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Posts Tagged ‘Stanley’

It is now quite a few weeks since I last wrote in this diary. There really hasn’t been much to write about, life has been so static lately. However just recently I have been on leave and that has given me much to write about.

First I must mention that up to a few days ago I hadn’t heard from Evelyn. for about three weeks and consequently I have been thoroughly browned off but all that has changed now and I have received some very thrilling letters from her which have made me love her more than ever if that is possible.

The weather just lately has been very bad indeed. We have had quite a bit of snow and now the rainy season has started and the rain comes down in torrents, driven along by a terrific wind. I hope this kind of weather doesn’t last long.

Well I have had four very good days leave in Teheran the capital of this desolate country. I took with me over 2000 Rials which is about £17 in English money. I spent most of it but over 900 Rials I spent on presents for Evelyn. and the family. I bought Evelyn. a bracelet mounted on silver and mother-of-pearl. I hope she likes it. The price was terrific, 290 Rials.

Most of the time I was eating at the various cafes and what a grand change it was to eat some real good food after the stuff we have been having. In the evenings we went to one of the cafes where there was a cabaret show and spent the time there sampling all the famous wines and spirits, including such famous drinks as Russian Vodka, Cognac, Cherry Brandy and Red Wine. I never got really drunk but I was very near to it. The chaps who did get drunk, and there were many of them, were taken back to camp in a lorry which was specially sent out to collect the drunken ones. As usual in these big eastern cities vice and prostitution was rampant. At a rough guess I should think that 25% of the women, mostly Polish, were prostitutes. Thank god I kept well away from such creatures.

There were quite a few Russian and American soldiers in Teheran and in my opinion they seem quite decent people, especially the Russians who were very quiet.

As far as Teheran itself, it was about the size of Leeds and quite the most westernized city I have seen out east, though of course it isn’t a patch on Durban. The citizens are very mixed, right from the usual dirty disease ridden beggars to the more civilized Persians who live in Teheran and district. Quite a large proportion of the population are Poles and Russians and altogether they are a queer mixture of people. The streets and shops are quite modern, traffic lights included but the traffic is much too noisy. The drivers of private cars seem to take a special delight in sounding the hooter as loud and as often as possible. All this is very interesting indeed, but what wouldn’t I give to see some real green fields and tall trees again.

On the way back in the lorry I saw a curious thing, an eagle. It was huge thing about 4 ft. high and it looked a ghastly sight.

There has been an outbreak of Typhus and Diphtheria and everyone is taking the utmost precautions against those dreaded diseases

Stanley has written at last after another spell of Malaria in hospital. Poor old Stan. I hope that was your last time in hospital.

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The main reason why I am writing again so soon is because I want to record my experiences in Qum before they fade from my mind. Qum is the third holiest city in this part of the world and I had the good fortune to pay it a visit last Saturday afternoon. The first thing I noticed about the place was the fact that the people seemed to be much more civilized and the class of the people was much higher than in any other town I have yet seen out here. Parts of the town are fairly modern and I certainly saw in one street a shop window. At the head of what seems to be the main street is a very large Mosque with a beautifully coloured dome and four great pillars round it. It is a very fine sight indeed and such a pity that it is out of bounds to troops. In one bazaar I bought two yards of cut silk for 40 Rials per yard and in a very nice shop near to the Mosque I bought a pair of fancy slippers to send home to Evelyn. along with the silk. Some of the women here especially are very well dressed and very clean too. They seem to be happier than most of the “women” I have seen out here and unlike the women of Baghdad and Kermashan every other woman is not pregnant. The people are at the moment definitely pro-British but they are very queer and dislike anyone staring at their places of worship or taking photos of their women folk. One American has been stoned to death recently for taking a photograph of a Persian woman. There is a shortage of food in the country and the army has issued orders forbidding any soldiers from buying food. Bread riots break out quite frequently and the M.Ps. have to clear the town of troops by 5 PM.

A few days ago I had a letter from Evelyn’s cousin Molly who is out here in Habbanya as a sister in an RAF hospital. Habbanya seems quite near Baghdad and I have written to Molly telling her what a fool I was for not seeing her while I was in Baghdad. She seems to be very like Aunt Polly judging by the way she describes things. I am going to try to get her to take my presents with her when she goes home to England in a few months time. She must be a brave woman to face this country for two years and I wish I had the pleasure of escorting her back to dear old England.

The situation at home seems to be improving a little. I have had one or two letters from Gerald. which quite obviously have been sent by mother and the last written by dad though it was supposed to be from Gerald. I write home regularly and I am hoping for a complete settlement before long.

