Friday, July 04, 2008

Friday 25th August 1939

Eight Southend calls, one small order. Lost a decent order – one of the Schools… The Starline traveller, blast him, got there first. If only I’d made the call on my last Southend journey – Wednesday or Tuesday would have been OK. Finished work, disconsolate.

Now the weekend loomed ahead – full of sinister possibilities, too, this particular weekend!
I had the car examined and the carburettor and electrical contacts trouble( manifested on Saturday morning and several times since) rectified. But the weekend…

I rang a number, the same that I rang last Wednesday, but without hesitation this time.

“Oh, hello Stephen! What time did you get back the other night?”
“Three o’clock”
“Wasn’t it dreadful! I told Mummie we’d had a puncture, so don’t forget…”

Yes, rather, she could see me tomorrow night. Yes, it was beastly monotonous, all the soldiers and guns and lorries. “Bye, darling” she said gaily.

We were not at the drill hall very long this evening. With some excitement we fell-in in two very ragged lines and were issued with gas respirators and shrapnel helmets. A brief lecture on what to do if mobilised was delivered and as usual, special emphasis was laid on insurance cards and the careful completion of Note Book 3. Thoughts of going away for a weekend were discouraged as we might be needed at short notice.

Tiny Jennings and I got into Slinky B to go to the Milk Bar. “Anyone else coming?” he asked vaguely and then remembering added, “No, of course not!”

Mary and I were at The Sunbeam at about midnight, when the late news summary came over the wireless. Everyone became still as death whilst it was being read. Nothing fresh except – hopeful sign – that Hitler, at his own request had seen the ambassadors of France, Japan, Italy and Great Britain. The British Ambassador was now flying back to report.

As the news ended, everyone in the café relaxed and began talking and eating once again.
“Like the two minutes silence on Armistice Day,” I laughed, as Mary and I made for the door.

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