Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saturday 25th July 1942

Now being graded “O”, I am due for discharge and shall return to Base with the next draft, in about a week's time perhaps. Shall not be sorry to leave, as I don't love this place. The officers spend too much time among us, creating petty annoyances and irritations, quite unnecessarily. No. 5 Con. Depot, at El Arish, was run very differently to this, I remember.

By Jove! There was a panic this day! Everyone's kit was examined, including sergeant's. A Base Wallah officer stalked into our tent just after breakfast (accompanied by two Sgt. Majors and and an MP) and said curtly, “Turn your kits out. Everything! Quick now!” There was none of the friendly apologies and perfunctory, trusting examination which would have come from any EY officer. This was a thorough, bristling, suspicious search.

Of course, as some writer, an ex-soldier once said:- “The Army makes one a dull, uncomplaining whipping-boy”, so we humbly displayed all our private possessions, as ordered. Someone however said respectfully, “Has something been stolen, sir?”
“Yes!” snapped the officer, “a watch, a camera, a fountain pen and other articles. From the officer's quarters.”

They found my camera and took it away. “I didn't steal it,” I protested, “I bought it in Cairo, nearly two years ago. It's registered with my unit.” “If it is yours, you'll get it back,” was the reply. The camera was returned to me later in the day, without apologies. No, the Army had the last word! I was reprimanded for not having the camera registered here, and warned not to attempt to take any photographs in the camp. As if I'd want to take any snaps of this gaol!

Despite the rigorous search, the missing articles are still not recovered. Of course, it's possible that the thief was one of the scores of Arabs who work here! No, the thief may not have been one of we sub-human animals of the Britannic Majesty's Army!

Dear, dear! I'm afraid I'm rather bitter! And I'm still not a real soldier, after all these years!


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