Sunday, July 06, 2008

Friday 1st September 1939

This is being written two days later – on September 3rd 1939, which may well be as grimly historic a day as August 4th 1939. It is being written (time a little before midnight) in the lighted, heavily curtained interior of a wireless truck. I shall never have leisure now for the detailed type of narrative I have been writing in the recent past. Small memories shall be mentioned.

Groups of men with their kits, fall-in, in the market square at Chelmsford. A shadowy figure – it turns out to be the Battery Commander – addresses them. “You’ll all know that we’re for it. We’ve got to go and fight that bugger Hitler. We don’t want to but the jobs’ got to be done…”

File of men march to the billeting headquarters through very dark streets. The great black-out has started. “Dawson, you’ll be at no. 9 London Road with Hodge, Underhill and Jennings”. We located the place, were pleasantly received and left our kits there. Damned hot; sweat poured off us.

Found Mary. Typically tender and motherly, she gave me a rosary to hang around my neck…

Hodge and Underhill shared one attic, Tiny Jennings and I shared another. One window – a skylight looking onto the slates – which had to be closed whenever the light was switched on, making the room somewhat stifling. Nice that Tiny and I, at last should be together. We lay in our beds talking awhile (rather like the first night at camp) about the amazing event which was about to cross our paths and it’s possible effect on our lives.

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