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15 October 2014
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A Snake in My Bed

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
George Edward King
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Contributed on: 
21 November 2005

After six weeks at sea sailing on the Orion from Greenock, we pulled into Freetown, Sierra Leone. Natives came out in their small boats with mangoes, bananas and oranges. All fruit had to be dipped in Condy’s fluid; some ignored it, to finish up with dysentery.

We then carried on to Durban where we disembarked for a while, whilst the ship went to another port. The “Lady in White” sang us in, and also sang us out. Evidently this was the normal routine.

After a short stay we were shipped to Bombay where we were entrained for a trip on an old wooden steam train, which took about a week. I managed to grab a roof rack to sleep on. When it was time for a brew, the train pulled into a siding, we then took our dixie to the engine driver, and placed in under the steam to brew the tea.

It was a hard trip to Bangalore to join the Regiment. After a short spell we were informed that the RA had been chosen for a special mission under a new Commander, General Orde Wingate, for Special Forces, later to be named The Chindits. After medicals we evidently had a lot of walking and sleeping in the open. Wingate had already taken a force behind the Japanese lines, and we had our vehicles and 25-pounders taken away and replaced with mules, and ponies for the officers. All the animals had their vocal cords snipped so that they couldn’t be heard by the enemy.

We were supplied with fresh arms — Vickers machine guns, carbines, 3” mortars and Brens. Only A1 personnel were wanted, other grades were used for packers and plane handlers. We made many new friends as you had to pair up because in the jungle it was best to look after each other. Training went on in earnest during October, November and December 1943; we didn’t know what was expected of us.

Whilst this was going on, butchers were asked for, one for each column, six in total. Five volunteered, and another said he was qualified but told me he didn’t know anything about it but thought it would be a good skive. I advised him it wouldn’t be easy. We were detached to report to a Sergeant who took us to an abattoir just outside Bangalore. When we arrived we put on our clothes and the first beast was brought in. The first chap wrestled his to the ground and winched it up by pulley. I carried out my job ok, but the 6th made a mistake but was ok as far as the Sergeant was concerned. The idea was in case we couldn’t get a supply drop — we started out with one bullock per column; supply drops were expected every five days and if you missed it you had a long wait.

In the evening we went to a large canteen, and most chaps enjoyed the beef. Whilst talking I happened to mention I couldn’t stand snakes. When I returned to the basha (hut) I got into my charpoy (bed) and could see something hanging out the end of the bed. Someone had tied a young snake by the tail into the tapes. I needed help to get it out, and never found out who did it. In the morning we had to drag our charpoys out of the hut, move the strings then bounce it up and down as during the night hundreds of bugs would have got into the strings. Ants were also a problem as overnight they would eat the bottom out of your kitbag.

This story was added to the People’s War site by Melita Dennett on behalf of George King, who understands the site’s terms and conditions.

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