England, Europe, the Middle East by truck in the 1970s

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Malcolm Coates

As a child growing up in southern England in the 1970s I knew my dad, Malcolm Coates, wasn’t like other dads. His job was driving trucks (or lorries as we called them back then) and he went  everywhere – across Western Europe, to Hungary, Romania, Greece and Turkey  and, as the years went  on, even further. By 1975 he was driving  to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, spending weeks away at a time. His truck was his workplace, his bedroom and his kitchen (he fitted a  huge steel box and it was full of canned food and a primus stove).

As I got older I started spending my school holidays in the passenger seat of dad’s Volvo, travelling between  farms in the south of France, factories in Stuttgart, industrial estates in Denmark. I never got further than Europe though – before I was old enough to go the 1979 Iranian Revolution put an end to most of the Middle East trips .

We moved to Australia in 1982 and, despite short stints at ‘normal’ jobs,  it was inevitable that dad would end up on the road again. In 1985, en route from Melbourne to Brisbane,  he  was killed in an accident near Coonabarabran.

In a box under the bed I have a handful of memories of his  adventures in the 1970s: some photos, passports, diaries, an invoice book and an ageing Radclive Transport brochure. I’m sharing some of these snapshots of a truly unique way of life …

Photos

These are  vivid documents of their  time despite being poor quality shots that are showing their age. (They’re all undated and I don’t know where most of them were taken, apart from  two that have something written on the back, noted below).

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Desert fuel stop, MIddle East
‘Fuel Qatar’ written on the back

Titled 'old road to UAE'
‘Old road to UAE’ written on the back

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Our family: Steve, Val, Suzanne, Malcolm Coates, dog Bella – around 1978

Passports

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Because he crossed so many borders dad’s British passport filled up before it expired so a second one had to be attached by the passport office.

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Diaries and invoice books

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Radclive Transport

Radclive operated  from Faringdon in Oxfordshire. Dad drove for  them from about 1974 and and eventually hung up his truck keys to become their Operations Manager in 1980. As much as nine year old me  enjoyed  having the run  of the Radclive yard  on the  forklift, working in the office didn’t  suit him – less than two years later  we left England for Australia, where he ended up doing  a different type of long haul driving. Below is a Radclive brochure from around ’77 featuring dad and his trusty F89 Volvo registration FJO 522S (he  was lucky enough to walk away from a serious accident in another Radclive Volvo  in the former  Yugoslavia,  an event accompanied by a fantastic story that  has been told in our family for so long  I’m not sure which bits of it are true).

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Get in touch

I was 14 when dad died so I never got to talk to him as an adult about these experiences. I don’t know all the places he went, most of the people he met and how it affected who he became. If you knew him or were part of this world and would like to  share your experiences or  talk more about it please leave a comment below or contact me.

14 Comments

  1. Hi Steve, What a great read, full of memories. I’m also an ex pat middle east driver living in Australia. I did the job much later ( 90’s ) and it was bit different to the time when your dad did it., but I do remember Radclife getting about.
    I live in southern Tasmania and am on B doubles at the moment, hauling timber out the forests..
    I like the way they’ve the Russian destination in red.

    Jeff….

    • steve

      May 1, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Hi Jeff,
      Nice to hear from you. I hadn’t really paid attention to that colour coding in the map but yes…

  2. chris brearley

    July 4, 2015 at 5:40 am

    I was on the job through 70s & 80s didnt know his name but definatley knew his face, you didnt always ask names, I drove for a few arabs on internals in Saudi, then went on the overland for Cyril Burke of Barnsley, also worked for Bestler out of Germany to all points Arabia.
    I then started C.Brearley International ltd overland to the middle east, we had several motors on. Your dad was one of the gents of the game, sorry to hear he has gone,
    If you send some pictures to Hicks of Newport I think some of the guys such as Robert & Di Hobbs, knew him well.
    all the best
    chris brearley.

  3. Paul Duquemin

    July 12, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    HI Steve…I also live in Australia (Toowoomba QLD)..and my Dad was a Middle East driver…He worked for Ashworth International from Burnley Lancashire when he started doing the M\E run back in 1976 ish…..It would not surprise me at all if our Dads crossed paths……I have a Facebook page Trucks Middle East 1970s……take a look and feel free to post any info or pics ….. Cheers Paul

    • steve

      July 17, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Hi Paul,
      Checking out your Facebook page now, great photos. I’m almost definite our dads would have run into each other. As a proud Yorkshireman Malcolm always loved a chat with a fellow northerner…

  4. Worked for l.o.b.o Birmingham on middles east 70,s 80,s seen Alan Hobbs a while back now sadly Di passed away , nice to see the pics brings back memories

  5. Hi steve im not sure u will re member me but I worked with your dad and new your mum as I spent a lot of time at your house in wroughton when u were very young and also the dog I rember dad duying a blue foden to necome owner driver and I had a volve after we worked at radclives I was work shop manerger I have some letters from him after he went to aus would love to talk more please get back thanks keith

  6. Hi Steve
    I used to work with your dad at Radclives .As a driver and in the workshop
    I did a few runs with him to Germany in the late 70s .a great learning curve!
    I also repaired his old Volvo 88 when he was an O/D for Radclives .It’s nice to see that you are getting comments for former associates especially your last contact
    Keith(Jaws) Ruddman. Get back to me I could tell you more
    Charlie

  7. thanks steve what wonderful memories you have there. my father passed away in july 2016 he had me driving the old erf plastic pigs around ford of halewood at age of 12 or 13. so i went on to become the same driving trucks. i have no photos of his prized scaina 143. i remember going to hull with him one day it was in a ford transconti we spent more time being pulled over by the police wanting to look at this truck. if my memory is right it was the first high cab. it belonged to tilsley wilkinsons of glossop derbyshire. anyway thanks for them loving memories of real true men, thanks again pal

  8. David McCullough

    May 11, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    I worked for pan exspress early 1970’s on middl est

  9. David McCullough

    May 11, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Is there x pan exspress driver’s out ther

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