1940 - 1941
10th December. Everything naturally all in a rush. Arrived Maidstone after tea, got eventually to Tudor House at night. Did manage to get to bed around 12.30am.
Next day a rather disappointing start, got tickets made out for Leeds, was laughing, but no it was not to be, they were changed for Boyce Barracks. Set off for Fleet, stopped on the way at Beckenham to visit the home of Stan Mole. We had a grand dinner and an hour or two with his people. Then on to Fleet. Boyce had not altered at all. That was 11th December 1940.
The weeks at Boyce were just lousy, the most miserable of my army career. Xmas day was spent there. No Xmas leave, we were supposed to be leaving any day. The dinner was really marvellous but even that could not make up for the heartache I had. Typical kit was collected, had one day to parade unit, it was colder at Boyce than I have known it for years. Imagine tropical kit with inches of ice everywhere. The army sure do think of everything. While there had my foot x-rayed. Did manage to get out of drilling.
In the cold grey hours of 5th January 1941, to be exact at 4.00 am, we left Boyce for Aldershot and after a nightmare ride in a lorry, boarded the train and left Aldershot at 6.00 am. By the way, I posted a letter for you at the station but I do not know if you got it. Arrived at Liverpool after a cross country run at 4.30pm, not so bad considering it was non stop. It was not until we got to Liverpool that we knew where we were
Spent two days in Liverpool at a so called rest camp. I think I can pass over that. One bright spot, the Dental Corps got out each night. One thing I must mention, all day Monday 6th January we stood by from early morning all packed up and ready to move, but did not go. Another thing I must mention, I did not think it possible to wash and shave in such a small quantity of water. Then on 7th January we did move down to the docks, stood there for hours and eventually went on board the Windsor Castle. My heart sank then, for up to the last I hoped against hope we should not go. On board and into a grand cabin and then up anchor and out into the bay of Liverpool.
For a day or two we stood around and then off, good and proper. Sailing again into the unknown, we could only guess where to. On board I became batman to Sgt Stonehouse and Sgt Thomson, both Dental Officers and very nice chaps. That got me out of a lot of other unpleasant duties. The food was good, everything was nice, no, the heartache was still there. I had no doubt that It will go sometime. You will probably remember your letter to me at Boyce, I got no card from you at Xmas, then the letter, well it just broke my heart. I know dear you had had a bad raid, but you just took it out of me, I forgave you darling,
I made allowances for everything but my heart was just about breaking. Everything was all right, the food continued good, was not sea sick, I must confess, though, I had some bad headaches.
Then after a week of nothing but sea, sea, everywhere, we had to leave our cabins and were put into a 2nd Class smoke room. This was on deck level, at first it did not seem too good, but later proved okay. For eighteen days it was just the same routine, batman, on deck, look at the other ships and the sea. When the weather got warmer nearer to the Equator we were glad to be above deck. At night it was terrible, a strict blackout being observed. In the smoke room, or should I say, our billet, it was terribly hot, one just sat and sweated. The first sweat of the day was the worst it just poured out. It was good to have a dip in the pool on deck. I was in every morning early. At night I sat on deck with Stan, we just talked of things gone by. My heart was with you all the time. Wondering all day long what you were doing.
Then after eighteen days we saw land. On 25th January we got to Freetown and anchored there for four days. It was very interesting. The bum boats, with natives trying to sell fruit and all sorts of things and watching them dive for money. It was good to see land again though we did not go ashore. The nights were grand, all the ships lying around lit up, the moon was up, lights twinkled all over the bay. It was a real tropical moon, made for love, if only you had been there my darling.
Then on the 29th January, we left Freetown to run into even hotter weather as we got nearer the Equator. Again nothing to see but sea. No incidents at all, no shocks or anything unpleasant. I never gave a thought of anything happening, though I must confess before I started from England I was a bit windy but nothing happened. Thank God.
On Friday 31st January we reach the Equator and had the ceremony of crossing the line. This was very good to watch. The weather was now extremely hot. Then after another week or two of sea, we came to another stop. One thing I must mention, the much vaunted Southern Cross, that according to our authors, (whom I have doubts if they have ever seen it), "hangs from the sky like a flaming jewel". Well l was disappointed, or maybe I expected too much. Then on 11th February we reached Durban. Before getting there we had sports day on board, it was very enjoyable.
We stayed at Durban for four days. Every minute ashore I enjoyed. It was good to be on land again, I had quite a lot of cash saved from my batman job. I went with four more of the boys. Luck was with us, we were picked up by some people and taken along to dinner. All our time was spent in their company. The hospitality of the South Africans was wonderful. As I write this the wireless is playing "When my dream boat comes home". Sure, that will be the day.
