Thursday, 31 January 2013

Monday, 13th January, 1947 - heavy rain and tempestuous times

Monday, 13th January, 1947
It started raining during the night & the camp was as good as flooded when we awoke this morning.  Fortunately, the larger of the rocks used in marking the roadway were still above water so we kept fairly dry of foot when we went to the dining hall for our breakfast.  It has rained and hailed periodically all day.  No parade, work in barracks.

Heard officially of last night’s disturbances in Haifa.  A Jew, in Police uniform, drove an army truck loaded with explosives into the M.T. yard of the Police Headquarters.  He dismounted and made to leave the station.  He was challenged by a Temp. Addit. Policeman[1] whom he fooled by pointing over his shoulder to two imaginary sergeants.  He hit T.A.C. when off his guard and ran away.  T.A.C. discharged four rounds after him which aroused the station.  The security officer ordered the 120 in the station to their safety positions in time before the truck went up killing 3 British and 3 T.A.C’s.  There is always a petty rising among the wogs[2] after a blow up.

Letter from home.

[1] T.A.C. were Temporary Additional Constables drawn from the Jewish community
[2] I refer the reader to my discussion of racist language in the first post of this blog

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

11th and 12th January, 1947... Weekend parades and leisure time - Ron spends some time in the company of the locals...

Saturday, 11th January, 1947
Turned out for P.T. as usual, most decided not to, also as usual.  Sgt Palfreman rounds up culprits & orders extra parade on Sunday.  On parade he admits there should have been no P.T.  Extra Parade cancelled – laughs from slackers.  Press on regardless.

Afternoon free, spent idly in Barrack Room.  Spent evening talking to Bob in his bunk room, consequently not in bed when lights were put out.  Too bad.  Had letter from Joyce.

Sunday, 12th January
'Seated around the meal bowl the boy
 on the right has just taken up a handful
 of rice which he rolls into a ball and
puts into his mouth.
In the fireplace in the fore
the coffee pot is set to boil.'
'Seated in a Bedouin tent.
The common bowl has fed everyone
 down to these squatting boys.'
Got up 7.  Left camp at 10 with Bob & Bill Simkiss on Jeval Bash.  Went to Horsla Village 5 miles from station.  Talked and photographed Bedouin en route.  Coffee with Mohtar – looked round village & returned on invitation to Mohtar’s for dinner.  Unleaven bread size of 12” diameter plates, dish of chips & 3 hard boiled eggs each.  Dish of olives very salty & horrid but as to refuse this Arab delicacy would insult – host ate as many as could.  Meal too much, much loosening of belts.  Continued 4 miles to Shafa Amr back to station by truck.

Wrote home in evening (2) [Ron has started numbering his letters home...]  Told of blowings up by Jews & riots by Arabs in Haifa.  Some saw it.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

9th & 10th January, 1947 - Life is all about guns... and a bunch of letters from home.

Thursday, 9th January, 1947
Quite nice weather to start with today but a bit showery during morning.  Drill & Law.  Very interesting.  Firing T.M.C. (I've found out what TMC stands for: Thompson Machine Carbine*) & Notebook use.

At lunchtime, to my surprise & pleasure I received four letters.  From:  Mrs Catley, Miss Wilson, Mum and Joyce.

'Blanco, 1947'
Received more square bashing this afternoon & instruction on  L.M.G. stripping.  I have come to the conclusions Sergeant Blanchard is quite a good chap.

This evening there was a general meeting in the Canteen to discuss sport arrangements.  At last organisation lifts its shining head.

In my turn I organised my mail tonight & wrote to Joyce.  Will post it & Mr Moran’s tomorrow.

Friday, 10th January, 1947
P.T. this morning very awakening.

Light showers at lunch time but cleared off after lunch.  Received letters from Aunt Rosa & from David.

Usual lectures during day.  Bob loses his Postmanship as he has too much to do otherwise.  Wrote letter home tonight (1).

