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To War With The Bays: 40 - On The Farm

...No. 4 Troop still had their pig which had now grown considerably and they made a sty for it. Killer Wyatt was put in charge of it and took it for a daily walk. He guided it with a long stick. You could tell the pig liked him, it was like a faithful dog as it trotted alongside him, and I think Killer felt a certain affection for it..

Jack Merewood's tank squadron - after bitter fighting in the North African desert - is temporarily based on a farm some twenty miles from Algiers.

To read earlier chapters of Jack's wartime experiences please click on To War With The Bays in the menu on this page.

Our squadron were taken by lorries to a farm near a small town called Chebli, about twenty miles from Algiers, and we were billeted in some of the farm buildings. Other squadrons were spread around in various farms in the same area. Ronnie, in 'HQ', was six or seven miles away.

The owners of the farm, a French family by the name of Greco, lived in a big house beside the main road. Across the road was a dirt drive which ran through a citrus orchard for about 300 yards, then through an opening in a big wall into the farmyard.

On the right-hand side were stables, next to them the saddler's workshop and next door was a big, square room which was to be the billet for our troop. We gave it a good spring clean, scrubbed the stone floor, then arranged our beds in there.

Some army electricians arrived, and soon we had electric lights. There was a fireplace inside and, just around the corner outside, a water tap. Back to back with us and the stables was a huge barn, and the cookhouse settled in one end of it. We were provided with benches and trestle tables, so we ate in the barn. At night it served as a recreation room.

It was a working farm, horses in the stables, and cattle, sheep, and poultry in the fields all around. No. 4 Troop still had their pig which had now grown considerably and they made a sty for it. Killer Wyatt was put in charge of it and took it for a daily walk. He guided it with a long stick. You could tell the pig liked him, it was like a faithful dog as it trotted alongside him, and I think Killer felt a certain affection for it.

He himself looked anything but a killer: he was much older than most of us, a small man with big features, very much like a gnome. All the same, he was a pretty tough customer. He used to do all the odd (and dirty) jobs but didn't seem to mind. Indeed he was very conscientious.

The foreman who ran the farm was a Spaniard, a small, swarthy, rough-looking man with a wife to match. Their name was Ferrando and they had three children a boy, Jean-Claude, aged eight, and two girls, Marie, fourteen, and Suzanne, sixteen. They lived next door to us. Their house was separated from our room by a broad track which went out of the stable yard and into the fields.

All the workmen were Arabs, and M. Ferrando, besides his native Spanish, spoke fluent French and Arabic. In fact all the Arab workmen were fluent in French, which helped a lot. I was often called upon to act as interpreter.

I developed a boil on my finger but didn't want to go sick, so Stan dressed it for me. I then got desert sores on my arm and knee and was forced to see the M.O. as they were very painful. I wasn't the only one to get these desert sores, which were something like an open boil, probably caused by the way we lived and ate.

I had to go sick regularly to have the sores dressed, and this meant going over to 'HQ' as the M.O. was there. It was a nuisance, but as Ronnie was at 'HQ' we saw each other a few times.

Stan was a kind and thoughtful young man, very easy to get on with, and on Sunday morning, because I was feeling off colour, he brought me some tea in bed. After about a week going sick the sores began to get better and the M.O. gave me M.& D. for which I was very glad.

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