Our first dinner with the Smith's was grand, eggs, steak, potatoes, kidney beans, rice and custard and pineapple, loads of breads and heaps of butter followed by tea. Our hostess apologised for a make-shift meal. Gee! after the pig swill on board the Orbita it was a banquet. (I am running ahead of my story). It was the third day in Durban we changed to the Orbita (I have learned since that both the ships we came over on have been sunk). One thing, the sinking of the Orbita, has certainly saved a few thousand heartaches.
On to Durban again, the Smith's had a car which we went out in, or rather set out in, to go to an open air dance place, the Athalone Gardens. Eight of us crowded into the car, my pal Stan Mole was driving. The car was pretty old, we had not gone very far, in fact we were driving down a main road, one with an island in the centre set with trees, a really beautiful thoroughfare. We attempted to overtake another car and I must confess that disaster nearly overtook us. The other car swerved in front of us, Stan pulled out to
avoid it and hit the island in the middle of the road. Then started the most hectic few minutes of my life. We got into a violent skid, went tearing right across the road, just about to crash then skid right back again. It was just like one sees on the films, just about to hit something and then across the road again. In the middle of one skid the back tyre burst, the car rocked right over on one side, righted itself and turned completely round facing the way we had come! Those few seconds when the car rocked, I thought my time had really come, but it was the last skid and the car finally stopped right outside the Durban Cricket Ground where the Test matches are played. A huge crowd gathered round and told us how lucky we were.
(Didn't we know it).
However, we got a spare on and returned home. No dancing that night. Finished the evening up with a drink.
Each day of our shore leave we spent with our friends, every day having a grand feed. Troops by the way, travel free on the buses. Durban is a wonderful place and I shall never forget the wonderful hospitality of our friends, but like all goods things it came to an end.
During our stay in Durban we changed ships on to the Orbita, a positive hell ship. A terrible ship, stinking and rotten, one had to sleep and eat on the mess tables, crowded and herded like cattle. The first two nights we had to sleep where we could. I got curled up on deck, it wasn't too bad seeing we had Durban to sweeten it. Then on Saturday 15th February, the day to leave Durban came. We had our first dinner on board, IT WAS CRAWLING WITH MAGGOTS, my God, what a start. Mutterings were heard from all tables. The Officers came, complaints were made, talks of leaving the ship were heard. Then, headed by the Dental Corps, all the chaps trooped on deck to leave the ship. An Officer blocked the gangway, it looked like being good, one man did get off. It all quietened down and the ship put off in a hurry out of the dock.
We were promised better food but it was terrible, dysentery broke out, hundreds a day going down with it. I had a touch of it and believe me it is no joke being on the run all day and night. The tea wasn't bad, the meat you dare not touch, so I lived on a bread and butter tea. Potatoes all went rotten, more than two hundred sacks were thrown overboard and tons of black slime that had once been spuds scraped up and slung. The whole ship was in a filthy state, the decks all filth and flies. We were told that the Air Force had got it in that state. Before we left it was looking like a ship. I still carried on with my batman job. Had to clean the things in the officers cabins, no room anywhere else.
Moving round the Red Sea, the heat was terrific, I did not think it possible to sweat as much. On board we had washing parades. Had to wash our clothes on deck owing to the water shortage. When one thought of the number of good ships that had been sunk and a ghastly wreck like this had missed it all - well it made one wonder if there was any justice. However, good things and bad things must end, and on 8th March, we arrived at Port Tufay at the entrance to the Suez Canal and on the 9th March we disembarked. The disembarking and the getting on the train was the quickest move I have ever made in the Army. We got straight on the train and were away within the hour. At the station we were given tea and a cake, it was very welcome. Then we started on our journey into the unknown.
The Egyptian trains are no picnic but it was something new. All the way, hawkers passed up and down the train, all of them having a licence to do so. We came onto native villages, then hour after hour of nothing but desert. One part was extremely pretty, had I seen it on the films I should have said it was not real. The sand hills looked almost like a stage back-cloth. Then without any warning the whole scene was transformed from desert to green fields and trees, land under cultivation, houses, it was hardly believable. We were nearing the end of our journey which turned out to be none other than that wonderful city of Cairo. Right into the centre we went on the train then back again, side-tracked to a big military depot
where all the troops unloaded.
This was Abyassia. The native houses were remarkable, made of mud with flat roofs or flat tops. Roofs were no where to be seen, it looked for all the world like a land mine had gone off and shattered them, how anyone can live in such hovels is beyond human understanding. Then we were conveyed on lorries to Helmich Camp which is the RAMC and ADC Corps Base Depot. This is a few miles out of Cairo. It was funny trying to imagine what sort of place it would be. After running around for quite a long time, the driver having lost his way, we did eventually get there. It had no doubt at one time been desert as it was all sand. The barrack rooms were built of brick and plaster, which was a relief for me as I had expected
tents. There were roadways and laid on water so really it was not too bad. It would be about 5.00pm or round that time when we had our first meal there and what a feed. Chicken, baked spuds, spinach, Yorkshire pud, custard and fruit and tea. The question of the moment was would it last. Unfortunately no! In fairness I must say the food was not too bad as far as food goes. I did not go out that night, I was not feeling too good, having a terrible headache.
