Goon Show Script

Rommel's Treasure

Series 6, Episode 6

First Broadcast 25th October 1955. Script by Spike Milligan, produced by Peter Eton. Transcribed by Yukka Tukka Indians. Corrections by thegoonshow.net


This episode is available on...
Goon Show Compendium 3

[CD Box Set from Amazon]



Greenslade:
This is the BBC home service, but please don't take it too hard.

Secombe (Uncouth):
I seconds that!

Sellers (Uncouth):
I thirds it!

Spike (Uncouth):
Motion carried!

Seagoon:
Huzzah we're in! This means yet another extraordinary talking type wireless Goon Show.

GRAMS:
Bizarre recording of piano strings being struck by mallets.

Seagoon:
Ah! They don't write tunes like that any more. Let's hear the other side.

GRAMS:
Old fashioned gramophone recording of foxtrot.

Spike:
Stop! Stop that crazy 'Shepherd's Bush' Mambo. You sinful people! Now put the screens around bed number two that he may not have to listen to the story of...

Seagoon:
'The Search for Rommel's Treasure' or...

ORCHESTRA:
Dramatic wartime theme. Bring in German national anthem and series of dramatic chords, climaxing, then low ominous note held under:

Seagoon:
I forgot what I was going to say now. Oh yes, 'The Search for Rommel's Treasure' or...

ORCHESTRA:
Second version of dramatic wartime theme. Shorter but still with German national anthem.

GRAMS:
Distant artillery. Fade under.

Spike:
Hear that sound dear listeners. I wonder what it is?

Greenslade:
It was El Alamein 1942.

GRAMS:
Bring up sound of shelling. Mix through into chickens squawking.

Sellers:
The sounds of chickens has specially been added for people living in rural districts. Rommel's Treasure part ein.

Sellers (German):
'The hind quarters of the Afrika Corps.'

GRAMS:
Bring up combined sounds of shelling and chickens.

Kapitän Moriarty (Milligan - German):
Herr General Rommel! Herr General Rommel! Herr General Rommel where are you?

Rommel (Secombe - German):
Was ist los?

Kapitän Moriarty:
Are there you are. The British have broken our line.

Rommel:
Curse! All our washing in the mud again.

Kapitän Moriarty:
Listen Herr General, it is serious. We must retreat otherwise the British will lose.

Rommel:
You're right. It's a shame to disappoint them after all the trouble they've been to. Corporal Choff?

Throat:
Ja?

Rommel:
Pack mein Jewish piano. I'm leaving.

Throat:
Ja.

Rommel:
Kapitän Moriarty.

Kapitän Moriarty:
Ja mein General.

Rommel:
You are one of the few Kapitän Moriarty's I can trust.

Kapitän Moriarty:
Thank you.

FX:
Heels snap

Rommel:
Zonk you.

FX:
Heels snap.

Rommel:
I haff a special job for you.

Kapitän Moriarty:
It shall be done.

Rommel:
Gut. You see this mysterious black box?

Kapitän Moriarty:
Ja.

Rommel:
You know what is in it?

Kapitän Moriarty:
Nein, mein Herr General.

Rommel:
Gut, then it is a secret between you and I.

Kapitän Moriarty:
I give you my hand. Shake, rattle and roll.

Rommel:
Now we must bury the black box ten feet above the ground.

Kapitän Moriarty:
Ten feet above the gr....But people will see it.

Rommel:
That's a chance we will have to take. Oberleutnant?

Oberleutnant Lew:
Yeah mein hairy? My life. What am I doing in this army? I don't know.

Rommel:
Help us with this black box.

CAST:
Straining noises. (Extended)

FX:
Box lifting noises.

Oberleutnant Lew:
There's nothing in my contract about lifting prop baskets that's all I know. (Going off) I don't want to know about this...

Kapitän Moriarty:
And so they buried the black box ten feet above the ground. Then Rommel made good his escape in James Mason's car. But I tell you only just in time. Right then the British arrived!

Seagoon:
Hands up or I'll draw my rations!

Kapitän Moriarty:
Himmel! It's an English NAAFI manager!

Seagoon:
Don't move. Don't move or I'll turn the key in this tin of spam.

Kapitän Moriarty:
Sapristi.

Seagoon:
Now, where's Jim Rommel?

