Sunday, March 23, 2008

Monday 1st August 1938

Rather an unsettled day but enjoyable, so far as my duties were concerned. Reveille 6 o’clock – wash and shave in cold water – dress of the day, boots, slacks, tunics and bandolier. Whilst preparing hastily for first parade – 7 a.m. – the CSM appeared and stated I was to be Acting Driver IC during camp, with a wireless car. So while les autres fell in for gas respirator drill, I tinkered about with a Ford Eight and Standard Nine, getting them filled with petrol etc. (The Standard had amazing gears.)

When we paraded for CO’s parade I fell in with “K” Section, not with the recruits. Soon afterwards, as we were getting out wireless sets, Lieut. Jarvis sent for me and I had to leave my new comrades. My day out with the Lieut. has, I fear, finished my chance of being Driver IC. In my absence someone else got the job. However my day was interesting enough to be worth it.

Lieut. Jarvis drove across the Downs to Falmer, to the 132nd Infantry Brigade HQ. I turned the car round and remained in the driving seat. Presently my officer returned, with a Colonel and a Brigadier General – regular army men. They came aboard, holding bundles of maps. I drove – God knows where – as instructed. (“Right” said the Brigadier, sitting beside me. “Left. Right; - sharp corner, this.”) Eventually, high on the hills, we found a dozen officers of various ranks, waiting by the roadside. The Brigadier proceeded to detail some scheme of mimic warfare. Apparently there will be manoeuvres shortly. They wandered to and fro talking excitedly, waving their arms, peering about and referring to maps. I sat in the car. The sun blazed; I closed my eyes – “just for a second.”

Opened them with a start: silence! They’d all gone! To add to my contentment, an ice cream man miraculously appeared. I lounged in the shade of a tree until a Brigadier-Major returned and told me to drive him to another rendezvous. We jolted along rutted cart-tracks, across fields. (“Better close this gate, Corporal” said the BM, which flattered me.) We found the others in a deep valley, still busy with maps and plans. Afterwards we went over more fields to the top of a hill. Standing on the brink of what seemed to be a Sussex Dew Pond, the Brigadier went into final details regarding “Concentrated fire; reserve companies, machine gun ranges, strategical points, men and platoons and battalions.” Damned interesting. And Lieut. Jarvis apologised for keeping me away so long!

We returned to Falmer at lunchtime. The lieutenant went to the mess whilst “the driver” was fixed up with a meal by the East Surrey’s.
PBI men! “Look, es got a bandolier! What is 'e?” I heard a puzzled voice enquire.
The cooks gave me a bloody good meal and were most hospitable.

Back to Roedean about 3:30 The Signals had just finished work for the day, - much better hours than at Watchet. Had a ripping swim, with another fellow, before tea. Diving off a groyn below the cliffs. We all slept soundly tonight!


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