Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Monday 20th January 1941

Noon: We moved last night at dusk. A 25 mile drive in utter darkness, made worse by occasional clouds of dust. I was relief driver on B11. We crawled along head to tail for nearly seven hours. It was quite a strain, keeping touch; there were no lights of course and practically no track to follow. However B11 is the officers mess truck and I found some consolations – a tin of peaches, wafer biscuits and a swig of brandy. Once we passed close to a body of infantry, moving up. The thud of many feet and a softly whistled tune.

About midnight, we crept stealthily down a steep, rocky escarpment and halted some time later at the foot. I found M1 then. Jackie Hall, Ted, Nicholls and Grant kipped down around the truck, Sid Pond and I draped blankets around the cab and sat there smoking. Afterwards we swathed more blankets around us and went to sleep. It was rather cold and draughty. Once or twice we were awakened by firing. There was also the crash of bombs and sinister droning of an Iti plane overhead.

Up at 6a.m. “Hopeless dawn!” I said and ye gods, it was! Bitter cold and grey. We moved M1 to a little wadi and camouflaged it. We are to stay here all day and move into the battle position tonight. Since morning we've made ourselves more comfortable. We lit a fire in the wadi, partly to warm ourselves, partly to heat up some water. (It was grand to smell wood smoke again – always takes me back, in memory, to Scout days.) First we had black coffee (unsweetened!) and later on, after a successful scrounge, had tea – with sugar and milk.

For breakfast we had hard biscuits and dusty margerine. Very snug around the fire somehow; much talk and puffing of pipes. There's no water for another mash now but I guess we'll have more hard biscuits and a tin of Iti tunny fish for lunch, presently.
Presumably we attack tomorrow but no one seems to be worrying in the least about that! We'll have a hard time for the next day or so with probably little sleep, but right now we are at ease.

4:15p.m. We still lounge around the ashes of the fire. Since 11a.m. it has been like an English summer's day. and now, as we wonder hopefully whether the grub wagon, B9, will come up with tea, the shadows of the rocks behind us are slowly lengthening. Soon after tea (if we get any) we'll load M1 and then – night!

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