Airborne Engineers Association

Roll of Honour



John Elliott by Sir Donald Spiers



I first met John in 1953 when we were both serving as Parachute Engineers as members of 9 Airborne Squadron Royal Engineers in the Suez Canal Zone of Egypt. The Squadron was a part of 16 Parachute Brigade, one of the major Army units in the Canal Zone at that time. John was a Section Commander in 1 Troop of the Squadron.

Our base was at Moascar garrison near the city of Ismailia, about half way down the Canal. The internal security situation was very bad, with a great deal of civil disobedience in Ismailia, so that guarding against incursions of our garrison was a continuing problem. The unit was classed as being on Active Service and John qualified for the General Service Medal with a clasp reading
“Canal Zone”.

John was very much involved with our Engineer training, and led his section in building Bailey Bridges and vehicle carrying rafts. We also carried out many demolitions using plastic explosives.

There was regular parachute continuation training, usually jumping from Valetta aircraft based at RAF Ismailia, but sometimes from the larger Hastings aircraft, which were based at RAF Fayid, further south along the canal. John and his section also took part in exercises in which they parachuted into Cyprus and Iraq. There were no reserve parachutes in those days, but fortunately the main parachute was very reliable!

In July 1954 the Squadron returned from the Canal Zone to Aldershot and soon after that John left 9 Squadron.

Over the last 25 years there have been a number of reunion lunches arranged for those of us who served in 9 Squadron in the Canal Zone and John had a 100% attendance record. One notable occasion was the 100th birthday of General Ian Lyall-Grant who had been John’s Squadron Commander in both Cyprus and the Canal Zone. At these events everyone was always pleased to see John and to talk with him about old times serving together.

There is a nice intellectual game that I like to play which involves choosing just one word to describe a person. For John my word would be “Steadfast”, which the Oxford English Dictionary tells me means Constant, Firm and Unwavering. That was John, a great soldier and companion who I for one will never forget.



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