Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography (1901-1935)

Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography (1901-1935)

Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography (1901-1935)

Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography (1901-1935)

Excerpt

The last view I had of my native city of Durban, through an open port-hole of the Dutch hospital-ship Oranje, was what decided me, some day, to write some such book as this, as a grace or thanksgiving for the good times I have had, not only there, but in other parts of the world.

It was through an erroneous repatriation-order that I obtained this last panorama of my early home. That was in April 1944. I am, as a senior British N.C.O., a great believer in obeying orders unquestioningly and without expostulation, no matter how absurd they may be, simply because it saves time and ill-feeling; and here, for the first time in my experience, was an erroneous order which suited me right down to the ground. In spite of my Dominion nationality, as a South African, I was an Imperial British soldier, now permanently disabled, due for repatriation to England, where I had volunteered for military service on my return from Spain, and where I had left my wife and daughters. But when, in error, the order came for me to proceed to Durban, even had I not been in the habit of unquestioning obedience to orders, the prospect of eight thousand miles of luxury trip, with three or four weeks' leave in Durban sandwiched into the middle of it, with my mother, sister, and other relatives, would have been an overwhelming temptation to keep my mouth shut.

I had not been surprised when, on arrival in Durban, instead of being asked awkward questions, the Imperial Liaison Officer condoled with me for being sent the wrong way. That is typical of the decency and kindness of almost all British Officers; if they have any doubt, you get the benefit of it. As for getting away with anything, there was absolutely nothing to get away with. I had obeyed far more faulty orders to my own destruction and detriment; and could hardly be expected to hesitate when they redounded to my extreme convenience and pleasure. The number of British and colonial units to which I had been attached, including the R.W.F., the S.W.B., Intelligence Corps, the 12th East African Deception Unit, the King's African Rifles, and even Animal Transport, had apparently obscured my "medical nationality" (if I may . . .

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