Kapitän Moriarty:
He's gone to see Fred Hitler. You will never catch him Englander. He's flying back to Deutschland.

Seagoon:
Nonsense. He's going to Germany. Private Eccles!

Eccles:
Ah ha ha hum?

Seagoon:
Eccles, stay on guard on this spot and don't move until I come back.

Eccles:
Ok.

Seagoon:
Remember the code word is 'Habenere'.

Eccles:
Remember the code word is 'Habenere'. Ok. 'Habenere'. I'll wait till you come back.

Seagoon:
Splendid. I'll see you get demotion for this.

Eccles:
Thank you.

Seagoon:
Now Kapitän, Kapitän come! We must take you to the interrogation officer.

ORCHESTRA:
Bloodnok theme.

Bloodnok:
Ohhhh ohhhhh ohhhh!

Seagoon:
German officer outside sir.

Bloodnok:
I surrender.

Seagoon:
He's a prisoner sir.

Bloodnok:
Oh! Bring the coward and his money in.

FX:
Two set of boots struggling across floor.

Seagoon & Moriarty:
Shouting over.

Bloodnok:
Ohhhh ohhhhhhh! So you're him?

Kapitän Moriarty:
Ja.

Bloodnok:
Now then, regiment?

Kapitän Moriarty:
Ekspanthen geschpanthenick panzergraben.

Bloodnok:
Don't you dare do it here. Now, first name?

Kapitän Moriarty:
Hans...

Bloodnok:
Second name?

Kapitän Moriarty:
Knitz...

Bloodnok:
Hans Knitz?

Kapitän Moriarty:
...and bumps-a-daisy!

Bloodnok:
Seilung! Next dance please.

Kapitän Moriarty:
I was just beginning to enjoy this one.

Bloodnok:
Now Herr Capitan, what I...that watch you're wearing...

Kapitän Moriarty:
What about it?

Bloodnok:
That watch....How many numerals on the dial?

Kapitän Moriarty:
Twelve.

Bloodnok:
It's mine! Mine had twelve. Give me that watch...

Kapitän Moriarty & Bloodnok:
Struggling sounds.

Bloodnok:
I'll prove it's mine. I'll just strap it round my wrist, make another three holes ach! There, it fits me perfectly. Take him away geblungen!

ORCHESTRA:
Tatty chord.

Greenslade:
That melody signified the end of part one. Part Two. Five years after the war in a Tobruk Officer's mess.

CAST:
Commissioned officers rhubarb.

Bloodnok:
I say, does anybody want to know the time.

(Silence)

Bloodnok:
Very well, I'll tell you. It's nine twenty-eight exactly.

GRAMS:
Large raspberry.

Bloodnok:
Thank you. I feel no pain.

Greenslade:
And what of Moriarty?

Moriarty:
Yes. What of me?

GRAMS:
Distant Arabic singing.

Moriarty:
I was in Libya trying to find the elusive black box - Rommel's treasure.

Grytpype:
Do try and remember where you buried it Moriarty.

Moriarty:
I've tried but I can't. If only we could locate the British Lieutenant who captured me. He might help us.

Grytpype:
I wonder where he is?

Seagoon:
I had retired from the Army and was on a goodwill tour of North Africa teaching Morris Dancing to the Arabs. They didn't seem to be quite getting the hang of it. (Giggles) Ha hum. However one night, out of curiosity, I entered a curiosity shop.

FX:
Door opens. Shop bell.

Grytpype:
Good evening. Have a gorilla?

Seagoon:
No thanks. I've just put one out.

Grytpype:
Oh. Can I help either of you two gentlemen?

Seagoon:
Two? I'm alone.

Grytpype:
Good heavens. So you are.

Seagoon:
Are you the proper-iota?

Grytpype:
Yes, Mr. Hercules Grytpype Thynne, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor and Degree in Mathematics, Master of Arts, MA (Cant. EB.) and Knight Order of the Bath.

Seagoon:
Good heavens. I wish I had those qualifications.

Grytpype:
So do I. Are you absolutely sure that you won't have a gorilla?

Seagoon:
No thank you. I'll tell you what, I'm going back to England in a few days and I'd like to buy something for my wife - an antique.

Grytpype:
Well what about this early pottery record of Max Geldray?

Seagoon:
Shall we dance?

Grytpype:
I should love to.

