The Crusader, Eighth Army Weekly, No. 46, Vol 4, March 15th 1943

C R U S A D E R The road to Tunisia runs through un­ familiar scenes. But here is the Blood-Bank — now one is orientated. And here are tanks of Alamein : tanks with names in huge black letters. How do they go? Aphro­ dite, Bath, Belvedere... yes, that's the se­ ries ! W ell, some of them have made it. W h at memories they stir ! And here, waiting near the causeways which bridge the last obstacle before Tuni­ sia, are some of the Seven Dwarfs. That was Sneezy, wasn’t it ? Or was it Dopey ? They are so alike ! In the desert again. And the same old scenes. The brew-up fires. The Cruisers coming home after their day-long vigil in the disputed distances. The “toffee-apple" soaring towards the stars, bringing a mur­ mur of thanks to the lips of some benighted wanderer. The same old reactions, too. The magic effect of bright early mornings. The healthy pleasure of eating on one's feet with the front of a tank for breakfast table. Taking up the crisp morsels of bacon with the fin­ gers. Crunching down pounds of wheaty biscuits. Gulping pints of thick, sweet tea. W ere not things ever so ? This is so real. ' There was a gap in this life. Now it is closed. Look back and it is gone. Only this life is to be seen, stretching back, day after day, the same in its essentials, to the faint scrawl on the mind's horizon which is the memory of cherished things belonging to (mother life. * * * IV ow hills close us in. After the great open spaces they gave us a mild claustrophobia. This change was the only one we really noticed. Other things are different too — inevitably,, in this new terrain. But we take them in our stride. The essential things are ¦ the same. The men, the players of the piece, and their ways. The soul of the Army is unchanged. That is the great thing. That is why it is so good to be back. This is only one of the many theatres up and down the world. More will open. All will have their performances. And each per­ formance, in its own measure, will contri­ bute to the development in one way or an­ other of the great drama as a whole. There are other things for which we yearn and they are precious. But for the moment we cannot have them. Until we can, it is right that we should savour the great experiences that come our way. And so we are lucky — we who have been able to come back. This is an expression of one man’s feelings — and maybe of many an- j other’s — on his return to Eighth Army after a spell in hospital recover­ ing from wounds. A n aircraft is coming put of the west to take us back... A haze hangs over Cairo. It is draped flimsily over the Citadel, that arrogant crowned head of clear days, so that we see it in a humbler role, as a gentle, brooding presence. The aircraft is late in arriving because of the weather, so we cannot make our des­ tination today. But at last, in brightening sunshine, we are under way. The roofs of outskirts recoil as if on a spring and soon our shadow is speeding across Cairo. Fleetingly it touches Opera Square. It races towards the river, brushing the barracks of Kasr el Nil. It flicks across Gezira Isle and the flat-land of Aghouza. “Farew ell," it is saying. For us ! Farewell 1 The word and all it means brings a shock, the realisation of a prospect seen clearly for the first time. The prospect has become fact. Some it may delight ; others, dismay ; all, it must startle. For Cairo had become so much part of our lives, that, try as we might, we could not be unaware of it. W e had not thought about the inevitable moment when its in­ fluence must cease. And now, for some at least of us in this aeroplane, that moment is here in all its stark finality. For us the farewell is real. Most of the Eighth Army left Cairo without saying farewell, thinking, possibly subconsciously, they would be coming back. But we, who by various accidents of war, have drifted back to Cairo once again, now know the drama of this last of all goodbyes. After the war some may return to the city whose outward form is already dissolv­ ing in the green monotone of the delta. But not to the Cairo we knew. * * * T his, then, is the mood of our return to Eighth Army. A curtain is rung down. An act, nay, a whole play is over. But the Army goes on. A new part has been found for it. The sett­ ing is strange. Therein lies the gla­ mour. Never before has coming back been so much of an adventure. W e are back when the aircraft touches down on the desert next morning. Yes, back, though the vanguard of the Army is already in Tunisia. Here on the aerodrome are familiar faces. W e are back ! Down the long avenue into Tripoli. On either side are signs and numbers one re­ members. Even vehicles, because of their names registered indelibly in the mind, are remembered. In Tripoli the Army has given a chapter to history. The men and the regiments pass. The day may come when the oft conquered city shows not an outward trace of this phase of its existence. But these things are ------------------------- I» Y ------------------------- T. M a c r a e M a c L e n n a n (Observer with 7th Armd. Div.) not written with pen and ink for eyes to see ; nor are they built of masonry for time and the elements to weather away. These things become at once immortal of themsel­ ves. They are the impetus that must be ap­ plied to life if it is not to flag and grow dreary. T he M usky, w here many an E ighth Arm y man has spent much o f h is lea v e — and m or.ey I - 3 -
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