The soldiers were at the mercy of the British government to provide the necessary ships to return them to their homeland where they belonged. In the meantime they made the best of a bad situation and cheered up their lives as best they could.
One weekend the four friends decided to go into town, but realized that they
didn’t have enough money, however they had plenty of blankets, but no
transportation to smuggle them out of the garrison. One ingenious individual
who shall remain nameless, suggested wrapping a blanket around Scouse’s
body, which would be covered by his loose drape suite, which was fashionable
at the time. Scouse stripped to his skivvies and the blanket was wrapped around
his body as tightly as possible, followed by his shirt, pants and jacket. The
result was that he looked like a man with a blanket under his suite! Everyone
then agreed that the guards paid little attention to British pedestrians going
through the gate, so Scouse walked with one soldiers either side of him and
one closely in front and successfully passed through the gate undetected. The
trick now was to undress Scouse in the town and transact business! Imagination
has no bounds in the world of blankets and they negotiated with a street vendor
who sold suitcases and could identify the merchandise under the suit. One of
the soldiers remained as collateral and the others carried a suitcase to a deserted
street where Scouse disrobed and placed the blanket into the case. Returning,
they collected their money and headed for Stella. Beer that is!
This is all very nice, but what has it do with Germans, you might ask? No, it’s not misleading advertising. Believe it or not there were Germans still in Egypt when the soldier landed in 1948 and he was very surprised to see these fine specimens of Arian decent strutting about the highways and byways of the sandy terrain. Fortunately they were no longer combative and instead they were gainfully employed making and selling things like beautiful cigarette lighters and cigarette cases, which they produced from aluminum mess tins. These men were either captured during the war in North Africa or interned at the end of the war and were considered ex prisoners awaiting transportation home since 1945. Ships were in short supply, but by the end of 1948 they were all gone.
On one occasion some of the squaddies were invited to a German camp, which no longer exhibited objectionable adornments like barbed wire, for a drinking sing along, which the Germans love. It was held under a large tent with maybe 25 non-English speaking Germans and an equal amount of non-German speaking squaddies. The proceedings started out in the normal formal way and finished on the same note.
However it must be said that efforts were made on both sides to overcome the
language barrier with signs and body language, which produced both laughter
and consternation. Finger signs like thumbs up and thumbs down are universal
and do not require explanation and of course some of the squaddies went overboard
after a few Stellas and the vertical finger became prevalent.
The hosts who enjoyed singing, particularly liked Wermacht marching music and the guests preferred old English WW11 songs, so the two sides took it in turn with the Germans singing things like Horst Wessel Lied and the squaddies singing classics like My old Man’s a Sergeant and the army version of Colonel Bogey. Memorable – yes. Enjoyable - ???
Arriving at one of the mobile bakeries in the desert, he was alerted to the fact that the Germans had just vacated a camp next door. A corporal at the bakery asked him if he wanted any tools, because there was a large workshop filled with equipment, which didn’t belong to anyone. “Nothing is on the official inventory list,” the corporal advised and the two men drove over to the workshop, examined the booty and found almost everything necessary to repair vehicles in addition to other equipment. “Can you make use of any of it?” the corporal asked. “ I’d like to SELL it,” he replied, rubbing his hands in anticipation.
The two men went into a huddle and he explained to the corporal that his expertise was actually in blankets, but no doubt tools could also be merchandised, so what he suggested was basically a test marketing campaign with a couple of pieces and if successful, clean out the whole workshop. He went on to explain that the centers of commerce in the desert are the railroad intersections where vehicles are obliged to slow down. At these convenient locations middlemen congregate and wave currency at passing drivers as an indication of their desire to conduct business. He mentioned that he would be passing railroad crossings on his way back to the garrison and the corporal agreed to enter into an informal partnership with him as a tool distributor. They placed the carefully selected test samples, in the form of a petrol generator and two new carburetors on the truck and departed.
Arriving at the first RR crossing one of his regular customers jumped on the running board of the truck expecting to transact business in blankets. After allowing the middleman to view the merchandise, he was directed to drive off the road into the desert and after a couple of miles was beckoned to stop. He was curious to know why they were stopping where they were, because there was nothing there - no buildings, no vegetation - only sand. In the rearview mirror he noticed three Arabs approaching from behind, so he got out of the vehicle to great them. The first one was a tall imposing man in long splendid colorful flowing garments and the other two were obviously assistants wearing the traditional long white night shirts and little round hats.
