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BY ROGER SMITH

Extracts from the book
:
Flies and worse in the Western Desert
A peculiar addiction to Irish lyrics
Burying the dead — Tebaga Gap
British Army at a minefield near Sfax, Tunisia
The countryside near Sousse, Tunisia
The Padre's tools of trade
A minefield near Takrouna, Tunisia
Kelly in Cairo
Housekeeping in a two-man bivvy in the rain — Sangro, Italy
Falling asleep on duty — Sangro
Kelly dies at the Sangro River
Civilians caught in the frontline — Castel Frantano, Italy
Getting sadness off your chest
Giant drunken zooming fireflies — Alife, Italy
Christmas 1943 — back from the front
Maori Battalion, Trocchio, Italy
Fear, and fear of fear — Cassino, Italy
A break from Cassino
All in a day’s work in the Cassino rubble
There for your mate at the finish — Terelle, Italy

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BURYING THE DEAD AT TEBAGA GAP

Long shadows were reaching out from the western hills when those of us who could be spared from duty stood bareheaded beside our little cemetery as the padre read the service. It was a moment of great sorrow; there were none among the dead who yesterday we could not have recognised and called by name. Many had been intimate friends. The old saying was ever-present in our thoughts: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” We turned away as shovels lifted and the desert was rendered smooth again, with the sad knowledge that the loss we felt would be infinitely greater when it became known to the families at home.

BRITISH ARMY IN A MINEFIELD NEAR SFAX, TUNISIA

While we were talking, a three-tonner driven by an RASC Tommy came down the road. The [British]sergeant waved him down but the happy Pom grinned, waved back and just kept on going. We stood and watched with some interest. He got about the length of a football field before it happened. There was a terrific bang, a cloud of dust, and the off-side front wheel disappeared, to bring the truck to a sagging halt. The Pom half fell out of the driver’s door and came staggering towards us.

The sergeant raised his hands above his head in fury. He grabbed his red cap and threw it on the ground.

“Fook,” he said. “The fooking fooker fooked the fooking fooker.”

One word repeated, but the meaning was clear.

 

 

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Copyright Roger Smith, 2000