By Joyce M Beazley, sister of John Sulman
A PILGRIMAGE TO NORTH AFRICA
It must be a rare experience when a wish held for 57 years is granted, but so it happened for my sister and myself. A small cruise ship planned a tour in November calling at Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. We applied to join her. Every time a crisis arose over Lockerbie we feared that our Libyan visas would not be granted. In the event our stamped passports were only handed to us at Heathrow as we embarked. One would-be passenger was refused a visa.
Twenty seven passengers including three Desert War veterans and their wives, my sister and myself and our husbands, together with an excellent lecturer embarked in Malta and sailed for Tunisia. We were well briefed on the tragedy of Carthage though the actual visit was cancelled due to delays. We visited the fine museum in Tripoli and the extensive site of Lepcis Magna.
These were not however our main objective. Our brother, John Sulman, flew his Hurricane from Tangmere in September 1940 up and down the Sussex Coast that he knew so well, during the Battle of Britain. He was posted missing in Cyrenaica in November 1941 and is buried in the British War Cemetery 25 miles West of Tobruk. No member of the family had ever been able to visit the graveside. A series of difficulties again delayed our ship. As we approached Tobruk it was clear we would not arrive until evening, too late we feared for our planned visit.
At this point a small miracle seemed to begin. The sun was low in the sky as we approached. The ship's pilot was waiting for us, landing formalities were waived and a minibus with police outriders drove us westward along the road into the semi-desert. The sun set and a red glow covered the sky. It was dark as we entered the open gate. Groups of cemetery officials, police and security stood around. We were conducted to our brother's grave. By torchlight we read the inscription on the stone, laid our wreathes and stepped back. In those few silent minutes we all felt peace, rest, consolation and gratitude for a life's commision fulfilled. As we moved away and quietly thanked our Libyan hosts I believe all had felt an understanding and a unity. In England it was Remembrance Sunday.
Joyce M Beazley