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In April 1942 Jim expressed his thoughts in a letter home rather more feelingly than usual.

Western Desert, 1 April 1942

“You married an awkward sort of bloke woman mine. I wonder if I’m being unfair to you sometimes, have been unfair. It would have been so easy to stay at home – others have done it – I could have done it. Out here it is possible to wangle back to comparative safety and comfort – it is being done and yet I don’t do it. Why? I honestly don’t know the answer myself. I don’t even know what I’m fighting for – at least I can’t see it clearly – I’ve just a vague intangible something to protect – something which we wouldn’t miss till it was gone.”

“I’m afraid you will never hear me on Sandy’s programme – I’m no Base Barnacle and many hundreds of miles away from Cairo. They would certainly never release a man from a Fighting Unit to journey four days to say a few words into a microphone.”

Sandy MacPherson was a theatre organist who made frequent broadcasts on the BBC including programmes of dedications and song requests.

“I wouldn’t refuse a soft job if it was offered – not now – but I’m afraid I’ll never try to wangle one – so my chances are as small as to be of no account at all. It’s the same with most of the blokes out here – truly a funny business. As it happens my dose of dysentery did me a good turn last year. It meant that I missed the first few days of the offensive which were far and away the worst of the lot…”

“The monotony of this life has to be experienced to be believed – the fact that Hell may break loose at any moment of the day or night does nothing to dispel it – it makes it worse if anything because the nerves never really rest at all…”

“… the war is two and a half years old now – in five months it will enter its fourth year and I think its last year…”

“Many times before and since I’d thought my last moments had come but here I am – here we both are. I wonder how many more ‘last moments’ are in store for us before the ‘Cease Fire’ finally sounds?”

“As I sit in this lorry and look out over the desert dotted here and there with vehicles such as my own I cannot see a living soul – and yet they are there… What do they think about, dream about? – they never say but I suppose they think the same as me. Occasionally it comes out – ‘Christ! am I cheesed off!’ and yet he’ll go on and on and on with a sullen doggedness till the other fellow cracks.”

“… They all dislike each other the Dominion Troops but the pasty-faced undersized Tommy is popular with them all…”

“… I’m just sitting idly philosophising as the wind rocks the lorry ceaselessly. The moon is full – I wonder how many more moons…?”


Jim then went on to list the books he had been reading: “Portrait of a Village” by Brett Young, “This is My Life” by Vernon Bartlett, “Our Mr Dormer” by R. H. Mottram and “I Claudius” (Vol. 2) by R. Graves. In the last of these he found parallels with the modern world.

“… the injustice, graft, political wangling, favouritism, class distinction, fears, hopes, vanities, etc…”

“… the soldier then as now did all the dirty work and got his pants kicked for it in the end – if he survived.”

After commenting on life back in Liverpool Jim concluded with some possible opening lines to a poem he was considering writing based on “my own personal observations of the gentleman.”

“My name-a? Guiseppe Ansaldo Capucci
Da Sixth Regiment of-a da line-a
I tella you lota please meestaire no hurta me?
I geeva no trouble. That’s-a fine-a!"


Knightsbridge April 1942

Jim seemed more cheerful in the next few letters. Perhaps because Fred had received some much overdue mail and that gave Jim hope of a delivery for himself. Cards from Pip dated March 21st and an Air Mail letter dated Feb 12th finally arrived in mid-April.


Another photograph stamped as "passed by the censor". On the reverse Jim wrote:

"Pip, With all my love. Jim. Knightsbridge April '42"

In a different ink has been added, presumably later:

"about 50 miles S.W. of Tobruk"

I doubt if the censor would have allowed that information to be included when it was originally sent home.




Western Desert, 9 April 1942

“Last night I was on Guard – a thing which now occurs with appalling frequency – and stood outside the tent listening – as a detached ‘spectator’ to the idle chatter within… Do we ever take anything really seriously – except beer and football?”

“Four days ago I had a shower – a real one from the hose on the water truck. We that is to say the lorry was out looking at Wells in the neighbourhood and succeeded in finding one with water in it – dirty water but still water – and after filling some 50 gall drums I had- as I say a shower. You cannot imagine what it was like after months of washing in a teacup…”

Western Desert, 11 April 1942

“Well sweetheart firstly some local colour – the desert is beginning to dazzle-dizzle like the air above a charcoal brazier – it will keep that up for months. Two days ago I saw my first pseudo-mirage. I expect it was a real one actually – is there such a thing as a real mirage? Anyway I saw the sea, smooth, blue, cool-looking, very inviting but of course it was only sand.”

“Today there is scarcely wind enough to move the flag at the back of the lorry. Everything is as silent as a grave in the glare. Occasionally a gun goes off. Lord knows why – practice I expect. Tearing along the horizon is a lorry leaving a wake of thick dust – it is too far away for me to hear its engine. Farther over still is a small sand-spout – a lovely example really, thin,tall and compact – with a bulbous head – it is moving northwards fairly rapidly thinning as it crosses scrub or rock then suddenly becoming denser as it strikes a patch of dust which it can whirl into the air.”

“The flies are increasing slowly in numbers but have not yet attained the stage of alighting on every spoonful of food as it moves to one’s mouth. More bangs – anyone would think there was a war on or something.”

“Frederick spent most of the morning peeling spuds at the Cookhouse – it must be the first work he has done in months.”

Jim must have taken over a new lorry or had the engine replaced in the old one because he wrote:

“It starts every time one tries to start it, runs until one deliberately stops it, does not drink 1 gall of oil every 20 miles, has no leaks that I can discover and in fact behaves much as CKC used to do…”

CKC 754 was the Austin seen here in Summer 1937 in Grassendale with Jim at the wheel. Were the flags on the bonnet to celebrate the Coronation of George VI on 12 May? Jim was concerned that the car should be fit for use after the war.

Jim Taylor and CKC 754

“I hope to resuscitate old CKC some day. How about a motoring holiday in N. Africa? Ha ha – I don’t think.”

Jim concluded his letter with another poem:

“I rather think I’d like to be
A Gunner in a Battery
Of Ack oblique stroke Ack
And bang away with might and main
At every cheeky aeroplane
That DARED to cross my track

But THEY say that it’s not much fun
To stand or sit behind a gun
And listen to its bellow
It wouldn’t be so bad they say
If they by chance once in a way
Could really hit the fellow!"

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