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lounge, with dressing up for the children and sing-songs during the day whilst it was still light. We were asked to keep quiet during the hours of darkness, for sound could carry a long way across the calm of the Indian Ocean. There was quite a good library attached to the lounge and I found myself becoming an expert on (translated) Japanese mediaeval drama.


That progress up the coast, but out of sight of it, took no less than thirty days. There were no alarums or excursions and the officers mounted watch on a regular schedule without sighting a single sight of an enemy. It was inevitable that friendships developed between the sexes. Suffice it to say that by the time we at last reached the southern end of the Suez Canal there had been more than one affair and quite a few quarrels to liven the boredom of our six-knot progress. We dropped anchor, safe and sound, off Port Tewfik at the entrance to the Canal. And there the Captain summoned us all to another meeting. It was bad news. He had received a signal telling that the RAF officers were to leave the ship and that he was to proceed through the Canal and the Mediterranean with only his women passengers. The Med. at the time was a dangerous sea – ships were being sunk at a fair rate and the authorities had decided that the lifeboats on the Nestor could cater for the women, in terms of numbers, but not our whole complement. Captain McDonald was in no way pleased about this development, for he had come to rely on the men for look-out duty to relieve his regular crew and he would have liked them to stay to help on the voyage home. Hid was not the only dissatisfied face. It appeared that for many aboard that vessel the convoy speed of six knots had been just five knots too fast! But a lighter eventually came alongside and the thirty two officers clambered down into it with the ladies lined along the ship’s rail and a great many tears streaming down the hot steel plates of the ship’s port side. We waved our goodbyes as the lighter headed for the shore, and it was goodbye to comfort and the easy life from then on. We were picked up and transported to some tented camp in the desert outside


the city of Suez. The next fortnight was a nightmare compared with what we had experienced for the past four and a half weeks, with poor food eaten in the open, struggling to get anything into the mouth without it being smothered with obnoxious flies. Most of us fell ill with dysentery, and this included me, so the bulk of that fortnight was spent feeling physically miserable and longing for this bit of the War to end. I managed to visit the bazaars of Suez just once, and bought some absolutely rubbishy leather goods, bags and a suitcase, which came apart at the seams as soon as they were put to use. It was with relief that we were again summoned to clamber into a truck and taken to the nearest railway station, thence up the line to Alexandria, with the train stopping at every station, apparently to allow the Egyptian hawkers of food to tempt us with cries of ‘Eggs and breee-ad! Cheap at half the price!’


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