*Thanks to

Monday, 28 January 2013

8th, January, 1947 - Ron appreciates a change of leadership

Wednesday, 8th January, 1947

Quite fine this morning though a little chilly.  Lectures on law, discipline etc, also drill which under Sergeant Blanchard seemed to come more easily.  Cass is inclined to instil fear if correctness not upheld but Blanchard is just pettily sarcastic.

This afternoon as organised recreation we helped to build up a sand bag gun post.

Bob Matthews moved into the cubicle at end of hut today.  He got me two films from Haifa.

Wrote home tonight.

Friday, 25 January 2013

7th January, 1947 Mud everywhere

Tuesday, 7th January, 1947
Drill, L.M.G. Lecture on Superior Officers. 

I gave a lecture on philately as my contribution to a series of lectures given by all members of the squad. To get them used to public address which will be necessary if they are called to give evidence in a court of law.

Mud remains everywhere in camp & the Barrack room with its twenty occupants looks more like a ploughed field than cement floor.

In the afternoon we received instruction on the Pistol & T.M.C. also drill which was very poor.

This evening I wrote to Mr Moran.

I received a letter from home written by Dad.

The Barrack Room floor this evening was a terrific mix up of bodies and L.M.Gs.  Which was doing what to whom I do not know but somewhere someone was practising loading and unloading the darned thing.

I with 10 others was informed this evening that from tomorrow I shall be attached to Sergeant Blanchard[1] squad.  Good or Bad?  Who knows?

[1]181 Thomas Wilfred Blanchard  2/B/Sgt  Born 18.5.1927    served from 28.2.1946    PMF A&T Jenin -Haifa   25.5.1948     
Information suppliedby Palestine Police Old Comrades Association

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

6th January ... Ron is still a bit under the weather, literally... but manages to turn out for machine gun training.

Monday, 6th January, 1947
Woke this morning with throat still sore.  
Received instruction on T.M.C [Thompson(?)] and L.M.G [light machine gun(?)].  Also a lecture on Political Palestine.  Mud everywhere but rain ceased after heavy showers during night.  Very cold wind blowing all day.  Arab tailor measured up K.D. [Khaki Drill] uniform this afternoon.

In spare time left over, Sergeant Cass[2] decided native labour in the camp was short and that we should build a stone track from the barrack room to the mess. 

We were told this evening that training uniform would include Denham coat after very cold morning.  This is first time [a] coat has been used as uniform.  
Jebels in Jordan

Drizzling with rain again tonight.  I can see this in the very strong searchlight beam which occasionally passes over our hut on its journey across the Jebels[1] for three mile radius.

[1] Jebels are rugged hills or mountains created through erosion by water and the wind...

[2]480   7795  John William ‘Joe’ Cass 2/B/Sgt
Born 6.8.1926   Commenced service 3.4.1946 PMF A&T-  Gaza 18.5.1948 transferred to Kenya Police; 
Died 17.5.2007  Information suppliedby Palestine Police Old Comrades Association

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

4th and 5th January - Ron's first weekend at Shafa Amr, but he doesn't feel up to much...

Saturday, 4th January, 1947
In the morning the hut was scrubbed and generally cleaned.  We helped secure the battery powered perimeter lights.

In the afternoon I was free so wrote to Aunt Fan & Uncle Ronald.

A short but heavy thunderstorm this afternoon left the camp very muddy.

Sunday, 5th January 1947
I woke this morning feeling a bit off colour so lay on until lunchtime.  It has been blowing very hard this morning but no rain as yet.
Wrote letters to Tony & David.  Still felt a bit queer in evening - throat rather sore.

Monday, 21 January 2013

3rd January, 1947 - As a result of recent terrorist activity the new arrivals fortify the Camp

Friday, 3rd January, 1947
Sergeant sleeps in a cubical in corner of our hut.  He woke us after quiet night at 6.15am.  We spent the morning strengthening the camp defences by placing additional barbed-wire around the perimeter.  

