Monday, July 07, 2008

Friday 22nd September 1939

Hignall, Gobey, Boden, Moore and the rest of the trained signallers who have been at BHQ or RHQ since we were called up, came back to the squad today. We lance-bombardiers will get less responsibility now, especially as Hignall is a two stripe man and will take over when the sergeant is away. Rather sorry really, as I’ve enjoyed the responsibility and have gradually learnt more about the job, although I’m still mighty ignorant as a signaller.

One good piece of news. Because Pond as i/c “A” Signallers and I i/c Command Post signallers did our respective jobs satisfactorily, we are to stay in those positions for the present. At the same time, all NCO’s in future are to be taught all jobs, not just their own. A sound scheme, much better than blindly putting a man who has no experience over a man who has lots, simply because the former is senior. Eventually Pond and I will both receive a second stripe.

Went to The Cock Inn tonight to collect a few more bits and pieces. The Allens are awfully kind, letting my things stay there indefinitely and allowing me to wander in and out as though I’m still a resident. There were several soldiers – PBI bandsmen – in the bar as I passed through. “Evening Corporal,” said one, smiling (how I wish I was L/Cpl. Instead of L/Bdr!) “Bombardier, in the Artillery!” I corrected, smiling.
“Ah, yes” he said.

A few minutes later Iris came up with the message that the “Drum Major of the Essex Regt.” Would like me to have a drink with him. “Oh hell” I thought, but went down as gracefully as possible and plunged into the turmoil of the bar. I dislike noise and jollity in bars and usually feel “out of it” and ill at ease, and stiff. On this occasion my inner spirit of resignation was quite unjustified however for I thoroughly enjoyed the next hour or so.

One bandsman had a piano accordion and the rest were all singing. Soldiers dominated the public bar; civilian “locals” huddled nervously in groups or sat stiffly against the walls. They were “out of it”, not me. It was intoxicating to be one of the dominating party! The drum major was a very decent sort, rather like the old Quarter bloke in Number Three Company of the 54th. He and I (heaven knows why he should befriend a lowly lance-jack) leaned with our backs to the bar whilst he directed the singing.

We sang “The Only Girl in the World” (which one should I like to be the only girl, I wondered?), “Chestnut Tree”, and “Love’s Old Sweet Song”. A bandsman sang a humorous song about coming home and finding another man’s car in the yard. Then a tenor sang, sentimentally, “It’s my Mother’s birthday today”. Finally the drum-major, with a fine baritone voice, sang “Old Father Thames” We all joined in the chorus, civilians as well.

“High in the hills, down in the dales,
Careless and fancy free,
Old Father Thames keeps rolling along
Down to the mighty sea…
…Kingdoms may come, Kingdoms may go,
whatever the end may be,
Old Father Thames keeps rolling along
Down to the mighty sea”

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