- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Geoff Saville on behalf of William Eric Saville
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 22 September 2005
"This story was submitted to the People's War site by CSV/BBC Radio Nottingham on behalf of Geoff Saville on behalf of William Eric Saville with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions"
FROM 16 FEBRUARY 1943 to 22 August 1943
16 February 1943 The day has arrived when I have to leave home and report to West Kirby for overseas
26 February 1943 Left West Kirby bound for Gourock at 6 pm. Arrived Gourock in the early hours of the morning. By tug to the Durban Castle which lay in midstream.
1 March 1943 We are on our way, where to?
7 March 1943 Passed Gibraltar
8 March 1943 Arrived Algiers. Had to march to Hussien Dey Transit Camp, arriving about midnight. Had a good supper and slept on the deck and slept well for my first night in a foreign country.
9 March 1943 Left Hussien Dey at 6 pm. Thank goodness we did not stay long as it was up to the ankles in mud. Arrived at Air France, Quay Dieppe Algiers, where we are to be stationed and 283 Squadron, Air Sea Rescue is to be formed here. It is to be a Walrus Squadron. The billets are very good and there are double decker bunks provided so we are OK. There is very little medical work to do and three of us to do it so the CO has asked us if we will be responsible for the Post Office until things are straightened out. We are able to go into Algiers every night as five minutes walk brings us right into the centre of the town. After being here for about three weeks Bert (another Nursing Orderly) and myself find we have only got four and a halfpenny between us and several days to go to pay day so we are feeling ‘cheesed off’. Had a very narrow escape from ‘Jerry’ machine gun bullets as he came over without any warning and began to spray the streets. It is the only time that I have been thankful for the protection of a tree trunk and believe me I clung to the one for dear life. The barrage put up was simply terrific and one was in more danger from the AA shrapnel than enemy bullets.
Four more Nursing Orderlies have arrived and what we are all going to do heaven knows. One of the things most noticeable is the extremes of the people, they either appear well off or very poor. The French people are very well dressed and the Arabs usually in rags and very filthy. One fellow we used to see often, looked as though he had never had a wash since his mother washed him when he was a baby. There are quite a lot of open-air cafes where the people sit on the pavements drinking.
Algiers for the most part is a clean place with modern buildings, but the native parts, which are called the Casbah, and out of bounds to troops, are dirty and very narrow streets. It is very noticeable to see the difference in the places for the use of American and British troops, The Yanks have a huge place run by the American Red Cross for Americans only and they also have the Opera for shows every night and also a cinema. The British troops are allowed to visit the Opera House and the cinema. The places provided for the British are the YMCA and the Salvation Army and they consist of a couple of large rooms where they can get ‘Char and Wads’.
10 May 1943 Leave Algiers bound for Maison Blanche. This is only about 20 miles away and we are to get fitted out for a longer journey. Billeted in a farmhouse about 4 miles from the ‘drome.
12 May 1943 After suffering a couple of days with severe pain in my chest go to see the MO. He says I have to go into ‘dock’ although I do not want to. Seven days in ‘dock’.
18 May 1943 On the move again, bound for Tingley, which is near Bone.
Travelling by lorry and it is a grand trip. Some very nice scenery and travelling some parts of the time with sheer cliffs on one side and a huge drop on the other, no place for the driver to have a doze at the wheel. A surprising thing is that when we stop for a break, although there does not appear to be a dwelling anywhere in sight, there will soon be a crowd of Arab children who will sell hard-boiled eggs.
Travelled for about 11 hours with only one break and ready for a good sleep.
20 May 1943 Set off again at 8.30 and travel until 7 pm. Spend the night at an American Rest Camp and they gave us a good breakfast.
21 May 1943 Arrived Tingley Drome. This is several miles outside of Bone. We made very good time on our trip up here as the party, which left before us, took nearly twice as long. Our ‘home’ now consists of a ‘pup’ tent, which is about three feet high and 6 feet long. There is just enough room to lie down and cover for kitbags.
Had an adventure whilst here. Took Ron Ball into ‘dock’ by American Ambulance. While I was inside with him the ambulance buzzed off and left me stranded. After waiting around for a while saw that I had got to hitch hike back. As I was about 40 miles away from camp and did not know anything about the country thought I should have a difficult job in getting back, but was luck as I managed to get a lift on the back of a motor cycle to the outskirts of Bone, then a lift into Bone in a six-wheeler and finished off the journey with an Army 'Brasshat’ in his private car which dropped my right in camp. It took me about three hours to do the journey. Went for the afternoon into Bone, but did not think very much to the place. Had about half-a-dozen ice creams and of course this is all against what we are told as one is not supposed to eat it unless the place where it is made is first inspected by the authorities. Luckily we felt no ill effects.
Whilst at Tingley we had all of our food with the Americans and believe me it is surprising the difference in the food which is served to them and the usual food we get. There is only one thing about it, most of it can be eaten with a spoon.
Had to see the CO and he told me that I was going to a place called La Sabala on detachment.
28 May 1943 Left Tingley by Walrus for La Sabala. Had a very pleasant trip and we passed over Bizerta and we could see the bomb craters and the tank tracks.
There was only about 12 of us on this detachment and we had a very nice time. Still feeding with the Americans. Have been doing all sorts of jobs about the aeroplane as with there only being so few of us I just do this to help them out as I am not supposed to do it. The F/O in charge said to me one day ‘If there is a scramble while my rear-gunner has gone for his dinner you will have to go up with me.’ Thank goodness that everything was quiet. Do not mind going up for a trip bit object to going on ‘Ops’
Detachment lasted only a few days as the main party have arrived
Back again to our ‘pup’ tents. Have to go up to 323 Wing every third day to help them with the Sick Parade. This is a change since I have done very little medical since coming overseas. There is a pathetic case of an Arab boy about 10 years old. who has had his forearm blown off by a mine and he comes in for treatment. Go into Tunis about once a week and it is quite a decent place. There are several Cinemas showing English and American films and there is a large EFI. canteen. There is also a Canteen run by the English Church and we have had some interesting conversations with some of the people.
The Old Order Changeth
For centuries the position of Arab women in North Africa was lowly. When travelling the man always rode the family donkey while the women carrying the household goods walked behind. But the coming of the war and the British and American troops many customs have changed. The man still rode the donkey but the woman was emancipated. She walked in front. There might be land mines.
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