Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Friday 13th October 1939

Dean being sick I ran “B” Troop Signals today – M3. Mt first experience of this but all went well. Samson and one of the Langleys were my maintenance men and were very helpful, especially Samson.

Gruelling sort of show, from first parade (in the dark at 6:30) onwards. Laying the line from M3 (Troop to OP) with Sid Ponds’ “A” lorry just ahead. 5 reels of line!
It ended with me struggling alone across a ploughed field. Crouching beneath a hedge at OP I found Spooner (OP telephonist), Captain Bolton and a specialist. The line was OK! The cigarette I smoked then (a Craven A) was delicious.

Then – reel in! Mad chase down the road, far ahead of the “A” men who did not get the order so soon. The Major watched us carefully as we reeled-in to the Troop and I began to fear we might be doing something wrong but apparently he was quite pleased.

Then M2 and M3 were sent to rendezvous – map reading! We found the rendezvous quickly and took decent cover. The Major, soon appearing, expressed pleasure. Sid and I, both hot and dirty, smiled smugly at each other. About ten minutes there (in a tree shrouded lane between high hedges) then on to the next position.

Same sort of thing. First a visit to the approximate OP position, then Hignall led us rapidly to the gun position. Back again to OP, laying line as we went. Cautious crossing of roads; passing the line over the tops of lorries, so that it lay safely in the ditch. After only a few minutes at OP we were told to reel in again. The Major was quite satisfied with the whole show!

M3 trundles slowly along the road, far behind the others.

“I can’t hear you shout “Stop”” complained the driver, Ritchie, as one of our many pauses was made.
“A little petulance?” I queried.
“Well, shout,” he said, “I can stand it how-ever loud you make it”
“Right”

Eager to let him have it I leaned behind the driving seat, watching the line come in. “Whoa, Steve!” gasped Samson, as the line tangled. “Halt!” I bellowed in Ritchie’s ear.

But he had the last laugh. He’d been anticipating some such prank. Slam! Went the brakes; the vehicle jerked to a dead stop and a cascade of signallers seemed to tumble on top of me – only Langley and Samson actually – amid much mirth, especially from the triumphant Ritchie.

Very hot and dirty and tired. Very conscious of the weight of our greatcoats, water bottles, haversacks, shrapnel helmets and respirators. Yet quite happy! And then there was pay parade, followed by a damn good, hot meal.

Thrilling news in the post! Father has been offered a commission in the RNVR “which I shall of course accept”, for minesweeping duties. Proudly he told how he’d passed the selection board and three doctors.

I felt a bit scared when I read all this! (Now I know how Mothers and Wives and Sweethearts feel.) At the same time I felt terribly proud, and glad for his sake that after all the disappointments since the last war, he was once more an officer and gentleman.

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