Saturday, January 03, 2009

Tuesday 6th April 1943

A long journey in pouring rain began after breakfast. I “escaped” by reading (Yes, I can read again!) a Western novel, called “Desert Gold” by Zane Grey. Excellent desert descriptive passages, incidentally, upon which I dwelt. Maybe all deserts are similar in their essentials.

We are now at the huge P and N Centre of the 23rd Scottish General Hospital, somewhere near Sarafend, Palestine. It does not seem a bad place but it cannot – we all agree – be quite like the last. I've never known such a fine hospital as the 22nd.

I think, if there had been any suggestion of military harshness, formality or rigidity, I should have gone quite crazy. But one only received a sort of amused yet sympathetic friendliness one would never take advantage of. Sometimes, in the first week or so, I felt irritable and might have been awkward, but was restrained because it seemed wrong to be troublesome in the face of such kindness as was shown to me! Of course, we all did exactly what we were supposed to do, but the staff contrived to make it seem we were doing just as we pleased.

With malarial attacks and jaundice, I have “served” in eight Middle East hospitals in the last two years. Sisters are fine everywhere; yet, even so, the P and N sisters at NO. 22 seemed a bit better than any others I'd known. I'd never before liked any RAMC orderlies; they generally seemed ignorant and uninterested in their job. How different were the 22nd orderlies! Each one had a distinct personality, each one knew his job, and each one had that peculiar gift of easy friendliness. Many Army Doctors seem more typical of Sandhurst than Harley Street. Captain Cassels, however was a doctor first, and an officer second. His normal expression was of smiling, tolerant confidence. Like his Sisters and orderlies, he had that gift of whimsical casualness. He never seemed worried, and had an excellent sense of humour.
A few of my old companions are in this ward, but most of them are in other huts, quite nearby. We shall be able to see each other, I expect.

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