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This article is taken from PN Review 47, Volume 12 Number 3, January - February 1986.

A Soldier's Story Lt. Col. John Stubbs


Almost nothing is known about Keith Douglas's time at No 1 General Hospital, El Ballah, Palestine where he recovered from the wounds he received at Wadi Zem Zem in January 1943. Yet it was at El Ballah that he wrote the first of the war poems on which his reputation was to rest. Returning to Newcastle after the publication of my biography of Douglas in June 1974, I found a message to the effect that a General Stubbs had phoned. He had seen a review of the biography, had known Douglas at El Ballah and would like to meet. It was not till a year later that we met. We talked through the evening and next day I recorded a long interview with him. What follows is an edited transcript of that interview of November 1975; pared down, my questions omitted and the whole given more continuity. The words though are all those of Lt. Col. (not General) John Stubbs, at that time still in the army at M.O.D., P.R.O. I am most grateful for his permission to publish his account. - Desmond Graham


In summer 1942 I was at an anti-tank course at a place called El Maza and we used to go into Cairo every evening and spend a lot of time there, and the one place one always went to in the morning for coffee and buns was Groppis, and there in Groppis I saw a group of people, one ...


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