Sunday 13 March 2016

An Engineer in Egypt Part II

10 Piastre coin of 1916 

Monday 13th March 1916: Sapper W H James of the Royal Engineers is the son of Company Sergeant Major James of the 1st Field Company East Anglian Royal Engineers. The son is now in Egypt at Sidi Bishr Camp just outside Alexandria. He has been telling us of his experiences and giving us his observations.

“By dint of tram and route march we arrived at Sidi Bishr. The camp is a fine one, right on the sea-shore, so we get the chance of a dip in the sea two or three times a day if we feel inclined. Of course it is very hot here. After only two days I am a picture. My nose is a nice brick red colour  while my neck, so my pals say, is black. It is a glorious life here , I have been walking about all day in a pair of white sand shoes and in my shirt sleeves. It seems funny to think of you all at home enjoying (perhaps) the capricious moods of an English March, while we out here are divesting ourselves of every rag that we can, of course consistent with decency”.

“It is curious to notice how the women here undertake all sorts of work, while the men sit about and drink cooling drinks. Of course if a man has half a dozen wives and they all work there should be no necessity for him to do so”.

“The money here causes some consternation among the new-comers and they regard with great suspicion the change given them. The piastre is the chief coin here, but Tommy is not a bit particular and “pianos” and “disasters” are alternatives in the current use. One fellow in the same tent as myself bought a cake at the canteen, for which he was charged ½ a piastre and in payment for which he presented a florin and was paid the change in nickel piastres and ¼ piastres. He shot back to the tent like a thunderbolt and nearly exploded with the information that he’d got a pocketful of shillings and six pence change out of two shillings!”

Source: Bedfordshire Times 14th April 1916

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