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Wartime Diary (February 1942)

by stanley_reynolds

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Stanley Reynolds, Cliff Jones, Joan Bricknell, Charlie Collins, Ted Rance,
Location of story: 
Durban South Africa, Indian Ocean, Aden, Red Sea, Gulf of Suez
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
20 November 2004


…….Walked back via Shell arcade (?) - met monkeys on the way. We visited the sunken gardens on North Beach - lovely arrangement of stones and pools and little grottoes. Took snap of grotto. Had tea at Jewish Hotel (?). Afterwards Ted and I went to Bible Reading. We were invited out to supper afterwards by Mr and Mrs Pricks. Very pleasant evening. Caught 10.30 train back arriving 12.10 ……..

Friday 5th February

It rained this morning. Seemed miserable. I went in town alone and did some shopping. Bought photo album, printing paper and frame. Everything seems dead. Wrote letters in V. I. where I had tea and came back on 1 pm train.

Saturday 6th February

In afternoon, Ted, Cliff and I went to Arrianginitoh by train. We passed through some lovely country and over some brown African rivers and arrived at a little newly developing town with 2 stores, hotels, a SAWAS canteen where we had tea. Lovely beach of golden sand against which the breakers boomed - what a mighty force and what a furrow as they receded almost as “an open sepulchre”. The river formed a lagoon as a sandbar crossed its mouth. It was in a lovely valley whose sides were dotted here and there with white villas with red roofs. We walked along the beach to Ingoni Rocks where the foam dashed very high. Here a bathing pool had been constructed in the rocks.

Sunday 7th February 1942

Took taxi into town with ……, Ted and Cliff. I went to service with Cliff who preached on 1 Corinthians 11, the three looks
1. to the cross (in remembrance)
2. inwards (examine yourself)
3. forwards (till He come)
Very good singing although a small congregation. Went with Mr Copp to dinner and spent afternoon there. Young South African girl there. Tall, about 20, Christian but lacked ‘character’ - soft as South Africans seemed to be through lack of struggle and hard work. Seemed to think it dreadful no colour-bar in Madagascar and of opinion that blacks are inferior. Seems funny attitude among Christians - it’s traditional in South Africa, but a Christian should get beyond that. Cliff took Gospel meeting in evening. Spoke on Naaman’s faults
1. pride
2. prejudice

Monday 8th February

Rumours of moving. I hope not yet. Cliff and I tried to get some Stukavor(?) articles - not much of note available. We were going to Open Air Baths but met Packy and Co., who persuaded us to go surf bathing on beach. Good experience. The force of the breakers is terrific as they hurl shorewards. Cliff got a rubber surfrider - good fun. Impossible to swim in this. Went to tea hungry to V.I and after wrote letter to Joan till 9pm train came in. Very enjoyable afternoon, water very warm (80oF).

Tuesday 9th February

I was on tent picket today - scorching day. In morning I went to fruit stall and Post Office. Bought lovely pineapple. In afternoon I did some more shorthand.

Wednesday 10th February

We had field exercises today. Went along road to wood - difficult breaking through bushes etc. and carrying stretchers back. Learnt afterwards there were green and black mambas in wood. After dinner we had race over assault course with stretchers - our party 4 mins 30, winners 4 mins. We finished about third. Stayed in with Ted today.

Thursday 11th February

Morning given to washing and mending and pay parade - must be leaving tomorrow - orders point to it too. In afternoon went into town. Steve and I did shopping - I bought developer, snaps and souvenir lettercards which I sent off and illustrated booklet on Natal. Also stinkwood eggcups and stand which I sent off to Joan. Sent airgraph, too. We then visited Botanical Gardens - very lovely - took photo of town from top of hill. After tea at V.I. I met Ted and went to Bible Reading. Quite a good time; read Matt 27 “I am the Truth”. Two parts :-
1. His physical sufferings which we can appreciate
2. His spiritual - which we cannot ‘there was darkness over the land’ - not only God hid His face from His Son, but His sufferings then are hid from us.
Ted and I went home with Mr and Mrs Leeman. Mr Leeman talked on the price control and factor method based on pre-war prices and percentage profit. He gave us some fine words on reconciliation and justification. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” “man is in Christ. He is a new creation” that is the secret. They gave me a J N Darby Translation of the Bible. WE were driven back to camp by car.

