The PPA Desert Memorial

The idea of a PPA Desert Memorial was conceived remarkably late in 2012, after only a short series of casual email exchanges between foPPA and Friend of PPA Sam Watson, ex-King's Regiment and based in Cairo. Sam's original thinking was to hold some sort of small commemorative event, somewhere in the Western Desert with other desert-exploration pals, on a date near to the actual 70th Anniversary of the official formation of PPA - 10th December 1942 - because he couldn't get back to the UK to join us for our usual events.

10 Nº 1 Demolition Sqdr. M.E. war establishment 866/1. 5 officers and 18 other ranks. This Unit was formed w.e.f. 10th December 1942. Officers: Major Peniakoff V. M.C. (General List)._ Captain Yunnie R.P. (Black Watch). Lt. J.M. Caneri (General List) a total of 3 Officers and 12 O.Rs. Equipment. 2 x 3 tonners and 4 Jeeps equiped to S.A.S. standard. i.e. Two Twin Vickers G.O. per Jeep and One Twin Vickers G.O. per 3 tonner. 26.11.42. Unit departed Cairo with Major Peniakoff and Captain Yunnie, Lt Caneri being engaged on an operation for M04._ 10.12.42. Arrived Koufra via Assiout and Kharga. Trouble was experienced with standard type of jeep tyres in soft sand. While at Koufra the Unit came under command of L.R.D.G. for administrative purposes.  

As the weeks rolled by though, this slowly evolved into the idea of building an actual monument, and between us we agreed that it would be great to create a PPA Desert Memorial. This would be a cairn made out of local rocks, complete with a brass plaque and surrounded by a low stone "wall" in the same shape and dimensions as the Astrolabe hedge around the original PPA Memorial.

Well now, on Saturday 15th December 2012, Sam achieved Stage One of the construction (having scrounged just enough diesel to get there amid the current political turmoil)...

Stage One of the PPA Desert Memorial construction
Location of the PPA Desert Memorial, NW of the Fayoum Oasis in Egypt and the Guhannim dunes
where SAS and LRDG (and probably therefore PPA) did dune driving practice.

In his email with the photo Sam said to us...

"The memorial is halfway up a hillside with a south eastern aspect...[it's] fairly hard to get to - it needs a decent 4x4 carefully driven to get there...and its about ten miles from the only road in the area - this is to minimise the possibility of bedouin or locals seeing the memorial and interfering with it."

As an old soldier, Sam further said that he was hugely moved by the description of the Commando memorial at Spean Bridge where a reviewer said "Here stand champion troops - their gaze is to the dawn" and he wanted that feeling for the memorial. Well we think he's done just that.

We are so very grateful to and very proud of the memorial building team: Sam Watson and his parents Anne and Peter (ex-RAMC); Dan Nuth; Sebastian Wallace and Richard Wain-Hobson. Not to forget Stella the Land Rover. Thanks must also go to Derek Robins (ex C Sqn SAS) of the British Community Association in Cairo for his help and support.

It should be mentioned that Dan, Richard and Sebastian helped out while they were just passing through, driving en route from Cornwall to Cape Town. Er, y'know, like you do!

Stage Two follows in January, with the attachment of a commemorative brass plaque onto the red granite capping stone, the enlargement of the cairn with more rocks and cement, and the addition of the Astrolabe wall around it all. This to be completed with a formal ceremony of dedication. Many more photos to follow then.

Copyright © 2012 foPPA
15 Dec 2012