
His recollections of a heated conflict with Egypt over the Suez Canal are extremely vivid - which is more than can be said of successive governments, who for decades failed to recognise the tens of thousands of young men and women who experienced the conflict.

He was a member of the “Forgotten Army,” which was eventually honoured by former prime minister Tony Blair's government with the issue of a commemorative campaign medal just two years ago.

Ray served in the RAF from 1952-56 . The majority of time was spent battling to keep open the Suez Canal and ensure that Britain's vital trade links and gateway with the Far East remained operational.

The emergency arose because of a stand-off between Britain and Egypt, partly over demands to evacuate a major military base, which led to riots and anti-British violence by guerillas.

Peaceful progress towards self-government for the region was impossible and British forces found themselves in the middle of a power struggle between Arab and Jewish inhabitants and being attacked by both sides.

British troops remained in Egypt until 1955 to protect national interests but they suffered regular attacks from guerrillas. “The canal was litterd with sunken ships that had been sabotaged,” explained Ray. “It was important that we were able to ensure that the canal was passable for the ships,” he explained.
Leeds-born Ray, who lives in Santa Ponsa, said the Remembrance Sunday celebrations always brought back memories of time serving his country. “It's so good to see younger people, descendents of service personnel who have lost their lives, at the Whitehall Cenotaph continuing to honour the dead.” He claimed that younger people could still learn a lot from time spent in the forces and controversially commented that it was worth considering the re-introduction of National Service.