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 …


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).


Diaries and invoice books

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).

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.


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.


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

Hi, maybe a long shot, but my dad was a subbie for radclives in the 70’s driving a Ford transcontinental, volvo f88 and “the dog” the shitty brown f89. Broke down every trip! My dad always said that driving for Radclives were the hardest days, but the best days of his life! Such fond memories! If anyone else reads this message that was working for Radclives transport and remembers Bob McNichol from Carlisle please give him a call, he’s living in Ireland now, unfortunately he had an accident a few years ago and it left him blind, I know that he would be really pleased to hear from you.+353 85 254 5514 his irish phone number 07760282739 his English phone number. I’m sure dad was running to Italy for Radclives, he’s mentioned several names that he’s really fond of….hopefully one of you guys will remember him, Bob McNichol and give him a call
Ps, he’s just been diagnosed with cancer…..don’t ponder on it, just ring him, if you know anything about trucking Europe in the 70’s I’m sure you’ll enjoy the conversation. I was born in 75″ and one of the lucky ones to have photos of me as a baby, in the transcontinental at the Italian border clearing customs, great memories of hard times. Over and out, David mcnichol

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.

Hi Chris,
my name is Eddie Rhodes from Durham and I was an owner driver with a Seddon Atkinson pulling for Davies Turner, and I did the Middle East in the early 80’s.

Although your name definitely rings a bell, I was was good friends with most of the Hicks drivers and especially Robert and Dai Hobbs and also Roger Bell. I also made other good friends on the job from Duxbury’s etc. etc. etc..

I’ve just come across this site and I’m really pleased to find it, but while I’m retired now I still think of all my old friends from the job and I’ve often wondered what, and how are doing now?

It would be nice to set up a Facebook page so the old Middle East drivers could keep in touch?

Best regards
Eddie Rhodes

Hi Eddie, I remember you well and ran with you quite a lot also Robert Hobbs. I am Ali Christie and had Athlon Addison old Scania NEV 710P running for Davis Turner out of Battersea, one looses touch after so many years but life moves on. Steve I may have come across your Da but I’m sure he would have known Athol. TURRA to TAHARAN. I really enjoyed the your article. Thanks

Eddie I’ve been trying to contact you I’m Roger bell and like you been thinking of the the good friends I met on my travels hope this finds you well Regards Roger

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

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…

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

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

Hi Keith don’t know if you remember me John Williams, I used to service the trailers at Radclive many moons ago. I moved to Oz in 1982 and often what happened to all the blokes I used to work with at Radclive a really good bunch of blokes

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

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

I once ran through Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria with a couple of Pan Express drivers but that was in the early 80’s

Two Thor drivers took me through Czechoslovakia to Budapest on my first trip,
I was very thankful to them, from there I was on my own through Hungary, Romania then Bulgaria Into Turkey. Blind panic most of the time..

Hi Steve,
I first knew your Dad when I was working for James &Hodder in Avonmouth,giving him groupage loads to Holland and Belgium.At that time he was running with another driver based in Calne.They later went on to make their first trips to the Middle East. Your Dad and I formed our own Company called COTRANS running a European service from a depot in Swindon and later being involved in running loads to the Middle East for John Banks based in Camberley.Surrey.I loaded the trailers with the U.K. loads and your Dad arranged the shipping. Your Mum & Dad kindly put me up sleeping in your front room on the sofa. Your Mum had just given birth to you at this time. Two very nice people. I will never forget the time Malcolm came home from Camberley driving one of John Banks lastest car purchases and decided that we both went out for a drive locally near Wroughton. Unfortunately we rolled the car and ended up on it’s roof in a small river. We managed to put our the electricity in the village and had to be pulled out by a farmers tractor but having to cut down a telegraph post first. Amazingly after pouring our hundreds of gallons of water, your Dad without a care in the world,sat in the drivers seat,started the engine and said “ well are you getting in ,Val’s got our tea ready”. There was not an inch on the car that wasn’t dented. Unfortunately we parted company after the Middle East company folded. I am very sorry to hear of his death whilst in Australia and hopefully this email fills in a few gaps of your memories of your Dad