These gentlemen had their own way of conducting business, which was a little different from the West and somewhat unique. At the same time as he was shaking hands with the imposing one, the other two removed the generator from the vehicle without saying a word. The imposing one reached into his immaculate garments and produced the largest wallet he had ever seen, which was at the end of a long chain.
A carefully selected five-pound note was handed it him, which jolted his memory
of the carburetors in the toolbox, which he handed them over. Again the large
wallet surfaced and two pounds were dispensed - without verbiage.
Eager to arrange the disposal of the remaining contents of the workshop, but hampered by the customer’s lack of communication, he talked to the imposing one in a loud deliberate voice in the way some people talk to the elderly, irrespective of a hearing problem. “ Bring - a - hundred - pounds - tomorrow - and - I - will - have - the - truck - loaded - with - tools, he annunciated. The imposing one nodded and they departed. The whole thing was over in less than 5 minutes and anyone saying that New York is the fastest place to test market products has obviously never been to Egypt!
If you have been paying attention, you should now be asking where the three Arabs came from in the desert, considering that there were no buildings to house them, no bushes for them to hide behind, no trees for them to climb and no vehicles. They had to arrive either from the sky or from underground. It’s not difficult to imagine the imposing one on a magic carpet flying around the desert, but no floor coverings were observed. No aircraft landed and the dust from helicopters would have sent the imposing one scurrying to the dry cleaners. They must have immerged from unimaginable underground quarters, considering the splendor of the imposing one. Either that or the Baskervillians without a benefactor were practicing new magic tricks in the desert.
On returning to the garrison after being humbled by the grandeur of the imposing one, he decided that he needed more suitable attire in keeping with his elevated position in commerce and ordered a new pair of tailor made pants and a pair of shoes.
His guard duty that night involved sleeping in the OC’s office to protect the company safe – Yes, it sounds like the fox guarding the hen house, but it is all the truth your honor. During the evening he received a phone call from the corporal in the desert informing him that one of the civilian workers reported seeing them take stuff from the workshop. The two partners planned their alibi and returned to what ever they were doing.
Early the following morning his truck was searched and he was ordered to report
to the OC’s tent. Major Smith who was known affectionately as the Old
Man, was a real gentleman of the old school, complete with a white mustache
and white hair and lived in a tent next to the company office surrounded by
small palm trees and fruit bushes. It was exceptionally rare in those days to
talk to an officer unofficially and he was surprised to be conversing with the
Old Man in his tent. Although he had never spoken to the old man previously,
he knew that he was aware of his existence, because of his performance on cricket
team, which the Old Man supported enthusiastically. “Someone reported
seeing you taking stuff from a workshop in Te El Kabir,” the old man said,
“what do you have to say about it?” He recited the prepared speech,
which was basically that he went over to the workshop with the corporal, because
he had a flat tire and didn’t have a tire pressure gauge. They moved stuff
around until they found a gauge and departed.
“Did you remove anything,” asked the old man. “Yes, I removed the gauge” he replied, realizing that they wouldn’t hang him for stealing a gauge and hoping that the admission added credibility to his story.
“Why would you think the witness reported seeing you lift something onto the truck,” asked the OC? “I can only assume that he saw us moving things around, climbing in and out of the vehicle and misunderstood the situation. Perhaps he put two and two together and made five,” he concluded. Before leaving he felt he had the Old Man snowed and although he didn’t like misleading the elderly gentleman, self-preservation prevailed.
Two hours later the corporal and the civilian witness arrived from the desert and the formal proceedings began. CSM Akins, who was a fine upstanding young man, marched him in first followed by the civilian witness who was a Cypriot and was accompanied by an interpreter, because he couldn’t speak English. The interpreter re-laid the accusation and the Old Man questioned the accuser with vigor. The two Cypriots were no match for the Old Man’s cross-examination and their nervousness detracted from their credibility. The corporal’s contrived testimony was naturally supportive and the case was dismissed. The Old man’s carefully selected words to him before he was marched out of the office conveyed the message that he was not totally convinced either way and bestowing upon him the benefit of the doubt - A true officer and a gentleman!
The fact that the equipment at the workshop wasn’t on the official inventory was never mentioned and he will never know if the imposing Arab with the multicolored garments showed up with the hundred quid.
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