The first day there was not too bad, the usual kit inspection, etc. Then the day after it was drill, fatigues and all the other lot one expects from a Depot. The drill I soon put a stop too, also PT early morning. I went sick with my foot and got an exemption from both. Some of the mechanics went to No1 Dental Lab to work, at first I was not so lucky. Then started postings. The boys went to various places, Sudan, Alexandria, Greece and other places. My pal Stan Mole went to the 9th General Hospital at Heleopolis which is only a mile or two from Helmich, so I was able to see him everyday. After a week of mucking about I went into the lab to work and was there until I was posted.
Now a little about Cairo. It was a bus ride into Cairo and what a ride. Unless you have ridden in a Cairo bus you haven't lived. The traffic by the way is on the right hand side of the road, which took quite a lot of getting used to. The first ride on the bus into town just simply put the wind up me. The bus careered all over the place, missing things by inches, I was pleased when it was all over. I got used to it later. Cairo is a wonderful place, (I realise this now as I write this, for I am on the edge of the desert). There are some wonderful buildings. The Egyptians, some in native dress, others in modern dress. The cars, donkeys, goats and cattle, everything all mixed up and some really beautiful women, Greek and French mostly. Open air cafes, bars, picture houses and street hawkers. I must make special mention of the hawkers for they were a dam nuisance. You could not move without something or other being thrust in your face.
Another place I must mention is the "Birker", the Regimental Brothels in Cairo. They are situated in one street, Birker Street. There is a PA centre attached where one goes for treatment after going with one of the women. This by the way is encouraged out here but thank God I kept off them. I have been round them, believe me it is an education. The women sit in various stages of undress waiting for their clients. The price being 20pt. What a sample of women, not a decent one amongst them. Most of them were coloured. Some of our boys went to see an exhibition. It was really funny, though disgusting to see chaps mauling them about and then go into the rooms with them, an education without a doubt. Another thing
one visits in Cairo are the Pyramids and very wonderful they are. I went along with one or two of the boys and was conducted round with a guide who explained everything. The Zoo is another interesting place, also the School of Hygiene which is more than interesting.
On the 29th March, I was posted to the 15th Scottish Hospital along with Bob Murray. Harry Butler was already there. It was for temporary duty. Eric Farrel was the mechanic attached to the unit so that made four of us there. It was the happiest part of my stay in Cairo. The hospital was at Guava on the banks of the Nile. Gizera was just across the water with a wonderful sports club. What a treat to see green grass again. I spent a lot of time there playing cricket umpiring for the hospital team and also watching Gizera play. I saw one or two County players there. Wally Hammond and F.J. Brown being the two most famous. At cricket I did pretty well considering I have not played for such a long time. An interdepartmental
competition was run, the Dental and Labs won it. I had some wonderful successes with the ball.
May 1941. Taken at the Hospital - (Alex?).
The Dental Staff. Farrell, Steve Lonsdale, Butler, Alvey, Kelly & Gordon Anderson
Taken outside Dental Lab.-(Alex?). May 1941. More of the Dental Boys.
Steve Lonsdale, Cpl. Kelly, Alvey, Farrell & Butler
The food and conditions were grand at the hospital. Plenty of denture work to do. I started at 6.30am until 1.00pm, the afternoons and evenings being free. Most weekends I went into Cairo to a show and supper. But alas like all goods things it came to an end. One very interesting thing I recall was a visit to the Path Lab in the hospital. There I saw some human 'innards'. One was the heart and lungs with a big cancer between the lungs. These had been taken only a few days before out of a patient that had died. Also the bladder and the accompanying parts of an Italian that had been shot through the bladder. I was invited on
many occasions to witness a post mortem but declined with thanks, although I should very much have liked to have seen one.
Then on the 6th July, Capt. Johnson the Dental Officer brought the sad news that I was to be posted to Genifa to the 19th General for temporary duty until the opening of the No4 Dental Lab. Harry Butler and I left Cairo at 6.15pm on the 8th July having had two days rest before starting. The journey was the same as all Egyptian journeys, pretty awful. Hard wooden seats. It was interesting enough the new places we passed through. At 10.00am we arrived at Ismailia and changed trains. It was midnight before the train left there, that part of the journey being completed on the platform of the train owing to half of the train
being reserved for prisoners of war. They sat, we had to stand. Very nice indeed! Then at 1.00am on the 9th July, the train arrived a Fayed, a one platform stop in what appeared to be the middle of the desert. It was a beautiful moonlit night. We had to wait around for half an hour before an ambulance came to pick us up. It was about 1.45am when we reported at the hospital and were accommodated in the reception room for the remainder of the night. I slept on an operating table.
