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15 October 2014
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Chocolate Soldiers

by Tom the Pom

Contributed by 
Tom the Pom
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
21 October 2003

Jenin Military Camp could some times be very boring, it could also be a very hot place being situated at the base of a long hill, near the Arab village of Jenin in Palestine 1939.
The answer to the heat could be to stay inside the wooden barrack rooms and in the heat of the afternoon have a nap or read a book, so with your mosquito net tucked into your bed all round you could relax.
But then on occasion something would happen to spoil it all.
The door would crash open.
A Sergeant would come in like he owned the place.
Faces would turn as we waited with baited breath for the opening remark.
Someone whispered, “Wait for it”

This time it just happened to be, “Roight then, youse shower is detailed ta go aht on a stunt, yus got foive minits, roifle an soide arms an’ be ahtsoide the Naafi in foive minits, gor it?
“Well move it, oi aint ‘ere tae bleed’n’ entertain yez aw”.
Cries of, “jist as ah wuz getting’ cumfy” and, “Here we go aggin’”

Mosquito nets were flung open and blokes heaved themselves off their beds and began struggling into their equipment, “Weer’s me tin ‘at” some one cried,” “Under Dicko’s bed” came the answer, and another voice joined in with a merry,“I didn’t know Dicko needed a piss pot” and some one else joined the choir with, “he don’t, ‘e puts it wi’ ‘is own tin ‘at an’ pretends he’gor ‘is missus in bed wi’ ‘im, that’s the on’y way ‘e can get tu sleep.
Suddenly a voice screams “S**T IN IT AN’ GER AHT SOIDE THE LOT OV YER”
“Cor dear oh dear, who opened ‘is bleed’n’ cage then” a voice whispered, as the Sergeant re-appeared at the door.
The Sergeant was ex World War One and had been in India a number of years with the Second Battalion The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, but now he was with us The first Battalion A & S H in Palestine, and didn’t we know it.
His name was Sergeant Lamb but his bark was worse than his bite.
When one got to know him he was a good bloke.
He was about five feet ten or eleven tall, I think he liked to think he was seven feet tall.
A rough guess about eleven to twelve stone in weight.
He had slightly ginger hair and definitely a ginger moustache.
The moustache on his top lip looked like two centipedes mating, each with its rear end pointing outwards.
Hence the two spikes.
And they moved up and down as he spoke.
I did hear he put one bloke in hospital with a punctured eardrum when he got too close while screaming at him to get his hair cut.
Some blokes suggested he grew it that way to stop his wife ripping his ears off, and I often thought perhaps she rode a motor bike, side saddle perchance, maybe she would kick start him in bed while dreaming, ---when he was home that is, but I digress.
We got outside and fell in on parade.
The Sgt walked down one rank then turned and inspected the next rank and finally quickly walked along the third rank, and on finding nothing to comment on, which was unusual, we put it down to the fact time was of the essence.
He moved to our front and did a smart about turn.
A sarcastic voice from the ranks whispered “oh very nice, now let’s see a pirouette”
And a titter rippled through the ranks.
Another bloke whispered out the side of his mouth, “I bet ‘e would look good in a tu tu an’ pointy shoes.
If the Sgt heard it he paid no heed and quietly said “roight youse lot, yu will notice if yu open yu eyes long enough tu ger ‘em focused, that each truck ‘as a number chalked on it’s soide”.
“The first rank gets on tu the truck wi a wun chalked on it, and the second rank will get on to the truck with a number two chalked on it and so on”.
“Roight to the trucks mooove ---and watch yersels” and he pointed to R.A.S.C. trucks pulled up in line ahead just inside the gate to the camp.
Arriving at one of these trucks, one of our blokes shouted at the bored looking driver “what number are you mate”?
The driver looked up to heaven then slowly got out, and taking the bloke by the arm led him to the side of the truck.
Pointing to a large number 2 chalked in white, and having traced over it with his finger he looked at our mate with an inquiring look.
“Ah---- number two” warbled our mate.
The driver’s head was slowly moving up and down, then looking as if he was about to cry he turned and walked back to his cab with head slowly moving from side to side and one could almost hear him thinking “why me God?”
“What have I done to deserve this?” and getting into the cab he settled down to wait.
Our mate having checked with the driver and making sure of the number on the side, with a grin said “this uns ours” as if he had just discovered Uranium, and no one else could read.
Pulling out the retaining pins of the tailgate, he let the tailgate drop with a clatter.
Dust fell in small clouds from the rear mudguards also from under the truck.
On the inside of the tail gate was a folded metal step which he pulled from the folded position so we could now step onto this as we got into the rear of the wagon.
The only trouble was the dopey bugger still had his thumb on the metal step when the first bloke plonked his foot on it and stepped into the back of the truck.
