Monday, July 07, 2008

Wednesday 27th September 1939

Orderly Bombardier today – bugger it. To hell with the bloody job! I’m stuck here at BHQ with nothing to do, whilst the rest of the Battery has gone out on an all-day Scheme. Dear old M1 gone without me. And there’s nothing happening here. Just a few odds and sods – orderlies and so forth – wandering about like lost sheep.

Changes imminent in Battery personnel. Sergt. Yarrow was recalled for civilian work a fortnight ago. Now, this afternoon I must go round with another list of men who are to report at BHQ with their kits, in civilian clothes. They have been sent for by their previous employers and are to be discharged. The list includes Alan Cracknell, Hodge and two other signallers. Then several other acquaintances have been notified they are to be withdrawn and sent to various depots for training as instructors. They’ll remain there for the duration of the war, in all probability.

I must be enjoying this life more than some, because many blokes are quite disappointed at not being discharged or sent to training cadres. I’m not! But – bitterest blow of all – among those listed for a training cadre (at Larkhill) is our Sergeant Quayle – father and uncle and teacher of all the signallers. We shall miss him terribly. I always felt I’d not be afraid in action if he was around. (I went to the grisly scene of the Epping plane crash with him). Doubtless he’ll be replaced by some feller transferred from another unit. No one here is capable of being NCO i/c Sigs.

Night: Made myself comfortable on the floor of the Battery Clerks’ Room, with seven blankets. BSM Carlos came in and sat scribbling at the desk, occasionally scratching his head in obvious perplexity. He does not seem particularly brilliant in things clerical. I volunteered to help. He gave me the job and went out for a drink, gratefully!

The task was to prepare a rota of duties for the lance bombardiers! So I carefully worked out the dates on which the nine of us should follow each other in the duties of:-

a) Battery Orderly Bombardier
b) Sick, Post, Canteen and Defaulters Bombardier
c) NCO in charge of meals

I also gave a précis showing the numbers of odious weekend jobs we’d each perform in the next four weeks. He was pleased! My list will be thrown out of gear when Smurthwaite returns to duty – he’s ill just now. Until then the secret notes I made of the dates on which Ling, Dawson, Dean and Pond should be on “orders” will be very helpful to me and my cronies!

I did one “twisty” thing. My first rota put me on duty next Saturday. I rewrote it, so that I was “on” on Sunday instead. Because on Saturday I think I shall see April! A letter came today, saying that she had leave from her lousy control room on Saturday and could I see her? A sweet letter!...

“No Stephen! Darling, whatever happens you must never, never, never turn into a wooden, stolid soldier. Please don’t ever let that happen, think of all the lovely things in life you and I love, again, one day…”

How then, could I deliberately give L/Bdr. Dawson a duty which would keep him in Chelmsford until 10p.m on Saturday?


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