After the usual completion of toilet, we met the boys at the 19th Lab and quite a decent crowd of fellows. Our first breakfast was quite good, all the meals there were good but nothing like the 15th food. It was the following Monday 14th July that we moved to the new lab and were attached to the Infantry Base Depot for rations. Tuesday morning we started work. Monday being spent unpacking equipment and setting it out.
Genifa, well, all I can say is it is a lousy place and could be called a semi-desert station. The Syna Mountains run right along one side of us, this by the way, is the Syna Desert. On the other side about three miles away is the Suez Canal. The part against us is Lake Bitter, the swimming there being quite good.
A few meals at the IBD proved how rotten food can be. Never enough and on the whole pretty lousy. It was cooked outside in field boilers fed by wood, As one can imagine nearly everything tasted of wood smoke. Tea is about the best thing they make apart of course for 'Mayfeesh' sugar and occasionally tasting of onions. Feeding in a tent with that kind of food brings a chap down nearly as low as possible.
There is always some interesting shipping on the canal, destroyers, cruisers, etc. and an occasional aircraft carrier. August Bank Holiday Monday was just another day, the same work routine. One thing to remember it by, a big raid on Ismailia, they certainly dropped some stuff but nothing near enough here to cause any upset. Naturally all of us were awakened. These raids are nearly every other night.
7th August 1941. This is more or less up to date. Today has been the same as another day, the same amount of work etc. I have had a terrific headache all today, last night I slept very heavy. It was the only nights sleep I have had for three weeks. What with the heat, the bad food, lack of sleep, well I am just about feeling all in. If I have anymore sleepless nights I shall go sick. If you only knew how I am missing you dear. I am well fed up with everything but I think I can stick it out. That is all for today.
Friday 8th August. Just another day. The only difference it was pay day. At night I went to the Gaff but was unlucky again, the air raid warning went and had to come out. There was a raid during the night, nothing near here, the planes passing right over. A few bombs were dropped and plenty of ack-ack in the distance.
9th August. A Saturday, work as usual in the morning. The afternoon free, went for a swim, it was glorious, just swam lazily about under a tropical sun. What a welcome change after a week of sweating by the bench. The heat is terrific, sunbathing is out of the question, to sit in the sun is to ask for trouble.
Saturday evening went to the Gaff, first house, with Fred Cooper, RAOC boy from Sheffield, using the same tickets as the previous evening. Did manage to see the show though but what a wicked show it was. The apparatus is very bad, if you can hear one word out of twenty then you do well. Saturday finished nice and quiet with no raid. Stood half an hour for a drink of tea, then it had all gone. This is just one of the small trials of life.
10th August. Sunday today and a day off. This morning I stayed in bed a little later. The sun is just shining on the Syna Mountains giving them a wonderful effect, to see it does break the monotony just a little. It is a place that grows on one. Ismailia after its raid of the other night, I hear, has now practically emptied of Arabs. Most of the shops having closed. Went after dinner for a swim, it was really grand, swam around for about half an hour. Another warning during the night, nothing near on.
11th August. Just another ordinary working day. In the evening went to the Gaff, listened first to a chap playing the piano in the Scottish Church Club, he was very good indeed, played many beautiful melodies. Took me back home in thought. Air raid warning again in the night. Ismailia had another heavy bombing. I did not lose much sleep. Thank God I am sleeping better these days. The sleepless nights were just about driving me crazy.
12th August. Nothing of any importance during the day. In the evening stayed in. A raid again during the night but nothing to get worried about.
13th August. The day passed without incident, cig issue at night, went to the Gaff, had a few minutes on the piano at the Club. Raid again during the night. Ismailia was dive bombed for two hours. Sleep was not disturbed during nightly bombing.
14th & 15th August. As usual just work during the day and no raids at night. Went to the Gaff on the Friday night.
16th August. On duty today so could not go out for a swim. Played darts most of the time, another quiet night.
17th August. Day off, went swimming and sunbathing, very enjoyable. Went to the Gaff at night. Another quiet night, no warnings.
18th to 20th August. Just humdrum days, pretty boring nights. Went to the pictures to pass away the time. On the 20th I sent a cable for your birthday darling. I hope you got it. On the 19th I got Jean's birthday card, it was very nice. I was very much touched with it. The day brought back many pleasant memories of those saner days. At the present I am very worried, not having received any word from home (apart from the card) for three weeks. Shall have to send a cable to see what is wrong. I hope to God everything is all right, for if anything happens to Jean or you darling, I'll go stone crazy.
