Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday 14th January 1943

8:15p.m. In the tent where the noisy, likeable canteen used to be – until this afternoon. The only thing left now, is the wireless set. The tent seems large and empty; no lights except for the lantern; no office; no table; no hot tea... The wireless is turned low; it doesn't need to blare forth now. “Annie Laurie” is being sung, softly.

Reveille 0600, tomorrow. Roll call 0630. Breakfast 0700. Ready to move 0800.

At this last hour, I am almost sorry to be going away. It is such an uprooting. Hell of an afternoon, packing, stock-taking, balancing accounts, loading. Those figures just wouldn't balance with the officer's! And I couldn't concentrate! There were so many other things to think of – the careful packing of the £30 stock in various boxes, so that it would come to no harm on the 4 day journey; the soap and paraffin to be kept apart from the cigarettes and foodstuffs; 30 tins of bad milk to be returned to the bulk NAAFI at the last minute; which lorry were we to have? Dozens of things cropped up at the last minute, and eventually we left the accounts unfinished. (Think I've got then all right now though, after working alone here in the quietness.)

Just went up to the tap on the hill near RHQ for a wash and to fill my water bottle (“Webbing and water bottles will be worn during the journey”). It was dark and cold up there and a dreary, dusty wind was blowing. (Damn you Egypt! But it will be even bleaker, where we're going!) Didn't have a very good wash, for the wind blew the lather off my hands and face, replacing it with gritty dust. I was glad to come back to this tent, light the lantern, close the door, and switch on the wireless.
The canteen stores have been loaded onto Kelly's truck, A7, so I'll be in my old home during the journey, anyhow.

As I write, Mary Ellis – whom I saw singing at His Majesty's on my first night in London, September 1933, is singing (on the wireless) a song from Ivor Novello's “Dancing Years.” 1933? I've only just realised that the start of my happiest two or three years was nearly ten years ago... And now, on my last night in Egypt, Mary Ellis is singing, “My Dearest Dear.”

9p.m. Now, I will clean my boots, two cap buttons and my cap badge. Then I'll make my bed right by the wireless set, and switch off when I'm ready to sleep!

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