Topic: True Blue by Hugh Harrison

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A story by Hugh Harrison from WWII. How he and a mate found a way to re-join their unit in Italy. Reprinted with permission from the 1997 No 8, 6th Battalion (Hauraki) Regimental Association Newsletter.

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6th Hauraki Insignia


He had red hair so the boys called him "Blue". We were classmates, and over sixty years ago in the High School Cadets, we wore Hauraki kahki for the first time. We were together in the Hauraki army camps through the territorial era and the early war period before going overseas in 1942 aboard the Aquatania. In Egypt, Maadi Base Camp we became separated and posted to different units.

In 1943 after months in 2nd General Hospital and a convalescent camp at El Arish, I returned to Maadi fit to rejoin my mates again, only to find that the Div had already left for Italy a few weeks previously. I was told that it could be a couple of months before the next lot of troops would be sent over there. Disheartened by this news, I went into the Cairo Club where to my surprise I met Blue again. He said he was in a similar predicament so it wasn't long before we decided to get to Italy our own way.

A couple of days later in Cairo, Blue met an English cook who was looking for two kitchen hands to work on a small French ship going to Italy. Blue was a butcher by trade so he said he also had a butcher mate and we both wanted to go there. The cook agreed to take us but only on conditions we were not paid and were confined to the cooks quarters below decks. We put our proposition to the Maadi Camp Administration Officers and it was accepted.

On November 15, 1943 we went by train to Alexandria and 2 days later we boarded the "Cuba" a small ship with a mixture of Tommies and South African troops packed in on the deck above us.

On the 18th we left Egypt and headed for the coast towards Tunis. For the next 3 days we worked very hard in the heat and steam of the butchers shop, taking frozen carcasses from the freezers, waiting 3 hours for them to thaw out and cutting them up and putting the prepared meat into trays ready for the stove and ovens. Blue made the work look easy but I had some bad moments. I cut the heads off fish meant for the French crew but was told they would not eat fish without the heads on, also I cut the end out of a large tin of sausages in which the fat had melted, and then spill it somehow, sausages and all, over the cook's gear. There were two other incidents I remember, one was a great commotion in the adjoining crews quarters one night when a couple of Frenchmen had a serious knife fight. The other was during the day when the ship was attacked. We were almost deafened by the gunfire but as we were ordered to remain below we learned no details about that event.

Finally on the 22nd we arrived in Taranto Italy. As we left the boat the cook thanked us for our assistance and wished us both good luck. Then he said these words I will never forget. You are a fine butcher Blue, but as for your mate I knew he wasn't a butcher the moment I set eyes on him. So we went off to Advance Base near Bari where we were equipped and prepared for the last stage of our journey. On December 11 twenty six days after leaving Maadi we finally rejoined our unit at the Sangro. Probably we could say a month or so sooner by doing our journey resourcefully the "Old Hauraki Way"


This article archived at Perma CC in September of 2016:

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