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Letter. no. 18.
Capt. J.H. Massey. No. 6. Palestinian Coy. The Buffs. Middle East Forces
Sunday - 9 Feb 41.
My darling sweetheart,
I am writing to you now from another new place. I have been very busy since arriving here - but not so much that I have not been thinking of you & loving you very often & Oh-so much. And today is your birthday, my darling Barbara. I wished you many happy returns this morning, & longed to be with you. I do hope you got my cable in time: I sent it off two days later than I intended to - but the P.O. at the P.R.T.D. was an annoying place, and always seemed to be closed when I went there. I do hope you had a happy day, my sweetheart - & that you have felt that I have been thinking of you & wishing many things for you - & for us.
Tuesday. Feb. 11th. I can see that I am not going to be able to write a great deal, during our stay in this place - & so I am glad that it is only for two weeks. I seem to have to be on the go every minute of the day, & then during the evening as well.
When I was writing on Sunday night, people kept coming to see me all the time, after I had written those few lines - & I eventually gave it up, - & went to listen to Mr. Churchill's broadcast, which came through here at 11-0 p.m. - & came to bed. Last night I had a night march from 7-30 until midnight, which I felt I had to go on too. Tonight they are on another night scheme, but this time I have decided to stay behind. I think there must be a limit to the time one has to put in with this army.
2. This is quite the oddest place. The one I am in now, and I don't really expect to be in an odder. About 1200 feet below sea level - it's a bit much, really. Can you imagine it? You leave Jerusalem, which is very high, and keep on going downhill for miles & miles - until you eventually come to a notice board which says - "Sea Level." You then just keep on going downhill - its the queerest sensation - mentally because it seems all wrong, & not at all the kind of thing one would expect to do. And so you arrive at this camp of ours. It is just that, barren, dustry, strong, lumpy ground. On one side is the Dead Sea, & on the other side, those strange, rugged, and & bare Biblical sort of hills. They are the most amazing shapes, and & strange in outline - & they are just rock, with a thin covering of lose stoney sand, no growth on them at all. And of course, those eternal madis - if you know what I mean? A madi is, in a hill or mountain, like a ghyll in Yorkshire,in other words. You are walking peacefully along the side of a hill, & you are suddenly confronted with a drop of 2-300 hundred feet, & only about 100 feet wide. And the flat ground is an endless succession of tiny, small large, & enormous, wadis. And from where you stand it all looks quite flat, but to try & walk or march to any particular point, turns out to be quite another matter. The flat ground, so called, is of course nothing to look at - but the hills can be & are, very beautiful
and lovely, (as always, when I see or talk about anything beautiful and lovely, I immediately think of you , my darling). They are just like the hills I told you about when I first arrived in Egypt. The shapes and outlines are so sharp and sheer and suddenly irregular, then when the sun is shining, and particularly when it is low, in the morning and hte eveing parts are bathed in brilliant sunshine, and other parts are black and dull. At night, it is even stranger and there is a full moon just now - the sky is clear with a few clouds floating about. Againth ehills are an eerie [cong.....] of light and shade. It is possible to stand down here, in darknees, because the moon is behind a cloud. And look back at the hills, and the near range is in darkness - the range behind is completely light, just as in daylifht. The range behind agin is dark. it is weird, very striking and beautiful. I suppose the moon is brighter in this part of the world - but the main reasin for seeing these things here and not at home, must be that the rocky, sany surface reflects moonlight so much more brilliantly than our grassy green hills and mountaings. On Sunday, I went down to the Dead Sea - which is the lowest spot on this globe and had a very pleasant [time]. This came about in the way. in Palestine, there is an organisation caleld the Jewish Agnecy. It is a semi political body, and to a very large extent, supplies the recruits for the Jewish Palestinian Companies. Having done this, it has a Welfare secton, which looks after these troops and takes an interest in them. They have given out men several lovely concerts, and now that we have gone out into the world as an independent unit, they
have given them a wireless set, and library of 150 books, footballs, boxing gloves, and Hebrew typewriter for the company officer and they are going to give them P.T. kit and fottbal boots and so on. The president of this Welfare section called to see me on Saturday, and she is Mrs Samuel, and is the wife of the Hon. [Edwin] Samuel, who is Lord Samuel's son. They are both about 40-45, and she is a very charming and clever woman - he is a most pleasant and intelligent and friendly man, very young and healthy looking for his age. They had a drink with us & then I showed them round the camp and they chatted to the men about how they liked being here and so on. They then asked me down for lunch the following day. I never really expected, or particularly wanted to see the Dead Sea, but there I was. It looks just the same as any other [place] of water - it is about 30 miles in length - but there the difference ends. We were going to bathe, but it was too windy and cold in the afternoon. Apparently, it is quite impossible to swim normally - and equally impossible to sink if one tries the usual swimming position, one's bottom and everything else is on top of the water, and it is only possible to scoop oneself along. The alternative position is to stand in the water, and sort of walk underwater like a two legged dog. The water is said to cause agony to the eyes and to be prety sore on a freshly shaven chin. But I hope to march the company down
there on Sunday and then we can all try it. An R.A.F. brass hat, and his adjutant, were there for lunch too. The former had his wife with hims, which made me very envious and also made me feel a shade Bolshy. She manages to hang on here by means of having some phoney job in the censorship. She was dim and dull, thin, tall, and had maroon finger nails and cotton pants down to the knees! But it was all very interesting - at the DEad Sea, there is a place called the Dead Sea [Polash] Co Ltd. The Samuel's had borrowed the managing director's bungalow for a vacation and we were all shown over this works. The thing is that the Dead Sea water is rich in potassiumn phosphate, chich is used as a fertiliser and magnesium chloride, which is used in textile finishing - sodium chloride, which is common salt - bromine, which is vaery valuatble. This was mainly used by the [?] period people, to make their petrol red and more efficient - and then, to muster there valuable salts. And this is done in a very large works, which is a mass of pipes and tanks and mixes, and stirrers and so on. This ia all done very ingeniously by means of filtering and settling, and screening and precipitation and son on. The result is that, eventually is produced all these things in perfect and pure form. It's all rather wonderful and miraculous really, and so much moreso when you consider thatall you have is a lake - and from the water is produced tons & tons & tons of these things, which are put into bags and sent all over the world. We had a very pleasant lunch,