UNEFII Ismailia Egypt 1976-79
Australia committed an air unit to the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in Sinai on 10 June 1976. The unit, referred to as AUSTAIR, was required to help monitor the 300-kilometre-long buffer zone separating Egyptian and Israeli forces after the 1973 war fought along the Suez Canal. On 10 June 1976 a 16-man forward party left Canberra to prepare for the arrival. AUSTAIR UNEF was based in Ismailia, Egypt.
At full strength, AUSTAIR comprised four Iroquois helicopters operated by 13 officers and 32 airmen all drawn from the RAAF except four aircrew and maintenance personnel from the RAN. The first helicopter was flown from No 5 Squadron at RAAF Base Fairbairn by C-130 on 8 July, with the rest following in further C-130 flights that month, and the first mission in support of UNEF was flown on 1 August.
The Unit members were housed at the Sinai Palace Hotel colloquially known as the Sin Palace. The detachment was housed on the upper four floors of the hotel with the top floor being the 'Lackanooky' Bar and mess and the lower three floors given to dwelling quarters. The Sin Palace had some issues not the least of which was the lack of an elevator. The grid power supply was also not up to standard, so refrigerators and ice makers were always being repaired. A daily ice delivery was arranged and was delivered by donkey cart with the ice being broken up on the street outside and then carried to the 6th floor where it was used to keep the evenings beverages cold.
To keep us entertained a few of the contingent worked at CFME Canadian Forces Middle East a radio station at Al Gala. Many a good party was held in the station record library. The Aussies invariably did the FM shows, lots of music, huge amounts of fun and the odd cracking of a tinnie over the air which really upset the station manager. The Canadians got involved in a bit of FM programming too but invariably Friday and Saturday nights belonged to the Aussies.
The unit remained in Sinai for three years before being withdrawn in mid 1979.