"February 1947
Myself on the veranda
rail of one of the barrack huts in
Shafa Amr Depot .
Haifa Port is on the slopes of the Hill
 in the background rising
from the plain."

Three search lights have also arrived.  Very hot today, too hot for work really.  In the afternoon we continued defence precautions.  Three of our chaps who were ex-service were granted a Tomson M.C each.  [I think Dad means Thompson Machine Gun - the ' Tommy Gun']  Ken Landsdowne arrived in the Taggart for 2 days.

Bob M told me the Jews used flame throwers in the army camp they attacked last night, and that an officer and B.C. [British Constable] were killed in the armoured car.

I sent a letter home today.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

2nd January , 1947 - In which Ron arrives at Shafa Amr Police Station...and hears some unsettling rumours

Thursday, 2nd January, 1947
This morning I was awakened at six fifteen, which was earlier than usual as I had one or two things to do before leaving Jenin.

After a hasty wash and a good breakfast I finished packing & assembled with the others on the square at 08.30.  Our truck was difficult to start at first but we moved off at 9.20 in the rear of the column.  We arrived at Shafa Amr at 11.30.  After lunch we sorted our baggage.

The camp is small, by[for] a Taggart, and has just been taken over from the Army, so is in a pretty bad state.  I hope the rains do not set in before the paths are remade or it will be mud everywhere.

I began a letter home this afternoon.  This evening there was an alert in camp as there had been several blowings up about a couple of miles away.  All was quiet again at 9.30 though several roads remain mired.  Rumours say an army camp armoured car and two lorries, but nothing official, were blown up.

After “hostilities” had ceased I went with Graham to partake of a supper of eggs , chips & tomatoes.  Lights out 10.30 pm….

Friday, 18 January 2013

1st January, 1947 - New Year in Jenin

Wednesday, 1st January, 1947
Today was a holiday in Jenin Camp.  Light showers in the morning.  Most of the day I spent playing Pontoon.  I was about 50mils[1] in.  In evening I went to see the film “Gentleman Jim” a tale of Corbett’s boxing career.

Late in the evening I packed as much as I could ready for our transfer to Shafa Amr, just north of Haifa.

I met Eric Carter in the Canteen this evening; he is at Jenin Taggart or Police Station[2].  He has just finished his training in the camp.  He says the life there is first rate.

Bloomfield is not going with me tomorrow.

I received my first letter from home yesterday & will write when I find what my new address will be; what a relief & feeling of satisfaction & content that accompanied it.

[1]   The currency used during the Mandate was the Palestine Pound, £P, which was split into 1000mils – so 50mils was about 5p… he was a reckless gambler, my dad!

[2]     Taggart, or more correctly Tegart, was the nickname given to Police Stations designed by Sir Charles Tegart in 1938.  They were fort-like constructions of concrete with their own water supply designed to withstand a siege of up to a month.  Many were built to the same basic design especially along the border with Lebanon and Syria and at strategic ponts within Palestine.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

December, 1946 - Jenin Camp

Evidently, basic training was a busy affair as Ron made no entry in his diary notebook throughout the rest of December 1946.

One or two photos though from that time.
Clockwise from top: 
"Myself, Hunt(Devon), Eade, MacVity
Taken on steps of Canteen
in Jenin Training Depot."

(Check back in a few days - If I can I'll get a better reproduction of these photos - and then remove this comment!)

December 1946 - The Mosque in Jenin Village

December 1946 Jenin

"December 1946
Jenin Camp
Sergeant Wilson
the first sergeant
this recruit had."

Dad recommences his journal some three and a half weeks after his last entry on board ship,   in a University Desk Diary f0r 1947 starting the next entry on 1st,  January, 1947.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

December, 1946 - In which Ron arrives in Port Said, camera in hand... and I make some observations...

This is where Ron’s first notebook diary ends and we can only assume that the rest of the passage on board M.V Dunnottar Castle was uneventful.

The voyage ended in Port Said and as the ship docked Ron was ready with his camera...