PIANO:
Short Introduction.

HARMONICA (Max Geldray):
First phrase.

Ellington:
That's nice, cor blimey!

PIANO & HARMONICA:
Second phrase.

Bluebottle:
I wish dat I could play the mouth-organ like that.

PIANO & HARMONICA:
Third phrase.

Bluebottle:
Dat is nice.

PIANO & HARMONICA:
Fourth phrase.

Eccles:
Ooo!

PIANO, HARMONICA & ORCHESTRA:
Join and complete the number uninterrupted.

Seagoon:
No. I don't think she'd care for that antique. How about something more Egyptian?

Grytpype:
Oh yes? Well here is a catalogue of our current Pyramids for sale.

Seagoon:
Pyramids? Ha ha ha! I couldn't take one of those back to England.

Grytpype:
Of course not. You leave it here and every now and then we write letting you know how it's getting on.

Seagoon:
(Giggles) Ha ha ha. Jolly English type joker.

Grytpype:
(Joining the laughter.) Yes.

Seagoon:
Needle nardle noo...

Grytpype:
To name but a few...

Seagoon:
Yes. Wait, wait! Come to think of it - it would be something to own a Pyramid, eh, wouldn't it?

Grytpype:
Of course it would.

Seagoon:
Yes. This a catalogue here is it?

Grytpype:
That's my brochure.

Seagoon:
Yes. How is you old brochure, alright? Yes. I say! How much is this pyramid on page three?

Grytpype:
My dear Sir, you couldn't have chosen a better model. Only done 4000 years and had one previous owner.

Seagoon:
Why is he selling?

Grytpype:
He died.

Seagoon:
Oh I am sorry. I'm terribly sorry. How about this one here?

Grytpype:
Oh that. Of course that is the great Pyramid of Totmees the Third, son of Ka the sun god, great Pharaoh of the Upper and Lower Nile Kingdoms, conqueror of the Syrians, the Assyrians, treasure vault of the Ptolemys, and the greatest Pyramid in the world.

Seagoon:
How much?

Grytpype:
Eight bob.

Seagoon:
Eight silver shillings for a pyramid? Pah! But it's second hand!

Grytpype:
Curse! The man must be an Egyptologist.

Seagoon:
No, no. I can't pay eight shillings.

Grytpype:
Alright, very well then - nine.

Seagoon:
Nine and six.

Grytpype:
Ten shillings.

Seagoon:
Ten and six.

Grytpype:
Sold to the nit in the plasticine boots and lead trilby!

Seagoon:
Now when can I see my pyramid?

Grytpype:
Immediately. I'll have you driven there in my own private trousers. Moriarty?

FX:
Door opens.

Moriarty:
I heard you call my Capitain.

Bluebottle:
You rotten swine, that's my line. I always...

Moriarty:
Get out of here!

FX:
Body blows. Scuffle. Door closes.

Moriarty:
I'm very sorry about...You!

Seagoon:
Captain Moriarty.

Moriarty:
Yes.

Seagoon:
I arrest you as an escaped prisoner of war.

Moriarty:
Sapristi gnuckles! The war's over.

Seagoon:
Nonsense. It's only in interval.

Grytpype:
Then shall we dance?

GRAMS:
Another old fashioned foxtrot.

Seagoon:
You're still as beautiful as when I married you.

Moriarty:
Stop! Stop that sinful dancing. Grytpype, this is the charlie who captured me at Alamein in 1942. See if he remembers where the spot was.

Grytpype:
Yes. Yes. Mr. Seakroon, have you a good memory?

Seagoon:
Have I? Ha ha ha! "In fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue."

Grytpype:
Really? Do you know, you're much older than I thought.

Moriarty:
Sapristi blunge! Lieutenant Seakroon what we want to know is - do you remember the name of the spot where you took me prisoner?

Seagoon:
Ooo yes. I remember the spot well. It was a place called...um, ah...Africa. That's it, Africa!

Moriarty:
Yes, yes, yes, yes - but what I mean is the exact spot.

Seagoon:
Oh I'm sorry. I can't recall.

Moriarty:
Come, come. Can't you think of something?

Seagoon:
Let me see now...mmm, oh, now I come to think of it I do remember something.

Moriarty:
What!?

Seagoon:
"In fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue."

