Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Monday 22nd July 1940

There have been several drill orders since last Monday and this is the first evening of a scheme which will last four or five days. There's been a lot to write about, if only I'd had the time. The night exercise last Wednesday – how I went down to the beach from the gun park after my vehicle was loaded. Tramped through a mile of genuine desert, feeling rather like a foreign legionnaire, until I came to the “snakes pit.” Alone! We seldom see Sid now he's a sergeant, Ron is on a course, Stan was gone with the advance party and Jack was Canteen Orderly) It was good to plunge into the warm water, whilst my sweat-soaked clothes dried in the sun!

That evening, moving into the already prepared position, by moonlight. Sitting in the back of an open lorry for two hours, under the moon, sometimes singing. Sleeping, that night, for four hours beneath the orange trees, whilst Grant and Gilbert worked the exchange in turn. Goodwin and Keeble were at the Command Post; the permanent M1 crew which will go into action.

The horrible Saturday – hard work and bullshit and misery. I was detailed to scrub tables without judgement or hearing for unfair reasons and was taken off this when I began to get awkward and requested the right to make a formal protest and so forth.

That evening I went to a moonlight dance with Stan Ling. Romantic, in the gardens on the cliff, in bright moonshine; but there were no English girls there and I'd almost forgotten how to dance. We had plenty of dances though and tore back to camp just at midnight.

Sunday – awful. We had to stack our kits – everyone – as we were held in bad favour by the OC. And spent the whole day working. Packed and struck the signals stores tent. Stowed all the signals instruments on the drill order vehicles.

Evening: packed our sea kit bags, packs and haversacks and loaded them. 414 Battery had a day's holiday as usual. Oh hell!

This morning we had to stack kits as usual – and we were back within half an hour, packing everything and storing it with the Q. Yes! Every tent was left empty! “Good Lord!” said one of the regular instructors, temporarily attached to us, “Do you always do this when there's a drill order?” (I'll never volunteer again!) However, once we were packed there was little to do until we moved off at 2p.m. Not too bad once we were on the way.

We've bivouacked (not in battle positions) at a farm house near Kefar Yona. Nice people; they gave us some Russian tea. I must turn in now. All this was written in the rear of a wireless truck. 9p.m. now, The sea mail came (third time within a week!) and I had a letter from Eileen.

We laid two metallic lines, one through several orange groves to the wagon lines and one overhead to the roof of the farmhouse, where there's an air sentry.

Am continuing this at sunset of Tuesday, sitting before my switchboard in a four foot hole which has been very hot during the ten hours I've been here. It was pleasant at Kefar Yona though! That tea! The people did not understand English, only Hebrew and German. I had to utilise nearly all my knowledge of Deutch to get the tea, for which they'd take no payment (country Jews are unlike town Jews). The peculiar tea “shook” us at first sight but actually it tasted ripping. And we all had a shower in an out house! There was Eileen's letter to be read; she'd sent photographs too, including one of the war memorial where we'd had our first rendezvous, in the utter darkness of the black out.

Tonight, there being no exchange set up, I slept right from 9:30p.m. to 4:45a.m. Made my bed in a lemon grove, near M1. Slept comfortably between two iron pipes, stars above when I opened drowsy eyes; the moon rose later.

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