For the next two days he had a swollen skinned thumb wrapped up in his hanky.
There was a dark green canvas cover over the back of the truck supported by metal hoops
We were glad someone had some foresight, because we now had some shelter from the sun, which could at times got very hot.
There were also some long wooden slatted seats in the back for us to sit on.
A truck would have a driver with a N.C.O. sitting up front with him and in the back would be a row of five to six men sitting opposite each other on each side of the truck.
Some would elect to stand and if it were a long journey some would swap places.
Total fourteen men to a truck. If more got in they would stand holding on to the metal hoops.
Once the driver knew everyone was on board he would put up and secure the tailgate with the two pins that were attached by small chains to the rear corner brackets of the truck.
Once we got out of the main gate the trucks picked up speed.
We sat on the wooden seats swaying to the trucks every move as it swept round bends in the road.
As we came to a hill or rise in the ground the truck engine would start to labour and a sudden change of gears and a high whining noise from the gearbox would indicate we were climbing.
The road would level out and as the motor picked up and the driver would change gears again.
The speed would pick up still further until the road immediately out of the back of the truck was just a blur.
Now and again as the truck passed over a strip where the desert was trying to reclaim the roadway a huge cloud of white powdery dust would permeate the air and we quickly got out handkerchiefs to wrap round our face to screen out the choking dust.
As soon as the trucks left the road and were travelling over rough ground every one jumped up and clung on to the metal loops that formed the canopy.
The dust billowed into the back of the truck as we now clung on to the metal hoops, and heavy boots were doing a tap dance to keep the owner on his feet as the trucks weaved and bumped up and down.
Finally the trucks slowed down and out of the back I could see we were coming to a Kibbutz, all the signs were there, angle irons hammered into the ground and barbed wire here and there, until finally we stopped and were ordered to dismount from the truck.
We were only too pleased to do this, and we dusted ourselves off.
Most of the blokes who had been riding at the rear end of the truck suddenly looked very comical as they peered at each other with white powdered faces with pink eye lids and mouths.
Meanwhile our officer was having a discussion with some of the Jewish camp leaders.
A very comely sun tanned wench dressed in a tight light blue shirt with short sleeves and contours that declared she was definitely over sixteen.
Darker blue shorts, and the shorts were so short that one bloke muttered “is that a dress or a belt”?
A Glasgow voice said, “She can belt me anytime”
Another voice joined in with “looks like she was poured into them shorts” and someone else added “and they forgot to say when”.
She sashayed over to the officer and I thought all that was missing were the rumba drums.
She interrupted the conversation between the two men and said something to the officer to which he nodded.
Have you ever noticed how when a bloke goes up to a group of officers talking, he salutes and they all keep chatting and glance at him as though he is something smelly adhering to their shoe.
But as soon as this sunburned damsel presented herself by demurely putting one knee in front of the other, pushing out two coconuts and a monkeys forehead and with a slight swaying of the hips, mouth with a little pout, eyelashes going up and down like a moth in distress.
The blokes stopped talking, and the officer immediately turned and appeared to be hypnotized like a mouse in front of a cobra about to strike.
His mouth was slightly open and he quickly caught the drool before it fell on his shirt front..
Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth he collected his wits and suddenly smiled, glancing hastily round to see if anyone had noticed.
She said something and he nodded and smiled.
Then she turned like a ballet dancer and with elbows tucked in, but fore arms stuck out at right angles to her body, and hands hanging down limp from the wrist, she did a dainty little run like a Lysander spotter plane about to take off.
The officer’s mouth was talking to the group of camp leaders but his eyes were going up and down like yoyos on strings out of sync as he watched the swaying rear end bounce out of sight.
The Officer took out a handkerchief and wiped his now perspiring brow and neck.
Then turned and gave his undivided attention to the camp leaders.
The buxom wench scurried back to her friends with her under carriage bouncing and with bosoms heaving she said something to the other girls and it was not long before we all had a beautiful cold glass of fruit juice with ice added from a very agreeable hostess.
Some blokes were spilling theirs as they tried to drink it while watching fascinated by the girl’s figure as she bounced away.
“Cor luk at that” and a bloke’s head would whip round just as he was about to take a sip and would fill his left ear with ice cold fruit juice.
We learned later that this Kibbutz was in line for a doing over by the P.L.O. so this stunt was not a whim of the C.O. but an obvious show of strength to any P.L.O. spies that might be lurking among the rocks contemplating an attack.
