Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday 23rd April 1940

The sentry awoke me. I opened my eyes and looked in amazement at the white sand-fly net above me and the dark figure of the sentry. I put my head out – I sleep right in the doorway now – and everything was bright with moonshine. Called the men and gave them their instructions. Washed (and shaved myself!) by lantern light – broad daylight when I came out of the wash-place. Moved off under Q Lient. Grimshaw at 5:45a.m.

Sarafand, 1st Cavalry Div. HQ. The RAOC Depot – lorry loading until midday. Mr Grimshaw and the WD vehicle went back then, leaving me with four men, four Jewish drivers and three lorries.

“If you stop by the road, patrol around and keep a good look out. If there’s any trouble and it gets dark, don’t attempt to go beyond Beersheba” (A spot of drama!) I sat in one of the cabs with a Berlin Jew; the men were distributed among the other lorries. My driver spoke a little English, - “As Luj? No good place”.

Stopped for a cup of tea at Rehovot. We passed Gedera, by the familiar road beside which we used to sit. Australian camp south of Gedera. Qastina, the last Jewish colony. Kilo 70, a lonely Aussie camp. Gaza, an Arab “Klein Stacht”. “Very old, older than Christmas!”

We stopped in the town – not an English or even white face. The bloody Arabs pushed around. We patrolled, Howarth on one side, I on the other. “Watch ‘em” I said. “The very place for someone to pinch a piss pot or bed pan or something” (Our cargo included these!)

Civilised roads ended with Gaza. Bloody rough roads then, through land which became gradually more barren. River crossing, thronged with Bedouin Arabs. At last we sighted Beersheba, desert town (“Last of the lands we know”!) and stopped at the Police Station. The police – English – were very hospitable and gave us a pot of tea in their canteen. “Nice and quiet here” said an educated bloke who’d been there two years, “Better than Jerusalem”.

Beyond Beersheba (Bir-es-Seba) the road was even rougher. Utter desert for about 25 kilos. Dirty sand, stones; No villages, no camps. No trees, no bushes, no water. At last we sighted a ruined village with the battered minaret of a mosque – Bir-as-Luj! It must be fairly near the Egyptian frontier. A little group of tents – the RHA camp. I happily handed over my convoy to the Quarterbloke. 6p.m.

Surprise for Jack Chenery. He sat with me whilst I had tea and I later kipped for the night in his tent. Sand everywhere! In the food, on the kits, blown on the wind. A thunder storm at night.

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