Chapter 5 - North Africa
History tells us that the El Alamein allied offensive started in Egypt late in October 1942. Within a month Rommel was reported to be in retreat signalling a full scale invasion of Northern Africa. By the 30th of November British airborne troops had fought their way through to a certain airstrip at Oudna just 15 miles south of Tunis. It then took until May 1943 to capture Tunis itself and the port of Bizerta. Prime Minister Churchill was eager to split the Nazi war machine into as many fronts as possible. The taking of Northern Africa created an air-head from which the allies could now mount an assault northwards into Europe through Italy.
Stephen is noted as attending both 311 Ferry Training Unit and 21 Operational Training Unit on 22nd July 1943. Documents show that both units were based at Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. No 21 OTU operated Wellingtons providing an eight week course with 55 flying hours. No 311 FTU also operated Wellingtons and trained 30 crews at a time on courses lasting for 14 days. Associated with No 311 FTU was the Overseas Air Delivery Flight or OADF whose role was to prepare aircraft for overseas delivery. The OADF was based at Kemble, just 30 miles from Moreton-in-Marsh. It was probably during that time that Stephen was re-designated as a Bomb Aimer and may also have received sufficient training to become a second pilot. It would have been during this period that Stephen met his fellow crew members.
Stephen's record shows that he was on "attachment" to North Africa on 12th August. The term attachment would normally imply a period of temporary service. The next day he is, however, shown to be posted to 142 Squadron Near East Air Force. In Shawn Doyle's book Grandpa's War  he describes how Bill's aircraft had routed first westerly into the Atlantic before turning south over the Bay of Biscay to hopefully avoid Luftwaffe patrols. Their route continued to the west of neutral Portugal and then east into the Mediterranean landing at an airstrip at Ras El Mas in Morocco. It is known that other aircraft flying from Britain to Tunisia also staged through Gibraltar. In the event, Bill's aircraft was held at Ras El Mas for 5 days awaiting the attention of engineers. Stephen would seem to have had a similar experience as, although his record suggests his posting to 142 Squadron on the 12/13th of August, it was not until 2nd September that 142 Squadron's records showed his arrival at Kairouan in Tunisia in company with crew members Sgt Betts (pilot), Sgt Hurnell (navigator), Sgt Bowman (wireless operator) and Sgt Yatton (rear gunner). One other crew arrived on the same day but the identity of the two aircraft in which they travelled is not recorded.
Before Stephen, and three members of his crew, could commence operations, he was to fall pray to the disease jaundice. Two weeks after arriving in Tunisia, he wrote a letter to his parents:
There is no further mention of Sgt Yatton associated with Stephen's crew so it is likely that the three crew members that Stephen mentions in his letter as also suffering from jaundice were Sgt Betts, Sgt Hurnell and Sgt Bowman.
The untimely outbreak of jaundice can probably be explained by an appendix to the Operations Record Book for RAF Moreton-in Marsh signed by the Senior Medical Officer .