Friday, February 24, 2006

Collapsible beds

Photo shows: Ron, at Rieti, where he was re-trained by the Royal Armoured Corps to be a Loader/Operator

A recent article on this site mentioned that the writer had a collapsible bed dating from WW2. I was immediately reminded of my own experience of this type of sleeping gear.

The time was February 1945 and I was stationed at Rieti in central Italy being re-trained as a loader/operator in the Royal Armoured Corps.
The camp was also used as a transit camp for personnel being posted back to Blighty and there was much selling and bartering of personal equipment.
One such item was a collapsible camp bed, made of slats of wood and canvas and the whole contraption neatly folded into a parcel about eighteen inches long.
I think I must have paid the equivalent of a couple of quid for it and I couldn't wait for a chance to use it in the field.
In March the same year I joined the 4th Queen's Own Hussars who were then in the line near Ravenna.
On my first night with the unit I noticed that neither my tank commander, SSM 'Busty' Thomas, nor the driver, Steve Hewitt, had any form of sleeping gear other than their straw-filled paliasses and I rather smugly unfolded my camp-bed and set it up near the tank.
I was rudely awoken in the early hours by some fairly heavy shelling and so I learnt lesson number one of survival in the line.
One does NOT sleep above ground level if one can help it!
From then on the folding camp bed was consigned to my non-essential kit and was not to be used again until the war finished and I had leave in Austria.

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