Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thursday 22nd January 1942

I have just been dismounted from a 24 hour guard. A policing duty really – there was no bullshit and no rifles. I was the NCO in charge. Now I sit down in the canteen with a cup of tea. I light a cigarette – not the first or yet the twentieth, judging by the burning of my mouth and throat. I've glanced at the evening paper, to see the usual headlines of war:

“Russians in Mojaisk. Routed German divisions in full retreat”
“Moscow street barricades being taken down.”

(They'll be putting them up in the streets of Singapore soon!)

“Japanese still advancing towards Singapore”
“... a counter-attack... 70 miles north of Singapore... withdrew to previously prepared positions”
“... Germans withdrawing from Balkans? Serbs fight...”
“Two ships sunk...”
“Food ship bound for Greece sinks...”
“Our aircraft returned safely...”

Yes, the usual sort of news, soon read. What shall I do now? I am tired and my head aches. Sometimes I think of last summer. By jove, I was in a pretty grim state by the time I fell sick and was evacuated. Heat, thirst, flies, unwanted letters, worrying about the mess I'd made of things in England...

Let me look at those weary, laconic diary entries; might make me feel fitter, now!

“I'm doing five hours tonight, 10p.m. - 3a.m., as Grant is ill.”
“Ye gods! I feel sick! And it's so hot!”
“... because of the excessive heat or because the flies poison our food... sun drenched, windless wadi... sweating profusely.”
“... the once delicious water was now deep, stagnant and teeming with animal life...”
“... languid physically and empty mentally...”
“... the flies are ghastly... developing that madness... everyone desperately thirsty...”
“... at midnight, the others were still awake”
“... have I come here to be punished for my wrong doing? Or to give me a chance to think, slowly, very slowly...”

And then! Sudden release! No heat, no flies, no thirst, no letters! Too exhausted to worry even! And later new faces, new scenes, so that for a while I could forget what I'd worried about so much!

“... trees... green... hot bath... bed... leaves trembling on a tree...” But then it was nearly seven weeks before I felt mentally fit enough for the effort of keeping a diary.

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