Medloc: troopship to Alexandria then on to Palestine

"After embarkation leave we returned to Victoria Barracks, Portsmouth where we had our TAB jabs and were kitted out with thick underwear as well as topees. We wondered if we would be off to Finland then being invaded by Russian troops, or to the tropics.

On March 14, 1940, the draft marched smartly out of the barracks in full kit, with topees slung on the left shoulder, the Regimental Band playing the Corps March; we boarded a train and completed the journey at Reed Hall Barracks, Colchester.

The draft left Colchester on March 29, (after learning that our destination was the Middle East) by train to Southampton and the ferry Archangel to Le Havre. We were confined to the Le Havre railway station for the day. The posters on display told us to 'Keep your mouth shut and your bowels open.' After a lengthy train journey through another sleepless night we were in Marseilles and on to the troopship Devonshire. Hammocks were issued and with them came the necessary skill of getting into them for the night.

The ship anchored off Valetta Harbour, Malta and was soon surrounded by little boats with local vendors selling their wares. The morning of April 6 found us at Alexandria, our first sight of the Middle East. From the railway station the Palestine contingent was on its way to the Suez Canal.

After crossing the Suez Canal at Kantara by ferry we entrained on Palestine Railways for the long journey through the night. Sleep was almost impossible on the hard wooden slatted seats and we had our first glimpse of the Holy Land in the early morning as we travelled through orange groves. Before reaching Lydda Station an officer boarded the train to give us a lecture on the care of one's rifle and the penalty should it be stolen.

Typical destination
Photo: Leif Thomsen

Our party was the first 'duration of the war' squaddies to reach the camp and our address became 'Details RAOC Sarafand'. As we debussed and formed up, a window of one of the adjacent huts opened and a regular called out, 'What do you lot want?' Some greeting!"

Contribution by Howard Allen to 'Forgotten Conscripts', Eric Lowe