Cement by Eric Vast

Given the facilities Egypt is a great place for making Cement. There’s plenty of clay in massive pars in the Eastern Desert, limestone all over the place, and oil for roasting them together.

There was a cement works rear my unit at a place called Itura on the Nile. This was the source of their Limestone, and in Phaoronic times the two great Pyramids had been built from this outcrop.

In the cliffs of that area there was a warren of caves in the rock showing the tool marks made by their constructors. Nobody has ever suggested what they might had been made for. However, the Tutankhamen treasures were safely tucked away in them to avoid damage from German bombs during the war.

The Cement works boasted some quite large cooling towers and we used to collect the water from them for our lead add batteries, of which we had many. My number one being a local man knew the resident manager quite well and sometimes used to ride down to Itura with the Carboys and keep an eye on things.

About this time we wanted a photographic darkroom for the RAF Section. People were getting tired of staying up late, developing in tents to get it dark. But we were told by the Garrison Engineer “No cement, no more buildings”. It seems that in the early days of the war when the two armies ranged far and wide over the Western Desert little work was done by either side on permanent fortifications. Not even by the enemy whose wont was to cover the landscape with enormous Flak Towers as in the Channel Islands. But at that time Alamein was being converted rapidly into a mass of concrete.

Now, as a current development, the Garrison shopping area was creaking at the seams due to the great numbers of fresh troops arriving. Dhobis, teashops, tailors, photographers, you name it. Large sums of money are offered for such franchises to say nothing of the back-handers to those in a position of power. You can’t build in a populous place with mud brick. It does sometimes rain in Cairo, and mud brick is a bit dodgy anyw ay.

From careful observation at the cement works we had noticed that at the end of each loading operation at the hoppers there was a rather wicked waste in spillage. Fine cement dust behaves much like water and as the pipe was withdrawn from the big tankers, some hundredweight or so spilled to the ground.

This looked as if a ton or so was spilt on each occasion- Yet there was no mound! So if the spilt cement was wasted could we have some for use in our unit? To my great surprise the man agreed. We fitted a 30 cwt. truck with ammunition boxes and sent it down to the Works one evening with brooms, shovels, etc and acquired nearly a ton.

There followed a session of chaffering – one very lush darkroom for the lot.  Later I secured another load for two splendid fireplaces (Tradetestsl), and a final one for some cookhouse mods. The Garrison Engineer cursed and swore but never guessed the origin of our cement!

Eric Vast MICYF. May 1999.

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Month on the Air - G3MGQ's popular monthly DX contest/expedition list.
Wilf Gaye Memorial Cup - The clubs annual operating event in the memory of Wilf Gaye M0GYE.
St. Richard's College Buildathon/STEM/ARISS - HERC attends St. Richard's Catholic College for their various events surrounding the Tim Peake ARISS contact.
G3BDQ - John Hey's Rare QSL Cards.
Sussex Electronics Radio Fair - SERF Sussex Electronics Radio Fair 2016.
Vital Spark - A selection of articles re-published from the Vital Spark.
RSGB News - Find out how to get RSGB news on your mobile or PC.
Experimenters Corner - A selection of Proteus projects by Bob Gornal (G7DME)
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Conquest Hospital Radio - Presented by HERC member Antony (G4CUS).
Radio Rallies 2016 - An up to date list of radio rallies scheduled for 2016.
Club QSL Cards - A selection of QSL cards the club has received over the years.
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TX Factor episodes - Take a look at the TX Factors YouTube videos.
John Taplin - A bio of the late John Taplin.

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