Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thursday 23rd October 1941

7:30a.m. I'm sitting on the 3rd class section of the platform at El Kantara West station and feel thoroughly fed up. We paraded at El Arish, to start waiting for the train, at 5:30p.m. yesterday (4:30 by this time). We left El Arish at about 12 midnight and got a few hours uneasy sleep in a bug-infested train. We arrived at El Kantara East just before dawn and had a breakfast of hot tea, cold eggs, stale bun and stale bread – squatting on the floor of a hut, with Arabs hovering around, waiting to pick up what we could not eat (plenty).

We crossed the Canal at about 6a.m. and have been waiting here ever since. The Cairo train may be here in another 2 hours but nobody really knows. So I – and everybody else – feel dirty, and fed up.

8:30p.m. After many hours of travelling and of being buggered about, I am at last settled in at the Base Depot RA. This is being written in the familiar Corporal's Mess at the Depot. I've had a wash, but it was too late to get a shave when I arrived. There are several EY men here; I've already met John Hatch, who was evacuated with me and was in the same ward with the Aussies at No.3 General, last August.

We heard grim rumours on the train, so when we reached Cairo I went up to the first MP I saw on the platform and said “Is it true that leave has been cancelled, Corporal? It's not true is it?” (Wishfully selling him a negative!) “No, old man,” he grinned, “I've heard nothing about it. Everything is normal” “Good!”

And the French evening paper screamed:- “Moscow Offensive Stationary” and “Napoli Bombed Continuously for Five Hours” God! Well, perhaps it's not so good to think that Napoli, one of the world's most lovely places, has been bombed heavily.
Now, a few days leave and I'll be ready for a trip to Tobruch again.

This is the end of “Mirage”. I said at the beginning, “I have need to busy my heart with quietude,” and thank God, I had the chance. Either because of the long rest or the cool weather I feel much fitter now, mentally and physically, and am ready for anything again.


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