21st August. I still await a letter. Work as usual. Things are shaping towards a new surgery being made. We are to move into tents. I have volunteered to sleep in the lab at nights to look after the place. I do not fancy a tent at all. A most noteworthy event- a few drops of rain! Received letter from home on the 21st. I was very pleased and much relieved to know that everything was all right. One thing pleased me very much, Jean had started to go to Sunday School and Church, how that kid must be growing up. I do miss her, as for you darling, I miss you more than I dare say.
22nd & 23rd August. Friday was payday, one outstanding day of the week. Went to the pictures at night. Saturday afternoon is a day off, was going swimming but fell asleep. Must go Sunday without fail. Quite a lot of new chaps have passed through this last few days, all happy and cheery. Wonder how long it will be before that smile is wiped off their faces. Wrote a letter card in answer to your letter darling. Quite a shaker about Freda. Certainly thought they were marking time for a bit. Don't think it will be a boy, I hope
not. For why? Goodness only knows. If I still had been at home dear, I wonder if you would have wanted another one.
24th August. Went down to the beach soon after 9.00am and had a really good day in the sun. Came back at tea-time. If you could see me now darling all sunburnt, I'm sure you would fall for me. What a day. A lazy swim, then laid out in the sun, a cup of tea. Oh. Gee! if only you had been there darling. It was a well deserved rest after a week of work. Finished the day off by going to the pictures.
25th August. Your birthday darling girl. Wonder if it was a lonely one. I am with you in thought, do so hope darling you have got the cable I sent . A very puny present but under the circumstances all I could do. I know you will forgive so small a remembrance. I received today four postcards and two letters. They were dated April. It is good to get some news through, especially good news. Have not been feeling too good today. Got a nasty pain in my chest. Fancy it may be indigestion, shall see the MO tomorrow.
26th August. Did not feel too good today but did not go sick. Everything just the same work as usual. Just seen a tent on fire. Tomorrow we start to dine at the DID lets hope it will be better food. Had a really good nights sleep last night, maybe shall be a lot better with a few good nights. There have been no raids for a few nights, there being no moon. The new moon is just coming up, so can expect something later. There was a warning at night but nothing to disturb me much.
27th August. Heard of a most remarkable thing. A patient in the hospital got his sight back suddenly after being blind for eight months. Another raid during the night. Hit an ammunition train 15 miles away from here. Killed a few Arabs. The food is certainly excellent. It is absolutely of the best and no wonder, it is the place they distribute the food and everything all round the district. One outstanding thing is butter, no wagon grease like we have been having. If this continues I'll get as fat as a pig. Have got a real fat tummy now.
28th, 29th & 30th August. Just three more days, ordinary everyday days. The food continues to be excellent. On Friday night there was a warning but nothing at all new here. Saturday just all quiet, had dinner at 12.30pm then just fell asleep after it like a big fat pig. Went in the evening to the Gaff, all quiet during the night. Received newspaper dated 4th May 1941.
31st August. Sunday, the best day of the week, it means a few hours away from the bench. Went down to the beach for a swim and a laze. Came back for a dinner for the grub is far too good to miss. Tried to sleep in the afternoon but the flies would not let me. Another air raid warning during the night.
1st September. Of course a day to be remembered, our wedding day darling. I wish I had sent a cable, it was stupid of me not to do so but I was with you in thought. I learnt that a plane had crashed on Sunday. One of ours. Just behind the hills. I heard the crash and saw the smoke but did not know what really happened. Went to the Gaff at night. Three parts of the picture there was no sound at all. A quiet night.
2nd September. I must confess that I am having trouble with my eyes. Today they have been considerably worse. Went to see the doctor and I am going to see an eye specialist on Thursday. It was a hard struggle working today. I hope there is nothing seriously wrong but quite frankly I am worried, very worried indeed. L/C Nicholson arrived today.
3rd September. Just another day. Work did not go down too well today, my eyes were not too good. Air raid during the night.
4th September. Went today to see the eye specialist. Tested my glasses, they were okay. My eyes are strained, got three days rest, excused duty. Went across to Fred the ROAC boy and slept most of the day on his bed. Another raid in the night at Aba-Swah. Plenty of ack- ack.
5th September. Had a newspaper this morning dated 14th June. Had another good rest all day, slept most of the time. Air raid at night around Mouska.
6th, 7th & 8th September. All quiet days. Raid on Saturday night. Can only be expected owing to full moon. Went to see MO again on Sunday. Got another three days rest, Big raid on Suez district. Ack-ack and bombs - very heavy indeed. Monday went down to the beach and had a sleep in the morning. Just mucked about in the afternoon.
9th, 10th, 11th & 12th September. A little variety crept into things these past few days. Moved the lab to the other end of the building. Had the Arabs in the building, they made a hell of a noise but at least it was a change. Started work again on Wednesday. Raids each night, except Friday. Three planes fetched down in the district.