Friday 12th February

Reveille 5.30, parade 9.30 and marched to station. Boarded H S Amra (?) beds - quite comfortable quarters - left Durban about 2.30 - ship pretty steady - not much deck space. Steve, Cliff, Frank and I discussed Christian man and Stock exchange - we couldn’t agree with Steve (nor would Ted later) that a stockbroker wasn’t a Christian man’s profession - nor that investing on stock exchange same as gambling on horses etc.

Saturday 13th February

A bit of a sore throat and nasal catarrh today - did some shorthand reading Luke in S. U. decided to use the New Translation - slept in afternoon but had poor sleep at night. Ted and I sat on deck in evenings - green lights alongside and Red Crosses at either end floodlit. We did P.T. 5.15 - 6 pm.

Sunday 14th February

Sore throat continues. In afternoon I did some Bible Study on the Passover. In the evening Ted, Cliff and I were on Concert Deck when we noticed a service - joined in. Plenty of Hymn singing. Isaiah 53 read in Afrikaans and in English. Short talk by Padre - good for Christians but general talk vague - read ‘the Believer Established’ mighty in parts.
Monday 15th February

Sore throat is better now. Did some more Shorthand which Cliff looked at. In afternoon did some more Bible Study on the Passover - did some Malagasy. Tried to drum Arithmetic into Charlie Collins - very, very slow for a man. Began reading “The Mastery of Sex” by Leslie Weatherhead. New aspect on some things although I’m, not altogether in agreement.

Tuesday 16th February

We began our study this afternoon. Ted, Frank, Cliff, Bernard and I on the Christian virtues of Peter - most interesting. In evening Ted, Frank and I were on deck and discussed Creation and the Resurrection of the Body.

Wednesday 17th February

Watched South African sports on the top deck today. Noticed that the South African Sisters seem quite friendly with men and do not treat them as schoolboys. Also noticed fellows sitting apart with Sisters and in the evening sitting alone on deck with them after dark! This afternoon we, with Steve discussed the New Birth. The question came up which we couldn’t quite solve, whether a man is born again before his regeneration. We agreed at the moment of believing and accepting Jesus as Saviour a man is born again - it is an event that is finished - perfect tense.

Thursday 18th February

Today was our unit sports. Frank and Cliff both did well. It is gloriously hot - we should cross the line sometime now. In afternoon we studied Sanctification - mainly as a position before God obtained for us by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary.
Charlie Collins is progressing in his Arithmetic at last.

Friday 19th February

More South Africa sports today. We again considered Sanctification this time experimentally and agreed that it did not always coincide with our justification. Frank, Ted and I spent an interesting time on deck - we discussed hell, heaven,…….etc. and sorted out our ideas.

Saturday 20th February

Inter Unit Sports - 11 Gen. lost but not badly - very hot in sun. I was burnt on shoulders. Matron seems a good sort - she was at dance. 18 Sisters turned up! They seemed sports and danced all night. Ted, Bernard and I went to “Flicks” - film of Durban (Indian commune), animal curiosities - New York - colour film (amateur) of pirates and I came out before end during some talkie comedy. We went up on deck and watched dancing. Ted Rance and I sat talking on top deck.

Sunday 21st February

We sighted land to port. It is N E African coast, Somaliland - we sail due west. Rocky coast - bare, bleak, no sign of life except wild duck. It recedes to South and passes out of sight. We discussed Atonement this afternoon. Service in evening. Murray spoke on ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall rise up with wings like angels etc.’

Monday 22nd February

A huge rock, top in clouds, lies ahead to starboard. Its top seems almost as Table mountain or Mts des Francais. It seems very rugged. We pass by some more rugged rocks to port which lie in a bay with these two sets of rocks as guardians on either side. In the low shore round the bay seem to be white gleaming buildings. The place seems but small and lifeless - this is Aden, a Crown Colony. We lay off until midday and then pass the boom to anchor in sight of small town (this appears later to be Port Aden or Tawahi). After tea we are allowed ashore, which we reach by rowing boat pulled by three Arab boys. Ashore we are pestered by taxi drivers but steer clear. After changing money to rupees (13 toh) we take the road to right towards the rocky headland. The town is dismal looking. The houses are stone and sand coloured. The rocks are apparently volcanic in formation, almost like cinders, dry and crumbling and give no idea of solidity. We pass post office and get stamps (half anna to 8 annas - 16 annas = 1 rupee, 4 pies = 1 anna). We walked through the camp area and up the steep slopes of Ras Boradhi, where we watched the sun sink below the rugged peaks across the bay. They seemed as if from out of a story book silhouetted almost as cardboard scenery of some amateur theatricals. The water below is smooth and calm, it seems so peaceful and there over Africa shines Jupiter. We come along back and call at S.S. and A.I. for tea / supper after which we make our way back to the Main Street and the Crescent where we enter the various shops and attempt to barter. Obtained 12 postcards of Aden for 1 R. - was asked 3 R.’s but argued down. Returned to boat about 10.20 to cross coal barge to gang plank.

