Jim Barclay fought with 27th (Machine Gun) Battalion during the North African campaign. After returning to New Zealand on furlough in February 1944, he was sent to Italy, before finally returning home in 1945. Jim was fortunate in meeting a Swiss ex-patriate couple, Jules and Lilian Chabloz, in Cairo and spent much time while on leave at their flat in Heliopolis. Here, though, he recalls going to the pictures at the infamous Shafto's cinema at Maadi Camp.
There was a grotty old projector set there that was forever breaking down. People were getting fed up. We went this particular night to the cinema – it didn't cost much to go – but it had wooden walls and a carpet sort of ceiling. A few trusses and this carpet-y stuff laid over the top – because it never rained. And this particular night, we got about a quarter of the way through the main film, and ...she packed in. Everybody's booing and stamping their feet ...and finally a bloke came up on the stage and apologised but the machine was kaput and they would have to get it fixed and there would be no further show that night.
You could feel the tension just simmering in the crowd. The place was packed and the seats were ordinary chairs with raffia seats ...and they had a board nailed under them so there'd be a row half a dozen joined together. And one bloke just flipped one of those over, and the place exploded.... Chairs were flying all over the place and being smashed to pieces. They bashed and shook the walls and the roof fell in.... One bloke picked a big boulder up and dropped it through the ticket window.... the whole thing was flattened.... You could never enjoy a film because it would break down half a dozen times. There was an uproar of course that went through the whole camp and Freyberg issued an order that everyone in the camp would be fined ...about sixpence or a shilling to pay for the damage in the place. It was taken off our pay at the end of the week. They rebuilt it, not that the building was any better than the original one, but the machine was better.