13th September. Saturday morning, work as usual. Spent the afternoon doing a buckshee job. A heavy raid at night over Suez.
14th September. Just stuck around all day and finished of my buckshee job. The cash I am getting for it I am sending to you for Xmas. A quiet night for a change. The weather is getting much colder, mostly at night.
15th September. Received first aerograph from you. Was most upset to hear Jean was not well, hope to goodness it is not serious, should go mad if anything happened while I am out here. Raids during the night but nothing happened.
16th September. Had a letter from Una and a card from Jean. Everything just the same during the day.
17th, 18th, & 19th September. Ordinary days with nothing exciting happening. Raid on Thursday night over Suez, nothing to worry about. Only event of Friday is pay day. Went to the Gaff at night and had a few minutes on the piano at the Club.
20th September. Really and truly outstanding day or should I say night. We threw a farewell party in the lab for Jimmy Lamb who is leaving us to go to the ENSA concert party as a sketch artist. What a spread we have. Steak, beans, tongue, some new fancy meat (tinned), fruit and cream, beer, whisky and gin. It was a real slap up do, cooked by one of the boys. Loads of cigs, in fact five hundred buckshee. It is amazing what one can get when you know the right people. I got two hundred cigs the other day for 10pt. We had a nice little concert with a chap on his mandolin. Everything went well and we finished at 11.00pm. Truly an outstanding evening.
21st to 30th September. Just an ordinary week regarding work but one or two changes have occurred. First my pal Harry Butler has gone to Palestine to work in a lab there. Now I am more or less on my own. He was my only real pal here. Jimmy Lamb has also left to take up his ENSA job. To counteract all that, two new Dental Officers and a new clerk have arrived straight from England. Capt Reed is to be in the new lab, he is a decent chap, seems to take an interest in us. I received a card from Jean, very old but welcome. Have not heard from you darling for two weeks now. On Tuesday I got card from Nelly dated 28th June and a letter from Capt Johnson, my old DO and 'photos taken at 15th Scottish. It is a letter I shall treasure. It is a letter to Harry and I. Capt Johnson was a real toff, now on his way home, good luck to him where ever he lands. Up to the time of writing we have not had any raids, although the moon is pretty well up. Today, Tuesday, I sent you some money. I hope you get it okay darling.
1st to 12th October. Quite a few days have passed by with nothing much to report. Work as usual. One or two warnings at night. One night, the 7th, two planes were fetched down in the district. The most interesting day was Sunday when I went to Suez with Duff and Eric. We set off at 8.00am, travelling by lorry from the DID. I was a bit disappointed by the trip, it was all through the desert. Arrived at Suez about 9.00am and wandered into town. After the desert, the stink here was terrible. The buildings seemed to be on top of me but after a while I got used to it. It was good to see a woman again, even though most of them were Egyptians. I was very disappointed with the place, I expected something like Cairo. The only resemblance was the smell, only ten times worse! Wandered around the shops. The streets are narrow, filthy, fly ridden and crowded with dirty Arabs and children. One sight I will never forget was a meat shop with the counter thick and black with flies. No wonder disease is rife there. In one street I put my foot on a dead chicken, it sickened me. In yet another street, a dead cat lay there covered in flies. What a horrible, filthy place it is. Came back by train and was glad to get out of it. The rest of the week has just been so-so. Did get off on Friday to watch a football match. Next week I hope to play myself. Received on the 8th three cards and a newspaper. Was very upset to hear you are not well. I hope you soon get right again.
12th October. On duty today, just stuck around the place, had a sleep in the afternoon, it's terrible just to be in alone. Most of the boys are at Suez.
13th to 22nd October. Just ordinary days. On the Tuesday I played my first game of football for the DID against the Internee Camp. Although we lost 2-1, I managed to impress them a little. On the 18th I received a post card that took only twelve days to get here, the quickest I have had. On Sunday the 19th I played football again against the CTC at Karbret twenty miles from here. It was actually a washout as we were late getting there and only played ten minutes each way, after which we were losing 2-1. Played again on the 21st, the bakery this time and we drew 1-1. There was a lot of money on this game. At night we had an air raid warning but nothing happened. Football seems to be the only thing to look forward to now. Up to now my foot has held out but oh dear my poor knees. I have skinned them each game and they are very sore. All the kit is provided for by the clubs. Tuesday the 21st marked the end of the Arab Festival of Ramadan, being their Xmas there was a lot of
feasting and no work. On the 25th set off for Cairo on leave with some of the boys. Took a lorry to Ismailia and got a train there. Left about 10.30am and arrived at about 4.00pm after a pretty lousy journey. Had to change trains in the middle of the line but did get a seat, with the Officers standing for a change. Got some really good digs, B & B for 21pt. Went to a show in the evening.
