Friday, 20 August 2010

Soldiers of the King, Part Two

Warning:  Here are more maudlin reminiscences, continued from  HERE; two clicks on Page Down will move you on to something that may be more interesting.

...After a while it occurred to me that I could have another go at getting a commission, and so I asked to be put in front of a Unit Selection Board. This consisted of the CO and the adjutant, and much to my surprise they agreed that I should be sent back to England for a War Office Selection Board; this was probably because they couldn't find much use for me in the Middle East. While I was waiting they made me a corporal ("umbasha" in Arabic, I rather liked the sound of that) with the idea of giving me some experience in leadership. This was well-meant but very silly: anyone can be a subaltern, but NCOs need to be made of sterner stuff, which I wasn't.

They also posted me to the GHQ Car Company in Fayid, which was a rather up-market affair which had the task of driving senior officers up and down the Suez Canal Road in Humber Super Snipes. It was a nice change, and it was there that I picked up a remark that gave me more pleasure than anything else I ever heard said during my two years service.

We were taking down to Alexandria a brigadier who had just flown in to Suez with his family. I was sitting in front with the driver and the brigadier, his wife and his two small children sat in the back. A few hundred yards ahead we  saw some sort of disturbance going on: no shooting, but a crowd of fellahin throwing stones and generally getting stroppy. We stopped, I cocked my (empty) sten and we sat there and thought for a bit; the children started to chatter with excitement, but the brigadier remained utterly calm and took control:
"Quiet, dears," he said "Daddy's trying to make an appreciation of the situation".

And so the days dragged on, the only event worth recording being a bad attack of Gyppo Tummy which kept me busy during the whole of my twenty-first birthday and the night that f0llowed.  I began to realise that if I was to get home in time to go to Officer Cadet School,  something had to happen soon. My CO, a pompous double-barrelled ass, gave me a cheery greeting from time to time but clearly wasn't interested in furthering my military career. So I did what any ambitious aspiring officer would have done and wrote to my mother; with the help of my brother-in-law she concocted a letter to our MP pointing out that if they didn't get a move it would soon be too late for me to fulfil my destiny. He replied that he was putting my case to the Secretary of State for War, who in turn promised to send a "hastener" to my unit.

To my huge surprise, my mother then received another letter saying that I was to be sent  to England within three weeks. The CO sent for me a couple of weeks later: "Good news, corporal, you're going home!".
"Oh, yes, sir", I replied, "I know, my mother told me last week". He never spoke to me again.

By the end of that month I was on a flight to England.

[Continued HERE 

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