This piece is really a footnote to an earlier chapter entitled Rite of Passage.
Abbassia Barracks were located on the outskirts of Cairo. They were not a regimental holding base but more a transit depot to cope with the movements of RE personnel. A place to stay when on leave from the Desert, and where fresh intakes from the UK could be kitted up with suitable clothing, vehicles and arms before being despatched elsewhere. It was clean, convenient, and provided adequate food but had no charisma and little discipline - perfect.
It also had a resident dog. A friendly beast of indeterminate parentage, its only distinguishing feature was its long Collie's nose and sharp teeth. It was probably owned by the small administrative staff who ran the base. Friendly with all comers, it was petted accordingly, spoilt with unsuitable food and taken for companionable walks in the City.
One day four of us on leave from the same Field Company decided to have an afternoon out in Cairo and took the dog with us.
One companion was Lofty Thornton, an amiable giant of some six feet three or four inches, as his nickname might suggest. We probably saw a film. No problem, even with a dog. The sights, sounds and smells of Cairo were always an agreeable contrast to desert life, so in all probability we then merely wandered about, had a meal and as many others did, sat at a cafe's pavement table with beer and appraised the many beautiful women to be seen in the City's streets. A pleasant afternoon in congenial company, one might say.
Then someone suggested, why not something rather more physically satisfying?
Burkah Street was well known as Cairo's brothel area and consequently strictly Out of Bounds to all ranks. Even so, the occasional raids by rabid military policemen would yield transgressors who could expect harsh punishment. But there was an alternative venue. A short distance from the centre in a poorly lit street one could obtain gharry bints. A gharry is an open horse-drawn vehicle with two padded bankseats fore and aft, facing each other. Each seat could accommodate two in comfort; three at a pinch. Bint is an Arabic word for a girl or woman of easy virtue. Thus it follows that a gharry bint is a combination of both - for hire.
There was no chance of making an inspection of the available vehicles and choosing a particular partner. The street lighting was inadequate anyway, and as the vehicles were lined up along the road you had to take the first one available - like a taxi rank.
Next to most gharry drivers sat a huge black Sudanese with whom it would have been unwise to have engaged in a determined argument. These bodyguards, most carrying the three intimidating deep tribal scars across each cheek, had become a necessity since the advent of many large and boisterous Colonial troops, some of whom had demanded refunds or other services not included in the original tariff.
My three companions, as was to be expected, bargained the price with the driver. I had excused myself from the negotiations with some trite excuse but said I would take care of the dog.
We all embarked and the vehicle moved off and came to a halt in an even darker area some half mile away. The lady of the evening arranged herself appropriately on the middle of the forward seat.
After two of my companions had relieved themselves it became Lofty's turn. As I have noted, he was a big lad and took some time getting himself adjusted in the confined space. Meanwhile I sat in a corner of the rear seat holding the dog on my knees.
Lofty's movements grew more vigorous and approaching coital crescendo a large white buttock rose high in the bright moonlight. This temptation was too much for the dog for it sprang forward and delivered a painful bite with sharp teeth.
"Take that fucking dog away," screamed Lofty, who by now was both unwilling and probably unable to stop. Though I tightened my grip on the over-excited animal, it was still within reach of the brightly lit buttock and continued to nip in unison with its rhythmic rise and fall, galvanized doubtless by Lofty's continued screaming.
We other three were too helpless with laughter to offer much help or comfort as we all eventually staggered from the vehicle, while the victim vigorously massaged his backside.
"Let's all go and have a drink to calm us down," I suggested, "before we go back to barracks. . ?" And so we did.
I doubt if Sapper Thornton reported to Abbassia's medical orderly for attention. He would wisely have undertaken his own treatment with iodine, lint and sticking plaster.
We didn't ask.