Friday, December 12, 2008

Sunday 17th January 1943

Reveille was at 5a.m. today; so we got up at 4:30 and were almost ready to move by breakfast time. We had a mug of hot milk before venturing out of the truck into the chilly pre-dawn air. Jove! It was cold this morning! Besides my battle dress, thick vest and Angola shirt, I wore a pullover, wool scarf, gloves and greatcoat. And thus, was just warm enough.

We started before dawn and came on into Palestine. The first day of this trek, we did 118 miles; second day 172; today 130 miles. The desert road... Beersheba, a brief break in the monotony. I was amused to notice that the flag (A Union Jack) at Beersheba Police Station was flying upside down, just as it was when I stopped there to report with a convoy for As Huj, in 1940. (In those days, it was “Don't proceed beyond Beersheba after dusk!”) How improved the road is! Then it was a rough rutted track. Now it is a modern highway. The river we forded is now spanned by a fine arched bridge. War gives us progress, in some ways!

The land was the same however, growing more fertile gradually, until it was finally green at Gaza. The Arabs were the same, too. Well—built, healthy looking men, often carrying swords or daggers, usually proud, aloof and slightly hostile. So different, these Palestinian Arabs, to the crawling, filthy sycophants of Egypt!

We halted between Gedera village and our old camp. The Jews have grown much more friendly. Now they smile, wave, give the “V” sign, or bring us oranges. An Arab approached us near Gedera offering four oranges for an akker. “Ha!” I said with scorn, “Yehudi henna gibbit arbah baksheesh!” (“No. Jew here, gave four for nothing!”) The Arab saw his chances of a sale were hopeless, gave a wry smile and filed off.

We travelled along the Tel Aviv – Haifa road. It was sunny, and I discarded my coat, gloves and scarf. It seemed like a Sunday afternoon. It always seems like a Sunday afternoon on this road.
At the Nathanya cross roads we turned right for Tulkarem and went into bivouac about two kilos short of the town. It was a pleasant staging camp off the road, reached by a lane between the orange groves. I knew it well, for we came to this spot in 1940 to “bombard” Tulkarem with our howitzers, on a drill order.

It's 8:45 p.m., so I'll turn in now. Just heard the familiar Palestine jackals howling. It is good to be back, even if we are just passing through.

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