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U3A Writing: A Thirsty Story

Was it red wine that resulted in a North African victory? Norman Pringle tells a wartime tale.

Some years ago, my wife and I spent a fortnight's holiday in Tunisia, staying near Hammamet, a peaceful fishing port.

One day we walked to the town to discover the shops, tours and places of interest. We were talking to one shopkeeper and I remember recounting to him an event which occurred towards the end of the Tunisian Campaign in 1943 when I was serving in an anti-tank regiment of the First Army.

Towards the end of the campaign the German troops, then in retreat, had polluted many of the wells. The regimental water truck had not been able to reach our troop for some days and since the local wells were polluted, we were becoming desperate for water with the heat making everyone dehydrated. In consequence a number of our gunners evinced much thirst. Things were indeed desperate!

Alongside our troop was a French Senegalese Infantry Unit under the command of a French officer. I observed that his unit appeared to have a quantity of red Algerian wine. I spoke: J'ai dit - Monsieur le Capitaine, je vois que vous avez une quantite du vin rouge Algerien. ( I see that you have a quantity of red Algerian wine). J'ai recu une bouteille de whisky et une bouteille du gin. (I have received a bottle of whisky and one of gin), Est-ce que possible de changer les deux bouteilles de whisky et gin pour une quantite de votre vin rouge? (Is it possible to change my two bottles of whisky and gin for a quantity of your red wine?) Mais certainement il m'a dit - beaucoup, beaucoup du vin. (Certainly, he said, much much red wine).

We then exchanged the whisky and gin for the red wine. Needless to say we all consumed the wine with much pleasure, quenching our thirst and becoming somewhat merry!

When the campaign terminated near Tunisia, I met up with the French Officer once more and expressed my thanks for his generosity saying - Monsieur le Capitaine nous avons gagne la guerre avec le vin rouge Algerian. (We have won the war with the Algerian red wine!).

He replied smiling - c'est vrai. Vive l'entente cordiale.


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