chapter  2
14 Pages

Base Wallah

In the aftermath of the battle the shattered remnants of the 24th Armoured Brigade were withdrawn to the dreariest of bases – a scruffy bathing beach on the outskirts of Alexandria – and there they quickly resumed the normal base-camp routine. All their equipment was stripped from them so that they became merely so many tired and disgruntled men, standing around under the dirty palm trees or lounging in their tents waiting to be assigned the most menial of duties. Reed relinquished his role as liaison officer and the scout car was requisitioned for an operational unit. ‘The fighting spirit which three weeks before had transformed our gang of Oldham garage hands into a band of dauntless crusaders withered almost overnight’, he wrote sadly. ‘The only just reward of battle, the excitement of the chase, the gaining of booty and the sight of new lands, has been snatched from us.’ The War seemed so remote that it was difficult to believe that the brigade’s violent initiation had ever occurred at all. There was nothing whatever to do but swat flies and take aimless walks by the sea, and pour money into the overpriced bars and clubs of Alexandria.1