Hi Steve,
great read about your Dad on the road to everywhere. 1976 I started internat. Hauls troughout western Europe as a young 20y.old swiss farmer re leave driving for Krummen Kerzers, Switzerland. I still remember the english Truck drivers with whom I could brush up my English and they always where up for a chat. Who knows if I ever spoke to your Dad Malcome ?
Now looking back I regret never ventured to the middle east, as I was offered loads to do so, but I felt just a bit young for this. Generally int. Drivers from other countrys then Switzerland where more in their therties plus.
Now I am a farmer already for 35 years here in Victoria Australia and have done re leave B-double driving work to supplement a bit the income at times and because of nostalgia from the time I was on the road as a young man.
( Listening to music from the seventies……)
All the best and cheers

Hello Matthias,
Good to hear from you. Sounds you like had some great experiences as a young bloke and who knows, maybe you did chat with Malcolm.
All the best,

Hiya Steve.I remember seeing Radcliffe lorries when I did M/E driving in 75 and 76. I might have come across your dad, but not sure ( sorry about your loss ) It brought a lot of memories back ! I went to Iran Iraq and Saudi. I still have my passports from then. All the best Roy.

It is truly amazing that there are some real life legends out there on the roads like your dad. Admiring commitment he put into service as well as into your blog. It will help and inspire a lot of truck drivers to improve and be more effective for the community. Great read!

Hi Steve I’m David alun and Robert Hobbs nephew. Your right David died over 30 years ago out in the middle East well missed. Also our alun died February 2017. He had a heart attack while at a customer in Bridgend. Robert still driving on nights for mcl logistics in Newport on nights doing motorway barrier. He was 67 yesterday 8th Feb. The stories the boys use to tell us I also worked with alun Camfield Derek Holland Brian Tilley black Jack. Bob James not many left now it’s so sad.

i Steve some good story`s i was once parked next to your father in the services before Glasgow, i thought he was a Frenchman because of the beard after he spoke to me i told him that my heater did not work and ended in his truck for a warm.So after lots of chat and wanting to so Middle East i came down to tour place and went with the Aussie Barry Wretch down to Greesce i the non sleeper MAN so Barry could repair ad bring back a 86 Volvo,I did not know that youall went to Aus but i did hear that your father had died but not in a crash. best regards paul hardy

Hi, I’m Steve’s younger sister. We are still in touch with Barry and Dallas and stayed with them recently. Snoozing

great man my dad did some work for Malcolm,always had a good word to say about him dad being ray sanger from Swindon mainly working for basil maclindsey [Swindon transport] great to see Volvo f88 from the past brings back old memories for me riding shotgun.wish I was born earlier

Hi Steve sorry did not now your father but i did buy FJO 522S of Radclives.Iran it for a few years and eventually selling it to a man in Bristol,it ended up its days I believe with Nick Bull.We all have a truck we regret selling FJO was mine .

That’s cool to hear Nigel after all this time. I have many fond memories of that truck and it sounds like you do too.

Hi, I’m Cees van Vliet and used to work for Mossel Nurseries in Boskoop, Netherlands in the mid-seventies. Radclive was an important partner in driving thousands of loads of trees from Hungary to Milton Keenes that was built at that time. The British nurserie of Tucker in Faringdom was the actual company that delivered the Hungarian trees to Milton Keenes eith Mossel Nursewries in the Netherlands as an intermediary.

does anyone of you, remember Eurotrucks in Belgium-Lokeren to be precise.. 50% owned by owners of Radclive in the 70’s (David Lees- Michael Richardson) .. I was the other 50%, and did organization of return loads out of Benelux and Germany to UK, also the Boskoop runs unaccompanied, with the tree and shrubs loaded trailers, who had to be fumagated in Boskoop, to bring finally to the nursery in Faringdon.. I was in Faringdon at least 20 times a year… I employes a driver from Radclive, who came to live in Belgium for 5 years at the time.. around 1973 he came to work for Eurotrucks (pete Wiggington, who originated from Ashburton-Devon… if anyone remembers please drop me a message.. my name is Eddie, may be some of you might remember me

Hi Eddie, remember the tankterminal in Lockeren, used to stop there for a shower and some food, back in the mid 70s, was a pretty up market place back then for us truckers, reckon we’re a breed of people who did stuff then that probably cant be done now days, if I happen to meet up with a ex continental trucker in a pub by chance, well I’ll usually have a hangover in the morning, I will be 70 next birthday & I can still tell the engine noise of a Scania if jts coming up behind me.

