Christmas in the Med


My second Christmas away from home was in 1949. The first had been when I was evacuated in September 1939. In 1949 I had completed National Service basic and trade training in the Royal Engineers and on Christmas Day was on the troopship Empire Halladale on a non-stop run from Liverpool to Port Said. We had passed Gibraltar during the night and were now well into the Med. Being Christmas Day we were excused duties, except for a morning roll call parade. I found it rather incongruous that we had roll calls at all as there was no escape except to jump overboard.

After that we were free to do what we liked – which wasn’t very much. Our dinner was served to us by officers and senior NCOs, as was the tradition in the forces. And in the afternoon we had a break from playing cards to listen to the King’s Christmas Day Speech after which we were issued with two bottles of beer and a packet of fags each. As I didn’t smoke I swapped my fags for more beer. All in all, a most unusual Christmas Day for an 18 year old.

Norman Backhouse
West Yorkshire