Tuesday 23rd February

We left the ship in a launch about 9.30 - 10.00 and after changing money we decided (Ted, Steve, Frank, Bernard, Cliff and I) to take a taxi ride. We tried to get below 3Rs but nothing doing so decided on the “All Round” trip at 3 Rs each. We set off along the road, which like all in Aden, were good. First we passed along the lower road going up to the cliffs above, towering majestically, yet with a grimness over the dull town below. High up there we could see caves and then a pass cut through the rock as if by a lightning strike or some massive battleaxe of the Gods. We were in Maolo, a little Arab village. On the seashore the dhows were being built, as they have been for years, from Solomon’s days and legend has it that the Ark was built in these shipyards. Dirty little houses lay huddled together - walls of dirty stone covered with mud and in some instances whitewashed. The narrow streets between the houses were thronged with dirty people in various dresses, hanging around them or falling off. Arabs of many colours from brown to black and Somalis too; what a mixture; what filth. The Gospel indeed did not shine in their hearts, only the darkness of the False Prophet. We passed on by modern, yet brown sandy-coloured stone buildings of the RAF Station and the Wireless Station into the open country. The country was an immense expanse of flat land, baked hard by the sun. I’ve never seen land so flat. Here and there stood huge windmills with lattice sails covered with white canvas which pumped the sea water into the huge earthen tanks, where the sun evaporated the water, leaving salt behind. There was a huge heap, yellowish: it was salt being dried and there a pile of white salt glistened in the sun.

On the left bay a patch of deep green, thick with date palms - an oasis. We passed round it to the borders of British Arabia and looked across the flat brown plain, where the Arabian King, Ibn Saud, ruled. We could not see far for the wind kicked up the dust as a mist - it lay stretching before us, a dry, dusty waste. We turned from this, from the dust, from the heat, into the cool refreshing shade of banyan trees in the gardens of Sheikh Ottoman. Laid out in little plots these were irrigated by channels along which the water would run and in various places were circular wells from which water could be drawn for hand irrigation. Passing out of the gardens, we came into the Arab village. From here the caravans started their journeys into Arabia. Camels with their young lay sprawled about; windowless houses (except for a slit as if a blockhouse) were stretched in rows like sections of a box. The stench of goats and camels was everywhere.

Back along the road we came to Maolo and then we climbed the zigzag road to the pass in the hills. Towering above was the crumbling cliffside with its caves. There, near the narrow slit of the pass, was one cave alone, seemingly inaccessible. There, the story goes, Cain was buried. (Rugged, yes and dreary, in an unfriendly countryside: even in death he was barren and forsaken.). The road passed through the high walls of a pass, even as through the eye of a needle. We looked down on the Crater, the town, the Arabs call Aden, looking like a huge camp. We passed through the colourful streets with their peculiar smells. There in a doorway was a blacksmith at work; there a tailor and everywhere thronged the multitude in all their different dresses. In some doorways the men sat smoking their “hookahs”.

We passed through to the Tanks. These were huge affairs discovered by Lieutenant Playfair when Assistant President at Aden - of unknown age, they had been repaired and put into use. When the monsoon came they were filled and held 20 million gallons of water. With our guide we passed up them as far as possible and yet higher, up at the summit of the hill, lay 2 more we did not see. Some distance up was a well in which it took 4 seconds for a stone to reach the water surface.

In the garden near the gate, among the yellow flowers of the trees (similar to those of Dar es Salaam) and the huge gladioli, was the little museum which we visited.