Floods of tears reading theses lovely memories. My dad used to do the Middle East run in the 70s/80s away for a few weeks at a time . Only now do I realise the graft hard work it must have been , let alone the risk. But he loved it. I remember cleaning his cab on a Sunday while listening to the top 20 old tunes like Mississippi, Ray Stevens, and CW macall and trying to get rid of the sand from the cab. In their own way they where pioneers of transport. No luxury no mobile phones and definitely no sat-nav jet I can not ever remember my dad saying he got lost or late to deliver his load.
My dad is my hero and missed every day, my dad is
Clive Bewley

Did Middle east early 80s working for Tim Bower, pulling for Whittle International. Always travelled with my loyal seat cover (Barbie) who made many a camion stew for the guys we ran with.1984 came and we’d had enough and ran the Night Owl in Ostende for a few years. Still miss all the good friends we made while trucking, too many to name. Great guys, great times (Most of the time)

Hi All
Did the Middle East with CM Burke out of Sheffeild was one of the drivers that on the Zenobia when it sank off Cyprus another story. Worked along side Chris Brearley for a time in fact got some pics of us and Chris with a dinner jacket on in desert between Syria and Iraq. All distant memories now.

Hi Bryan, I was also on the Zenobia. I worked for Redcliffe Roadways, Sutton-in-Ashfield. Ken Shaw was on it too. He also worked at Redcliffes. An author is writing a book about it and would appreciate more stories. My email is below
David Segal aka Dave Whetton, Nottingham

Hi Dave and Bryan,
Thanks for sharing your memories. I’d like to know more about the Zenobia – were there many truckies on board?

Hi David, do you by any chance remember where you parked your trucks onboard? I’ve been trying to ID all the trucks on board for a while. I found one of the Redcliffe ones but the other is still missing. Thanks.

hi my dad done middle east runs in the 70s and mostly European in the 80s he died 2 years ago but ill see if I can send some pics when ive dug them out steve

Did anyone know Brian alias Jock he worked for Cyril Burke of Barnsley and he was on the Zenobia, he was a big scots man black wiry hair and a massive beard, he saved my life on the Syrian/Iraq border and I think he was last heard of at coca cola Glasgow

Hi Chris
Bryan Here how you, Retired now but often think back to the good old days of sand and tarmac/
got some pics of you.

Hi. I had a spell working for Oryx international in Strood, Kent in the mid 70s not as a driver but as a 17 yr old lad in the yard driving the fork lift and loading. At the time I was in awe of the drivers who if I recall got a bonus for getting down to Saudi and back in 28 days I think! Fantastic characters in all respects…the trucks were Volvo F86s. Van Hee (Gateshead I think) used to do some contracts for Oryx. I recall two VH drivers..Stan and Brian in particular. At one stage there was talk of a route over to Nigeria . Not sure if that ever took off. Oryx was owned by a Middle Eastern guy I think and despite some years doing well, it didn’t last . Bird and Ashtran used to have depots down the road at Maidstone and Wrotham and were busy out to the Middle East and further to Pakistan and India I believe. You guys who drove were pioneers and deserve great respect. Such resilience and self reliance.

Hi, What a nice tribute to your farther, I am also an ex Middle East driver, I used to work for Redcliffe Roadways from Mansfield, I did many trips to Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi, I saw Radclive vehicles on odd occasions but it was a hard life and the only time you got to rest was at borders or when unloading the rest of the time was behind the wheel seven days a week, most trips took around a month from the UK depending on border delays and unloading time. Sites like this really do bring back fond memories of the old days and no matter how tough they were at times I would do it all over again.

Just found & read all these stories, even though I never did the middle east run – I bought at the age of 23 a LHD Scania 110 (ex SKA,s) JPC132K. & did 5 years continental trucking, must say that even though I was ripped off by many outfits in the UK, & basically never made a carrot financially – I would do it all again. WHY? The love I had for the life I had – being an owner driver, being my own boss, driving the biggest thing on the road, travelling all over Europe – sleeping in lay bys – having a crap in the morning in the bushes, eating as you drive, not getting back to the UK on a Friday & being weekended in Italy as Alvederos in Prato wouldn’t tip you cos its siesta time. The only thing I dont miss is the breakdowns I had to deal with-if I couldn’t fix it myself – then ffs this is when you wish you were tucked up in bed in a 9-5 job. I have met many people that have broken down in their cars & have been told that they were unhappy to wait 2 hours for the AA to repair the car – ffs – the longest time I spent waiting to get back on the road was 8 DAYS in France,( La Turbie) up the mountains above Monte Carlo. I had 25 tons of untreated animal skins I picked up from South Sheilds, & they started to rot, due to the extra time, the snink was so bad I had to drop the trailer in the lay by & creep up a couple of yards in my unit so I could sleep at night. So many other stories I have & I know that anyone that has been a trucker has the same !!!

