WWII Excerpts from "Cairo, Biography of a City"

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by spidge, Jan 14, 2011.

  1. spidge


    by James Aldridge Edited by Jimmy Dunn

    Although I must admit to a bit of a complex about the "behaviour" of Aussie troops!

    Cairo filled steadily with soldiers other than Englishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen and Irishmen. This time the Egyptian authorities asked that the Australians should be sent somewhere else, so they were sent to Palestine instead, but the Free French arrived and so eventually did Greeks, Czechs, Poles, Danes, Slavs, New Zealanders, Cypriots, Maltese, Palestinians, South Africans, Rhodesians, Americans and Indians.
    While possibly not as glamourous as a posting in Singapore and afternoon tea at Raffles, the British military in Cairo seemed to be up to the challenge.........


    Remembering what Storrs had written about Cairo at the outset of World War I, it is worth reading what that other excellent observer Alan Moorehead wrote about Cairo at war in 1939 in his African Trilogy (1944): “The Turf Club swarmed with officers newly arrived from England, and a dozen open-air cinemas were showing every night in the hot, brightly lit city…We had French wines, grapes, melons, steaks, cigarettes, beer, whisky, and abundance of all things that belonged to rich, idle peace. Officers were taking modern flats in Gezira’s big buildings looking out over the golf course and the Nile. Polo continued with the same extraordinary frenzy in the roasting afternoon heat. No one worked from one till five-thirty or six, and even then work trickled through the comfortable offices borne along in a tide of gossip and Turkish coffee and pungent cigarettes…Madame Badia’s girls writhed in the belly dance at her cabaret near the Pont des Anglais.”

    History was laughing at itself, and once more Clot Bey’s brothels filled to overflowing with British Tommies. Once again, Shepheard’s and the Continental were jammed with staff officers with suede boots, fly whisks and swagger sticks. Once again the nightshirted street Egyptian began to invent a thousand new ways of getting a few piasters out of the pockets of these red-faced soldiers. But as it was before, so it was again – the street Arab got the pickings, and the European and Levantine speculators and black marketers and the rich Egyptians and the British as well made the fortunes. But Cairo blossomed. British soldiers seeing sun and desert and clean air for the first time in their lives looked hungrily at the beautiful European girls who swished their pretty legs in the streets and on the trams and in the cafes. Many of these soldiers had come from appalling conditions in the black and grimy back streets of British cities not yet recovered from the depression. Many of them had never seen before what they now enjoyed every day in Cairo, and Cairo’s Europeans were generous with friendship and help. But it was not long before the relationship between the British soldiers and officers and the European girls in Cairo became an intricate and complicated entanglement which very few escaped, and many good British marriages foundered in the those soft Cairo evenings when love rushed through the city on the wings of an exotic escape.

    Read the rest here:

    WWII Excerpts from "Cairo, Biography of a City

    This has also given me the thirst for a couple of books mentioned.
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    This was my memories of Cairo :

    at 0700 hrs on 22 Jul HT Empire Pride docked at Alexandria. The regt began to disembark at 0830 hrs (27 officers and 585 ORs) and moved in RASC transport to 158 Transit Camp, Amiriya, 20 miles west of Alexandria,

    Saturday 22nd. July 1944
    Last to disembark at Alexandria. Trucks took us to transit (camp) near Mersa Matru. First sight & taste of desert. Pretty whacked.

    On 23 Jul The regt embussed and the column moved via Wadi Natrun and Khatarat to Quassassin Camp No 44. This was a tented camp erected by the SA Pioneer Corps and the Regt adv party had it ready for occupation. The whole regt was to have 6 days leave spread over four periods between 25 Jul and 15 Aug. From 25 to 31 Jul equipment was drawn from Depots and checked. The advance party had drawn vehicles and guns. 25% of the regt was on leave either at Cairo, Alexandria or Ismailia. The regt had been informed that it was moving to Palestine but the situation in Greece required troops to be sent there from Italy and 78 Div was needed back in Italy in replacement.

