The sergeant instructor did not look very pleased. He took us back
to his barracks where we both had to give a full report. The officer
who had been with us started to hint that Tubby might be faced with
a charge of neglect. I thought it had gone far enough. "Excuse me,
sir. Signal Boynton was entirely under the control of the sergeant
at the time. Besides, I think the place where the tuition took place
was asking for trouble". With a grunted "I want no comments from
you", we were dismissed. The incident died the death.
Poona was like most Indian cities. It was crammed with natives,
stalls and shops. The noise, as usual, was terrific. After a few
days it was up sticks and off back to Bandra. The atmosphere was
slowly changing. Small clouds were now visiting what was usually
a hot, blue sky. No rain was produced. It seemed as if the monsoon
On the Saturday of the week in which these weather disturbances
had started, the lads prepared themselves for a foray into Bombay.
They were dressed in their sailor whites. We had already been prohibited
from wearing our sailor hats with khakis and were now provided with
Australian bush hats to be worn instead. The wearing of sailor shorts
was also prohibited after dark because of the danger of malaria.
Tubby and I watched them fall in, be inspected and then, after
being dismissed, stream off down the road to Bandra Station. He
and I had been delegated as camp guards and were confined to barracks.
I had watched the vultures coming to and fro on the palms with their
usual squabbling. As the wind was blowing from due south I decided
to have a walk up to the top of the spine.
As I got nearer to the top a terrible stink arose, and when I got
to the top I saw the reason why. A huge wall of blackness was advancing
from the city. Nine months of filth was about to engulf us.
I raced down to the tent shouting "Tubby!". Together the two of
us stood outside the tent and tried not to breathe the stuff. Eventually
it drained away and we looked at each other. We looked like deep
black natives. Tubby said, "I'm going for a bath". I told him to
wait a while, I'd noticed that the tent, which had been wobbly before,
was now worse. I then told Tubby I was going for a big wooden tent
hammer which I had seen up beside the dining hall.
I soon arrived back with it and started to try and drive the tent
pegs in deeper. It was like trying to drive them into steel. The
ground was packed hard after nine months of sun. I stopped and decided
to walk back up to the top of the ridge. The wind was still blowing
as hard. The lights of Bombay were now clear and it seemed as if
the trouble was over. I was no India Hand, but I still had a feeling
As I was standing thinking, the lights of Bombay suddenly disappeared
like a curtain drawn down at a theatre. I sensed instantly what
it was; a curtain of rain was advancing. Rushing down the hill once
again I yelled out for Tubby. He was alert at once. Then with a
roar the rain was upon us. It was like nothing I had ever heard
Soon water began streaming down the hill and a fine spray began
drifting through the tent. We stood inside the tent in the light
of one oil lamp and watched it start to sag. For a nightmare three
hours we struggled with it, but we at least managed to hold it up.
All around us tents were collapsing and when our mates started
to arrive back the camp was completely flattened. Ours was the only
tent standing. All their whites were soaked and filthy. Eventually
they had to kip in the dining hall together with other stragglers.
The sun didn't rise, but daylight broke. Our tent mates had a least
managed to hang up their whites, but the rest had to sleep in them
or manage to borrow a blanket. After an almighty struggle the tents
were erected and then the sorry business of sorting things out began.
At 9 a.m. all hands had to fall in on the parade ground - things
had to be "as usual".
The only thing I really remember about that morning was the fact
that the officer in charge announced that the invasion of North
Africa had begun. The statement was greeted with cheers. At last
the tents were all upright, but then another great disaster was
discovered. Some of the sailors had been eagerly buying big, green
cases ashore such as were issued to Chiefs and POs.
In The disturbance it was discovered that most of the clothing
that they contained had been spoiled or eaten by white ants.