Sheila from Accra

37th General Hospital,

Accra,

W.A.F.

3rd Aug 1944

 

My dear Miss Tomkinson,

 

Your letter, addressed to my A.P.O. number, has just caught up with me.  The above address will give you my exact location on the Gold Coast – which has certainly turned out to be far from “the White Man’s Grave” of past ages.

 

Jo – the girl I came out with – are enjoying everything immensely.  The work is very interesting, especially as we are starting a new scheme whereby the two of us have more or less the sole charge of 300 Africans.  We are installing a loud speaker in every ward, fixing a microphone in the office, & then broadcasting general ward exercises daily.

 

I’m still being very lucky with people.  St. Thomas’ doctor has just been posted to us – a polo player & now I exercise the polo ponies with him, riding along the sands.  In fact everyone out here gives us a very good time – plenty of parties, excellent surfing & we’ve been lucky enough to make a couple of trips inland.  On Sunday we went by a 3-ton lorry 80 miles inland to Kibbi.  It was a glorious drive, the latter part through well wooded country abounding in oranges, grapefruit, bananas etc.  Half-way we stopped for a picnic lunch, & were joined by 4 Americans, whose jeep we proceeded to drive up and down the road.  In a native village we were surrounded by the African children coming out of Sunday school, who sang us hymns with great gusto.  I find the Africans grand people, although in many quarters they are unpopular – chiefly, I think, because the European is inclined to expect the same qualities in a primitive people that he’s used to in U.K.  I’ve found that, when spoken to quietly, treated in a decent manner, they will do anything for you.  Half the trouble is absolute lack of understanding.  Sisters, whom I’m quite sure have never had a maid in their lives, shout to high heaven at their personal boys, & naturally enough, they are let down.

 

But still, they are well in the minority, & we really have a very happy mess.  Our rooms are quite comfortable, but are done using all camp kit.  We’re allowed to wear muftie up to 6.30 at night, when if we’re going out, uniform, (mosquito-proof) must be worn.  There is a European club in Accra, & an open-air picture house.  And there are films held at the different messes.  In fact, we’re never short of anything to do, even if the gaiety does become tiring at times.

 

On the 16th, there is a large tribal meeting, and 3 of the main tribes, those from the Northern Territories, the Mohamedans and the Adrentu (?), will give a performance of their ceremonial dances.  The Americans are making a film of it, so you may come across it back in England.

At the moment we are still in the cool season – winter out here, when the Africans walk around in greatcoats.  I still sleep with just a sheet on, & have in fact sent all my jackets home.   Actually Accra has the best climate on the coast with a pretty average English rainfall, although I can hardly believe it when I see it come teeming down.  It gets very hot out here in November-March, & then how we give any massage at all is a very different story.

 

I only wish I could send you some fruit & material home but it is not allowed.  Fruit, obviously, would rot, as crates take at least 4 months to arrive.  Only actual African products are allowed for export, & really there are few of those that would be of any use.  The leather work is exceptionally good, however, I will try to dispatch some of that.

 

I’ve given up trying to learn any native language – there are so many dialects, & most of them speak English any rate (?) (alycate).  We always have our orderlies to interpret – which always causes us great amusement, for after a long conversation between them as to what is wrong, the answer invariably comes back – “my knee. Massa”.

 

I often think of Tusmore, & still have letters from patients.  One from Peaty (?) full of the baby – Sgt. Sumner/Gummer (?), Anthony, Hoppy, etc.  You might remind Rachel that I haven’t yet heard from her – but Rosemary is an excellent correspondent.  So sorry you have been having trouble with your Matron.  Ours is quite a nice thing – rather like a battleship on full steam ahead, but keeps from interfering, which is the main thing.

 

Glad your table tennis is still keeping up to style – we have tables out here, but never seem to get time to play, with all our other activities.  It is only to great/quiet(?)     organisation that Jo & I have set an evening aside a week, to try & write a book on treatments out here & exercises given.  It’s a subject that is neglected from the physiotherapy point of view, &  might be quite useful.

 

And now I have the horrible task of washing my hair – in a canvas bucket –

 

All my love,

 

Sheila

 

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