Monday, May 25, 2009

Catherine Mair & Patricia Prime: DESERT CAMP

When my uncle sailed on the Rangitata with the first echelon for Egypt, he left his farm in my parents' care. Their first task was to build a cottage for sharemilkers. Wick and Betty were a fine Maori couple with four children of similar age to us. We used to love going down to the tiny cottage to watch Betty groom her girls' hair. How we admired those bouncy, black ringlets.

in the porch
a milk billy
hung from a nail

The young man wrote home about his experiences of the wartime camp in the Egyptian desert. He described the dirt tracks beside which huts were erected, wells dug, and the transient army camp which grew into a city like no other. He told us the Maadi camp sported cinemas, bars, canteens, chapels, libraries, sports fields, a swimming pool - even an ice cream and meat pie factory.

in his photo
soldiers in 'lemon squeezers'
beside the Sphinx

He wrote in a postcard, "The ramshackle cinema, named Thomas Shafto, near the entrance to the camp, is the first building we see on our return to Maadi from the Western Desert."

veteran's parade . . .
one less companion
to greet

*lemon squeezer—nickname given to the Kiwi soldier's pointed hat.

by Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime
Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
and Auckland, New Zealand

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