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.

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