Monday, July 07, 2008

Thursday 21st September 1939

Canteen, sick and post Orderly today. Turned out for the 7:30 a.m. parade but alas, there were no “sick”, so my glittering equipment was wasted. Found one sick man and a letter for delivery at 10 o’clock and then went to the quiet canteen, where I’ve been writing up my diary for the last few days.

When writing the foregoing, I neglected to give the full title of my job today – Canteen, sick, post and defaulters Orderly. We’d never had any defaulters so regarded this part of the duty as superficial. I therefore arranged to see Rio this afternoon, between 2p.m. and 6p.m., when the canteen was closed. At 1:45p.m, Sergt. Major Essler appeared and explaining there was a defaulter, reeled off a string of times and duties to be performed in connection therewith.

Numb with shock, I produced pen and paper and got the Sergt. Major to repeat his instructions. It seemed that one Gunner Parker EL was the defaulter. Just sentenced to 7 days CB he had to report to me at 2:30 for fatigue, and I was to see that he peeled potatoes until 3:30. I was to instruct him to report to the NCO i/c Guard at 5:30p.m. and thereafter at half hourly intervals. He could not enter the canteen except between 8 and 9 p.m. The blighters sin was smoking, in broad daylight, whilst on sentry-go! The punishment was too light, I thought. Thus, my afternoon’s leisure was considerably reduced.

At 2p.m. I found the defaulter already at work in the cookhouse. “You’re looking after me, aren’t you?” he asked dismally. “Who are you?” I asked viciously.
“I’m the prisoner” he said apologetically. “Your hour is from 2:30 to 3:30” I said.
“Can’t I work from 2 to 3?” he enquired hopefully. “There are no instructions regarding that” said he whose afternoon had been foreshortened, somewhat frigidly, “2:30 to 3:30 is your time”. “Oh, is it?” he said, and pushed off.

When he came back to the job he worked stolidly and seemed a decent chap and apparently appreciated the justness of his punishment.

The cooks – mostly old soldiers – gathered around and talked of the CB’s (“Jankers” they called it) which they had done in the War (1915 – 1918 of course). One of the cooks brought us both a cup of tea as the hour ended. The best Army cup I’ve ever tasted!

Slinky B did his best, and got me to Rio’s house by 4:10 p.m. Had one hour with her. We went to Hadleigh for tea, and gossiped. Impossible to recapture in such a brief meeting, the spirit of our starlit nights…

Back at the Canteen by 6 o’clock. It is 7p.m. now and the place is still almost deserted, as it is a half-holiday. (Yes, a half-holiday, blast it!)

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