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Tommy's War

by Paul Rouse

Contributed by 
Paul Rouse
People in story: 
Thomas Meredith
Location of story: 
Indian Ocean troop ship
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A2120004
Contributed on: 
09 December 2003

1 May 1942 Durban

After leaving camp yesterday, we marched to the station, and a train took us to the docks, where we boarded a ship called the Mendoza. We had hammocks not bunks, and there weren’t enough of these to go around, so some of the lads had to manage as best they could. We left Durban at 0930 with 30 other ships and an escort of one battleship, one aircraft carrier, one cruiser and five destroyers.
The mess decks were deep in the ship, and it soon became like a furnace - you could hardly breathe down below. Drinking water was to be supplied twice a day for half hour spells, and at the first session we drank as much as we could and filled our water bottles. There was no cheating, as a senior NCO was present. Not that we enjoyed the water, as it was heavily treated. Washing, shaving and showering was to be done in sea water, with bloody awful soap. With the temperatures well into the 90s and little or no breeze, it wasn’t exactly going to be Cowes Week.

2 May 1942 Indian Ocean

We weren’t wrong about the ship. It’s not exactly the height of sophistication. The toilets are long narrow troughs about 12”-14” wide, running more or less the width of the ship. These are always full of water, and covered by a board drilled full of holes at regular intervals. The first time we used them was a bit of a shock, as the rolling and tossing of the ship makes the water move all the time, splashing up at you. As your arse is hot, and the water isn’t, it certainly makes you jump, which is no fun if you’re in the middle of doing your business. Still, we are getting used to it, and realising you just have to try timing it better.

Extracted from “Tommy’s War: the extraordinary diary of an ordinary serviceman” edited by Paul Rouse. Contact: paul_rouse@btopenworld.com

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Royal Air Force Category
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