Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday 18th July 1937

Up 6 o’clock. Put on my big boots and tight pantaloons and puttees. (The puttees took a hell of a lot of adjusting, whilst precious minutes were slipping away.) A meagre and hasty breakfast. Cycled to the drill hall, scrambled aboard the waiting bus.

At 7:50, the 193rd marched onto the platform at Southend LNER station and entrained. I found myself in a carriage with four others, none of whom I knew. Demmer, Howell, Brailey and Trigg. By the time we reached Stratford, the five of us had decided to “stick together” and try to get in the same tent at camp. Accordingly, when the Brigade troop train arrived, we all got in the same compartment. A quiet, grizzled Lance Bombardier named MacRae agreed to be our NCO. “Ye look a richt,” he said, regarding us solemnly.

With many halts, the train crawled around north London. We removed our belts, water bottles, haversacks and tunics but retained puttees, boots and pantaloons. Bloody uncomfortable! Some slept, some talked, some played cards. Beyond the outskirts of London, the train began to gather speed. We passed through the Vale of the White Horse ("What’s a Vale?” asked Trigg, anxious to learn.) At Taunton there was a wait of 30 minutes. We bought tea and ham sandwiches on the platform.

Watchet at 4 o’clock. The 59th Brigade fell in outside the station, then marched off in sections of fours. The band led, followed by the 161st Battery. Second came the 164th and third the 193rd. We marched out of the town, up a winding road into the hills. The unfortunate 193rd, far in the rear, could not hear the band at all. Those hobbledehoy boots and tight puttees!
A two mile march was as exhausting as a twenty mile hike.

At last we reached the camp, and found our tent. At last our kit bags arrived, so we could change into shoes and slacks. At last we had supper. Before turning in, four of us had a run around the camp. I finished second, beaten in the last ten yards by a fine sprint by Howell.


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