Ron doesn't identify this ship but I think it may be the "Dunnottar Castle"

One of the many small boats that rowed along side us in Port Said
with wares laid out in the bottom, shouting their prices.  The salesmen
sling raffia bags on cord from their boat to the Dunnottar Castle,
in this way they transact their deals."

(Note: My father used a bellows camera similar to the one pictured here.  Most of the photos Dad took he had developed and printed as mini prints measuring no more than 3 x 5cm consequently the quality is not great.  Unfortunately none of the negatives has survived.  In order to reproduce them I have photocopied them at 400% enlargement and then scanned them in.  Inevitably there has been some loss of clarity... or is it just my aging eyes!  Captions in "Speech marks" are notes Dad recorded on the back of the photos)

Dad used a large metal trunk to transport his gear to Palestine.  I recall this trunk living in our attic in my childhood years.  We were puzzled as to its contents - heavy wooden pieces of two ancient standard lamps which became frustrating giant jigsaw puzzles as we tried to fit the various pieces together.  What always puzzled and amused me more was the sticker on the side of the trunk which bore the legend "Not wanted on voyage".  I could not imagine why someone would bother to stick a label on something they weren't going to take on their voyage... of course Dad pointed out that it was an indication that the trunk could be stowed in the hold of the ship as the contents would not be required during the passage.  Ah of course!  But then, I wondered, why would you want to take two old standard lamps to Palestine anyway?

What shall we do with the drunken sailor?
... I'm not sure Ron looks terribly happy about this..
In fact this picture may not belong in this section - it has no comment
on the back from Dad - but it has a boat in, and water,
so here it is...
As I reflect on Dad's story I am struck again by how, as I get older, the story seems paradoxically to become more recent.  My father travelled to Palestine in 1946 - when he talked of this time to us as children it felt an age away - a story set in some distant war torn world.  The Second World War was the stuff of films - American films largely - and Commando comic books swapped among my school friends.  It was a time represented for me by small plastic soldiers set out on a blanket battlefield; and Airfix kits of American Grumann Warplanes, Messerschmidts and Lancaster Bombers and, of course, Spitfires and Hurricanes - this was a time made fictional and shaded in black and white.  And Palestine was a strange mixture of this World War world and The Bible - The Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem, Jerusalem -  a land of Dates and Olives, Milk and Honey.  A strange and schizophrenic contradiction.

It was not until much later that it really started to dawn on me how recently these events had occurred in my father's life.  

It was 1992, he was 64 and I was 32 - the same age he was when I was born.  
I was about to have my first child - and he died 4 months before she was due.
This was me, then, at 32 thinking about my life and realising how recent, no, how present the past still was.  My father had been a young man in Palestine only fourteen years before my birth.  I could remember the events of my life fourteen years prior to this and it was as if they were still happening, still affecting my life choices, my opinions, now.  They were not just dusty black and white photos in an album but were experiences and consequences that I carried with me all the time .  
Port Said from the bows of the Dunnottar Castle"

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

8th December, 1946 - Underway, Ron witnesses a lunar eclipse and is frustrated by poor "blanket" etiquette on board ship.

Sunday, 8th December, 1946
After a sound night's rest I was awakened at seven by the Deck Sargeant’s cheery voice shouting “Wakey, wakey, rise & shine!” or words to that effect.

I half rolled, half fell, out of the hammock and pulled on that part of my uniform I discarded.  I folded my blankets and hid them from ‘borrowers’ and packed my hammock away.  Then I took my washing kit and queued up outside the ablutions.  Shaving was difficult with cold water but it seems we will get used to it.

Source: wikipedia..
Nothing exciting happened today.  A church service was conducted by and Air Force PadrĂ© this morning.  The sea was a little choppy in the early part of the day but was very calm at noon with bright sunshine.  In the afternoon we passed an Island which I think was Corsica.  Just before retiring we saw two lighthouses which we supposed were on Sardinia.