    Sunday 23rd. July 1944
    Quassasin Camp. Left camp at 5.30 am & travelled across desert to 30 miles North of Ishmalia. Advance party have been here two weeks. Big NAAFI cinema to each camp. On 24 hour stag. Arabs carrying out mass thefts here!

    Monday 24th. July 1944
    Off stag at 10 am. Put marquees up till lunch time! Went for Dodge 15 cwt. for 280 Battery, had to be towed. At 10 p.m. was still working putting jeeps around the camp & floodlighting area.

    Tuesday 25th. July 1944
    On maintenance in morning, easy time. Wrote letters, duplicated some maps in the office . After dinner went to see "Keep Flying" at the "Empress". Detailed for 24 hour stag tomorrow.

    Wednesday 26th. July 1944
    On guard at 0845, Parade lasted 45 minutes in blazing sun!, very easy day apart from that. Peter left for leave in Cairo. Still having trouble with Piastres. Still undecided which truck I drive.

    Thursday 27th. July 1944
    Came off stag at 10 am. Hear I'm on Cairo leave party with Mason, when , I don't know. Letter from Alf Allsuch tells me Jack Rosen is in Alexandria so I shan’t be seeing him. Saw "South of Pago Pago".

    Friday 28th. July 1944
    Quite a bit of mail, new address now 129 Stuart St. (Luton). Larry's arm pretty bad. Broke but for 5 Piastres. Have applied & been granted £20 for my leave. On stag at 7-8 pm.

    Saturday 29th. July 1944
    Bit of work on truck. Swimming at Ishmalia in afternoon. Show at "Princes" in evening.

    Sunday 30th. July 1944
    Swimming in afternoon, getting ready for leave tomorrow. My £20 has already “suffered".

    Monday 31st. July 1944
    Left camp at 0730 arrived Cairo at 1230. Visited Jewish clubs, ate Kosher food for first time in years!. Bed & Breakfast for 35 piastres. First impressions of Cairo O.K.

    Tuesday 1st. August 1944
    Had studio snap taken. Lunch at 'Music for All'. Visited Gezira Pyramids. Had photo taken on camel. "Girl Crazy" at Metro in best seats. Very bad cold. Feel rough.

    Wednesday 2nd. August 1944
    Swimming at Heliopolis, good time, had snap taken. Back in Cairo by 4.30 & collected snaps. Went to usual club and after a few drinks went to open air cinema.

    Thursday 3rd. August 1944
    Fairly quiet day. Met Jack Rabin of Royal Irish Fusiliers, amusing personality. Had shower at New Zealand club. Sent home 72 piastres of sweets. In the evening went with Joe Green, Charles,Jack & Paddy to flicks.

    On 6 Aug an advance party of 2 officers and 25 ORs was to be held in readiness to move at 24 hrs notice. On 12 Aug the regt convoy left Quassassin for No 1 AA Practice Camp, El Deir, via Cairo. The head of the column arrived at 1630 hrs. Training began on 14 Aug.

    Tuesday 8th. August 1944
    Life still easy but my cold still pretty bad. Debating whether to go sick or not. In evening saw Cary Grant in "Mr.Lucky", best I've seen for a long time.

    Wednesday 9th. August 1944
    Nothing doing today except for rumours of what the Div. boys are doing to Cairo_On guard again, gorged myself with beer, pineapple & cheese rolls.

    Thursday 10th. August 1944
    Minor flap with truck this morning. Tents down, kit packed & aboard Dodge. Bought some beer for the move & still found time for flicks.

    Friday 11th. August 1944
    Moved off at 4 am & drove 190 miles in blazing sun to No.1 Anti Aircraft Training Camp at El Deir, 10 miles from Alex. Passed through Cairo.

    Saturday 12th. August 1944
    Camp doesn't seem too bad. NAAFI is excellent. Still suffering from heavy cold. R.S.M. Brown keeping everyone on their toes. Supper in NAAFI.

    Sunday 13th. August 1944
    Quite a bit of work on the truck. Rumours about advance party flying around again. Larry still in dock. Turned down flicks for an early night.

    Monday 14th. August 1944
    Work on truck till midday. Received first letter addressed M.E.F. with Jack's address. Have arranged with R.S.M to visit him. First large supper for years, not to mention beer!

