Kuneina, Sudan – 10th January 1941

by Louise

10th January 1941

My dearest little darling,

Another week has elapsed since I last wrote to you.

7

The past week has been a black one for me as regards my health but I am glad to say it was not serious enough to see me in hospital. The past seven days began with another move on a big scale, but by road this time darling, and of two days duration.We left the region of gum trees and hills, thorn bushes and dried grass early one morning.  It so happened that I became passenger of the officers’ mess lorry and Eric and I looked small seated as best we could on the pile of stores and equipment at the back. Presently Eric brandished his piano accordion and so was inaugurated a happy sing-song. The natives whom we passed on our way halted and gazed in bewilderment at this monstrosity held by Eric and from which musical strains were produced!  Such a long ride presented an admirable outline of the province through which we travelled. On the whole the vegetation seemed to be similar to that we had just left. Indeed in some cases one could see myriad of those peculiar lofty plants similar to hollyhocks (the only flower I’ve yet come across in the country!) In other cases, burnt-out forests or wooded areas consisting of entirely bare trees were prominent. The usual native villages presenting closely packed circular mud huts could be seen in the distance at intervals. On the horizon enormous mountain ranges seem to protect the surrounding countryside in majestic fashion. The most rare yet morbid sites of the journey were carcasses of doomed camels lying on the roadside and an aeroplane of enemy nationality, which had met its end in a nosedive fashion.

After five hours we came to a halt in a bushy field at proximity to a town. After a mid-day snack flavoured by the contribution of sardines, I decided to lend Jack a hand in the officer’s cookhouse, peeling potatoes and carrots after which I helped Doug to dig the customary slit trench as protection against possible air raids. At night I was picked for guard duty during which I was constantly harassed by needle shaped thorns, which have the wretched habit of making themselves invisible by moonlight. At 2200 hours I was glad to retire to bed as I had received a sufficient dose of scratches and had felt far from well throughout the day.

The next morning we set off at 0900 hours on the second and final lap of the journey by road. Two more plane wrecks were sighted – one with damaged wing and the other a heap of twisted metal thus making its origin totally unidentifiable. A camel’s carcass in the act of being devoured by vultures was a hideous sight to behold. Immediately on arrival at our destination, all hands were active. Most of the men were camouflaging vehicles in such a way as to render them totally invisible. I was detailed to help erect an officers’ mess by means of tree trunks, elephant grass and branches and dig a refuge pit in spite of not feeling at all fit the job.

Well dearest several days have passed since and life is very quiet and uneventful. When I say that I am mainly occupied in the office truck, dealing with interminable chain of correspondence or else digging a pit, camouflaging an object from view, eating, writing to you, sleeping in the moonlight, basking in the sun or being tormented by flies, you should have an extremely accurate notion of the life that I’m now leading. The occasional roar of distant gunfire and planes flying overhead now and again are the only characteristics that break the silence.  These woods are simply infested by the most colourful birds on God’s earth. The most common to the eye are huge black crows with a white streak on their chest, various types of canary and many representatives of the eagle family. I should have pointed out that the trees are totally devoid of foliage and in some cases; a maroon substance from which the tint of Burnt Sienna is derived naturally protects their bark.

Lizards and chameleons, whose bodies are excellently camouflaged, are our best friends. They seem to eat more flies than their small bodies are capable of containing. Snakes have been observed by some, but I haven’t had that pleasure yet! I’m afraid the flies are more numerous out here than at our previous station and the more they attack me the more infuriated I become. The mere sight of them crowding round an open wound or crawling unchallenged over a neighbour’s face is sufficient to put you right off your dinner!

A few days ago I learnt of the tragic news home from London and can hardly believe that a square mile of the city is on fire.  I wonder if the Houndsditch Warehouse still stands. Oh darling, it is this indiscriminate bombing that worries me so much. Do look after yourself and think of your own safety before anyone else’s. I dread to think of you going to the city from Hampstead each day. Is there any necessity for it, don’t you think you’ll be better off if you stay at home? Or if you insist on working, can you try and find a job in Hampstead? Please give due consideration to my appeal. Try and realize how very much you mean to me and how safe I want you to be.

On issue day we received our usual weekly supply of cigarettes as well as a bar of soap for laundry purposes and some dubbin to protect our boots from wear and tear.

Well dearest you are probably wondering what has been troubling me this week.  I began to feel like nothing on earth. Pain seemed to surge through all my joints and across my back and a gland in my left groin began to swell rapidly and become very sensitive. To make matters worse my nose bled frequently and I experienced the vilest headache. Then I happened to look down my leg and to my astonishment observed an ugly looking septic spot and a multitude of tiny red ones. A visit to the M.O. informed me that the poisoned spot was the cause of the swollen gland and my general indisposition. For the past two days I have been resting and have received regular medical attention. I have had several hot fermentations on the septic spot and I’m glad to say that the rest and first aid have done me the world of good.

The second batch of mail arrived a couple of days ago and I regret to say that no letter from you figured among it! Furthermore, among the 40 odd telegrams received, there was no reply to the cable I sent you nearly 3 weeks ago! Having observed that London mail is still scarce I shall not take it to heart. I shall be hopeful and patient… they say that no news is good news so why worry too much?  Keep smiling darling I shall always be,

Ever your husband lover,

Raymond

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