Desert Story
John Dye

A Desert Story from Glenuig

I heard this story many years ago from Hugh MacLean, the postman who lived by the shore where Eoghan lives now.

Hugh was possibly the least military person I ever met, but he had served in the army - he was in the Pay Corps. I don't know much about his Second World War service but the story concerns a period he served in North Africa.

His group were responsible for paying all the soldiers in their sector so they got to meet a lot of men from all parts of the army, including the Medical Corps. At that time the action was fast and unpredictable and front line hospitals were set up wherever they were needed. Life in these units was very tough, with wounded men coming in all the time and being ferried out to safety as soon as they could be moved.

One day a staff car drove up to the unit, and everyone groaned - the last thing they needed was top brass getting in the way and complaining about the smartness of the soldiers. Anyway, the duty officer called out the guard and they duly formed up outside and were standing to attention when the senior officer came out. He stiffly inspected the guard and then, without a word, marched through into the tent, which served as a ward. All the men who were able, sat up straight in their beds and the NCO's looked as smart as they could. The Senior Officer swept through without a word, nodding to one or two of the men in the beds, and then, just as suddenly, he was in the staff car and away.

Nobody ever submitted a report of the only inspection of a British Army unit ever carried out by Field Marshall Erwin Rommel.