The news from the middle east gets better every day and at long last I think I can start to think of the end of the war now that we have taken the initiative. I have had two letters from Stanley during the last two days and thank God he seems to be out of the war so far.

My first Christmas card came this week from Nan, bless her.

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The most important item to record since I last wrote here is that I have at last started to get regular mail from E. Since those first three inspiring letters I got at Basra I have had a further 8 or 9 including about 5 airgraphs. I shall never fully realise the value of those life-saving letters. I have had letters from Nan, Benny and Stanley and what I am most needing now is the photograph of Evelyn. and myself which I know must be nearly here by now.

The big disappointment is that I am still without my own job after all this time though it has been on the way for weeks now. Brian and I are both fed up to the back teeth and we are seriously thinking of putting in for a transfer back to the workshops in the near future. I have almost given up hope of ever getting back on my own job and at the moment I don’t give a hoot what happens. I am no longer called private now. The R.A.O.C. is now known as the R.E.M.E. and all tradesmen are now craftsmen instead of private.

Since leaving Basra about 3 weeks ago we went to Baghdad for a week to join up with the road party which was waiting for us with the lorries and guns etc. I had a glorious time in Baghdad, the city itself is fairly modern and it is as everybody knows world famous. Other cities which are mentioned in the Bible, such as Nineveh and Babylon are situated not far from Baghdad. Broadly speaking Baghdad is much the same as Cairo except that the people are slightly more intelligent. We left Baghdad nearly a fortnight ago to come to this place which is in the mountains of Persia. I don’t have the exact position but we are not far from the Caucasus Mountains or from the Turkish border. Kermashan is not far from here though up to the present I have not visited this town. There is absolutely nothing here, no entertainment of any description, all we have got is a small canteen which quite often has nothing to sell. It looks as though we shall be here for months and already I can see that if I remain here much longer I am going to get into the state where I don’t care what happens. Again it is a good thing that my darling Evelyn. is writing again. Without her letters life just wouldn’t be worth living. Please God keep her safe for me.

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Sunday July 19th 1942

Two days ago we set sail from Durban (4) after spending a glorious two weeks on shore. The journey from our first port of call down to Durban was uneventful and we all breathed a sigh of relief when South Africa and then Durban itself came into view. As soon as we got off the ship at the docks we were taken by train to a camp Clairswood, about eight miles from Durban. Here we spent our two weeks on shore and they were indeed two weeks of real pleasure. I was in Durban almost every day and the first day I went there I experienced the hospitality of the South African people. No praise I can give can possibly be high enough for the way the people of S. Africa treated us. Many canteens were opened for us beside the regular ones, and they were all literally stacked with food and fruit of all kinds. The best meal possible consisting of two eggs, sausage bacon, mash, bread and butter, tea fruit salad and ice cream could be bought for ½ (5) , and the women who served the food were always very pleasant. One canteen in particular was exceptionally good. St. Pauls and it was here that I bought some photographs of Durban and sent them home to Evelyn. and Nan. The manager never tired in his efforts to help the troops and he said that after the war he would be going to England. He can be certain of a warm welcome from my family if we meet him. I went to two services in St. Pauls and also to a gramaphone recital during the week. Although I enjoyed myself very much I never forgot my darling Evelyn. and my family and I prayed for her and them many times.

The city of Durban is far better than any city I have seen in England. The buildings some of them almost skyscrapers are white and picturesque. The streets are wide and the town planning is perfect. Indians roam about the streets pulling rickshaws, they look very out of place in such a modern city. The camp was the biggest I have yet seen, half of the tents were occupied by the R.A.F. and I have no doubt that it was where Stanley (6) spent his shore leave. Indians and natives were always at the camp gates waiting to sell us fruit, and consequently I always had a large stock. I have even got some oranges left now. I would have given much to send some fruit home. I know Nan and Evelyn. and Gerald. (7) love oranges and bananas. I wrote to my darling wife twice by air-graph. I do love her with all my heart and I am always thinking of her. Without her inspiration goodness knows what I should do. It seems like years since I heard from her and I am hoping to get some letters from her when we reach our destination. Please god keeps her safe for me until the end of the war.

Now we are on the last stage of our journey wherever that may lead us, and the ship we are on is even worse than the last one. The other was clean, this one is filthy and bugs and cockroaches are everywhere. I sleep on deck where the air is fresh and clean. All I am hoping for now is a safe and extra fast journey to our destination.

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