Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tuesday 31st March 1942

We are in Egypt, between Mersa Matruh and Sidi Barrani. Yesterday afternoon we arrived at Fort Capuzzo – the railhead is beyond there now! The track which ran through RHQ during the siege of Bardia is now signposted, “Station Road. To Sollum and Helfaya Pass.”

How different the whole place looks, with a railway line and mass goods trucks! We went into bivouac near Fort Capuzzo; it is in ruins now of course and the little garden is full of German graves. There is also a memorial to the Transvaal Scottish dead. Although the Fort itself is a heap of rubble, two stone columns still stand, one, with a broken eagle at it's top, being somewhat marked by shrapnel.

A dust storm suddenly blew up. We felt pretty miserable at first, but then got in the truck, closed it in and rigged up a light. The wind howling outside and shaking the sheet made it seem all the more snug inside. We fried some bacon in my mess tin and had a brew. Qwise! The other three decided to sleep outside but Tom Bowling and I slept in the truck. It was very warm and comfortable.

I made another brew at stand to this morning, and we began to wonder where we could scrounge some more water. The dust storm had gone but it was cold and windy. The convoy came on down Sollum Escarpment. The sea looked glorious from the top – green and blue, with the sun shining on it. Upper Sollum was hardly touched but the lower village was smashed up. There were many graves here, also; chiefly German.

Surprise! The ghastly Barrani-Sollum track, dustiest and bumpiest of all the middle east routes, had at last been replaced by a fine tarmac road! It was very cold. After a couple of hours, I fell asleep.

When I awoke we were here, by the roadside. Not a bad spot. Flat all around, but few stones or tufts of scrub. Chiefly hard, firm sand. There is a big patch of yellow and blue weeds nearby. Very pretty. The wind had dropped, so that one could enjoy a smoke. We began to make a brew. “Whistle for ma dog. Ma lips are too thick.” “Ma black brudder.” “I gri now, with that fire!”

“What did Barrani look like?” I asked. “Heaps of stones,” said someone. “You know how it is.” “Where are we now?” “Outside bleedin' Alex.” “Like buggery we are.” “About twenty kilos. past Barrani.” “Mersa tomorrow, then.” “Yeah.”

We found it difficult to scrounge any extra water from the water cart but Search brought us two gallons from his truck. Later on, wandering about beneath the full moon, Stevens, Bowling and I found a deep well and brought back 10 gallons. It will do for washing tomorrow anyhow. If the summer were here, we'd consider it quite good enough for drinking! So we got in the truck as before, had a brew and opened two tins of pineapples.

Guess I'll go to bed now. Sleep outside this time. It's a lovely night.

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