Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sunday 5th February 1939

Territorial day. I don’t appreciate the glory of being a potential defender of the realm when I have to arise at 7:30 a.m. on Sundays. Hell! I had to do that this morning and must until the end of March. Signallers qualification course. We met – I can’t say “paraded” – at the drill hall at 8:45 in the old “full” uniform (breeches, puttees and spurs). A lorry was in the yard. The Sergeant said “All right, get in” and we scrambled aboard. Not enough discipline, drill or “bullshit”, in this unit!

We spent the day at “school” in Colchester. Lecture on the Don 3 telephone and buzzer exercises. Quite interesting and not very hard. Most of the Signallers in 339 Battery are young and loutish – the Thurmaston Boy Scout type. Ye Gods! I still mix with the class and age I mixed with in 1930! Little progress, on the face of it! At lunchtime most of the fellers wished to amble aimlessly into the town with their nice uniforms but I wasn’t very enthusiastic. Nor was Embleton ( a rather decent feller who, I should imagine, will soon get his stripe) so we went back to the class-room and had our lunch sandwiches in comfort, sitting with Sergeant Quaile near a radiator.

Wylie at the digs (22 but seems younger) has been talking much about a marvellous barmaid named Valerie. So he took me to the pub and showed her. She totally ignored poor Wylie. She was damned attractive and knew it! A knot of young men hung around the bar, striving to outdo each other in wit and gallantry.

We fetched Bisley – who was working at his office – and returned to the “Lion and Lamb”. Presently, Littlefield came in beaming, with a crowd of “jolly fellows”. “Oy!” he cried seeing us. “Hullo, you old so-and-so” he said to me, “Christ, let me strangle you, you sod!” he added as he seized the scarf, wound around my neck, student fashion. I explained that Wylie desired Valerie. “Leave it to me old man,” said Littlefield gaily. “I’ll fix you up!”.

He arrived soon after we had returned to the digs and proudly announced that he’d had a gallon of beer. “Well, old man” he said to the slow and earnest Wylie, “I’m taking the landlady to a dance and Pat’s taking Valerie”. Wylie’s horrified face! Littlefield then, brutally and humorously proceeded to smash any illusions which poor Wylie might have kept regarding women. As Hanson later remarked, you could see Wylie wince!

(Hell! How old I must be getting! Only a few years ago, when at Mrs Stephens for the first time, I was just like Wylie!)

Littlefield concluded his racy theories and experiences by saying, “I’ll poke any woman who is intelligent enough to say she likes it, in a way that pleases me!”
The dejected Wylie retreated to bed whilst Littlefield, Hanson and I rolled with mirth.


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