H.R.C. Wild - wartime April writings
April 1941 - Egypt
For a week or two now we have been working on a new timetable designed to give us a rest in the hottest part of the day!
Reveille 0500 Breakfast 0530 Battalion Parade 0630 Break 0950 – 1020 Lunch 1300 Compulsory Rest 1400 – 1600 Work again 1600 – 1800 Tea 1900 Lights Out 2200
This has taken some getting used to, specially for people not good at early rising but already I am enjoying it thoroughly! Egyptian summer time came into operation to give us 1 hour’s daylight saving and it is not light now till about 6.30 in the morning. It seems funny going onto Battalion parade before the sun is up – but it’s gloriously fresh in the morning – and as soon as I can learn how to sleep in the afternoons I’ll enjoy the change all the more.
The War is not going very well at the moment – our Division is getting thrashed back and back in Greece but are fighting very hard. Everyone of us wishes he was there – it’s just a feeling but it’s strange how powerful it becomes. We have had the rottenest luck in our Battalion – a few cases of infantile paralysis at the end of last week have resulted in our being put under immediate and strict isolation – and here we are, the only infantry left here now, sitting here carrying on as usual and forbidden to leave our own little area. Everyone is very depressed. If there are no more cases we will be free in 10 days. It couldn’t possibly have come at a worse time.
April 1942 - Syria
We had some good football here until the ground got too hard. Football is one of the best democratising influences in an institution like the Army - which is not based on democratic principles. In our Div HQ teams for instance it was good to watch the play. The scrum grows goes down - the front row men, (the General’s clerk and a Sergeant from the Defence Platoon), hook the ball - out it comes to the halfback, (a clerk in the quartermaster's office) - from him to the first five eighth, (the General’s ADC), to the second, (the Chief Medical Officer's Batman), to the centre (a Liaison Officer), to the wing (a private in the Men's Cookhouse). If there's a free kick it might be given to Lieut. Griffiths ADC - or to Private Snooks (driver of the ambulance) - perhaps to the Camp Sergt Major - a burly forward. The point is they are all boys together - and no one wears stripes or pips or calls anyone "Sir" on a Rugby football field.
April 1943 - finishing an officer training course in Palestine
We learned a lot of toleration and understanding from each other. For me it was the greatest part of the course – taking the long view. Looking to the immediate future I hope very much that we can all pull in together – and I’m certain we can under a leader like Montgomery – and if we can do that and each do his best I am certain we can win this War quickly. But it will take hard effort, conscious effort – with no time for faked codling. That’s all trite – but it’s true.
April 1944 - Italy
This is the first time we've come close to the Yanks - and I must say I am impressed by their efficiency. They do give an impression of getting on with it. Do they carry petrol up to the line in a long convoy of slow moving 3 tonners? No sir, they run it up in the pipe line! The Hun destroys the road and the railway they leave wrecked. Does the Yank mess about repairing the road? Why no, they finish wrecking the rail and then use it as a road!! They had a mobile shower unit near us in the Piedmonte. Every U. S. soldier who went in there to "take a shower" came out with a fresh new set of clothes and boots - from head to foot! Some Kiwis found this out - went along - and the only way we knew they were ours when they came out was by their berets and their speech. The Yanks have been here, too - the ruined street where we are is labelled 42nd Street - and there is a notice saying "Diamond Jim’s” saloon is second on the right.
April 1945 - H.R.C. Wild was back in New Zealand