Brian Clifford 1956-61

This is not really an anecdote but it was in my mind anyway to explain to you how Pano and Manos Ignatiadis and I all met up in Baghdad, in August 1963. When we all left at the end of the summer term of 1962 Pano and Mano said 'well if you ever find yourself in Baghdad (or the Middle East)' get in touch and we'll get together. Of course I don't think it was expected that there was much likelihood of that happening. Another close friend was Kamran Atabai whose home was Tehran and he expressed similar sentiments.

Six months later I joined the RAF as a cadet pilot and to my surprise and pleasure it was announced in about June that the group of us who had joined in January would be going to Cyprus for a month's training in August. At the end of the training we all had 4/5 week's leave. I got in touch with Mano, Pano and Kamran and talked to the RAF training organisers and, to make it brief, approval was given for me to remain in Cyprus when the others flew home. However it was made plain to me that I had to be back at the RAF College for the start of the next term or there would be 'consequencies'. My plan was to fly BEA Comet from Nicosia to Beirut and then travel overland from Beirut to Baghdad on the Nairn Bus - a trip through the mountains and across the desert. The land journey was scheduled to be 24 hours. After a week or so with Mano and Pano I intended to continue overland to Tehran, stay maybe another week, and then do the whole journey in reverse but reckoned I would have to work out how to do that once in Baghdad.

44 - Beirut seafront. The bus for the first stage Beirut to Damascus. 45 - Damascus. Transferring to the bus for the desert crossing. Japanese girl in front of bus. 46 - At a desert stop.

What actually happened was that the first part all worked out as planned and I met up with the Ignatiades family in Baghdad - although the desert crossing from Beirut actually took 36 hours with half a day wasted in Damascus because the company could not find their own bus. The family were incredibly generous and looked after me as one of their own. However, it was soon apparent that the second part of the trip to Tehran would take far too long - perhaps leading to 'consequencies' - and it was made clear that to get across the border would be very difficult because of the tension between Iraq and Iran even though this was pre-Sadam. I think from memory I stayed for 2 weeks in Baghdad and then returned to Cyprus the same way. The icing on the cake was that I was able to scrounge an RAF transport flight from Nicosia to Malta and after a couple of days there another back to the UK. I had avoided having to pay to fly civil. I had several days to spare!!

8 - Pano and Mano Ignatiades with me 9 - Pano and Mano Ignatiades with me 10 - Pano and me 42 - Pano and Mano Ignatiades 43 - The tail end... 11 - Mano and me with his father at the Alwyiah Club, Baghdad Aug 1963
A couple of other points. On the bus with me were two Japanese girls younger than me who spoke only a few words of English. What an earth were they doing? I've always thought that perhaps their parents were diplomats in Baghdad or something. We actually had chickens on board in the passenger compartment. The desert dust came in through the cracks around the edges of the windows in a yellow dust cloud. We were also rather scarily locked in the passenger compartment which was in effect similar to a trailer and cab arrangement on modern articulated lorries with no communication with the driver. What an experience? I could go on...... The link shows the bus but we did not have the other vehicles as escorts.

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