Nothing happened that day.
And we got on to our trucks after being at the kibbutz for about three hours and the girls were begging us to stay longer but we declined, WE DID NOT HAVE THAT CHOICE
So they yelled “come again”, well our Officer made it quiet plain that we had to get back since nothing untoward had happened, and I think he had been watching us and decided it was time to go just in case someone took the girls request to heart.
And comments in the truck as we were going back to camp were comical.
The banter was all about our afternoon out, “did yu see that blond, built like a roll top desk, and legs” “yea” interrupted another exited voice “right up to ‘er bum” and laughter erupted from the group as someone added “what a way to go”.
And someone added “the only way to go”
“ What yu lookin’ so gloomy about Geordie?”
“Ma missus ull nivva believe me if ah tell ‘er ah ‘ed nutt’n tu do wi’ it.
“Div’nt werry aboot et Geordie man” comforted his mate, “ah’m gan tae the canteen an ev a pint as seun as wua back,” Geordie said “ah think ah’ll join ye”.
In the canteen that evening I was sitting at a table with half a dozen other blokes and one of the lads was trying to spout poetry, some thing about “There’s a little yellow god to the North of Katmandu”
Then he would have a sip from his glass and “ where was ah, oh aye, yu wan’ a pint Tommo”?
He looked at me through glazed eyes, and swaying continued, “yu look diff’rent”, the bloke next to me suggested we take him to his bed, and I agreed.
We got each side of him and he blurted “ah don’ wanna go tae ma f—n’ bed le’ me alone why don’ yer,” and he slumped over the table, out like a light.
It took three of us to get him to his bed.
As we were on the way back to the canteen there was a sound of a window breaking and a split second later from the top of the hill a shot was heard.
Before the echo of it died down there was another window broken and another shot from the top of the hill then a lot of sporadic firing, so there must have been four or five people up there potting at the lighted windows of the canteen.
Then the canteen lights suddenly went out and the lights of each barracks went out as the occupants realised what was happening.
This kind of thing we had got used to, it could be P.L.O. or it could be some group from a village who were disgruntled and decided the entertainment for the evening was to come and stir up our mob.
Usually the next day a patrol would go up the hill and have a look round and return with a few empty cartridges, from a Mauser or a Russian rifle, some times the odd .303 Lee Enfield, one time there was a casing from an elephant gun.
Some one once asked “ yu didn’t find any catty pults then?”
After a long session of inactivity some bright boy came up with the idea “Why don’ we build us a swimmin’ pool then” and cries of “don’t be stupid” and “you’ll never get permission” one bloke said “oi dunno, oi think it’s a bleedin’ good idea”.
So matey who had first thought of it went to see the R.S.M.
He said “ I will look into it” to which our mate said “we ain’t dug it yet sir” and the R.S.M. said “ er, yes, very well, I will let you know, come back and see me next week.
“Yu wil’ny get permission,” said Ginger Craig, “look at the all watter it will use, weer yu gonna ger all the watter frae?”
The following week our mate came into the hut breathless, “ we can have our pool” he raved.
One old sweat, ex India service man said “cor for a minute there ah thought maybe you were on a promise the way you dash around”.
“Steady up, or in this heat yu could do yu’sel a mischief”.
“Yea” said someone else “yu ain’t gittin’ me oot theer in this ‘eet, but our mate argued “we can do it in’t cool o’evenin’ an’ then we have some where tu cool off in, when it gets ‘ot”.
A long silence as glances began to be exchanged, then a grudging voice suggested, “well we could think about where we could have it” and our mate brightened up as he saw they were beginning to nibble at his bright idea.
The next day some of the lads were out reconnoitring the area with a view to digging a hole for the swimming pool when the R.S.M. was seen standing watching them.
A voice said “oh oh, wait fer it” we stood still and the R.S.M. stood still.
It was like the two minutes silence on Nov 11 until suddenly the R.S.M. shouted “one man to me at the double, MOVE”.
The bloke nearest took off at the gallop and on reaching the R.S.M. stood stiffly to attention.
They parleyed for a while then the bloke about turned as the R.S.M walked away and our bloke came back and said “the R.S.M. said we could ‘ave that spare bit of ground near the gate”.
We got the hole dug about ten feet by ten feet and six feet deep then it occurred to one of the brighter boys, “if we put watter in this hole it’ll have all soaked inter graand by mornin’.
For about three weeks no further developments were evident at the site of the proposed pool.
Meanwhile the bloke who had thought of the idea was in the doghouse.
“All that bleedin’ diggin and for what”?
“Well you should have thought about the water soaking away”
“ We could always paint it out with water proof paint”
There was a thud as someone threw a boot at the speaker, “yu dawsy bugger, yu canny hod watter wi’ just paint man,” warbled Geordie.
“Aw shurrup the bleedin’ lot of yer, ahm goin’ tu ave a sleep”

