Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Saturday 10th June 1939

On the Battery notice-board I observed among duties of the day; “Canteen Orderly, Lance Bombardier Dawson”. “That’s not Dawson SJ is it?” I asked Fullerton, the Clerk. “There’s another Dawson in the Battery. I’m a Gunner, anyhow”. Fullerton looked through the papers. “Yes old man, it must be the other bloke then”.

First heat of the tug-of-war this morning. Jacko and I and six other signallers (including Pond) were defeated after four pulls – one being questioned. We’re not in training! Both felt very stiff afterwards. Just before the last pull, Fullerton ran up to me, “Aye, Dawson! It is you! Get your stripes and report for duty as soon as possible”. I drew seven single stripes and, walking back to the tent, found the blokes laying out their kits.

I slapped the seven stripes on my arm and said, “There you are boys, how’s that for a tiger?” George, the inventor of the “striped like a tiger” phrase did not respond but Jacko cast me a quick sidelong, mischievous glance. There was a bit of ragging but no one seemed envious; in fact most of the signallers seemed quite pleased.

Grumbling, I changed into full uniform – breeches, puttees, spurs etc, and reported at the canteen. Apparently the Orderly is supposed to be there all the time that the canteen is open. Some big shot was inspecting the Camp today but I did not fall in on my kit like the rest. I stayed, sewing stripes pretty raggedly, in the empty canteen, to ensure that no one became drunk and disorderly. Pushed off at lunchtime.

When I returned the canteen was closed so I pushed off to Harlow with Jacko and fetched Pat – this was visiting day. (No one was supposed to leave camp actually.)
The Sports were dull so Pat, Ling, George, Tiny and I drove into Epping for tea. Amazingly, we were not stopped at the gate! Had tea in the garden of “The Bell” Epping.

The General had inspected the canteen, in my absence! “I’m an old soldier myself though” said the barman, “If they’d asked for you, I’d have said you were at the lats”.

Jacko (on fire piquet) and I spent most of the evening in the Canteen. George and Tiny took Pat home. Jacko anxious and confidential. Would George talk too much and create a bad impression? When Ling turned up, Jacko, still perturbed, tried to persuade him never to see Pat alone but just with the rest of us, as before. Jacko talked most convincingly, I think he’s getting fond of her! Ling listened patiently to Jacko’s persuasion and at the end said cheerfully, “Well, anyhow I’m going to take her out!” Quite unmoved by Jacko’s eloquence!

Tiny and George returned late. George said they’d had “A ruddy fine time; been sitting in her house all the evening”.


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