Grytpype:
Yes, yes, yes, Neddie. But don't you remember anything after that?

Seagoon:
No. They threw me overboard.

Spike:
I don't wish to know that and stop ad-libbing.

Seagoon:
Needle nardle noo. Look, if you contact Major Bloodnok he has the original maps which show the exact spot where you were captured.

Grytpype:
Splendid.

Seagoon:
Well then.

Grytpype:
Thank you Mr. Sneekroon, thank you. Gladys?

Ellington:
Yes darling?

Grytpype:
Gladys darling, drive this charlie out into the desert, drop him near something that looks like a pyramid and then leave him.

Ellington:
Right-o darling. This way sir, cor blimey. Get in.

GRAMS:
Vintage car speeds off. Frequent backfiring. Fade.

Greenslade:
Thank you. Now if listeners will adjust their ear-trumpets to the new high frequency, they will be able to hear 'Rommel's Treasure' part the drei. The scene - Libya, the time - the present day. Inside a British officer's mess at the Wadi of El Yah Want.

FX:
Telephone. Picks up.

Bloodnok:
Wadi-El-Yah-Want.

Moriarty:
(On end of line.) Is that Major Bloodnok?

Bloodnok:
Yes, and the time is exactly ten twenty-three and two second.

Moriarty:
Is that the headquarters of the third filth-muck fusiliers?

Bloodnok:
It is, and further more...

Moriarty:
Yes?

Bloodnok:
...it is now ten twenty-three and three seconds.

Moriarty:
Major, you have in your possession certain war maps that I would like to borrow.

Bloodnok:
Why?

Moriarty:
I've been trying to locate a certain spot in the desert.

Bloodnok:
What makes you think that I'd lend you British military maps?

Moriarty:
Money.

Bloodnok:
What a lucky guess. I shall bring them round. What is the address dear boy?

Moriarty:
Grytpype-Thynne's Curiosity Shop, Mersa Mutt-Matru.

Bloodnok:
Fine, fine. Look, look, before I leave - I ...well, I do think that you ought to know something...

Moriarty:
What?

Bloodnok:
It's coming up to ten twenty-four exactly. Taxi, to the street of a thousand!

GRAMS:
Vintage car putters off into the distance.

Bloodnok:
(Sings over.) "I'll follow my secret heart...Let me like a soldier fall..."

Greenslade:
That recording in now on sale at all good chemists. Now here is a recording of Neddie Seagoon in his taxi. If anybody wants me I'll be in the announcer's rest room.

GRAMS:
Taxi speeds up. Screeches to a halt.

Ellington:
Get out darling. This is your pyramid here, cor-blimey.

GRAMS:
Car door slams.

Seagoon:
Ooo! Thank you darling. I saw before me a pile of earth ten foot high which, as yet - unbeknown to me, was the hiding place of Rommel's Treasure. Ha! Surely this couldn't be the great pyramid of Totmees, it's so small!

GRAMS:
Taxi screeches away. Fade into distance.

Seagoon:
He's gone! He's gone, leaving me in charge of all this sand. Leaving me to starve in the desert. This is terrible! I...I haven't paid him!

Eccles:
(Sings in distance.) "I talk to the trees..."

Seagoon:
Anyone behind that pyramid?

Eccles:
(Off) Habenere!

Seagoon:
Habenere? (Shouts) Habenere what?

Eccles:
Habenere for ten years.

Seagoon:
Good heavens, Private Eccles!

Eccles:
(Approaching) Yeah...

Seagoon:
Mad Dan Eccles...

Eccles:
Yeah. You told me to wait here until you came back, remember?

Seagoon:
Oh yes. Oh horror of horrors!

Eccles:
Who me?

Seagoon:
Dear faithful old hairy English Tommy.

ORCHESTRA:
Violin solo of "Land of Hope and Glory" under:

Seagoon:
Ten years you've waited here rather than disobey that last order I gave you. "Stay here till I came back" I said to him. He waited alone in the desert, he never wavered from his duty, he kept the name of servitude shining bright. Eccles - Eccles you upheld the flag, you never questioned the order. You stayed out here alone. You, without food or water. You, without money. You, without anything to stop you walking away. You - you IDIOT!

Eccles:
What! What! What! Me an idiot? Let me put this violin down, I'll tell you. Now listen, you don't think for ten years I been standing here on guard? I mutinied! I refused to obey an order.

