Uncle's Diary June July Aug 1943
Posted by Mac Cummings on June 8, 2018, 1:25 pm
June 1st-10th On the 1st I am told to be ready for evacuation to the Delta by hospital ship. My case of Dermatitis is a bad one. We proceed to Tripoli harbour by truck. My only glimpse of the prize fought after for so long by the desert armies. |
Tripoli is the largest city of the former Italian African empire, and is built in Grey reinforced concrete that is the European quarter. It has a native quarter which stinks as much as that of Cairo or Alexandria. The buildings near the sea front are looking much the worse for wear, after so much allied bombing (and axis too.) There is a very wide and imposing promenade, with huge gaps where stray bombs have fell. This looks out onto some wide expanse of of evil smelling mud flats which are not always covered by the sea. The waters of the harbour are of an incredible blue, despite the filth and waste oils which cover its surface in the vicinity of sunken craft. Among the sunken ships is a hospital ship (which looks bad) and a French liner with its side torn open. At the breakwater the Hun had sunk several block ships. As we board the lighter which is to take us across the harbour we are given a packet of cigarettes and a bar of chocolate by the never failing YMCA, but the ship fails to appear and we are sent back to the 2nd General. (Typical army cock-up.)
June 2nd I leave for the harbour again and receive more cigarettes and chocolate from the YMCA, and this time the hospital ship SS Llandovery Castle is lying outside the harbour. As we pass through the breakwater we can see the naval people busy raising the hulks which the Germans had sunk. Some Ten minutes later we are along side the White hull (streaked with rust) of the Llandovery Castle with its Green and Red crosses, a pleasing sight. As we wait to embark some several hundred nurses disembark bound for the hospitals in Tripoli. They look very picturesque in their White dresses. We embark soon after and its good to be on the way back to the Delta. I will miss the boys, but they are going into further actions. We sail at 17-00 hrs, but some Two hours out the generator breaks down and we return to Tripoli.
June 3rd We lie off Tripoli all day.
June 4th We sail at 17-30 hrs.
June 5th We are now well out at sea and the sea is smooth. At night the ship is fully lighted in accordance with International law. I hope there are no bloody minded Huns around Crete. My face is slowly improving and the food is good for a change. I make friends with one of the orderlies who comes from Blaydon.
June 7th At sea all day, nothing unusual, and the weather is fine.
June 8th We dock at Alexandria today after a voyage without incident, for which we are duly thankful. We disembark at 20-30 hrs and board a hospital train which is lying alongside the ship. As we wait we are regaled with Rum and food by the crew of HMS Derby lying alongside the Llandovery castle. We leave at 21-00 hrs and arrive back near to El Tehag in the early hours of the 9th. We are in the 27th General at Tel El Kebir and on the 10th I am told that I am going to a convalescent depot on the Suez Canal almost back to where I started from. I meet Bill Franks who is in the RAMC and who went to the same high school as me.
June 11th-30th I leave the 27 th General on the morning of the 12th and board the train at Tel El Kebir (a most foul smelling station) and arrive at El Balal on the Suez Canal just after lunch. After several days of exhausting PT I am glad to be sent back to base at Almaza via Kantara.
June 26th I arrive at the transit camp at Kantara bound for Cairo where I arrive on the 27th . There is lots of Bull-shit here, but I do meet Ray Rooke who is on a staff job (lucky man.) I am to spend a long time here and one day is pretty much the same as another. I am put in B troop, B battery with parades guards and so on ad infinitum. I am granted Seven days leave and spend it with Ray Rooke in Cairo, and stay at Toc H on Soliman Pasha Street. It is a very good place. I visit the Metro to see “In which we serve” and meet an old friend of mine, Teddy Glaholme who is in the RTR. I spend the day in Cairo with him and visit the Diana to see “Wake Island.”
July 6th I pay a visit to the Zoo at Gezeira
July 10th We invade Sicily and the boys are in it, this is one action I am missing. So far there is no sign of me going back to the regiment, as I am a surveyor RA and cannot be posted to other units, so until several of us are gathered in Almaza I must stay put. So far I am the only one. The advance goes well in Sicily. I spend the evenings in camp playing tennis, or visiting the cinema (One of Mr Shaftoes glorious edifices, whose life ambition is to show “Gone with the Wind” in Forty minutes.) This cinema in base is a little above the usual Shafto palaces which litter the Nile Delta. (Litter is the only word for it.) Most of them are of the wooden, blow me down type (and often an obliging desert wind has done the trick.) The poor Wogs in charge have a hell of a time, and lead a charmed life. Many have been the half bricks thrown at their wooden skulls by irate imperial troops, who, when the Wogs have beaten a hasty retreat, heave them at venturous rats which crawl along the wooden rafters of the cinemas (if I may use the word roof.) When the customers are not satisfied (which is often) the only remedy is Four gallons of petrol and a match, One Shafto shack less. In Almaza we were well behaved as is duly fitting, and apart from abusive language when the projection broke down, and one attempt to burn the place down by a poor misguided creature seeking his ticket (he actually got 50 days in the Glass House) Shafto’s pride and glory, the apple of his eye, survived, and it still does in 1946, although I hear he has offered his circuit to the NAAFI (almost as big a swindle) for a modest million or so. A very nice and generous man. Personally I wouldn’t give him a piece of old rope for the lot, unless he offered to hang himself with it.
July 26th I have heard some bad news today from Ray Rooke who has had mail from the regiment. “R” troop have had some casualties in Sicily. Bob Dunn, Ronnie Brougham, Taffy Mort, Cairns and Backhouse have been killed by a shell burst in action, and Eadie was wounded. This is a great shock. I have also heard from home of the death of Mr Mason which leaves me very miserable for a while.
I have made no attempt to keep a diary as the days have passed with one much the same as another, guards, parades etc. We are now fighting in Italy and the war is going great guns for us. I now have a job in the Mine Museum with Norman Grimes out of the 1st survey regiment, and we have a good time scrounging.
NB Mr Mason was mentioned pre-war. He was the crossing keeper at Albert Rd.