By Len A.Hynds

This was in the days before transistors, when all radios, if not with a separate electric supply had to work off accumulator batteries. They were big and bulky and could not be carried about. Tilly my wife of just one week when I had sailed from England, had written that she had arranged for the BBC's Forces Favourites programme to transmit a song of her choice for me, and this was the day.

However, I could no longer gain access to a radio, as we were in the midst of the 1st Israeli War, as it was to become known. I had been posted to the headquarters column of the 8th Infantry Brigade, and we were in position on the heights of the Mitla Pass in the Sinai Desert in Egypt. The newly formed country of Israel, previously Palestine, had been invaded by all its Arab neighbours, with the intention of sweeping them into the sea.

The Egyptian army consisting of about 60,000 men had advanced in two columns across their Sinai Desert and had actually entered Israel, but their Kibbutz farm settlements fighting a fierce defensive action had held them until a newly formed civilian army could take the field.

This was happening on all fronts, as this civilian army, armed only with rifles fought against tanks, and against all the odds they drove them back

The British Army not involved in this conflict, guarded the International Suez Canal, and the Israelis were getting close, so were warned not to get too close, and units of our army moved into the Sinai to stop them. Our Brigade had crossed the fifteen miles of the Great Bitter Lake by landing craft and had succoured fleeing Egyptian troops on our race to occupy the heights.

Our two regiments of the brigade, the Green Howards and the South Staffordshires had dug-in all around the rim of the heights, and had erected large Union Jacks so that no one could be in any doubt who controlled the heights dominating the snaking road beneath. It was only after joining the Green Howards in their trench and looking out over the Sinai and the battles that I realised that this was to be the day my song from Tilly was to be broadcast by the BBC from London.

The trouble was that nobody in the headquarters column has a radio, and there was no way I could hear Tilly’s request without one. I then noticed the aerials above the Royal Signals vehicles in the centre of the plateau where all HQ vehicles were in laager (a circle), not only were they in direct contact with G.H.Q and the 17th further south, they were listening in to Israeli and Arabic wireless traffic. We had collected a few wounded Egyptian soldiers on the way, and our medical team had patched them up.

I spoke to the signals sergeant about my problem, and he winked, and fiddled with another set, and as the BBC suddenly appeared in that bleak spot, he turned it low putting his finger to his lips. My audience became larger, and suddenly I heard my name mentioned, and they played, "The Dream Of Olwen."

I looked round at those other soldiers, and those Egyptian wounded, in that macabre place, in the midst of death and destruction, and listened to that beautiful music and wondered how a human being could compose such a thing. As I listened and looked at those bloodied bandages, I thought "If only I could make these people who hate each other so, sit down together and listen."

Listen to "The Dream of Olwen"