Thursday, December 04, 2008

Friday 25th December 1942

Roll call this morning was at 8a.m. and there were no subsequent parades... Got away from camp about noon and the three of us caught a taxi about a mile down the road. Near the pyramids we saw “Winky” Neal waiting and picked him up, too. (It's always best to find a fourth or even a fifth man, on these long trips into Cairo; it cuts down the expense.)

Had lunch at the Brittannia, with Bob Andrews and Harry Morley. I enjoyed every mouthful – and a change from the rough Army grub, crudely served and more crudely eaten. I had tomato soup, mushroom omelette, apple tart with cream, and excellent coffee. Good tasty food, pleasantly served.

Then, I filed away alone. Instead of queuing up for a bath at one of the clubs, I had a brainwave and went to the Littorial Hotel, where we'd stayed whilst on leave recently, and had a topping hot bath in peace and privacy – with a pot of tea served in the bathroom.

Afterwards I went to “Music for All”. Wilbur Underhill did not appear (I hardly expected him to do so, knowing Wilbur as I do; besides he may have been on duty) but Jack Chenery and George Kerry came in and we had tea and rich, squashy cakes, whilst the orchestra played. I glanced at the Christmas Day headlines in the paper:

“ADMIRAL DARLAN ASSASSINATED”
“RUSSIANS CONTINUE RAPID ADVANCE”... “Smashing their way through in the direction of Rostov...”
“BOMBERS OVER GERMANY AND ITALY”
“Allies penetrate Jap positions at Burma...”
“Allied patrols aggressive in Tunisia...”

And in Cyrenaica – or is it Tripolitania now? :

“The eleventh day of Rommel's westward flight was without incident yesterday ... contact ... enemy rearguard ... Sirte area ...”

I left Kerry and The Trapper after tea and went to the flicks alone. “In Rear of the Enemy”, a Russian propaganda film, made in USSR, with English dialogue synchronised. It wasn't a very well-produced film. The acting was about 15 years out of date; quite unsophisticated. The whole thing was crude – yet the audience applauded enthusiastically, soldiers and civilians alike. I clapped myself! And when a trapped Russian threw his last hand grenade at the encircling Jerries, with a shout of “For Stalin!”, there was loud cheering in the cinema. It just shows how Russia has captured all our hearts.

In one of the short musical films, there was a pretty song:

“Wonderful island,
Where broken dreams come true;
Make believe island,
Beyond the blue.”

This must be England!

Met Kerry and Jack in the evening, for supper. We went to “Music for All” and had: tomato soup, turkey, roast pork and vegetables, Christmas pudding and coffee.
We managed to make up a party of five for the taxi ride back to camp and – what was more fortunate still, on Xmas night in Cairo – managed to secure a taxi!

Climbed into my ammo truck at midnight.

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