Seagoon:
There was nobody here to give any orders.

Eccles:
I gave them myself. Like this. Listen. Private Eccles, fall in!

GRAMS:
Regiment running across parade ground.

Eccles:
You're late. Come on, hurry up, now then. Private Eccles, from the right number.

Eccles:
ONE!

Eccles:
Fine fine fine. From the left number.

Eccles:
ONE!

Eccles:
Good, good. Private Eccles my good man, slope arms.

Eccles:
(Rebelliously) I ain't a-goin' to do it.

Eccles:
Come, come, come my good man. I'm giving you an order. Slope arms.

Eccles:
(Rebelliously) I ain't a-goin' to slope my arms.

Eccles:
Come, come Private Eccles. Ooo... My good man, why are you pointing that gun at me? Put that gun down my good man.

Eccles:
(Rebelliously) I won't!

Eccles:
Yes you will!

Eccles:
I won't!

Eccles:
Yes you will...(Argument)

FX:
Body blows. Quick pistol shot.

Eccles:
Oh! I shot 'im.

Seagoon:
Dear listeners, I fear that ten years alone in the desert have softened his brain. He thinks he's two people. Eccles, come here good lad.

Eccles:
Yeah?

Seagoon:
Lie down. There, good boy. Steady now. That's it. Lie down. That's right. There. Now say after me, 'There is only one Eccles.'

Eccles:
There is only one Eccles.

Eccles:
(Distant) What about me over here?

Seagoon:
Arrhhhhggghh! No! I must be hearing things. Why, I'm even imagining I can hear Ray Ellington singing and playing a certain known melody. Exit for a short gorilla.

Musical Interlude:
RAY ELLINGTON

Eccles:
Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine.

Seagoon:
Thank heavens it was all a mirage played by Ray Ellington. Now Eccles, do you know your way out of this desert?

Eccles:
Oh, I can't say I do.

Seagoon:
Well say something else.

Eccles:
I don't.

Seagoon:
Needle nardle noo, naughty hairy soldier. Get to the top of that ten foot pyramid, which up to now I don't know contains the black box, and scan the horizon.

Eccles:
Oooooh-k.

GRAMS:
Footsteps clambering over rocks.

Seagoon:
What can you see?

Eccles:
Nothing.

Seagoon:
Use your binoculars.

Eccles:
Ok. Ah, that's better.

Seagoon:
See anything now?

Eccles:
No, but you can see it much clearer with these.

GRAMS:
Aeroplane in distance.

Seagoon:
Listen, there's a record of an aeroplane approaching. We're saved. Fire your gun to attract his attention.

FX:
Pistol shot.

GRAMS:
Aeroplane plummeting to earth. Crashes. Falling metal pieces.

Bluebottle:
(Distant) You rotten swine you. Ehi-hui! I was driving along like a happy boy airman when ping, split, plunge, the string on my joystick was severed. He-hui-hui!

Seagoon:
Little long vested aviator, who are you?

Bluebottle:
I am Air-Ace Bluebottle, wonder-boy aviator, kinge of the air. I was just breaking the worlds record for cardboard and string aeroplane when - ping! - you crashéd me. Ehi-hou, I shall never be able to stand up again!

Seagoon:
Why not?

Bluebottle:
My trousers have come off. Hee hee!

Seagoon:
Fear not little Rhodes scholar with knees heavily wired for sound, you're in good hands.

Bluebottle:
Thank you my Capitan for them kind words. Thank you. Thinks, 'You rotten swine you!'

Seagoon:
Dear listeners, here I was in a harassing position. One, I was with an old hairy English soldier who had lost his mind. Two - I had been sold a pyramid of much smaller size than I had bargained for. Three - actually it wasn't a pyramid but the burial place of Rommel's treasure, which up to know I did not know. Four - I had shot down the world's greatest cardboard and string aviator and five - IT WAS EARLY CLOSING DAY IN EAST ACTON!

Spike:
Oh no!

GRAMS:
Whailing.

Seagoon:
There, there. Don't take it so hard dear listener. They're opening again tomorrow. But hist! I hear someone approaching. Everyone hide behind the horizon.

GRAMS:
Vintage car approaching. Frequent backfiring.

Bloodnok:
Stop the car. Stop the car will you. Switch something off, anything.

