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War Around the World

North Africa / Middle East





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War Around 
the World
North Africa / Middle East
Progress Report dated 
January 25, 1944


Jan 11 - To office and give balance of report for typing. Yeoman says there's a room next to his in the flat he lives in. Takes me over and I close on the spot, as there is no space in a single hotel, and I must move out of Army flat. No water in room, bath shared my many, cold and no heat, but spotlessly clean, good light and private. Landlady French Syrian Jewess and can she pinch piastres! Pay respects to Lt. Col. Toulmin, C.O. of O.S.S. Back to Kaser-el-Nil and get gear secured for moving. 1600 given car and working party, and move. Unpack and snug down. Typing finished 1930. Dine Lieut. Col. Toulmin.

Jan 12 - 0900 to office, read Report No 3, sign and send my pouch through Capt. Thornton. Brought fruit and other necessities and set up painting gear. 1400 to Mouski (street market or bazaar) in gharry to look for painting subjects. Native and real, full of sights and smells. Wogs run beside carriage as Major whom I am with bellows "Beat it!" No effect. Through the old native quarter and then the ever-narrowing lanes and we alight at the Mouski. Natives in all manner of dress, narrow street in subdued light under filthy awnings stretched from house to house over head. Shopkeepers saluting, shouting, touching sleeve, pleading for you to come in. Ancient arched portal athwart the street with great solid wooden gates open. I note sketch. Patches of sky blue and bright with minaret aglow in sun a end of street. Cold and damp with small barefoot children in "nightgowns" scampering everywhere, always begging, always offering to guide you anywhere. Man working wood in vises, of applying other trades, old men squatting in street, veiled women slinking by with furtive glance. Every type and color of man from blue back though the varying shades of mixed races to pasty white. British and American soldiers, cap, turban, and red fez. Swagger sticks, canes, decorations, fair haired English girls. Dark hair girls of uncertain origin and morals, one-legged beggars, blind beggars, rich wogs and old men crouched over their water pipes. Melange of ordor of urine, rugs, Turkish coffee, donkeys, and dirty rags, hangs in the air. 

Jan 13 - 0900 start small sketches to determine best subjects to paint. 1430 with Major Cheney to opening of big art show by soldiers and sailors of all Allied Nations here. Several very fine watercolors by Pike in American section. 1400 collecting per diem to live on, which takes all the rest of afternoon.

Jan 14 - Morning raw, grey, and very cold. In comes charwomen, barefooted with slave bracelets around ankles, on marble floor. Gives me goose-flesh. 0830-0935 writing censored letter. 1000 to office, copy of letter to Commanding Generals from my wife, in case originals sent to London had gone adrift. Get car and driver and drive to Citadel and climb hill to ancient fort and Mohamed Aly Mosque. Guide takes us through, -wear sandals. Built by Greek architect in 1824. Seven domes, great interior covered with rugs and over matting. Lighted by candles in beautiful hurricane globes. Swipe from Santa Sophia. Old mosque 1400 A.D. across way. Napoleon's fort on high hill above Valley to East where stone for Pyramids was quarried. Too cold and grey to start sketching but make compositional notes. To ninth floor balcony, 39 Kaser-el-Nil to look at motif. To "Dead City" making notes. From high up Cairo is a city of pastel yellows. Dry dusty grey flat roofs so different from London's steep and wet roofs. 1730-2000 writing censored letter in room, in sweater under uniform, raincoat, cap, bath robe over knees, and clove on left hand. Cold! Yes, Sir. Dine with Lt. Comdr. Harding, naval Attaché, and his charming bride before a roaring fire at 2045.

Jan 15 - 0900 to office and get light bulb so as to see in my room after dark, as house lights are very low. Drive to citadel and start working on old mosque, with blue jacket and natives in foreground. On way back driver took shots of people, cars, camels, etc for me. Call on Capt. Thornton and he will give me car for Alexandria, Suez, Port Said, and Holy Land. 1300 to Citadel, start sketch looking down over city with two mosques in foreground below. 1500 British kindly open Eastern gate for us and we drive up a long winding road through desolate cliffs and precipitous valleys of the quarries where stones for pyramids were cut. Up and up to Napoleon's old fort. Make notes looking down over city and plain stretching away to Nile and Pyramids beyond. Native troops drive with us to fort, where few have been. Climb stone incline to parapets and later spiral stone stairs to vaulted circular room supported by stout stone column in center. From thence up to top of tower and we are the highest people in Cairo. Above the top of the tall minarets of Mohamed Aly Mosque, below on it's own high hill. Back though desolation to city, exhausted with seeing, as twilight begins to decond over the pale yellow city.