A cinema show was held on deck but was not very successful as only one projector was used.  The troops voiced their disapproval everytime a reel was changed.

At about 6.50pm “Egyptian Time” a total eclipse of the moon occurred.  This we saw very well.  A “running commentary” was given by one of the ship’s company who opened with “A total eclipse of the moon is about to commence, it will begin in the bottom left hand corner.”

My blankets were missing when I retired tonight.  I soon found mine but someone else’s were missing then.  This stupid state of affairs is gone through every night and sometimes during the night.

Monday, 14 January 2013

7th December, 1946 - In which Ron and his comrades embark on their journey and Ron finds out about the "joys" of hammocks...

Saturday, 7th December, 1946
We were awakened this morning at the unearthly hour of half past four.  It was still dark outside and it had been blowing a gale all night and continued still.

Braving the intense cold we went to the open sheds in which we performed our ablutions and washed, scantily I must admit, in icy water which was the hardest nature I had ever met.  After this we had breakfast, packed our hut and at 8.30 paraded for roll call and inspection.  This over we were marched to the dispersal square where, with the army fellows who were to travel with us we were loaded into trucks which took us from the camp to Toulon Port where we were to embark.  This truck ride over the cobbled stones was very rough but it afforded us a good opportunity of seeing a little of Toulon with the surrounding Alps.  The town has been pretty badly knocked about during the war, particularly the Port area.  Partially, this was done by our ships and may account for the dislike its inhabitants have for us.

We boarded our ship with about 1500 troops at 4pm and set sail at half past five.  The ship is the M.V. “DUNNOTTAR CASTLE” of 15,007 tons, a ship of the Union Castle Line.

Photo of the aircraft carrier "Colossus" now under French.
In Toulon Harbour alongside "Dunnottar Castle" just
before we sailed for Port Said

I'm guessing this is a shot taken in Toulon
harbour prior to embarking

" 7.12.46.
Toulon Harbour taken from the Deck of "Dunnottar
Castle" as we left Toulon en route
for Port Said and Palestine. "
We, as civilians, were expecting other accommodation to that enjoyed by the troops but
our great expectations were not fulfilled.  On our deck were about 350 people and we found it difficult to stow all our kit.  We had a meal soon after boarding then boat drill with our life jackets.  While in the middle of our drill, the ship cast off, drifted away from the quay and out into the bay.  We now obtained a much better general view of Toulon harbour and could see the partly submerged vessels lying awash in several places.  I took a few snaps of the harbour with my recently purchased film.  When we were well out to sea the wind whistled along the decks but the sea was calm.

It was now late evening and after seeing all the signs of land disappear I decided to retire for the night.  Apparently, everyone entertained the same idea and there followed a mad rush for hammocks and mattresses.  I secured a hammock and with the two blankets issued to Palestine Policemen for use on the ship, started a hunt amidst a forest of swinging hammocks for a convenient place to sling mine.  I found a space and after lashing up the hammock somehow managed to climb into it.  I had many misgivings about my strange position.  The floor seemed so far away and the ropes so thin.  However, I soon went to sleep even in so foul an atmosphere as soon existed in that crowded space.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

6th December, 1946 - In which Ron comes up against "Army Discipline" and learns a little about Palestine...

Friday, 6th December, 1946
This morning I walked around the camp and had my photograph taken in uniform by a French civilian.  When I returned to the barrack room I found that the others had collected their kit bags from the hut where they had been deposited on our arrival at camp.  I was under the erroneous impression that these kit bags were to remain in the hut until we were ready to leave the camp.  Several others with me had held this opinion and like me had not been informed otherwise by our I/C the hut as he had been instructed to tell us by the camp officer.  Consequently we did not collect our kit at the correct time.

