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A cot, four feet from the others, wasn’t close to what I thought of as privacy, but I did appreciate the thought.

“Is there a place to stow my gear?”

He tried not to laugh. “Sorry, sir, HQ neglected to send us a wardrobe, but if you look real careful along the wall over there we set in some nails and you can hang up a few things. Everything else we just keep on the floor or in the bag.”

So this was what I had to look forward to: sleeping in a cave, a mess table for a desk, outdoor loo, and a fresh air shower. I was sure even in this dismal light that he could see the look of horror on my face. God, I hated the Army. But despite what I was feeling, everything I needed to do my job was in place, and at least my worst fears had not been realized. We weren’t living in a tent, thank God.

“If you don’t mind me saying, sir, there really is nothing more you can do tonight. Why don’t you try and get a little shuteye? If anything comes up, I can take care of it.”

For the past two days, I had been going faster than a Spitfire at full throttle, with little or no sleep. I was exhausted. There were so many things I had to do, and so many things I needed to know, but as the remainder of the night rapidly receded into the shadows of the oncoming dawn, the need to rest became more pressing. That tiny cot, sitting off by itself in a barely-lit cave was more inviting than the grand suite at Buckingham Palace.

“Thank you, Sergeant, for the tour. I think I will take your advice.”

“Right you are, sir. You just get yourself nice and comfortable, catch a little sack time. In fact, just as soon as the other lads finish up, I think we’ll all join you. Be a long day tomorrow, it will.”

“Thank you again, Sergeant.” I walked the few feet to the cot and collapsed on to it.

It seemed like only a few minutes after falling dead off that the aroma of freshly cooked bacon and eggs began filling the cave with its delicious bouquet, invaded my grey matter, and dragged my unwilling mind into consciousness.

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