Jan 16 - Sunday 0830-1300 working in cold room. Drive with O.S.S officers, Army and Navy, to roadhouse near Pyramids and lunch. To Harvard Camp at base of pyramids and are taken by Miss Murphy, the very kind English woman in charge, through tombs. Low relief as clean and fresh as if completed yesterday. One old king had six statues of himself, so that he would surely last down through silent time, and he has. Row of his six wives cut amongst in the round from the living rock, touchingly beautiful. Pyramids seem much smaller at first until one sees little black figures climbing up or down, or standing, small specks, on the top. Ancient, dusty, weird and strangely grand at the fall of night. Back to camp and tea with Miss Murphy in her cozy adobe house, she giving us much history along with scones and welcome hot tea. Army Colonel says with his mouth full of scones, "I give the Pyramids a 'dim view'. Why the hell did they want to build such big graves?" Start to drive back when dozens of searchlights break out all over the heavens, silhouetting the large, dark, silent masses of the "big graves."

Jan 17 - 0845 post report. To office, try to get oil stove for room, and talk with Captain and Exec about plans. 1030-1730 working in room. 2030 dine with Lt. Col. West who gives me much information on Cairo.

Jan 18 - 0845-1200 working in room. 1300 in jeep with driver to Pyramids and Sphinx and start sketch for painting "Guide to the Past." Back to room working until 1900.

Jan 19 - 0845 - No hot water this morning and room bitter cold. Have added CPO black flannel shirt to outfit. Working on "Guide to Past." 1100 my driver arrives with oil stove! 1800 to Office and shoot the breeze with Comdr. James Stahlman who I knew in Washington in 1941 when I first came in. He is on way to India and will be there and help me when I arrive.

Jan 20 - 0845 Post report, drawing "Guide to the Past" 1730.

Jan 21 - 0845 Working on "Guide to the Past." 1300 Lunch Gezirah Club with English Colonel and American wife. Great place. Polo, golf, tennis, soccer, football, and cricket. Man swimming in pool, by the terrace on witch we drink pink gin before lunch, reminding me of polar bear. Hot sun and then deluge of sudden rain. Egyptian climate in winter as changeable as the nods of a self-indulgent Pharaoh of old. Back working until 1730. 1800 to office. 1930 dinner with Major Cheney and John Pike, brilliant watercolorist of O.W.I.

Jan 22 - 0845- Painting "Guide to the Past." 1200 to office and lunch. 1330-1745 painting until light fades. 1745-1900 start writing this report longhand.

Jan 23 - Sunday. 0900 to old town near Pyramids, over fields and irrigation ditched of putrid water with water buffaloes drink and wallowing. Reach town on foot and are welcomed by Sheikh. Wonderful old character. Kisses his hand before shaking ours. Snow, driver and photographer, found this. Met all Sheikh's sons. Lots of bowing, hand shaking and saluting. Swear eternal friendship through interpreter, and wants to call me at office. Is head man of Bedouins. Make sketch and we take pictures of them. Lunched in roadhouse near by with O.S.S. officers both Army and Navy. Went to bed 2000 with cold. Took lots of aspirin and secured same by morning.

Jan 24 - Learned yesterday at office Lt. Kane, USNR. Naval Attaché in Alexandria, is leaving. As he knows everybody and way around and has asked me to stay in his villa, office thought I had better break work here and go up for a week. 0900 to office, arrange for orders and place in dispatch car. Taking Snow and leaving at 0700 

Jan 25 - Going light and leaving gear here. 1000-1230 writing report. 1230 office on details of trip. 1430-1500 writing and finished report. 1600 to office to have it typed. 1700-1900 packing. 1900 to office to try and get film from O.S.S., etc. 

Very interested, and work getting well under way. Have definite program for whole duty, so that all pictures will tie up. Sorry I had no way of knowing of new landing near Rome, as I should have liked to try to cover it. 

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