At this point in time Frankie had no idea where Jack had been posted as the information was censored. The trip by sea to Ismailia took 6 weeks.
(December 9/10 – British began a western desert offensive in North Africa against the Italians.)
12/12/40 The news from Egypt is by far the most exciting thing that has happened. It puts an entirely new complexion on things. I am beginning to wonder how the whole thing will affect you. You see you got your orders a month before the Greek thing started and things have changed so immensely since then, what with suggestions that Italy is cracking and so on.
I have a spent a fairly happy day and did some more muck-spreading. It is immensely hard work and I ache with fatigue. I rather like the idea that I shall get so fit because I always feel, with a war on, you never know when you may have some awful endurance test thrust on you like walking 20 miles with Thomas on your back and Rose under one arm.
We are getting about 20 eggs a day now which means we supply ourselves and one dozen to the Carlings and sell nearly 8 dozen a week as well. I am taking a dozen a week to Aunt Isy and when we have more than 2 dozen the Guest House get 4 doz, Mrs Higley 1 ½ and Highman 1 or 2. It is really awful fun because eggs are absolutely and entirely unprocurable for the ordinary person now and everyone is so pleased when we take them some.
A good many things are short now. No fruit at all except the remains of the English apples; oranges, which are supposed to be still there have not been seen in this district for 2 or 3 weeks; great difficulty in getting toilet paper and soap. No wire, timber or concrete except by special licence which takes weeks and weeks; no silk stockings and very little make-up.
No one minds — it makes us feel we are getting on a bit. It also makes everything we produce i.e. eggs, milk, wheat inordinately satisfying. Our wheat looks good but we are worried about the beans. There is a very hard frost at the moment. I do love it. I don’t notice scenery or lovely views very much and I am not one of those people who get pure joy out of the countryside. But I do adore the feeling of the country particularly when I am taking hard physical exercise. I expect you’d like a nice frosty day occasionally too — or perhaps by the time you get this you will really be in Iceland or the Grecian mountains and longing for a little warmth.
21/12/40 Peter was very gloomy. He has got a battery made up partly of men from Chester, partly of men from other batteries and partly of new recruits. He says they are the dregs of the earth. Many of them can’t read or write properly, a good many have v.d., they desert in hundreds, not permanently but for 2 or 3 days at a time, which means an appalling lot of trouble hauling them back and confining them to barracks. And they all cry all the time. He says he has even two officers who cry and out of the whole lot of his officers only Nitty (Anthony Mildmay) and one other are any good at all. He swears there is nothing unusual about this battery. He says all the later ones are like this.
Jack arrives in ?Ismailia at New Year 1941
3/1/41 Well, my love, here I am in the second best hotel permanently attached to MC GHQ.
12/1/41 I’ve had a break at last. I’m being whisked off to-morrow to some 100 miles east of here to try and sort out a deal with a railway congestion.
15/1/41 New address — Canal Base Area Middle East I spent the last 2 1/2 days driving round and looking at this area. I’m sent down here as DADTN Canal Area (for a month) and it presents some quite amusing railway problems, and quite difficult ones too.’
19.1.41 Do you remember I told you I had met a girl through Lady Stapledon who, I thought, would be an excellent governess for the children? Yesterday I engaged her full-time at £100 a year on the understanding that she would not be too conscientious about her work as I did not want the children looked after all the time but preferred them to play in the village a good deal.
FD: “22.1.41 The big news today is the fall of Tobruk, which is very exciting. (January 22, 1941 – Tobruk in North Africa falls to the British and Australians.). I keep wondering about you & whether it is exciting for you. I know you are not near there but it must be rather fun being with that army.
27/1/41 The belief in invasion grows and grows. George (George Martelli) says it is partly British propaganda, to make people believe it is what the Germans want to do and if they don’t we can say ‘Yah! You couldn’t do it’. He says British propaganda is terrific now and all news must be read in the light of it.
In the last week 2 people have said to me “So Jack is really part of the great army of the Nile”. And I have said Yes with great pride and satisfaction, temporarily forgetting what it costs. I long to hear about it.