Sergeant Noel Matthews, 1/5th Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment, remembers the gruelling conditions in the North African desert.
Norman Matthews
Sergeant Noel Matthews

It was whilst we were there we were on this ridge, to the best of my knowledge, and you could hardly dig in because you tend to think the desert is sand but it is ruddy rock and you can’t get through it sometimes. All you did was you made a little hole. The other problems you had were flies. You could not pick up anything. If you tried to drink a cup of tea you placed your hands tight around the cup but still you got a mouthful of flies and had to spit them out. Needless to say a lot of dysentery. Chaps went down quite easily and there were masses on the tracks, of course you did not have any roads, just tracks, and because of the amount of vehicles that used them, very fine dust. So anything going along you created this great big dust. These signs with 'Kill that fly or it may kill you' and all this sort of thing. Your units were marked off, I assume by a military police or by CMPs with a sign which said 45th Div and then it said 5th Queen's or something like that. That is how they got around it. The big snag was when we first went up to the desert was you put a sentry out, you went out as a sentry at nighttime and then when you came to look for the bloke to relieve you, you could not find him because it was so ruddy dark because you do not realise there is nothing to show, nothing to tell you anywhere, literally there is a wide open space and that is it. I always remember reading an account of the person who was our intelligence officer, quite a lad, we had several encounters with Derek, after the war and all the rest of it, and he went down one night to relieve himself and he came back and ended up in the tent of the A Company commander. Barged his way in thinking it was his tent. Sort of thing that would happen to Derek, happen to anyone. Literally, it was so pitch black at night time, when there was no moon there was nothing at all and we took over from a brigade of 37 something and they made no attempt to, as far a urinals what we used to do was if we wanted to do a crap we used to dig a hole and then fill it again. With our cars our petrol used to come up in flimsies and you cut one and dug it in the ground and if you wanted a pee you went and peed in that and poured a bit of petrol and you found you had more petrol than you had water and that sort of thing.