North Africa, Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Cairo, Elarish, Tripoli, Tobruk, Benghazi: 1940-1945.
Hardcover. Oblong small quarto. Measuring 7.5" x 10". String-tied green cloth over paper boards. Contains 119 sepia toned or black and white gelatin silver photographs measuring between 1.5" x 2.5" and 3" x 4", with captions. The album is very good with bumped corners and rubbing, with near fine photographs.
A photo album kept by Andrew Aitken while serving with the Royal Air Force during World War II. Aitken gained the rank of L.A.C. (leading aircraftman) formerly known as mechanic first class and the lowest rank to earn an insignia. The photographs begin with images of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem when they were part of "Mandatory Palestine" where the RAF was stationed in an effort to protect against Italian bombing. The sights of both locations are captured here with images of the new bustling city centers and the ancient tombs that dot the landscape. Aitken then went on to Cairo where he took photos of "Arab women" with water pitchers on their heads, the Garden of Peace, the Sphinx, and uniformed men in the desert. He also spent time at the RAF training facility in Durban, South Africa. Throughout the war Aitken travels extensively in the Middle East going to various camps and bases in Libya, Egypt, and Palestine, including Tripoli, Tobruk, and Alexandria. One section of photos shows the Nazi headquarters in Benghazi with flags adorned with swastikas, crashed German planes, and disassembled Axis tanks. An eerie photo shows a Nazi cemetery in the middle of Benghazi with grave markers complete with the Iron Cross and Swastikas. Another photo shows Aitken on a motorcycle in the desert posing with other RAF airmen, a later photo of the same group is captioned, "desert rats" and shows them cooking a meal. Towards the end of the album there are photos from a Bob Hope show in Tunisia with Hope on a makeshift stage surrounded by hundreds of soldiers; there is also a photo of performing duo Carol and Bonny Downs. A handful of photos show local people interacting with the airmen as well as the men at rifle practice hidden behind mounds of sand or traveling in a convoy. Aitken was released from duty in November of 1945 and his release papers are laid in.
An interesting accumulation of images depicting an RAF mechanic's tour of duty in the Middle East.