Monday, January 12, 2009

Saturday 14th August 1943

This afternoon we were told we were off to join the Red Cross train en-route to a port. We were to join the train not here, but at the ominous NO. 41 (N) General Hospital, which adjoins No. 92. This 41(N) is the oldest and largest N-P hospital in the MEF. Whe we were told the news I was, for once, foolishly optimistic, and thought our journey to a port really was about to begin...

We got our kit and were escorted from our snug, secluded billet into the huge, sprawling, dust and windswept 41. I'd expected (stupid! when shall I understand the Army?) that we had come to join the 41 convoy, by arrangement between the two hospitals. But of course, nothing was known about us. We waited in the office. Presently an orderly came in and said to the sergeant i/c reception, “Those two cases from No. 92 – Wardmaster says to admit them” “They're not going on tonight's convoy, then?” “No” (Our feelings!)

Now we are in a very windy, agoraphobic-inducing ward. There is much dust, and rows of huts. The majority of wards are enclosed with barbed wire like prison camps; not this one however. There are parades, and pickings-up of paper and stones. Everything seems arranged to make people of my type as ill as possible, all over again. There's a horrible atmosphere about this place. The garden is dusty and meagre and flat, not terraced. Even the annexe is dingy and depressing; it contains no room where I can go to be alone and get out of the wind.

There are rules and restrictions and humiliations. We had to empty out our kit bags etc.(which had been carefully packed for the journey) for the contents to be examined in the pack store. A sense of freedom is totally absent here. HIS BRITTANIC MAJESTY'S ARMY is stamped all over it. Just as the 92nd General was delightful after Sarafend, this is infinitely, a thousand times, less preferable than flower-filled Sarafend.

We both – William and I – feel acutely depressed, he because we have missed yet another convoy, I because we have come to this horrid place. I wouldn't mind missing a dozen convoys if we could have remained at the utterly quiet No. 92 or the strangely homely 23rd Scottish. Even men going to the pictures have to parade and march there, here. Not that I'm affected; I don't go to the cinema. But it hurts me to see others having to do that sort of thing.

William and I agree, that for our various reasons, this is the nadir of our odyssey.

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