No one came out on to the slim bamboo jetty. Launch 373 tied up first, then 374 and 377 came alongside but there was still not a sign of a living soul. Taff and Bob got the small primus stove out and stood it on the decking above the anchor locker. The primus was out of the way and wouldnt get kicked over. The crew of 373 cooked the tinned tomatoes, 374 the soya sausages and 377 brewed the tea. It had been a long day and they were tired. Six hours of taking turns at the helm and watching. All the time watching. They had been give a talk on the old freighter and had been told or warned that besides the Japanese there were partisan groups, resistance movements, guerrilla fighters and dacoits bandits.
And that no one knew exactly who was bloody who or what the **** was going on! was the way Yorky Kirk had put it.
There was the smell of a wood fire so they knew someone must be at home. As the daylight faded there was the sound of people moving about in the stilted houses and then the sound of children. A shout and then a yell its easier to be brave in the dark.
Everybody would share the watch. Two men on a two-hour watch starting at twenty hundred hours. Taff put his allotted bilge boards across a pair of thwarts and rolled out his bed roll. He then tied his mosquito net to the metal frame of the canvas canopy. He laid his rifle and bandolier on his blanket and climbed under the net.
At four, Sergeant Ashby shook him awake. Move yourself Taff you and Bob are on.
He rolled down his sleeves and buttoned the neck of his shirt up, and got out from under his mosquito net taking his rifle and bandolier with him.
The Sergeant had left them a mug of tea each.
There were noises everywhere, frogs croaking, insects chirping, the low howling of dogs coming from the near bank of the river and being answered by howls from the far side.
The sky was clear not black but a kind of dark purple while the stars seemed to stand away from the soft velvet background. The village was quiet but there was a watchman somewhere and he was watching them. They were tied up at the very end of the village jetty quite a way off the riverbank. The mosquitoes didnt come too far out on to the river.
Taff risked lighting a fag. He cupped the cigarette in his hand as he took a drag to hide the glow.
Breakfast was soya sausages, beans and tea.
Whether it was the smell of the sausages being cooked or the people deciding that the thirteen soldiers in the three boats were not a threat he didnt know, but suddenly the villagers came out in force. The children first, then the women. What men there were, he saw, were old men. They had a smiling, beaming audience. They would have to wait until they were under way if they wanted to go to the lavatory. It wouldnt be the last time theyd wish they still had the American boats. Even the native sampans had lavatories of sorts. Two planks stuck out over the stern with a hessian screen, enough to hide a squatting body. Continues tomorrow