Sunday, August 24, 2008

Friday 14th June 1940

It is in orders! The laconic statement appeared today:- “All Air Mail Services Suspended”.

Paris has surrendered without any fighting beyond some in the suburbs and the French have retreated to the west of the city. I'm glad! Horrible if that lovely old city had been smashed up. The significance of the event is unaltered, however. The French capital has fallen and the Germans are already marching in. (“Nach Paris!” they used to say last time. But they never got there.)

Usual Saturday spit and polish tomorrow. Spent most of the siesta and some of this evening in cleaning, polishing and scrubbing. Sat on the flat roof finally, cleaning my belt in the failing light. Worked slowly, singing. When I finished I suddenly found that the shadow at my feet was a moon shadow, not a sun shadow. The moon rode high, half towards the full. The two great hills on either side; evening star above the long band of red which stretched right across the western end of the valley. The buildings of the town, un-English in shape, with mosque towers in silhouette against the redness.

“Froggie” French, old soldier, talked in the canteen with the weary cynicism of most old soldiers. “They'll be in Cherbourg soon. That'll shake some of those fellers we saw there when we came across – BEF and all that. There was a lance corporal from Chelmsford there. Saw him in “The Fleece” at Christmas. Ten days leave from France. Wouldn't say where he was serving – BEF and all that. When we landed at Cherbourg there he was, in his shirt sleeves, sweeping shit off the pavement... “Over there”, see? Yeah, he and his mates will be shaky now”.

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