We drove back to the bazaars and wandered round for a time, with children asking for “backshee” and one bright-eyed little girl followed us for a time. About 12 we went back to Tuevali for dinner. Dinner in the S.S.A.I - two fried eggs in a sandwich of lovely new bread. There were sisters here (SA, of course) with sergeants - imagine our own - or our own even being allowed to go out with Other Ranks!

In the afternoon we toured the shops of the Crescent and then wandered in the back streets round the native bazaars. Here, in unbelievable filth, they lived and did business, selling some lovely cloths and silks, though they themselves were so dirty. We looked in at the fruit and vegetable market - almost as one at home in the older country towns.

Stalls were in the verandas and beneath the roof of the central building. At the gate sat a woman and a man and some children selling peanuts and crying, as do they all, “backshee” to the white folk. In the dirty streets, seated cross-legged in a doorway, a silversmith worked. His filigree work was finer than that of Dar es Salaam and not so dear, but money was lacking - we could not raise 6 Rs between us.

Thence to tea at the Services Canteen and then to S.S.A.I where we spent the evening and had supper before returning to the ship. A happy day filled with memories of many things, particularly the smells and bargaining.

Wednesday 24th February

We sailed this morning. In the afternoon the 6 of us discussed “The Work of the Holy Spirit” and passed on quite naturally it seemed to a point Steve raised - ‘were we here by God’s will’. He seems to think as Christians everything for us should run smoothly and does not see His hand in trials and hardships and has the impression we should be working for Him all the time by preaching the Gospel. We pointed out we must learn things too and what is more there are other sides to witness.

In the morning we passed into the Red Sea. On the port side lay the gloomy rocks, the Twelve Disciples and there we passed on the starboard what might have been part of the English downs - it was Perrin Island - a British possession.

Thursday 25th February

The Red Sea seems neither calm nor does the sun beat down. In fact the sun is hidden and the wind is quite cool. I read most of “John Halifax Gentleman” today.

In the afternoon we discussed ‘The Emblems of the Holy Spirit’, but did not cover all the subject. We noticed the baptism of the Holy Spirit was accompanied by the baptism with fire - an inward experience of purging and the giving of new energy for the work of God.

Friday 26th February

We all woke up cold this morning and it remained quite cool out of the sun all day today. In the afternoon we continued our discussion on “The Emblems of the Holy Spirit”. We aren’t allowed on the poop deck now - perhaps because Sisters and men sat there together after dark - what queer ideas authority has! If Sisters prefer men’s company (and I can well understand it considering the effeminate dandies and ‘nancies’ that make up some of our officers) why can’t they seek their company.

I wrote to Joan today and to Mum and Dad. The night was cold with only one blanket.

Saturday 27th February

We were aroused early - one hour too early for the clocks had been put back. There was a cold wind blowing and it was certainly dull. Some of the South African’s put battle dress blouses on and in the evening, overcoats. It’s not as cold as England, but cold enough after 10 months of hot weather.

We discussed “The Gift of the Holy Spirit” this afternoon and noticed that it was a separate ‘thing’ to the New Birth and the Holy Spirit pleading with a sinner. It did occur, men could receive it at the same time as they received the remission of their sins, but not always so. Some people, as Peter found, know nothing of the Baptism of the Spirit and it is a second experience for them. We agreed that the Holy Spirit gives gifts (1 Cor 12) and bears fruit in our lives (Galatians 3). I can’t see Steve’s viewpoint, he claims to accept Scripture and is strong on this matter so often (saying “so and so isn’t in Scripture” or “The Bible says such and such”) yet cannot (or will not) accept the words of 1 Cor 12 & 14 on speaking with tongues (of men and angels) or healing and casting out demons. Mark’s Gospel’s last few verses help me. They are signs of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

There was a concert in the evening.

Sunday 28th February

We cleaned the ship today. In the afternoon we discussed a point raised on Fellowship, based on “How to maintain unity”, being a chapter in Norman Grubb’s book “Touching the Invisible”.

Just after tea we approach the entrance to the Gulf of Suez. An island lies to port and far away on the starboard side we see the Sinai Peninsular rising, rugged, veiled in mist. As we approach, we see its tremendous height, rude, black, sinister, with innumerable peaks. “Alone with God” indeed the leader of the Exodus must have been in those heights.

Service tonight and the wind howled and it is certainly cold.

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