For most of the time we were in Burma we were short of cigarettes. Apart from the blokes who got cigarettes sent from home. I never did until more or less towards the last few months of the war. It meant writing in the first place and you were asking someone to do something for you, but towards the end it got a bit desperate if you were a smoker, because your seven cigarettes a day issue didn't last long. You could order them and get them sent on a concession from certain Tobacconist, a lot of fellas used to get them, that kept the blokes going for a while.
It was only towards the end of the war that I wrote to my Mother, to ask if she would send me some cigarettes. They used to arrive in round tins of fifty Players Medium or Senior Service. There'd be about half a dozen tins. Every cigarette was treasured, I remember our seven cigarette issue was five Woodbines and two De-Reske Minors. The latter weren't a popular cigarette, unless you were used to smoking Turkish, because there was Turkish tobacco mixed in them. Blokes in the desert used to call it camel shit I believe; it wasn't a nice smoke.
I have read accounts since, where people have claimed, especially people who have written about the war, not so much those who were in it that there was no shortage of cigarettes or. They imply that cigarettes were no problem because there was the issue of fifty Victory V's cigarettes per week. Well Victory V's were an Indian cigarette. They were given free on top of the normal rations by some Maharajah. I think it was the Maharajah of Mysore. He was that bloody wealthy, that he could afford to give fifty cigarettes a week to all the troops in India. But as I say that only applied to India.
I have also read since about the Burma campaign, I get the impression, from the writers that there was no shortage of cigarettes, but there was, because in the first place Victory V's never got to Burma, not to the place I was anyway. I had to rely on my seven cigarettes a day. The other thing was, true enough in India as most of these writers say, there were plenty of Victory V', because you got your fifty a week and you could buy cigarettes at the canteen. There was no shortage of cigarettes in India if you could afford to buy them. They were cheap enough. That wasn't the problem, it was that the word spread around that the Victory V's cigarettes were bloody rubbish. I suppose because they weren't a recognised brand, like Woodbines, Weights, Senior Service and Players. Personally I found that Victory V's weren't a bad smoke. People had been brain washed and had listened to the nonsense, which was written about them, that made them unpopular. There was plenty of Victory V's in India because so many were thrown away. You could pick them up where blokes had flung them. Blokes would smoke them in desperation, then they would go to the canteen and buy Players Medium or what ever they wanted. But that wasn't the case in Burma, that's what I'm saying, that's what I wanted to correct. This fallacy that we were never short of cigarettes in Burma; we were. That's why blokes used to write home for them, because once you were in Burma you were cut off from your supply. Money wasn't the problem in Burma. Your pay just accumulated because you had nothing to bloody well spend it on.
It was the opposite of India. In barracks in India, everybody was short of money because Army pay was pitifully poor. By the time you got half way through the week, going to the canteen a couple of nights, for just tea and a sandwich, because in the Army you got nothing after teatime. There was no supper. If you wanted a cup of tea or anything, you had of course to pay for it. It was the same with the cigarettes, they were cheap but you paid for them. So most people ran short of money about midweek. The opposite was the case in Burma. The company clerk would come round periodically, he'd say to you, "Do you want any money?" and you'd say, "Go an' piss off," because there was nothing to spend it on. Your money just accumulated all the time. Anyway I'm getting off the tale about cigarettes. The tale I'm telling you about, is the quandary I found myself in with cigarettes.
I was in a trench paired up with a fella who was very nervous. He was a chain smoker, when he could get them. So half my cigarettes went to him. I couldn't sit one side of the trench, specially when there was shelling going on, he'd smoked all his cigarettes and I'd be puffing away at my cigarette, I might have put a cigarette out two or three times. I was satisfied to have a few puffs then put it out. Well he didn't do that, he'd smoke them right through to the soggy end. I used to say, "Here Richie," his name was Richardson, "Have a cigarette." So that was part of my desperation, I got that short in the end I wrote to my Mother, asking if she would start sending these concession cigarettes out, which she did.
I should say about 'Richie' as well. What got me was, I'd be in a trench with him, the ground as I have said in Burma was either shale or rocky. Richie would be sat one end of the trench, I'd be sat facing him in the other, with the shelling going on. He was a bag of bloody nerves, his head used to start shaking and his helmet used to rattle against the shale in the side of the trench. It got to be unbearable for me, it was setting me off as well. It started off with a couple of shakes and it got bloody worse. It was a continuous bloody rattle, this helmet against the shale of the trench. So I used to throw him a cigarette. I thought, " Christ all fuckin' mighty, I'll have to do something to calm his nerves," he'd have driven me mad.
The tale is, one night in the dark we arrived at a village in Burma. The villagers used to sleep together on long bamboo-slatted beds in wooden huts. I put my hand up on a shelf above a bed and I felt..END OF 1,111 WORD SAMPLE OF 2,088 WORDS.