Saturday, December 15, 2007

Monday 14th June 1937

South Benfleet and Canvey Island. My old friend Mr Gilbert changed a spell of bad luck with an order for £4-11-6. Also took two smaller orders to be passed through Hadleigh Builders Supply.

Finished my reports in a café at Leigh then went to the doctor’s for a medical examination. He tested my eyesight (6/6 each eye, quite good), felt my pulse, ran a tape round my chest and said “You have not got a rupture or anything, have you?” Actually “sold me a negative!” (The Territorial Army must be bloody short of men!) On this flimsy evidence, the doctor signed a form stating my heart and lungs were in good condition etc and that I was fit for general service.

A cup of tea and a sandwich before going on to the drill hall. Mentioned my “medical exam” to the café proprietor. He, being an ex-service man, became reminiscent and said he joined up in 1878 as a trumpeter and served under Roberts of Khandelar.“Good luck!" he cried as I left, “Come again and tell me how you get on. I’m very interested.” I glanced back. He was saluting! (They fight their battles o’er again.)

The battery clerk who had filled in my form saw me again. Apparently he always tells his wife about new recruits and apparently his wife thinks we may be distant relations, cos her grandmother was a Dawson and came from Grimsby. Five minutes later, after a brief and unimpressive ceremony, I was a member of the Battery. Attestation consisted of making an Oath (with a bible in my right hand), repeating the words after a Second-Lieut. “…King George the Sixth and his lawful heirs and successors…”

Rather a chaotic evening of drill – for everyone, not just me. I stood around like a lemon, whilst the gun crews made a balls up. Later I discovered an intriguing instrument something like a telescope, which several men languidly turned on a tripod. Apparently a height-finder. “What’s your eyesight like?” asked one of the languid men. “6/6” “Oh, in that case they’ll doubtless put you on this confounded thing” he said gloomily.

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