Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Saturday 13th June 1942

Aboard the hospital ship en-route for Alex. It's been a short campaign this time! Less than a fortnight in the desert. Just saw myself in a mirror in the lavatory. My God! I look a wreck! Gaunt, hollow-eyed and wild.

Don't feel too bad today. Weak and sweaty. Pretty bad time yesterday. Couldn't eat. Painfully retched up all the quinine they gave me. Deaf to all the lesser noises. When any one spoke loudly it was harsh, muffled and grating. If I closed my eyes a bomb burst inside my head; or someone was swinging a piece of metal on the end of a string inside my head, the arc of the swing was increasing until the rough metal was grazing my raw brains... The worst is over now, though.

Comparing this with that other evacuation from Tobruch, last August. Then we dwelt for days (and nights indistinguishable) in a tunnel, then were hustled out rapidly onto a destroyer at midnight. We were crowded on board, cared for roughly yet gently by seamen and rushed down to Alex – a 16 hour voyage. This time we were taken down from Tobruch hospital in broad daylight to the docks. Instead of Aussie medical staff there were Americans – all speaking with the slow, rich Southern drawl. The evacuation took all morning instead of one stealthy dark hour.

We were leisurely embarked on a big Red Cross ship, taken from our stretchers and put in comfortable white-sheeted beds in a large airy ward. All the amenities and efficiencies of an ordinary hospital are here – orderlies, nurses and doctors too. The trip will take about 36 hours.

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