The troop ship continues on its way across the azure blue of the Mediterranean to my destination Port Said.
MEMORIES by Alan Connon continued
The troop ship continues on its way across the azure blue of theMediterranean to my destination Port Said. This journey was unusual in one special way, I celebrated Christmas Day on the ship. I can’t remember all the things that happened and no, I was not drunk. At this early stage in my life I did not drink alcohol. Arriving at the harbour in Port Said the ship was met by a dozen or more small boats with Egyptian merchants eager to sell their wares, mainly fruit and fancy goods. Very soon we would disembark to be dispatched by truck to an RAF Regiment camp, which we later found out was called El Balla. Actually this camp was situated a short distance from the Suez Canal. In fact getting out of my tent in the morning more often than not, I would see the full length of a Merchant ship sailing along as though on dry land. It was so uncanny, I can still picture it to this day.
My fondest memories of my time there were climbing into a heavy duty Chevrolet and imagine that I was driving this monster all over Egypt. I loved to change the gears up and down for almost an hour and never moved an inch. Someone of importance must have taken notice and decided put the whole group of us learning how to drive. This gave me a chance to put into practice what I learned changing gears. I never made it to becoming a driver because too many wanted to be on the course, consequently I would remain a Wireless Operator.
A trip into the nearest town was always a good day out. This place was Heliopolis and this is where I bought my first camera. Wherever I went the camera went with me. I took hundreds of photographs and almost all of them I sent home in my letters. I’m afraid most of them have disappeared and I wish now I had kept them safe. It was while I was in the vicinity of the Suez Canal that I learned how to swim. Not far from the camp was a Lido, a place to relax in off duty periods. It wasn’t much really, just a place to get a drink and something to eat, but the Jetty was all I needed to learn to swim and I succeeded in the latter.
Leaving the canal area was a sadness but I had to move on to my next stop which would be the Abu Simbel Temple, located south up the river Nile. To get there I would have to journey by a Mississippi type paddle steamer all the way to the temple, it certainly was awe inspiring. We were allowed to go and look inside. It was very dark and it would take a very powerful floodlight to see it properly, but what an experience, I never forgot it. On board, my close friend and I shared a first class cabin with mosquito nets to stop us getting bitten. The food we enjoyed seated in a first class saloon. We were enjoying a life as VIPs and it was wonderful. I also remember receiving a nasty bite on my leg from a mosquito. It became swollen like a boil.
Coming up the Nile towards us was the Ferry terminus, namely Wadi Haifa. Here we would disembark and take the train to our final destination, Khartoum, remembered in history as the place where General Gordon was assassinated by fierce natives on the steps of the Governor’s House on the banks of the Blue Nile. Happily I returned to my hometown, none the worse after completing nearly three and a half years in the service and I loved every minute of it.