War story 1943 chapter 3
The ship from Egypt arrives back in South Africa
Arriving back home.in Durban
As we sailed into Durban harbour, or rather as the converted troop carrier was guided in by the tug-boats, the past few weeks along the African East Coast seemed like a dream. Or rather it was a nightmare? The nursing staff and doctors had been in short supply and so I had been on a lightning nursing course that was both theoretical and practical. On second thoughts though, perhaps more practical than theoretical, with the occasional tit bit of theory thrown in. You learn to look after wounded men in a hurry when the trained staff is too busy with emergency situations to take care of routine things.
The troop carrier was transporting mainly wounded soldiers, but also a few soldiers and officers, returning home to new postings on what was known as “the home front”. Every one pitched in to help as we passed through these troubled waters. The sirens that sounded to warn us that an enemy ship had been sighted or reported nearby, joined the cries of the wounded, some whom would not make it home to see the loved ones who were praying for them. Communication was slow at the best of times, but this was not the best of times, and so news, when it eventually came, was unfortunately seldom good news.
Much to our dismay we had heard that members of the “Ossewa Brandwag” had been blowing up railway lines in South Africa to stop trains from transporting soldiers to the harbours for postings to North Africa and Europe. These right wing radicals were sympathetic to the Germans and were attempting to prevent our country from sending support to the allies. This was hard for me to believe, but at the same time enough news was trickling through that we realized it must be true.
Dad who had recently retired as head of the South African Railway Police, had been called back into the Police Force, and so I realized that he would be at the centre of leading the so called “home front” defenses. Hardly a moment passed that my mind could be at rest. So many conflicting thoughts invaded my waking moments and even penetrated my sleeping ones. Often it was not the calls of the wounded that woke me, but my own despairing calls for help. At time I also had to wake up and move across the narrow cabin to comfort Irene, who was often having her own troubled nightmares.
My mind was filled with thoughts of Mom looking after the farm with the help of the loyal farm workers, Helen and Boet’s young marriage, tested by the loss of their first born and Boet being sympathetic to the Germans. My baby sister Jessie, also signing up with the forces, but I have not heard where she has been posted. This was a time of digging deep into my soul, testing my faith and trusting on the God that I believed in, but sometimes finding it hard to fit everything together.
The train journey from Durban to Germiston and then on to Pretoria, lay ahead. Would there be anyone to meet me at the harbor or at the station in Pretoria? What will I find when I arrive home in Pretoria? What news would there be from the battle front in Europe and in North Africa? My husband somewhere in the burning sand of North Africa, transporting goods and men as they oppose the German tanks, aircraft and troops. Will he be returning safely when this horror ends or will he be following me in a ship bringing the wounded back? God forbid that scenario but better that then the most feared letter all families with loved ones in the front feared. "We are sorry to inform you that a loved one had been killed".
My restless mind seems to be all over the place. The joy at he new life growing in my womb. The prospect of seeing my family at home. My concern for the people I have got to know here on the troop ship. My husband so far away in distance, yet so near in spirit. Help me!
Please let it all be good news if I receive any news at all! Is that too much to hope for? In war time one learns to pray! Lord please answer my prayers!