Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Friday 14th February 1941

Bitterly cold day. We're lucky to have the shelter of four walls. A marvellous false dawn of yellow, about an hour before sunrise, which faded to grey and gradually turned red rose colours, as the sun came up.

The Regiment paraded in hollow square after breakfast for a brusque, soldierly address by some general. The parade was very amusing; everyone, especially the officers, was very casual about the drill. There were titters when the OC addressed us as, “339 Battery Essex Royal Horse Artillery” ... (missing the word “Yeomanry”). Presumably everyone's minds leapt to our secret ironical title “The Essex Horse” And the 414 OC bawled across the square, “You must have lost your B Echelon, Bob!” Loud laughter at that. Finally the Colonel, about to give the time-honoured and dramatic command, to the whole regiment, - “Essex Yeomanry – 'Shun!” suddenly noticed the 2nd i/c blowing his nose, and made a long pause after the initial word of command. Thrilling seconds whilst the 2nd i/c frantically struggled to get the handkerchief into his pocket! We daren't laugh at that, however!

The address was the usual jingoism – praise; traditions splendidly upheld; you'll soon get your chance to strike the Boche in the Balkans etc. etc. There was one serious note however. “Here – owing to our magnificent air force – we've had air superiority right from the start. But don't get careless. When you meet the Boche it may be very different. For God's sake keep always on the alert for air attack”.

After the General had gone, the Colonel said a bit about our splendid achievements (two battles and a trek across the desert!) and how he knew that by our bearing we would uphold the finest traditions of the Regiment, in civilisation (Cairo) as in the rigours of campaigning...

(Aye, and the General called us all “Gentlemen” he did an' all!)

From all that is said, one imagines we won't be in Cairo long! Well, I hope I get that leave! I'm tired and that's all I want, right now.

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