From Mill Dam mosque to love of Arabia

David Rose.
David Rose.

Having travelled the world with the RAF, ex-Shields’ lad David Rose and his life-long companion (teddy-bear-shaped eraser) Rubber Willy, might have expected their days of flying off here, there and everywhere had come to an end once David left the service, but they were wrong.

For Lockheed, the Saudi government and Nortel Networks had other ideas, as David goes on to explain, in the final part of his memoirs.

“Rubber Willy soon found himself back in his dad’s bag, and visiting foreign places all over the world,” says David.

“Eight years in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh, Jeddah and, briefly, in Taif was exciting and fascinating.

“He loved the culture and the people, with his favourite place being the Suq (market) – with the sun going down, and the Muzzin calling the faithful to prayer in the mosque.

“On the journeys to Taif, he would pass Mecca, but had to take the right fork to bypass the city because only Muslims are allowed to enter this very holy city.”

David said prior to starting his Saudi Ministry position, there was a seven-week trip to Santa Clara, California, to carry out training on the telephone systems they would be installing.

“Even when returning to the UK, in 1989, and a new job with Nortel Networks, didn’t stop the travelling.

“Known as the technical training department’s Middle East Correspondent, Rubber Willy accompanied his dad to Cairo for two, two-week trips, to Beirut, shortly after the civil war ended, then on to Damascus, before the civil war started, before heading off to Abu Dhabi twice, and to Dubai and Saudi Arabia, for three weeks – covering Jeddah, Riyadh and Al­Khobar.

“There was also a trip to Tehran in the offing, but things became too dangerous for Westerners.

“Other trips, lasting one to two weeks, followed, when the two of us went to Dallas, Stockholm, Oslo, Munich, Moscow, Comsomolsk (Ukraine), Milan, France, Galway and lots of places in the UK for meetings with telecommunication companies.

“We also went to my favourite destination, Istanbul.

“I did a business round-trip there a couple of times a year, as well as Athens and Nicosia (Cyprus).”

The most recent travels of David and Rubber Willy were to Malta, in 2012, and “an amazing 10 days in Oman”.

“Rubber Willy travelled by coach from Muscat to Salalah, a distance of nearly 1,400km.

“Highlights of this trip included a night-­time visit to the Ras al Jinz turtle conservation reserve where he saw seven turtles, three of them were either laying their eggs or in the process of burying the eggs beneath the sand.

“The other four were heaving their large bulk, some were over five-feet long, across the sand – not an easy task when you only come out of the water once a year to lay your eggs.

“We took the ferry from Shann’ah to Masirah where Rubber Willy set paw on Masirah Island for the first time since leaving exactly 45 years earlier.”

Meanwhile, further travel is planned, including a return trip to Masirah and Salalah in 2017, and “hopefully a trip to Pakistan, Rawalpindi, to visit the grave of my dad’s great uncle who was buried there in 1932”.

“I have lived in Gloucester since 1975 after my marriage, but thanks in part to Rubber Willy I have never forgotten my roots in South Shields or my friend Barry, and I love my all too infrequent visits back to the town of my birth.

“I often wonderd how different my life might have been if I’d become a journalist instead of a telegraphist.

“I’d like to think I would have been a Middle East Correspondent – I love the Arabs and Arabia, and spent many years there.

“In fact, my first real memory of my own is as a four or five-year old playing with Yemini children in the Majlis area of the mosque, near Mill Dam.”

l “The Oman RAF Veterans’ group is open to any servicemen, women or civilian who served in Oman. If you were in Oman and would like to join us you can find more information at the website

Or contact me, David Rose, Public Relations for the association, at”