CHAPTER VIII

Life on a Desert Island

To end up our booklet let's turn away from the serious aspect of the job in hand and say something about the sort of life led on Christmas Island out of working hours. The island may not be your complete idea of a tropical paradise-there are certain things missing !-but nevertheless a great deal has been done to ease the lot of those out there and to provide some relaxation. The remarks below cover all that has been accomplished in this respect up to the time of writing (November).
      The only useful items available on Christmas Island are coral, coconuts and a limited quantity of fresh water. Everything for the use of the Task Force has had to be brought some 10,000 miles from the U.K. and water had to be produced by distillation. As the Force is only to be on the island for a year it was decided to put up a temporary tented camp, but this has been added to by providing buildings for kitchens, canteens, messes and certain offices, in addition to the normal camp structures.
      There are two camps: the main camp near the airfield housing 2,000, and the port camp holding 250. Both camps have electric light and the canteen, kitchens, and messes are provided with refrigerators and bottle coolers. A limited amount of fresh water is available for washing purposes, but most of the showers use salt water from water-holes on the island. It is not as salty as the sea and ordinary soap will lather in it. All cooking and distillation is done with diesel oil.
      NAAFI amenities are very good in both the port camp and the main camp. There are indoor games in the games rooms and one can drink a nice cold beer or squash in the beer garden pleasantly situated on the edge of the beach and listen to the pounding of the surf. Incidentally, the beer was specially canned for the Operation, the lids being stamped "Operation Grapple, Christmas Island" with the "Grapple" insignia. NAAFI also operate a gift shop and mails service order.
      In each camp there is a cinema operated by the Army Kinema Corporation in an open-air theatre where a new programme can be seen almost every night. As you can imagine this is always well supported.
      At first it was difficult to find time to play games, as working hours were long and the days very tiring. But as the pressure of work eased, so more enthusiasm and energy have been shown. All the games pitches have had to be constructed whilst the Force has been on the island. Fortunately lagoon mud, a well-graded fine coral, has proved to be a most suitable surface on which to play soccer, hockey or cricket. These pitches were easy to construct. A dried-out lagoon near the main camp was stripped of the light scrub from the surface of the "mud" and then the under layers

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