Private George Crook, 1st Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment, remembers his service with the motorised transport section in the Libyan desert while on national service.
George Crook
Private George Crook

I was in the MT [Motor Transport] section for quite a while and eventually had my road test or out and about, there weren’t any real roads and got to this little village if you can call it a village but it was very, very busy and had to go across this [Kate Karny] Bridge if you like and there was a donkey on it and he had a huge bale on his back, you know, and he could hear my engine behind him. Waited for him to cross and he had other ideas. He was indignant and he wasn’t going to have a noise of a vehicle behind him so he started backing towards me. Then he lashed out at my truck with both back legs and he hit the grill. I mean truck is built like a tank, aren’t they, so it didn’t cause too much damage but it upset me. I panicked, stalled the vehicle, couldn’t get it started, failed my test. When you fail, that is it, you go to support company. You hold a rifle, at best you hold a bazooka or something. I didn’t want that, but we had a very nice Captain, Captain John Burgess, and he was a real family sort of person. He felt sorry for me because he thought, no, I should stay put, but rules are rules. There was a way out. I liked painting. I used to paint all the number plates in Arabic. Used to paint the 55 symbol on the front, back of the trucks, and the 3rd Division sign which was a red triangle surrounded by three triangles making one big triangle. I think that was a pool of blood surrounded by the enemy. That is the 3rd Dvision, and I thought right, and also all these vehicles are coming from Britain but trial vehicles. They are all in this horrible bottle dark green and we are out in the desert and everything is buff colour. So I know what Captain John Burgess was after, he thought his trucks had to be painted. So I had a second chance but before I had my second chance at taking the test again we had to paint along with janker wallahs, you know misdemeanours who were confined to barracks and I was in charge and they had to paint all these new trucks a horrible buff colour. I don’t know if you know what a thunderbox is but it is latrines where one digs a huge trench and there is corrugated iron and timber around it and that is regimental toilets and they have been there some time at this place and there is an Arabic word called a [gibley] which is like a tornado in America but it is nowhere near so severe but severe enough and it sucks up sand and it becomes a sand storm with a funnel. We had come across the barracks and we had just painted about a dozen green trucks a sand colour and this funnel of sand hit the latrines, ripped it out of the ground, sucked everything out of it went straight across the vehicle park and plastered our newly painted trucks with all that was in this trench.