Then one day a bloke who had been on escort duty to Damascus walked in and shouted “I gotta sheet”
A tired voice from a bed replied “don’t we all”.
For a minute the bloke stood there looking disappointed, having come all the way from Damascus,
hugging himself with delight, thinking how he was going to be hailed by all his mates as Hero of the month.
And he gets this reception.
“Well farkuenall” he snarled, ah’l keep mi f—n’ sheet”
And the same voice replied “an yu’l f—n’ bust”.
Later the confusion was cleared up and it turned out that our stalwart mate was indeed the recipient of a tarpaulin, albeit nicked, from a railway yard some where in Damascus.
So there was a lot of back slapping, and “come on ah’l buy yu a pint”.
So with out more ado we installed the tarp into the pit.
Then we had two or three evenings transporting water with buckets until finally the buckets were discarded and with a, “wheeeeee”and “eeeeehaaaaa” blokes just jumped in, some with all their clothes on.
Two days later there was a sand storm and when it was over some of our lads went for a dip to cool off.
On getting out of the pool they looked like they had just been dipped in chocolate.
A bloke coming out of the guardroom quipped “ Ah didna ken we wae ‘hae’en’ a concert, ye gaen’ tae dae the Mammy bit, and walked away crooning “I’d walk a million miles for one of yer smiles, ma, maaaameeee”.
On getting back to our hut one bloke came in and said “ anyone want cocoa, the pool is full of it”
Later the R.S.M. made us empty it and fill in the hole because the medical officer said it was a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Said one bloke “there goes oor swimmin’ pool”
“All that was-ted ef-fort” said Taffy Williams.
“Enough tu make yu weep” said Jonno.
“Aye, well ah say stuff ‘em all, that’s wot ah say” snarled Geordie.
Bob Moat said, “I think you can safely say that’s the end of the chocolate soldiers.

T.O.B. 1st A&S Highlanders.

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