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Letter No. 7
Lieut J. H. Massey. Infantry Base Depot. Egypt Saturday. Nov. 30th
My dearest darling Barbara I have no news of you at all yet, & it is becoming more & more difficult to write to you. Not because I have nothing to say, or because there is nothing to say on the contrary - but darling, it is such an awful feeling being so out of touch with you & knowing nothing at all of you. I'm not really worried about you - not really & truly but the bombing does seem to be worse than when I left England, & sometimes I feel terrified & nearly go mad wondering if you are quite alright. I do hopeyou are taking all possible care, & living in a safe place. I wish I knew that you were. I know that if you are in a place where bombing is much or often. You will be frightened you were that Saturday night at Stanmore, & I was with you - no that I would make so very much difference. It must have been very much easier in the last war, when people knew that things were safe at home. But I must not go on in this way - you will want to know what I have been doing, & hear about what I have seen. And even if I do not get your cable within the next day or two. This will
2. have to go off or you will be wondering what has happened to me. but three people have now had cables from home, so I am hoping again.
As you will have seen from my address & so on, I am in Egypt - which is more or less as expected. But that is as much as I can tell you - & if I told you the name of the place you would not know it. But this is a Base Depot, & therefore you can gather I am in a pretty safe place at the moment, we arrived in the country on exactly the same day on which I had to report to Rossett last year - which is a coincidence. We dropped anchor fairly early in the morning, & my first sight of Egypt was incredible to me. You know those coloured pictures we used to have in our Bibles, of Palestinian countryside. They alwasy looked rather improbably & essentially biblical to me - but not at all; they are quite correct, down to the smallest detail. I stood & gasped for a long time & felt very young again, & remembered many things from long ago - & then began to realised for the first time the nature of the part of the world I was coming to. There was a great deal of sand, of course, - as somebody said, this bloody sand business has been rather overdone here - but the incredible part was the hills & mountains. They were all shades of mauvish, even
3. purplish, reddish, & blackish, brown - the general effect was a wavy heather mixture. But the really surprising part was the shape, which I do not think I can describe very well & I certainly cannot illustrate. But the outlines were really unbelievable - sharp & sheer & rugged & clear cut & quite unlike anything I have ever seen before - & all so utterly barren - no growth or vegetation of any sort, just sand & rock. And the whole effect was made more fantastic by the brilliant light & deep shade, caused by the strong sun on the sharp edges. The sea too, was green, not greenish bule, just green: this I suppose, is caused by a correct merging of a very blue sky & a very yellow sand, & a very clear sea what does not interfere. Altogether, it was all very beautiful the only jarring note being two large hospital ships in the distance, which rather brought one down to earth. I wish I could describe all these things better, to you, but I hope it will all mean something to you & will give you some idea of how things are. All these new sights give me a great deal of satisfaction & are really exciting. I'm always wishing darling, that you could be with me, & shall always wish it, more than any other thing in the world. The whole voyage, from leaving England, until arriving in this country, was completely uneventful so far as
4. enemy action was concerned. It really is amazing, isn't it, & a terrific tribute to the British Navy & our control of the sea. One reads & hears about rather dreadful shipping losses nowadays - but we were a pretty meaty target, & attack at certain points seemed to be inevitable - but there was nothing at all. We were very looked after, of course, & all kinds of precautions were taken - but even so. One really would have thought that they would have found a crack at us by some means or other. One can only think that they are frightened of the Navy - or else we are keeping them too busy - a certain amount of each I should think. In any case, one feels rather encouraged - & certainly very proud of & grateful to, these Navy people.
Nothing really happened on the ship from the time of my closingup my last letter until we arrived. Except for rather an outrop of parties during the last few days, when everybody seemed to go more or less haywire. By that time, we were clear of the danger areas, & I suppose we were all rather relieved which made things snap a bit. Rex, Mac or Frank as he is now known - & myself, were also fortunate financially. The man Wintle organised this ships horse racing game - I cannot tell you how it works, except that it goes all the way round
5. the deck, because we ran the Totalisator - which is how we made the money. Rex, Frank took the names & I did the clerking & worked out the odds we should pay. On the first day, we lost about five bol - on the second & third days, profiting by experience, we won about six pounds between the three of us, which was very satisfactory, & we wished it had all happened earlier. Some other wretched men starte an opposition on the second day, & ran it in bookmaking lines - that is giving out the odds before the race - & lost ten pounds in the process. The Tote has the great advantage that you cannot lose - & in any case, we paid much better odds in nearly every case. We were on the boat for rather more than twenty four hours, after we arrived in & before we finally disembarked - during which time people were going off all the time. It was quite a break, in a way, leaving the ship which had brought us so safely & so far, & there were quite a number of people to say goodbye to. And to tip - our little waiter - Norman, had looked after us very well indeed, & had remained good tempered all through some very trying weather - so we gave him five pounds from the six of us. Our cabin steward had been completely idle, & had even allowed our fat men to do his work for him - so we gave him nothing. Our other friend was a