Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thursday 9th September 1943

Last night the orderly told us he'd just heard on the radio that Italy had accepted the Allies armistice terms, ie. unconditional surrender. This occurred actually on the day that the 8th Army invaded the Italian mainland – on the 3rd of September – but the news had been kept secret until now for military reasons.

Today, when the dirty Egyptian Arab paper boy came, all the English magdnoons rushed eagerly along the barbed wire fence crying out for a copy of the “Mail” but today of all days he wouldn't give us one, doubtless having better customers. “Finish English papers, George,” he said smugly, although he had a big pile under his arm, with huge headlines of “ITALY SURRENDERS”. I managed to obtain a French newspaper, “Le Progres Egyptien” The double inch and a half streamer was, “L'ITALIE SE REND SANS CONDITIONS”.

Everyone seemed pleased at having the news actually confirmed, in print, but as these are mostly British patients I didn't notice any wave of enthusiasm or excitement similar to that in ward 36 when Mussolini resigned.

Paced 11 furlongs yesterday, 18 today.

I have remained in the book binding department and alone and unaided have bound two books! A third book is almost ready. It just wants finishing off, tomorrow.

“Any news?” asked the occupants of the compound, when I returned from Occupational Therapy this morning. “Yes. We've landed at five more points in Italy, including a place to the north of Naples” “North? Is that pukka?” “Think so. I had it from an officer... mind you, he was magdnoon...” This was received with phlegmatic calm.

“Anything else?” “Well – a rumour...” “What?” “Oh, someone from ward 6 said there was a chance of a boat home – between the 15th and 28th of this month, he said.” Everyone woke up! They were all waiting for a boat. “Ah! This is real news! Now you're talking!” “Good Lord, it's only a rumour,” I said hastily. “Yes, of course,” said someone wisely, “But even a rumour gives you some hope, doesn't it? I know this, that when there are absolutely no rumours, nothing happens, ever. But if there are rumours, something sometimes happens.”

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