P.S. The only reason I did not run to the middle east in my truck is because I worked over there in 73/74 as aircrew for African Cargo Airways as a aircraft loadmaster, I saw enough to learn that this whole area is a very dodgy place to be working in. I really have some amazing stories about the time I spent there as a ladd, but unfortunately no one wants to listen to them as 46/47 years has now passed – my life then & the lifes of the other truckers I knew will sadly fade away. BUT I would do it all again!!!

Nice reading
I am trying to find DVD about
Foreign trucking
Does anyone know where I might be able to purchase such? I have seen pictures of some, but cannot find where to purchase, Thank you!

Hi my Dad ran all over like most on here, Saudi ,eastern block etc his name was Mack he drove for fransens pulling a fidge with a 2800 daf to the Middle East , also for princes driving a transcontinental , a Maggi douche for Johnny white , and his last gig as a subby for Brinor in a f88 and f10 , he died in 88 of lung cancer no doubt due to the Samson and drum with no filter, we ran flat bed rope and sheet and then a tilt which was hard work none of this curtain sider today his last was a super cube tilt , i remember one time Running for the ferry at zeebrugge we were held up at Aachen, it was pissing down, by the time we got to the fina just outside the Port ( no limiter) the super cube tires we’re literally steaming in the rain , we just made the Ferry , dad was also another time booked on the herald of free Enterprise which sunk we though he was dead for 3 days ! he had missed the ferry that time , 3 yrs later he would be gone to the cancer.

Shame about your dad Scott,that Samson & Drum that we used to buy at the Fina was strong stuff I remember there was also another brand called Shag as well _ used to make a few bob bringing it back, & selling it here (along with the C B radios as well). You mention Aachen-I had a bad experience there, being an owner driver I never declared all the diesel I had my tanks (2 x 65 gallon) on the “Tankshine”, usualy got away with it, but got dipped on one occasion, I had 125 gallons & decared I had only 25 Litres -they didnt like that to much so the customs called the old bill & they put the fear of the lord in me-ended up fining me 40 marks,needless to say I never did it again. The crouts were the only border customs that would not take a “bung”, the French, Italian, & greeks loved a bung & in many cases expected it,the French was the old 10 francs under your permit at Calias not to have it stamped so you could use it again & the Italians at Ventemeglia 10,000 lira not to dip your tanks-as for the Greeks I ended up living there for 15 years after I sold my unit & have bunged most of the legal departments in order to get what I wanted sooner rather than later.So many stories. !!!

Yes the Germans were strict the rest were bent eh , oh yeah I remember the shag too strong stuff , I have great memories of those times will stay with me forever , my dad spent slot of time in Greece trucking I’ve been lots of times too and loved it, we use to bring back backyard and booze , one thing I remember some of the drivers painted there bumpers so you would recognise them when abroad my old man’s was orange black and white stripped, I also remember a girl trucker named Annie she drove a blue Scania great times.

P.S. Ive been on the refurbished Herald of free enterprise as well , its now or was, a Greek ferry . FFs

Hi Steve, I can see he used the JUMBO-passport version with 94 pages! Awesome. They were issued for frequent travelers but are nowadays hard to find. Here is a similar story…

Cheers, Tom

Hi Steve. I was an owner driver on for Radclives in the 70s My Atkinson is the one on the Radclive brochure hooked up to there scammel wrecker after the bad winds picked up the box trailer the Faringdon side of Lechlade swung the box round and took the cab mountings of the chassis.If my memory serves me right Ray Phillips was in charge then. The last I heard from him was he had a pub up north, mind you I think Radclives bought the Crown Pub in Faringdon. LOL. I worked between Radclives and Eurotrucks in Lokeren Belgium. I believe there was a driver for Radclives left them and went to work for Eurotrucks, his name was Peter.I did all of Western Europe with the old Atkinson, but after she died I packed up for a while then moved to Portsmouth and started up doing heavy haulage, and finished up with 6 trucks and 1 escort van right up until 2007 then retired. Sorry to hear about your father, but I hope you and your family are well. STAY SAFE and BEST WISHES.

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