Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday 24th December 1941

Christmas Eve. Ye Gods!

Cold this morning; breakfast in the dark – the usual disgusting rations from the cookhouse. This morning it was hot tea (qwise) and biscuits and margarine (zift).

As the convoy got under way the wind grew rougher and colder and eventually developed into a pukka dust-storm. Visibility was sometimes only 30 yards. Hour after weary hour, the trucks clattered on. We missed railhead but wandered on and eventually located the line.

The trucks deposited us on a flat stony miredam, presumably about a mile from railhead – and went away. The dusty wind howled at us across the flat drear wilderness. We cowered behind our kits and snapped savagely at each other. Nearby, a small Naafi opened. A queue of about 300 rapidly formed. We got in the latter part of the first 100. When we were about three places from the counter, the 339 batmen arrived and pushed their way to the front. There were angry cries. “Sorry mates,” they said, “We got a chit from the officers' mess.” They were rapidly served and staggered away laden down with goods – tins of fruit and what not. A moment later:- “Sorry chums we're sold out,” said the Naafi man. I delivered a vitriolic address on the bloody officer class.

We scrounged a tent and with much swearing got it erected in the teeth of a bitter wind. Shelter! One could at last lie quietly smoking, safe from that damned wind. From now, things brightened. We scrounged onions and a 24lb. tin of English coffee. With the aid of these and a stolen tin of milk and a primus we made a decent meal out of the cookhouse rations of boiled bully and stale bread and tea. They also issued a quart of water per man. Plus four gallons which Naden scrounged from somewhere, we had enough water for mass washing and shaving – the first for two days.

I produced a candle and we made ourselves snug for the night. Final bit of luck, they issued some canteen stores – two cans of beer, one bar of Lieber chocolate and 20 Marcovitch cigarettes, each. So now we are singing and arguing and celebrating Xmas Eve.

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