Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Monday 16th October 1939

I was listed for duty yesterday. When I did not report Sergt. Major Essler sent a man to my billets. The messenger returned saying that I’d apparently gone away for the weekend. In rage and glee, the Sergt. Major then issued instructions that I was to be placed under open arrest, pending sentence, as soon as I returned.

This story soon circulated but not the sequel (which was that Sergt. Major Essler later discovered I had weekend leave; chagrined, he eventually decided that I could not be charged with any crime) and during the morning many men approached me to ask if I’d not been arrested yet? As I passed groups of men I’d hear a whisper, “Arrest that man!” (quotation from a very hackneyed advertisement in American magazine).

This was Jackos’ last night of leave. He came to the flicks with Ron Dean, Sid Pond and I. We reached the “Windmill” later on – ten minutes before closing time. Sid stood a round of ale. Jacko stood a round of John Haig. We clinked glasses, this being a sentimental occasion, to “The Artillery”. I went to the bar with the four glasses and just said “same again”. “Six shillings” said the landlord lightly as he served me. They’d been doubles! A minute later Ron Dean had a similar shock and three minutes afterwards Sid Pond bought a round of singles. Fast elbow exercise!

As it was now closing time we came away and stood discussing the war and what-not for some time. Then Dean went home and eventually Pond. Jacko and I strolled along, whilst he began to tell me of some girl he’d been out with that afternoon. He went into the Milk Bar for some sandwiches (I dare not enter as it was past curfew hour).

When he emerged he complained that everything was spinning around in the most amazing way. We went down to the Market Square and digested Battery Orders by the aid of matches and a petrol lighter. I began to feel queer too. That whisky and beer, swallowed hastily on an empty stomach, seemed to have a delayed action! We went back to my billets, for a final pow-wow. We sat on my bed and giggled. We went into the next attic and laughed at Stripe and Underhill. “We’re bloody tight,” complained Jacko. “RHO Guard, Gunner Underhill,” I kept stating solemnly (showing that I’d at least digested Orders with intelligence).

Then we ate the sandwiches and giggled, side by side, on my bed. Over and over again, Jacko began to tell me of the girl and how he just couldn’t bring himself to the poking stage. “Hard luck ol’ man,” I invariably replied:

“What’s her name?”
“Joyce”
“Oh, Joyce, yes, you told me before”

(This I know from Tiny Jennings, a disgusted witness of the sorry spectacle we made.)
Suddenly deadly nausea seized me. I staggered downstairs, through the yard and into the lavatory, where I was sick. Feeling better, though still hazy, I emptied a bucket of water down the pan and went upstairs again. “I’ve been sick,” I said with apparent pride. “Have you, ol’ man” said Jacko. “I just couldn’t be sick,” as though he earnestly desired to show his sympathy by copying me. “Now, this girl, “ he continued, “I wanted a poke, but somehow I just couldn’t do it…”

“What’s her name?”
“Joyce”
“Oh, Joyce, yes”

The effects began to wear off about midnight. Jacko went home. With a sigh I went to bed.

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