IG JOURNAL, 1968
From Irish Guards Association Journal, 1968 MASSICAULT, 1966 By Captain R. MAHAFFY. Many readers will have friends or relations who are buried in the British Cemetery at MASSICAULT some 20 miles outside TUNIS, and it is for those who have never had the opportunity to visit this Cemetery that I write these lines. In November 1966 my firm asked me to visit TRIPOLI with a view to investigating business possibilities in that country and I took the opportunity to break my return journey in order that I might see for myself the Cemetery where my brother Francis lies buried, albeit 24 years have elapsed since he was killed in the attack on the Bou. I flew in to TUNIS airport on the morning of Friday, December 2nd - a truly wonderful day, a clear blue sky, not a cloud to be seen. Having established myself at my hotel, I walked round the corner and introduced myself to the Manager of the British Bank of the Middle East. First I needed money and second advice as to the hiring of a car to take me to MASSICAULT. Having heard the reason for my visit, the Manager most generously lent me his own car and driver for the whole morning. The driver with whom I conversed in French was about 25 and could not possibly have been more friendly. It struck me as curious that he knew nothing whatsoever of the war in N. Africa. I can only presume that events in that part of the world since 1947 have overshadowed the events of the Second World War. The road from TUNIS to MEDJEZ undulates over open country. Apart from cactus and olive trees there is scarcely any vegetation. The soil, what there is of it, is parched and red, the background is filled with mountains. Not a blade of grass is to be seen until on the right hand side of the road I reached my destination. The Cemetery covers about four acres of ground slightly rising from the road, at the head there is a simple white War Memorial Cross standing on a raised platform at either end of which there is a small shelter, one containing a visitors’ book and a list of all those buried in the Cemetery. The headstones in serried ranks lie between the Cross and the roadway, a distance of some 250&nbsp;&nbsp;yards. By many headstones there are flowers specially planted by relatives but those who have been unable to do so need have no fear that their own have been forgotten. Between each gravestone there are a mass of flowers and between each row grass paths which would be the envy of any gardener in ENGLAND. Hoses play almost continuously throughout the year to keep the grass from dying. I was told by the two gardeners, whose entire life is given to keeping the Cemetery in order, that the flowers between the headstones are changed four times every year. I must tell you that I was moved by the quiet beauty of it all. Against the brilliant colours of the flowers too numerous to describe, the white headstones bleached by the sun looked magnificent. The whole Cemetery is surrounded by evergreen bushes and beyond them lies the hard dried-up dusty red soil. I took a number of photographs of the Cemetery as a whole; so often kindly people have sent me photographs of the one particular grave I wished to see, but I never knew what lay beside, beyond or around it. If any reader would like a copy of a coloured slide of the Cemetery I will be glad to let them have one. [N.B. this offer was made in 1968.] I spent about an hour walking round seeing here a name I knew and there a headstone of another Irish Guardsman that I did not. Before leaving I thanked the old gardeners profusely and gave them what would appear by their gratitude to have been an extra week’s wages. To those of you who go on holiday to TUNISIA (I understand they are developing a very good tourist trade), I can say unhesitatingly that you will not waste a moment of the day that you visit this Cemetery - it is quite beautiful. On my return to TUNIS the Manage of the British Bank of the Middle East told me that each year the British Embassy hold their Armistice Day service at this place and that the ceremony is one that he wold never wish to miss since the surroundings are so wonderful.