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WE moved over towards Tuzla with our usual Peninsular pre­occupations. There were horses, and fodder, and stabling, and couriers to be thought of; shelter for the men (the only tents we ever had were made of parachutes, and at that time we hadn't any parachutes); ox-trains to be organized for the hospital service, peas­ants found and paid to drive the oxen and feed them—though usually the peasants and the oxen came together—and stores of food brought to convenient bakeries.

All this had to be done under a cover of complete secrecy, for the massing of men would now mean to the Sicherheitsdienst only one thing, and it was still not too late for the Germans to reinforce Tuzla if they felt so impelled. Kosta brought his headquarters from the apple and plum country of Gradachats to the relative barrenness of the central Mayevitsa Planina, to a small Moslem village called Srbrnik, and there we waited until his formations had completed their last-minute preparations.

In Srbmik we lived in a Moslem garden—for the house, though offered to us, was alive with bed-bugs, as all wooden houses were in Bosnia—and the family, father and mother and half a dozen children, with various grandmothers and relations of unknown de­gree, packed into the plum-shed where they also baked bread. The days were shortening into October, but the weather was still fine and warm enough to sleep in the open without discomfort.

The garden we lived in was full of turkeys and their pungent smell; these great vulgar birds would wake us in the mornings by walking over our faces and crowing lustily in our ears, and nothing we could think of would abash them. There were several vines in the garden; and two or three walnut trees. Nuthatches pecked at the bark of these and flew in and out. At night we slept under a vine, and when the weather was clear I could lie on my back and see the sky pricked with stars. If we were working late at our cyphers we would lie in the stinking halo of a carbide lamp until we were tired of its flaring brilliance; and then we would screw it out and turn sleepily on to our backs and see the stars through the vine-leaves and through rifts in great blue-white nebulae far up the sky. In the morning Shefika, the daughter of our host, would bring us an apron-ful of walnuts she had lifted from the family hoard. Shefika was six years old, and thought it very funny that we liked her nuts, and giggled about this all the time we cracked and picked at them. The daytime was a symphony of green and blue and yellow, the meadows and the sky and the ripening maize; and the winter that was coming gave no more sharp reminder of its threat than a chill at sundown in the evening air.

During our stay at Srbmik I received new orders. They were to leave Kosta and to go northwards into Srem. There was talk of crossing the Danube. It seemed that this was goodbye to Kosta and the big battalions; henceforth I was to live in a hole, or something of the kind, and like it.

Kosta said that I could go at once. Perhaps because he was of Hungarian origin himself, he saw the possibilities of the situation and thought them interesting. "But stay with us for a few days longer, and then when we've taken Tuzla, you can move off in your own time."

"Of course, you won't be able to live openly in the Frushka Gora," Vlado Popovitch said. "That's nothing more than a corner of forest, and the hills are not really hills at all. If the Germans knew that there was a British officer in Frushka Gora they'd comb it from end to end. However," he added, smiling, "you could try."

But the orders were clear, and there seemed no good reason to delay departure except that Kosta wanted to show me the taking of Tuzla. I thought I could stay a few more days.

We moved to Dobrinye within a mile of Tuzla and the assault began. I had to leave before the end of it, but I heard of its trium­phant conclusion when I was still in the neighbourhood and the enormous booty that was taken. True to his tactics, Kosta put one of his crack units into the centre of Tuzla on the first night of the offensive; he had about three thousand men to the enemy's four thousand, but of the latter few of the Moslems fought with conviction.

Tuzla was eventually taken after hard fighting for the central citadel in which a German garrison held out for three days. The enemy had five hundred killed and four hundred wounded and 2,167 prisoners in partisan hands, including over thirty officers; and Kosta also took twenty-nine artillery pieces and a great booty of useful stores. Third Corps was eating the sugar they captured for months afterwards. It was a great victory.

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