It happened in the African desert during world war two. Cecil Bathe, who was a Royal Air Force Mechanic, had just driven past a wrecked German tank when, out of nowhere, a sandstorm struck. Cecil had been returning to his base in Libya after a supply trip.
The sandstorm was so bad that driving was impossible so he decided to wait it out. He sat in his truck reading a tattered magazine. He also had some beer, bottled Australian beer, which had been given to him earlier by some "cobber" buddies.
A strong gust of wind shook the truck and Cecil looked around. He spotted a lone figure in the whirling, swirling sand. He decided he could not leave him out there in those conditions, so he beckoned to the figure and yelled out for him to come inside. Smiling, the man climbed aboard. There they both sat, sheltering from the sandstorm, chatting and swigging beer.
The stranger was wearing a dirty khaki uniform but it bore no insignia. Cecil notice that he spoke in a clipped accent. Cecil took it to be Dutch or South African, as both those nations were fighting alongside the allies. He also put the stranger's dishevelled appearance down to two years of desert warfare.
As they drank, Cecil noticed that the stranger had a raw burn on his right hand and right arm. He urged the man to get medical attention but the only response was a soft laugh and the words "It's a bit late for that. Anyway, it does not matter."
They talked on and Cecil found that they had something in common. Before the war, both of them had been Scouts and had attended an international jamboree in the south of England.
Daylight faded, the wind began to drop. Cecil decided to try to make a run for his camp. He offered his companion a lift but the man shook his head and declined. "I am going in another direction, but thank you for the beer."
The man stepped down from the truck . Cecil gave him a bottle of beer to take with him and he smiled gratefully. They shook hands warmly. "God watch over you, Tommy" said the stranger, then added "thank you for your kindness." Cecil noticed that the hand he was shaking seemed very cold in the heat of the desert and had a sort of stiffness to it.
Cecil drove away. He glanced in the rearview mirror to watch his departing "friend." There was nobody there, nothing to be seen. He got out of his truck to take a good look. Nothing. All there was to be seen was the wreck of the German tank and endless desert.
Later that week Cecil found himself passing that spot again. As it happened, a recovery crew was hauling the wrecked tank onto a transporter. He decided to have a good look.
The Corporal in charge told him that the tank driver had died at the controls at least a month before when the tank was hit in the turret by a shell. They had laid the driver's body out under canvas.
Cecil lifted the corner of the makeshift shroud. There, with rotting skin and sightless sunken eyes, was his beer-drinking companion, the man he had chatted and laughed with just a few days earlier.
Cecil was shaken to the core. He dropped the canvas hastily. He was very disturbed and upset but he decided to look inside the wreck. He clambered into the mangled tank and peered around in the half-light.
Gleaming, in a ray of sunshine, was an Australian beer bottle.
As far as I know this ghost story is completely true. I have re-written it in my own words.