204 Sqdn RAF
West Africa Forces
April 21. 1945.
It was quite a sight to come into the harbour and see so many new and strange things. Shortly after we dropped anchor the first natives came out in their canoes. These boats are very cleverly made, about 18’ long, hollowed out of a single log I’m told but thin walled and very light and only just wide enough for their single occupant. Nevertheless they can dive out of them and get in again with great dexterity. They seen to ship a lot of water so are continually scooping it out with a special wooden shovel or kicking the water out with a foot. Sometimes they capsize and then they simply shove the canoe violently in a fore and aft direction and in no time miraculously the boat is dry again. The first man to arrive was followed by a shark. It didn’t seem to bother him for he turned and chased it, calling for reinforcements—however the shark soon disappeared. Soon there were lots of these canoes around and everybody was throwing coins for them to dive for. The natives have been spoilt rather and won’t dive for coppers some of them unless you have wrapped it in silver paper. Some of them get quite a lot of money, you could see the coins in the bottom of the boat. After a while bigger native boats started to arrive, laden with bananas, cotton goods, slippers, coconuts and other fruit. They would throw up a weighted stone with a basket on the end but they didn’t seem to do much business and got nothing like the profits of the coin divers. These latter, the divers, seemed to be a very happy go lucky crowd and were continually bursting into song, either solo or in chorus, every song you’ve ever heard—Lord knows where they learnt them. One character had a top hat and wing collar and tie, others acquired nave caps before the morning was out, but most had nothing but shorts or a bathing dress. At one time I counted as many as 28 boats on our side of the ship so there was quite a lot of competition but no very heated arguments even when two or three went after the same coin.
Finally we came ashore in a tender and were loaded into trucks for the drive to a transit camp. This was quite a distance but could have been much longer as far as I am concerned for it was fascinating—unbelievably so. I don’t know how to describe it. The drive was at quite a pace so we missed a lot and it was also alarming to those not familiar with roads in cordilleran B. C. Everywhere there were strange trees and shrubs, I couldn’t recognize anything but the rather short palm trees here but banana trees were pointed out to me. There were native huts everywhere, usually made of small stones packed together with red clay and topped with a high conical thatch. Every house seemed to have an amazing number of occupants and they were doing just what you would expect, that is grinding millet, knocking fruit out of the trees or just nothing. Most of the houses have an open front room with only a 2 foot wall so you could see inside where the particularly lazy natives were lounging in hammocks. Others we passed were making new houses, or picking away at some rocky plot of land, or working on the roads which appear to have been recently improved and are paved though the grades are perilous, or doing laundry (dhobi) in the streams or bathing etc.
All the natives are called Wogs. A lot work for the air force though not all are in service dress. Those that are and especially the traffic policeman feel very proud I think and must consider themselves much above the others. They are very dark skinned and somehow when you are standing close to a bunch of them they don’t look human to me they are so very black.
I don’t find it oppressively hot at all. The mean temp is almost 87 and it doesn’t cool much at nights so one sleeps on the top of the bed.
With love from
[Editor’s note: Transcription provided by collection donor.]