Chapter 4 : Return from Cairo

By the Sphinx, Cairo

By the Sphinx, Cairo

The scene at the start of this chapter is a third class compartment of the train leaving Cairo station, with a carriage full of soldiers sitting rather uncomfortably on the hard wooden seats, with all their kit and baggage piled around them.

Some are going on leave, others returning from leave, and yet a third section is going on duty, but they all feel rather badly about being crowded into this type of accommodation when better is left empty.

I found myself sitting by the side of two chaps who were returning from leave in Cairo, and they were a couple of decent fellows, so that I was glad to have a chat with them. We kept it up for some hours, talking about one thing and another, until we made our big halt and had something to eat.

The Sphinx and pyramids, Giza

The Sphinx and pyramids, Giza

It was here that I changed my Egyptian loose money into sufficient of the other currency for what I thought would be my stay in the country.

After this stop we tried to get some sleep, but there were three of us sitting on two small seats, so I lent my blanket to one of them so that he could get down onto the floor, then us other two laid or curled up on the two seats. Sleep came in fits and starts, but we were able to get an hour or so altogether.

The rain started about this time and kept on all night, though it did not worry me very much at that time.

Sphinx and pyramids at Giza

Sphinx and pyramids at Giza

When the morning came and the sun came up, although we could not see it, the rain was coming down fast and it was very stormy indeed.

The train was stopping at all kinds of small villages along the line, and eventually at about seven it came to the one that I wanted, so I got off the train and left Scotty and Ken to go on to their own destination, as they were going to spend a couple of days in the spot where I spent my last leave.

There was only one other chap besides myself who got off the train at this little spot and I went to see the couple of chaps in charge of the halt.

Using their 'phone I got in touch with the RSM of Don's unit to see if he could fix me up with transport, as it seemed that it was about five miles away.

He did not seem a particularly helpful sort of chap and was just about to start the morning's parades, so I told him not to bother and I tried elsewhere.

As usual the RASC came to the rescue with an armoured vehicle, and took me to the edge of the camp.

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

It was raining hard all the time, and I walked into the camp to try and find out where Don was.

I found that it was a big camp and it took me about a quarter of an hour or more to find out the part of the camp where Don should be, and even then I had to trudge through ankle deep mud for some time, from one spot to another, to locate him.

Eventually I sheltered in the cookhouse of the officers mess, and the chaps there went to find him for me, as he was in one of the tents.

This was about eight o'clock in the morning, and when Don came he could hardly believe that it was me.

His first question was "How ever did you know I was here and where have you come from?". It was only natural that he should ask the first question for he had only been in the camp three days, but it was really grand to see him again.

He looked fine and healthy, with plenty of colour in his cheeks, also he does not show any sign of the accident that he had with the gun, for, knowing you would be anxious over that I had a look at his ear, and only by looking very closely indeed can you see anything of it.

Altogether I spent four hours with him, mostly in his tent, talking about all kinds of things that have happened since I last saw him four years ago, but it was not nearly long enough.

At the temple beside the Sphinx

At the temple beside the Sphinx

Unfortunately he had been detailed to go on leave to Cairo that night, and it could not be altered as it was so that some courses could be started as soon as he and the others returned.

In a way it was bad that I still had a couple of days leave left and I had just come from Cairo, but could not go back there to spend them with him, but looking at it another way it was just as well, for if I had left it any longer I would not have seen him at all as we would have passed each other in the two trains between his camp and Cairo.

By the time I am writing this he will be back from leave and I must write to him as soon as I can and try to find out when he can come this way so that we might be able to arrange a meeting of a little longer duration.

It was midday when I left the camp, with the rain still tipping down and I got a lift to the crossroads, where I started to walk in the right direction, then after about a quarter of an hour I was picked up by a lorry and taken some ten miles or more.

Another short lift in another lorry and I had to take shelter from a very heavy storm, but after that I was picked up by a jeep which took me along at a terrific speed of over fifty miles an hour for some 25 miles, leaving me on the road, out in a very lonely part of the country.

The next lift was also a very short one, which fortunately took me to a 'bus route and from there I travelled to the nearest large town by 'bus. It was the one where I spent a night with Alan Parry just over a year ago, and this time I found a bed up on the hill.

Not having shaved for thirty six hours, it was my first task, and then I had something to eat which made me feel a lot better.

A 'bus ride down into town to report in and then I climbed the hill again, to go to a cinema and see the very laughable film "Pardon my Sarong".

From there I went straight to bed and slept very soundly. It was eight when I got up in the morning, and after breakfast which I just had enough money of the country to pay for, I packed my kit and started off to hitch-hike again.

The Step Pyramid, Sakara, Cairo

The Step Pyramid, Sakara, Cairo

From the town I had to walk a long way to the outskirts without getting a lift, but I eventually picked one up which took me a few miles along the road.

Where it put me down I had to wait about another half hour, but it was well worth while for the next truck to pick me up was going the full ninety miles that I wanted to travel.

The rain was still coming down, though in a rather showery fashion, and we made quite good time on the road, getting into town at a quarter to two.

To get to the centre of the town I had to take a tram and my first act was to book up a bed at the Salvation Army hostel, then have something to eat.

My first intention was to go and see Naazeeb and tell him how Khalil was getting on, but his office was closed and so I took shelter in the C of S to write a letter until the rain eased up.

After tea I went out to see Michel and had some supper with him, then the two of us came back into town to see the film "Thousands Cheer", which was quite good.

Instead of climbing the hill to bed that night I had my bed in town, and did not have far to go when I left Michel.

Up at the usual time on the Wednesday morning but it was at least fine and not having very much to do in particular I had a walk round the town, during which I bought some wool that I have been going to get for a long while.

During this walk I compared some of the prices of things with those in Cairo and I found it as I have said, that some things are dearer, while others are much cheaper.

About midday I went to the Sergeants Club and while I was reading there, a sergeant who used to be up here came in, so we had lunch together.

Collecting my kit I caught a tram out to the terminus and stood by the side of the road to try some more hitch hiking.

Quite a lot of traffic went by but none seemed to be going my way for the snow was blocking the road there.

After a while a 15cwt truck came along and it took us right up to the road junction of the village only to discover that it wanted to go into the village itself.

I was able to direct it to where it wanted and it dropped me off, right outside here, so all I had to do was to walk up the steps.

It was still fairly early in the afternoon so I came to the office to see if there was any mail for me. I had been expecting that there would be a few but the total was fifteen letters and nearly as many newspapers.

Even now I have not finished reading all the papers, but I took them all up to the mess and had a clean up before having my tea, then I spent an hour or so reading all my mail.

Returning again to the office I had a look at the boys there to let them know that I was back alright, and wrote my first letter on returning.

At eight o'clock I had my first dinner in the mess for a fortnight, and then went round to the club for an hour to see how things were going there, and to meet Ken and Scotty who had returned a few hours after I did.

I did not stop there long, but returned to the billet as I wanted to get my kit sorted out for the morning, and get a good nights sleep after all that travelling through three countries.

So ended what I think was the most interesting leave I have had out here, and what will most likely be my last, for I have not got much interest in any other leave unless it is to see Don before I go home.

Early the next morning I was up bright and early and in the office at eight, after breakfast at the old time, so once again I was back at work ready to carry on for six months, by which time, or earlier, I will be thinking very seriously about leave at home with you all.

Beside the pyramids

In the saddle beside the pyramids

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