GRAMS:
Recording stops.

Bloodnok:
Ohchh! This is the place and we arrived here dead on eleven thirty.

Moriarty:
Sapristi! Look. That's it!

Bloodnok:
What?

Moriarty:
That ten foot mound there. Gladys take this shovel and you'll find the black box at the top darling.

Ellington:
Ah... yes darling.

Moriarty:
Grytpype, soon we'll have the treasure.

Seagoon:
I watched as they unearthed the black box, then I sprang. Hands up!

Moriarty:
Ooooooooooh! A retired English NAAFI manager.

Seagoon:
You devilish men. You sold me a phoney pyramid and left me in the desert to die!

Moriarty:
To die? I thought it was yester-die.

Secombe:
(Raspberry) I don't wish to know that.

Spike:
I say, look here...

Grytpype:
Neddie, don't take on so. (Aside) Moriarty...

Moriarty:
Yes?

Grytpype:
... get the black box which up to a moment ago, Neddie didn't know was buried in the mound and get it into the car.

Moriarty:
Well said.

Grytpype:
Neddie, it's all been a dreadful mistake. We'll refund you the money and here is an advance in Hittite pottery vases.

GRAMS:
Car drives off at speed.

Grytpype:
Stop! Stop that taxi. The swine Moriarty's got away with Rommel's treasure.

Seagoon:
Treasure? He won't get far. Eccles, bend down.

Eccles:
O.K!

Seagoon:
Right now, everybody on. Hold tight. Off you go Eccles.

GRAMS:
Boots running at jogging speed under:

Grytpype:
Neddie, he's running beautifully.

Seagoon:
Yes, he's only done four thousand miles.

Grytpype:
My, what a lovely night.

Seagoon:
Shall I...(coy)... shall I tell you something?

Grytpype:
What Neddie?

Seagoon:
You're just as beautiful as when I first married you.

Grytpype:
You tease. Shall we dance?

Seagoon:
Needle nardle noo.

GRAMS:
Old fashioned gramophone record of foxtrot.

Greenslade:
And so dear listeners they danced in hot pursuit of Moriarty. Now here is a record of Moriarty and his taxi in full flight.

GRAMS:
Vintage car spluttering along.

Moriarty:
Faster. Faster Gladys darling. They're gaining. Bloodnok, what's the time?

Bloodnok:
It's um...Blast, it's stopped.

Moriarty:
Good heavens! Wait, what's that sign ahead? Danger, minefields.

Bloodnok:
Minefield?

Moriarty:
Don't stop. It's only an old war sign. Keep driving on...

GRAMS:
Large explosion.

Greenslade:
People with television sets will see that the explosion blew Rommel's small black box up in the air and it lands on...

FX:
Thud on hard surface.

Bluebottle:
Ahhhhaeeeeiii! I have been nutted. Nutted by a black box. I'm too young to be nutted. I don't like this game.

Secombe:
(Raspberry)

Bluebottle:
Ahi!

Seagoon:
The black box, Rommel's treasure which up to three hours ago I did not know was buried in the ten foot mound, etcetera, etcetera.

Grytpype:
Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me, this gun is loaded! At last the treasure. Now I'll just lift the lid.

FX:
Wooden lid lifts.

GRAMS:
Music box chimes.

Grytpype:
Oh, a music box.

Seagoon:
Shall we dance?

Grytpype:
Yes, darling.

ORCHESTRA:
Signature theme.

Greenslade:
That was the Goon Show, a BBC recorded program featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, and Spike Milligan, with the Ray Ellington Quartet and Max Geldray. The Orchestra was conducted by Wally Stott, script by Spike Milligan, announcer Wallace Greenslade, the program was produced by Peter Eton.

ORCHESTRA:
Up and out.



Notes:

Erwin Rommel was one of the most distinguished German Field Marshals of World War Two. He was the commander of the Afrika Korps in North Africa and later commanded German forces in Europe.

Shepherd's Bush is a district in the London.

'NAAFI' is the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes. It provides food, supplies and entertainment facilities to military personnel. The supposed poor quality of its food etc. was a running joke for servicemen - something that many people in 1950's post-war Britain had first hand experience of.

Tobruk is a town and seaport in eastern Libya, North Africa.

A mess is the place where military personnel socialise and eat.