The Long Road Home - An Odyssey

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hillside not faraway is the University of CapeTown. My final hour in CapeTown I spent at a Toe. H social gathering in a room on the top floor of a departmental store in the city centre. Whilst at Boyce Barracks I had passed quite a few pleasant hours at a Toe H club in the nearby village of Fleet. Weighing anchor about noon the next day we continued our voyage. Two or three days out of port we linked up with the other part of our convoy. A couple of days after that about half a dozen troopships left the convoy and made off for either India or the Far East. As affairs turned out we were fortunate not to be accompanying them to what was probably incarceration or even death in a Japanese prison camp. We made our way up the Indian Ocean accompanied only by a single South African cruiser. The weather grew hotter as we again approached the Equator (from the south this time) and we reverted to our khaki drill attire of shorts and bush shirts. The nightly display of stars was a remarkable one with the Southern Cross and other unfamiliar constellations taking the place of those familiar to us in the Northern Hemisphere. We moved northwards through the Mozambique Channel between the mainland of Africa and the great island of Madagascar and then turned due west through the Gulf of Aden into the Sea.Red We had anticipated that our passage up the SeaRed (bounded as it is on the one hand by Arabia and on the other by Eritrea the Sudan and Egypt) would bethe hottest part of the voyage. To our pleasant surprise however we were faced by a wind which rendered conditions comparatively cool (though a warrant officer in the Royal Army Service Corps died of heatstroke and was buried at sea). On Tuesday May 6th we dropped anchor in Port Tewfik the dock area of Suez exactly six weeks after leaving the Clyde. Amongst the crowded mass of shipping in the harbour “Queen Mary” and “Queen Elizabeth” towered up like two massive fortresses dominating the village of cottages. To see them thus side by side was indeed a unique experience. They were on trooping duties between the Middle East and the Antipodes and both slipped quietly away by night before we disembarked. On May 8th just seven weeks (almost to the hour) after we had boarded “Pasteur” in the Clyde, the personnel of the 58th were transported by lighter to the dockside. We didnt know it then of course but four years later to the very day the men of the 58th were to sit down in Florence to a victory dinner in commemoration of the cessation of hostilities in Europe. During our voyage out Wavells campaign in Greece had run its entire course ending of course, in evacuation. We wondered afterwards whether we had been intended togo across to Greece but, if such were the case events had moved too quickly for us to be employed in that theatre of war. Of the two units identical with the 58th 57 General Hospital sailed with us aboard “Pasteur” and were sent to Cyprus where they remained for the duration of the war whilst 59 General Hospital went to the Sudan. 11
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