Thursday, September 04, 2008

Monday 11th November 1940

Bob Andrews and I are on the exchange today. Jack is Orderly Bombardier and came into the dugout for a chat. He was talking about his long and generally uncomfortable journey by rail from Sarafand, Palestine, to Sidihanaish, on discharge from hospital last September. “My first sample of the cordial spirit animating the Anglo-Egyptian alliance was on the train” he said drily, “A Gypo (Egyptian soldier) stood in the crowded corridor. A British soldier pushed along. “Out of the bloody way and let one of the buggers wot do the fighting get by!”

I didn't expect there'd be any observances of Remembrance Day (there wasn't, beyond an issue of paper poppies at an akka each) so left Bob on the exchange just before 11 o'clock and crept into my dugout. I sat there very quietly for five minutes or so.
(Dark and cool there, rough sides, tin roof, my webbing belt, jack knife and a tin of Afrikander on a dust ledge' sandbags, narrow opening revealing a brilliant blue sky, cloudless).

I remember where I've been every year right back to 1927 – except '36. (Damn! Where was I that year?) And now I'm here. And why? The Hanningfield War Memorial: “In glorious memory of the men of this village who died in war that we may live in peace”... It is all very sad and awful.

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