    On 15 Aug the adv party left for embarkation. Live practice was fired.

    Tuesday 15th. August 1944
    RHQ runner in morning, in afternoon was told to pack my small gear on to jeep. I'm to drive Major Mouland about while he is in transit with Div.advance party. Out at night.

    Wednesday 16th. August 1944
    My 21st Birthday. To & from camp in the morning collecting mail for advance party. Trouble with jeep. At 7.30 pm drove Major Mouland & Mr.Bark to Alexander. Went to the Jewish Club for supper. Drove back at 10pm.

    Thursday 17th. August 1944
    Quite a bit of running about in the jeep. Took Mouland to the firing point & from there back to camp for dinner. In evening took a jeep load of boys to flicks at Camels Head at Amiryah.

    Friday 18th. August 1944
    Advance party left at midday & I brought back the jeep. All dressed & ready for afternoon in Alexandria but it was cancelled for a wireless scheme. 'Show' in evening.

    Saturday 19th. August 1944
    In Alex on day leave. Visited Jewish Club for dinner. Film in the afternoon, drinks in the evening with three U.S.A. Merchant Marine chaps. My companion for the day, Bob Dunne.

    On 24 Aug orders arrived for the loading of guns and vehicles, to assemble at Amiriya on the 26th. On 25 Aug the regt moved to the Ikingi Staging
    area. Loading of guns and vehicles began

    Thursday 24th. August 1944
    Painting truck all day, in the evening all Regiment confined to camp.General flap, tent walls down, trucks loaded. Parcel also arrived & though I'm packed it's still very welcome.

    Friday 25th. August 1944
    Drove Colonel Mathews around in the jeep all day. Moved from No.1 A.A. Training Camp to Ikingi area, will be moving on boat tomorrow. Kit nearly all packed and petrol drained.

    Saturday 26th. August 1944
    Left camp at 0700 on Div. convoy, drivers only, to about half a mile away where we are on five minutes notice to move. In evening tried to see Jack.

    on 27 Aug. Leave parties to Alexandria were allowed. 42 LAA Regt loaned 6 guns to the regt for training purposes. The regt was on the 36-gun organisation and the strength was 41 officers and 558 ORs plus REME and R Signals.

    Sunday 27th. August 1944
    At 1530 left area and drove to vehicle line-up point by dockside. Not allowed into Alex itself. Went down to the beach with Stan Clark & Firpo. No bon!

    Monday 28th. August 1944
    Left transit area at 1.30 & drove half a mile onto quayside. My ship is "Homer Lee" a Yankee merchantman. Met Merry of Philadelphia who I'd drunk with in Alex. Our truck is aboard.

    Tuesday 29th. August 1944
    Taken from docks to 158 Transit Camp to await the complete loading of ship. Phoned No.2 Sub Depot but Jack is in dock. Foiled again! Spent evening in camp.

    Wednesday 30th. August 1944
    Day in camp. Missed fatigue party in morning & consequently had an easy day. Swimming at 5 oclock with Nobby Clark & Jimmy Mason. NAAFI in evening & packing for morning.

    Thursday 31st. August 1944
    Reveille at 4 am but not on "Homer Lee" until 10 am. It was
    outstream so we had to be taken out by 'lighter'. My 'cabin' is under an awning on No.4 Hatch, port side. Slept well.

    31/8/44 T.O.S. Middle East Forces to A.A.1
  3. spidge


    Oh Ron,

    South of Pago Pago would have been an illusion compared to the desert but I bet Frances Farmer wasn't!
  4. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    Found the attached tucked away in Dads AB 64 - a quick google for more info and the first result brought me here (Ron Goldstien's post), small world eh? :)

    Attached Files:

  5. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Found the attached tucked away in Dads AB 64 - a quick google for more info and the first result brought me here (Ron Goldstien's post), small world eh? :smile:

    Ain't it ? :)

    Never seen a copy of that card before so thanks for that !

  6. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member


    Never seen a copy of that card before so thanks for that !


    If you want a bigger resolution scan, in colour , just ask.:)

Share This Page