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Just say no

“For three days most men had slept very little, and now fatigue was beginning to take its toll. Major Flatow, the stocky Yorkshire Territorial who had named his tank ‘Attila’, had been told with the rest of his regiment to take the benzedrine pep-pills they had been issued. These amphetamines, whose pre-war use had been pioneered by long-haul pilots, were freely issued to the British army and navy though, acting on the advice of their medical officers, some units refused to take them. After the initial high, which could take effect about half an hour after ingestion, benzedrine users were often beset by hallucinations of the kind later generations would know as ‘bad trips’. Flatow’s was mild, if perplexing: why should a man on a bicycle be riding across the desert towards his Sherman? Other hallucinations were less benign. A lieutenant shot down several German soldiers with a tommy-gun when they tried to rush his tank leaguer after dark, only to learn that they were the crew of a knocked-out Sherman seeking the sanctuary of their own lines. Luckily, his aim was not as sharp as his heightened imagination. The same officer also spent several minutes trying to rouse a man lying in the path of his tank, before he realized he was talking to the dead. In the middle of heavy shell-fire a sergeant turned up alongside a tank in a jeep and calmly informed its crew that it was ‘only a scheme’ (an exercise) and they could go back. Meanwhile, their colonel saw a map in the sky, complete with grid lines.” – John Bierman and Colin Smith, The Battle of Alamein

Published inJohn Bierman and Colin SmithThe Second World War

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