Not one of Dad's photos
We all had to go before one of the camp officers who in typical military fashion could not listen to reason and gave us all “Fatigues” as a punishment.  I had to go to the N.A.A.F.I. kitchen to peel potatoes for an hour and a half, and the worst part of it, in the company of French and German workmen.
After this little incident everything ran smoothly again.  In the evening a batch of two thousand troops arrived at the camp from Port Said on the way home to be demobilised.  I talked with some of them about Palestine where they had been stationed.  Their opinions of that country were many and varied according to the degree of optimism or pessimism in their characters.  They were all in agreement on two points: one, that the Arabs were tolerable to a much higher degree than were the Jews; and two, that the life out there was what one made it.

We were informed that we should be sailing tomorrow and would be called early in the morning, so some of us decided an early night was in order.  Others however thought otherwise thinking a celebration was called for as this type usually do at the slightest possible provocation.  We were therefore disturbed by these and could not settle down until after midnight.

Friday, 11 January 2013

5th, December 1946 - In which Ron gets a cold wash, explores the camp at Toulon and takes the bus to the neighbouring town of Hyeres

Thursday, 5th December, 1946
This morning we were to be wakened by reveille at 7am but either it was not sounded or we were sleeping too soundly to hear it for no-one did hear it.  We slept on to be wakened at 8am by our friends in the next hut.  We rose, dressed, and went to the washroom for we had not washed since Tuesday morning for there were no facilities for toilet on the train,  The water in camp was bitterly cold, but very refreshing, and hard, giving very little lather.

Breakfast was the next thing to be taken care of and after cleaning up this was had in a large mess hut.  We cleaned our utensils in big drums of water at the rear of the mess.  There were three of these drums one marked “clean” filled with almost boiling water, another marked “rinse” filled with tepid water, while a third was marked “sterilize”.  After the hundreds of chaps in the mess had passed by those drums I doubt whether any of them could fulfil their purpose.

Our inspector met us in the hut and told us that we would probably spend a few days here and that we could have the day off when we had cleaned the hut up.

NAAFI canteen tokens
My friends & I changed some money into Francs as we wished to go into Toulon in the afternoon.  We purchased some cigarettes in the camp at 9d for twenty then we went to the “reading-writing” room to write letters.

After lunch we were free so my pal and I decided we would go to Hyeres rather than Toulon as at the latter we had heard of disturbances occurring.  The people there are to a degree Anti-British while at Hyeres they are more or less friendly.

We walked to the main road and caught a bus on which to ride the 4½  miles to Hyeres.  The fare each was 15 Francs; this we paid from the French currency we had obtained at the “field cashier,” the name given to the camp money changer.

Arriving in the town I had already decided what I wanted to buy.  As we walked along we compared the prices of the things in the shops here with those at home.  We found that the necessities of life were in short supply and very expensive while luxury goods were plentiful and at reasonable prices.  Children’s toys were quite plentiful and made more strongly that the majority of British toys at the moment.  I was able to buy a film for my camera an item I needed to record my journey.  My chum and I both being philatelists went to the Post Office where he, having more Francs than I, bought 200Francs worth of current issue stamps, I had to be satisfied with 75 Frs worth.  The rate of exchange (legal) from Sterling to Francs at the moment is 480 Frs for £1.  On the Black Market however, £1 Sterling will bring as many as 800Frs.

I have reached the conclusion that France or what I have seen of it has very few middle class people.  The business class man either is non-existent here or else leads a secluded life away from the public.  The poor are everywhere, spending their time in obtaining material with which to feed the Black Market and so obtain a living.

These people just crowd around our troops asking  “Avez-vous des cigarettes ou des savants.” [I think Dad means "savon" - soap! CB] If our chaps were to be caught selling N.A.A.F.I. cigarettes they would face a court martial trial.  A packet of 20 cigarettes will bring 80 Francs or more while a tablet of soap sells for 50Frs.  In the town square there were stalls set up with very old women tending them, selling sweets etc 20 Frs each sweet.  We talked with several people who we found very interesting once one avoided the Garlic.  We arrived back in camp too late for supper so went to the N.A.A.F.I. and played cards, drawing our beer ration.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

4th December, 1946 - In which Ron and his comrades travel through France and witness how the country has been affected by the hostilities of WWII

Wednesday, 4th December, 1946
After such a poor night we were awake at dawn and eager for our breakfast.  We arrived at Dijon where we changed trains then we retraced our journey for some fifteen miles to an army camp.  Here it was we breakfasted.  We were so hungry now that the poor quality food was eaten with little comment, in a hut which was in semi-darkness.