26th October to 2nd November. Started off by going to the Pyramids. Went inside, half way up, then climbed right to the top of the big one. What marvellous view. Took snaps which all turned out very well. I saw more of Cairo in a week than I did in the whole four months I was stationed there. Monday we visited the Zoo, finishing the day with a show. On Tuesday spent a good day at the Delta Barrage, two hours each way down the Nile. What a wonderful place, like a real English park. Obtained some more good snaps. The Bazaars were very interesting, visited the leather and silver works and many places of interest. Visited a lot of Mosques, what wonderful places with roofs inlaid with gold. What a pride the
Egyptians take in their places of worship, the Alabaster, Blue and Royal Mosques, all very wonderful. Some of the streets are only about fifteen feet wide, with scents and spices and all weird and wonderful things. It was a marvellous week, a very pleasant change. I saw things that I shall never forget. Someday, if I ever have a lot of money, I would like to bring both Una and Jean out here. I wonder if I ever shall? For all its splendour, beauty, filth and smells, I would trade it all right now to be at home. When will it all end, I wish I knew. The week finished, like everything else and back to the humble desert we came.
3rd November. Today has been just another day, the same grind but harder still than ever. Tomorrow I shall have to settle down to it. Football seems now to be the only thing here to interest me.
4th & 5th November. Another ordinary day. Work is certainly not going down very well. The 5th was really a day of happenings. I received today an airgraph that had taken twenty five days to get here. How I welcomed that mail, the first for three weeks. I was interviewed today by Col McCullam and Col McGeorge regarding my trade test. McGeorge was not very helpful but my interview with the 'Big Shot' McCullam certainly was successful. I was informed later in the day that I was to be transferred to some place to take my test. Finished off the day at the Gaff.
6th November. Was informed this morning by Col McGeorge that I was to go to Helmich for my test. This really is good news. Whether I get back here I don't know. I hope so, if only for football and grub. In the past few weeks I have put on seven pounds. Today I feel very homesick, lots of little things have cropped up to make me think of home more than ever. Don't I just wish it was all over.
7th to 13th November. Still no news of going away. On the 8th I went to Ismailia to play football against the Royal Marines. Lost again but had a good game which is everything. Stayed in the joint until 10.00pm. Didn't see much owing to it being dark. The most outstanding day was the 11th, we had a party for Major Symons farewell. What a party it was. Two hundred pints of beer, six bottles of whisky, gin, loads of soft drinks and bags of food. As usual I did my stuff and raised a few laughs. Col McGeorge congratulated me and said I ought to be in the ENSA concert party, which is an idea I am seriously thinking of. I met Capt Thomason of the Dental Corps from Sheffield. He qualified with Oswald Menie and knew me through Menie. I am going to see him one evening. I had loads to drink and went to sleep just curled up on a stretcher. Some I understand got very drunk and it developed into a rough house. All the Officers there were real toffs. The next day I knew all about it with a head like six. Major Osman arrived to take over. I wonder how he will turn out. The rest of the days were just so-so.
14th & 15th November. Received two airgraphs today dated 20th & 26th October. One from you dear and the other from Jean. Was informed today that I should be taking the trade test here and not going away. Start next week. Went to concert at night. The 15th just an ordinary day. Went to the Gaff at night.
16th & 17th November. Played football again today. The first game in the league. We won 7-1, the first win this season. In the evening went to the Gaff. It passed time that's all one can say. The 17th was another working day. Tomorrow I start my test, my fingers are crossed. On duty at night so no pictures tonight. The weather is getting quite cool. Battle dress is to be worn tomorrow.
18th to 21st November. Started test today, Tuesday, a part upper. It went quite well, got 95% for it, a good start. Thursday, I set up for a full upper and lower. Made a slight mistake and got only 75% for it. Friday, I finish off the upper and lower and got 95% for both of them which made 88% for the whole test. I finished third out of the six of us that took the test. Got through okay, so now I am a First Class Mechanic.
22nd to 24th November. Played football again today in the league and we drew 2-2 after being two goals down at half time. A good feed was waiting for us after the game. Sunday being a day off I went to see a football match in the afternoon. By the way, on Friday, Eric and I won seven games of tombola and we picked up 35/- between us. Went to the Gaff at night. On the Monday I received a letter from my darlings at home and what a charming letter it was. Booked an order for a gum shield for the famous boxer Frank Hough who is in camp.
25th November. Finished off the gum shield for Frank Hough and got an invitation from him to go to the pictures. Got an order to make him some teeth, not a bad weeks work. Heard today that I was going to Moascar on temporary relief duty for a couple of weeks.
26th to 28th November. Ordinary days, nothing happened to write about. Played tombola on Friday and managed to win 45pt. Paid the expenses for the night.
