Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sunday 28th March 1943

I was given an important job just before lunch – NCO i/c weeding the miredam around the ward. (Yes, a similar job to the daily stone picking fatigues of Almaza Base Depot!) One surly individual refused to either go to church or pull up weeds, so I (sympathising with him) had to hand his name into the office – also the names of half a dozen blacks and one Armenian.

Action was only taken against the Englishman however. After an interview with the MO, he sullenly came out and pulled weeds. So the blacks sat watching us work. An orderly tried to persuade them to also help the Allied Cause by weeding, with the inevitable result – Joe Louis got violent. Exactly the same as before – a quick blow, face black as coal, eyes wild, restrained by his excited mates; then the usual Tarzan yell or scream, and “Get a rifle and shoot me now!”

Afterwards, Ghandi sat down, trembling like an old man, and actually wept. So most of the blacks were sent indoors. But Dipulitsa went on weeding voluntarily. (That's the best way to do anything – voluntarily – instead of being forced, like some part of a giant machine.)

The peaceful Mako, a startled spectator of the scene from the deck chair where he was nursing his bad leg, told me what Joe had been saying in his frenzy. It was nothing very complimentary... Mako also said that Joe's brother had a similar illness, of blood rushing to the head, and that Joe should be sent home for treatment. They had some diseases in Bechuanaland – no, not madness – that white people could not understand, he said. (Cases for the medicine-man?)

Another NCO has arrived in the ward. He is a typical wooden, aggressive Regular NCO – in the Life Guards. As he's a Corporal and no doubt senior to me, perhaps he'll be allowed to take command of weeding fatigues in the future. Being a Regular, he's probably keen on weeding the miredam. At present he is discussing his adventures and the “characters” in his bloody Regiment, with a new-found crony. I notice that almost his first act, on arrival, was to sew his two beastly stripes onto his blue jacket. This is a piece of bullshit which hospital patients very, very rarely bother about, so he must be keen.

This afternoon I had a visitor! He was the one man in 104th RHA whom I did want to see. Yes, it was old Jack Chenery. Thus, Trapper met Trapper in a magnoon ward!
It was just tea time; but the Sister kindly conjured up an extra tea. Jack was on leave in Beirut – his first leave alone. The Regiment is at Aleppo... Alas! He talked constantly about the Regiment! “I suppose the whole bloody unit knows I am in here, and why?” I asked. “Yes!” said Jack cheerfully, “They all talk about you, still. It's rather intrigued everyone, you see, your abrupt departure? And no one else has gone into dock with the same -” “OK I know.” I said, bitterly.

I took Jack as far as the Camp laundry. As we parted the sun sank (plop!) dramatically into the sea. “Well, Jack,” I said sternly, “As Juliet said, “Who knows when we may meet again.”” “I'll perhaps be able to come and see you again here, soon” responded Jack, with banality, “However, we'd better shake hands, Steve boy.”

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