Before leaving the camp we were given two bread rolls, a sausage roll, a cake and a bun.  These were to comprise our “haversack ration” and were to be our only food until we reached Toulon.

With this sorry prospect we once more climbed up into the train to continue our journey.

Travelling parallel to the River Seine we saw farmers
in the fields ploughing with teams of oxen.  The land lies very flat and I found it uninteresting, broken only occasionally with a cluster of trees or a stray village.  At a little after midday we passed through the village of Saint George.

At two in the afternoon we arrived in Lyons where the train came to a standstill.  Immediately Frenchmen came alongside the carriages shouting up to the windows from the low platforms.  Asking us for cigarettes & soap.  Knowing these were in short supply we decided to barter for things we needed.  My friend and I were philatelists so asked them in our very imperfect French whether or not they had any postage stamps to exchange.  At first they thought we wanted them in order to post a letter and they told me that we being military did not need stamps to post mail.  When I explained that I collected stamps they searched their letters, wallets, pockets etc, but only one man had any at all.  These were two three franc stamps for which I gave him three cigarettes.  This pleased both him and I and I believe that is how all bartery should be concluded.  He was also able to tell me that Toulon via Marseilles was a distance of 600km.

Leaving Lyons at about two o’clock we continued our journey and being in hilly country we passed through many long tunnels.  We saw on some of the hill  sides caves we supposed had been constructed and used during the war years for some purpose.

All the countryside has about it a dark foreboding atmosphere.  I cannot quite account for this air.

There has been no great and obvious ruination en route though Lyons has obviously been the centre of larger struggles.  Only temporary bridges span the Seine in this city.

On passing through Valencia our route took us through a valley in the French Alps whose snow capped peaks lay about a mile distance from us on either side.  Trees have also become more prevalent in the picture, these are principally Poplars with firs planted as wind breaks.

From Avignon onwards it began to darken until at 6pm we could no longer see from the carriage window.  As the sun left us so the cold came in making us shiver in our seats.

After being in the train for some twenty six hours we arrived at our destination Toulon, at 9pm.  We piled out onto the platform and were loaded again, this time into a truck with our kit.

"The recruit en route.
Toulon 1946"
During the latter part of the train journey we had all changed into our uniforms.  Khaki battle dress and khaki shirt complete with batchelor buttons, black heavy boots and a blue peaked cap.

We travelled through cobbled streets of Toulon and out into the country for about fifteen miles to army transit camp.

I don’t think during the whole of our journey from Calais to Toulon that we saw more than thirty Frenchmen.  At ten in the evening the streets of Toulon were deserted but for corner queens.

We found the army camp to be very big consisting of wooden huts and buildings.

We were lodged in several of these huts, twenty six of us sharing one with double bunks along the walls.

We were each given a palliasse and three blankets and told to do what we liked with them.

From breakfast we had had only our haversack ration so were feeling very hungry.

We went to the dining hall each with his plate, knife, fork, spoon and mug.  We queued up and were ladled out our meal which had been cooked and served by German prisoners.

These prisoners were very friendly and do all they can to help you, such as cleaning cutlery etc.  In conversation with some troops I asked them whether they thought such acts were done out of kindness or indirectly for their own benefit.  The troops told me that on the whole they preferred the German prisoners to French working around the camp.  The French in the camp are not trusted and our troops if in a generous mood will rather part with cigarettes to Gerries who will smoke them themselves, than Frenchies who will sell them in the town on the black market.

We turned in at eleven and although the atmosphere of the hut was foul and heavy from the dust of the recently installed palliasses, I slept soundly.
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