Monday, August 18, 2008

Wednesday 3rd April 1940

Fatigues in the morning, then a half holiday. Nevertheless, and although Ling and I had permanent passes, we had to slink out of camp as though we were criminals!
Men were being put on fatigues right and left! I hurried, neat in service dress, to Stan’s tent after lunch. “Bombardier Dawson!” cried Sid Pond officially, “The Orderly Sergeant has been looking for you. Have you seen him?” “I haven’t seen you either, boy” I said, hurrying on. “Quite boy, quite!” said Sid.

I shot into Stan’s tent, told him I was ready, and dashed out the other side as the Orderly Sergeant’s voice was heard approaching. I slunk through the camp and reached the hill beyond and sat down. Stan Ling saw me and followed. I heaved a great sigh of relief when we reached the cliffs, beyond sight or sound of that bloody camp. Stan had escaped with similar doubts and eventual joy to myself.

A ripping walk of two miles or so, along the waters edge, beneath the cliffs, until we reached Nathanya town. There wasn’t much to do, except a little shopping; we had ice creams and later, tea. We were the only Yeomanry men in town until the evening – disgusting on a half holiday. After being baffled in a shop where only German was spoken we bought books on how to learn colloquial German!

Delightfully peaceful walk back along the sands, with Army far away. Pipe drawing nicely; quite alone except for waves – running close to the bottom of the cliffs so that we sometimes narrowly escaped having wet feet – and the firm sand, the shadowy cliffs and starshine; in this pleasant atmosphere we talked of the girls we had left behind us. Stan knew about Eileen of course and something of Lois. Now I told him of April and Rio, so that he knew what a fool I’d been. (Still, I thought in retrospect, it was nice to have been a fool, dammit!)

Oh! We were far, far away from khaki and war and Palestine! We might have been strolling along an English seashore during our holidays. Incidentally, Stan told me of a ripping holiday he’d once had in Cornwall, when he had just the sort of experiences I have always enjoyed. We made arrangements to have a walking holiday together in the Lake District next summer!

Back to camp and reality. Several unfortunates had been doing pack drill whilst (it was alleged) officers looked on in amusement. All kits had to be cleaned for tomorrow's inspection; there had been mutinous shoutings and gatherings in the lines, as at Gedera. One example they told was, “Three cheers for the Essex Yeomanry”, yelled by some rioter, which was answered by terrific booing!

To crown it all, I found I was on guard for tomorrow night. Ah well! I’d escaped for a while.

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