Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tuesday 18th November 1941

Last night turned out to be somewhat grim. It eventually settled in to rain steadily. I was saying yesterday that the snug exchange dug out would probably become our evening social club this winter, like it was last year. Well, last night it was more like a haven of refuge! I was writing letters until midnight whilst young Motley worked the switchboard and Andrews read a book. Then I took over, and, as the rain had slackened (only temporarily as we soon found!)

Andrews went off to his damp bed. The rain began to fall heavily. Presently Tubby Cartwright stumbled in very wet. His bed was soaked. At 1a.m. Jock Strain, the surveyor came in. He'd been awakened by water seeping through his blankets. They talked, and smoked, and dozed. At 3a.m. young Motley bravely went to bed and at about the same time Lofty Morrison (about 5 foot), the sanitary orderly, came in. His blankets also, were drenched. At about 3:30a.m. Strain and I decided to reconnoitre the wadi below. It was still drizzling and the night was absolutely black. We heard a peculiar sound from the wadi – a faint prolonged buzz. “What the hell's that? asked Strain. “Sounds like a Fullerphone but it can't be,” I said and at the same time an amusing vision crossed my mind. Poor old George Hignall, sanest and steadiest of soldiers, rendered crazy by the rain, might be sitting alone there in the dark, tapping out messages to no one on the Fullerphone. (“VE Get me out of this AR”)

The buzzing came from the rude shelter which we used as a dining tent. I stepped in and struck a match. Instead of seeing George feverishly tapping, like a beast at bay, I was confronted by Donnison, a new reinforcement who came straight here (no waiting!) from Blighty about a week ago. He was huddled in a wet blanket; water splashed around his feet. In his eyes was a look of dismal hopelessness. “Who are you?” I asked, not remembering his name. “Donnison,” he replied miserably. The buzzing came from a spare telephone DV which was shorting. Strain silenced it. I threw the match away. “That thing has been buzzing for an hour” said Donnison abjectly. He had obviously lost all hope...

I found three of my blankets fairly dry but there was a great pool of water in the middle of my sleeping space. It was most unattractive down there so I returned to the exchange dug out, curled myself uncomfortably on the floor and had three hours sleep, whilst Cartwright worked the switchboard. I'd left one blanket with Donnison in the shelter. Strain stayed down there also. The sanitary orderly, Lofty Morrison (about 5 foot) dozed beside me. And I daresay Tubby dozed as well!

Oh! As I came back along the wadi, Tiny Plane suddenly woke up. I heard a splash as he stirred... “Steve? What time is it, Steve?” “Nearly four.” “Oh!” he exclaimed suddenly, making a discovery, “I'm all wet!” “You don't say!” I rejoined.

Slightly drizzly tonight. Anyhow the stone walls around my bed have been reinforced and over the top I've pinned two Iti blankets. They should keep out anything except a pukka downpour. Around the base of the walls, I've raised a mud ridge which will keep out drifting flood water up to three inches deep. Anything more elaborate seems hardly worth while, considering that our stay here is nearly finished. (we hope) George, nevertheless, has built himself a colossal structure of stone and tin sheeting, which he calls Fort Hignall.

We listened eagerly to tonight's news at the exchange (relayed through the whole line system, as usual) hoping to hear something about the blitz. But there was nothing to report from the frontier except, “Our patrols penetrated deeply into enemy territory.” Mind you, it did not have the usual conclusion:- “... and returned after making useful reconnaissance.” However! It will come when it will come!

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