29th November. Played football again today against the 77th DID and won 4-1. Got a nasty kick on the shin. Had my posting to Moascar held over to Sunday. Two boys arrived from Suez, two of the boys from Uckfield. All the old crowd have now gone abroad. Went to the Gaff at night after I had packed my kit.
30th November. Left for Moascar by lorry early morning and got taken right to the door. The Dental Centre is within the hospital, the only inhabited place around the hospital, the rest having evacuated. It's a very nice place. Went into Ismailia in the afternoon buying a few things I needed. The prices of everything are astounding. Two vests cost me 10pt each( making 4/- for two), a pair of suspenders were 10pt and the biggest shock of all, a reel of cotton was 6 1/2pt (1/4d). It is hardly believable to pay that for a reel of khaki cotton not thread. Everything that is necessary is so terribly dear. Shaving soap 1/- a stick, boot polish 9d a tin. A good job I had a few shillings from buckshee jobs.
1st to 3rd December. Started work today with very little to do. The food is not too bad but not as good as Genifa. The nights are the worse, there is nothing to do. The 2nd was a busy day, ten impressions to do, it passed the time away. The 3rd another busy day with eight impressions to cast. Today, after tea, it rained quite hard for a time. The weather is now much colder, almost like that at home.
4th to 6th December. On Friday, Duff came over from Genifa and we went to the pictures with him. Saturday went over to Genifa to play football. Picked up a lorry quite easily. Xmas card, cake and four papers waiting for me, the cake was in good condition and tasted very nice.
7th December. Went to play football against HQ and we won 3-1 so we are still at the top of the league. Had another lot of luck by winning 15/- on the football sweep. Went out at night to the Gaff.
8th December. What a day. Set off from the DID at 8.25am for Moascar, got there at 9.00am but nothing was said. The place was crowded with orderlies and Officers. Saw Col McGeorge and he told me to come back to Genifa straightaway, just packed up and went. Picked up a DID lorry after waiting about an hour. Did over 60 miles by lorry in a few hours. Real glad to be back.
9th &10th December. No place on the bench for me, so I helped Major Osmond in the surgery. Took some bites and fitted some dentures. Helped him quite a lot. Wish I could keep the job regular. Sent an air mail letter home. Have not had a letter from you dear for a little while but I am living in hopes.
11th to 14th December. Thursday just another ordinary day. Friday I had three post cards, one from you dear and one each from Gert and Nelly. Gee! it was good to hear again from home. Played tombola again on Friday. Won one house and two lines, we cleared 1pt each on the night. On Saturday I received an airgraph from you darling. My luck seems well in. Played football in the afternoon and got a surprise. Only managed to draw 2-2 with a supposedly poor team. Went to the Gaff at night and saw a good show. On Sunday I got another card, the quickest yet, just thirteen days to get here. Did another buckshee job
and went of the Gaff again at night.
15th December. Started at the bench again today, not so hot after a month away from it. Wrote to you dear at night and also to Gert and Nelly.
16th & 17th December. Received an airgraph today posted in early November, all well at home. Work as usual but not feeling too well. Nasty pain around the appendix. Woke in the morning feeling pretty rotten, a bad head and I still have the pain. Head cleared off after dinner and pain not so bad. Got two airgraphs, both early November. One from you darling and the other from ma and pa.
18th to 21st December. Felt much better on Thursday thank goodness. Had two parcels today. One from you dear and the other from the church. I was so glad to get them safe. I do appreciate your parcels dear and one day I will repay you. Friday just another ordinary day. On Saturday played football against HQ but lost 2-0. The first league game we have lost this turn. On Sunday went to Moascar for a run and saw the new lab. It is a fine affair. A letter for me when I got back, air mail, dated 18th October.
22nd to Xmas Day 25th December. Just ordinary days, plenty of work. Xmas Eve went into the canteen and had a few bottles of beer. Xmas Day we worked in the morning. Dinner was a most marvellous 'do', the best yet in the army but I felt oh so sad. I was terribly home sick and nearly in tears. The festivities kept on until well after midnight. There was loads of stuff to eat but my heart was not in the party. I told one or two jokes after dinner. Never before have I heard such filthy songs sung and all by regulars. In the
evening I went to the Gaff, it was a buckshee show.
26th to 29th December. I was feeling much better Boxing Day. Work as usual. Saturday we played football and lost 4-0, however, I managed to play a decent game. On Sunday played football again but I'm afraid it looks like being my last game for quite a while. I twisted my knee during the game but it did not feel too bad until night when I had a terrible time with it. Could not sleep for pain. On the 29th I reported sick and was told that I had torn a ligament in the knee. I shall have to keep having it dressed until it is right again.
Received another airgraph again dated 30th November.
30th December to 3rd January. The 30th, Jean's birthday. Still visiting the doctor with knee. New Years Eve we had a little party. A few bottles of beer some whisky and two whole legs of lamb, was a nice little do.