Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Thursday 5th September 1940

Writing this in a barrack room with great open windows. Through these windows come two unfamiliar sets of noises: First the muffled throb of city traffic – swish of car wheels, honk! of car hooters, rumble of cart wheels, drone of motor engines, and footsteps and a dull murmur; Secondly the sound of a great river, swirling fast. The city is Cairo and the river the Nile. From the windows on one side, I see a wide, dim-lighted street, people and the high windows of a tall hotel. From the other side, lights of cars crossing a bridge, and dark surging water. It's wide here, the Nile – about as wide as the Thames at Kew. There are lights too, on the further bank and a new moon.

Well that's where I am, in the Scots Guards Barracks at Cairo. Now, how I got here...
Well, after some “panic” we got away from Nathanya yesterday at about 10:30a.m. and came south, fairly fast. Sarafand, Gaza, Beersheba, As Luj. It was far from comfortable in the back of M1 and beyond Beersheba, and especially beyond As Luj, the road was very bumpy and very dusty. The bumps shook us to bits and the dust poured in, suffocating us.

Gradually it grew darker. At last the monotony of wasteland was broken – a ridge of rock showed weirdly ahead and there were dimly seen buildings. The vehicles pulled up and we dismounted. Just as we stopped I saw a laconic notice:- “Frontier. Stop”
Stayed the night here, sleeping in an empty and roofless Arab house. It was El Auga.

This morning we came on into Egypt along a damn good tarmac road. No bumps, no dust. Good old Egypt! Five and a half hours in the desert moving fast. Suddenly greenery and houses appeared ahead and then a sheet of water – The Suez Canal. We crossed by the ferry into Ismailia. Sound irrigation here and glorious green grass and trees. Halted by the road for lunch. We preceded along perfectly civilised roads to Cairo. Just before reaching the city, the Colonel gave a short speech saying that we were the ambassadors of the Regiment and would, he knew, give a good impression...

The streets of Cairo thrilled us. A great cosmopolitan city with beautiful wide streets, tree-lined. People waved and smiled as we passed. Tea and a hot bath at the Guards Barracks. Most of the blokes have gone into the town tonight but I can't because of this awful face. Cannot even use the NAAFI 'cos they won't accept Palestinian money. However a quiet evening won't do me any harm. I'd love to have seen Cairo but there will probably be other chances. Whether we move on tomorrow or where, nobody knows. Perhaps “Out in the Blue”! That's what they call the front, here!

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