Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thursday 13th November 1941


(Written in Tobruch, Libya, Nov.14th)

Shortly after finishing my diary on my last Egyptian night, Ken Shelley and Bill Oxely joined me in the YMCA. We had tea and cakes and a pow-wow (ending with religion!) until about 11a.m. and then had a few hours sleep on tables in the mess tent. We wakened up, feeling surprisingly fresh, at 2:30a.m. and after a long wait in lorries in the darkness, moved off to Alexandria.

We went on board HMS Kipling at once and the destroyer cast off and moved out to sea within a few minutes. Very crowded on the decks and no grub except for tea and occasional snacks of bully and biscuits. We dozed a little although it was rather uncomfortable as the decks were wet in most places and there was so little space.
After Mersa Matruh it was full speed ahead and everyone on the alert. No hostile aircraft or submarines appeared however. After dark the journey became excruciatingly uncomfortable, as we were all herded aft (standing room only) and it was very cold.

We reached Tobruch at 9:45p.m. and went ashore. All quiet; no shelling and no bombing. Imagine our disgust when, tired out and hungry, we were told we had to walk to the Transit Camp, “only about a mile away, men, so step lively”. Mark you, we were all dressed as stated a few pages ago and carried kit and equipment as stated therein! The walk from the quay to the top of the hill nearby finished us but that was only the start of a long trek.

Three hours later (I'm not giving the details of that nightmare evening) the lorries dropped us, cold and embittered, at the top of a steep escarpment. “Not much further now” said a cheerful, encouraging voice, “Come on, you men!” but at least four of us had had enough of this Army inefficiency and muddling, and turned aside. Bill Oxley, Steve, Shelley and myself made our beds at the top of the escarpment, where a circle of stones gave some protection from the biting wind, huddled into our blankets and slept.

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