Thursday, September 04, 2008

Saturday 19th October 1940

Horribly cold until about 9a.m. There were no flies, though!

“George Beer” (close down communications) at 11a.m. We proceeded home in convoy. I dozed a little in M1. About the time that we reached the Mersa barbed wire entanglements and tank traps, the dust storm began. When we reached camp the range of visibility was about two yards – if one dared open one's unprotected eyes!

Having re-established the battery exchange – miraculously it still worked almost flawlessly! The dust had eddied in at the leeward entrance and covered everything in the dugout, including the switchboard, with half an inch of dust. I hastened across to the Officers Mess to maintenance their telephone. I'd a neckerchief tied over mouth and nose and wore anti-gas eyeshields; nevertheless my eyes ached and my throat was raw.

In the Mess, a snug marquee, they sat like buggers, waiting for the Mess NCO to bring them drinks. “May I come in to adjust your telephone, sir?” I said with deference, to the senior officer. He assented. “Where is Ors-borne?” they kept saying, “Where can he be?” I stepped outside to fix the earth pin. “Oh, Dawson, will you tell Ors-borne to come?” “Certainly sir, very good sir” I said and lurched through swirling dust clouds to the Mess kitchen. Osborne was there. “Your Masters call you' I told him. “Bugger them!” said Osborne cheerfully. As I returned he shouted, “Tell 'em that their genii hears his masters summons and comes hot-foot!”

“Pardon my troubling you once again,” I murmured as I entered the Mess of the Gods to test the buzzer. “Is Ors-borne coming?” they asked. “Immediately, sir.” Eager to show interest in the men (whilst one of the wretches was amongst them) the SO said, “I wonder if the men will get their tea alright in this dust? Do you think the men will go across to the cookhouse for any tea, Dawson?” “I think it extremely doubtful unless the storm should abate somewhat,” I answered urbanely. As I went out - “Dawson,” said the SO quite firmly, “Tell Ors-borne we want him in here, now” “Very good sir”.

As I approached, Osborne cried, “I hang my head in shame! What do the buggers say now?” “Ors-borne is wanted in there, now,” I said grimly. “Okay!” he sighed, and went thus to his masters.

Happily the dust storm lulled for a couple of hours, so we had our tea. It has started again now (9p.m.) but is not quite so bad. The wind makes a pleasant rustling noise in the airhole and the ground sheet across the entrance shakes gently. A little dust filters in but it does not matter. There is dust everywhere as it is. My trousers, shirt, hair, suitcase, blankets, pack – everything already has it's full quota of dust.

If only that old anti-MEF bitch, Lady Astor, could have been here today, watching the Middle East Force “basking in the sun”!

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