Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thursday 4th July to Saturday 6th July 1940

Written several days later.

Three fairly hectic days. A two-day drill order under Brigadiers supervision, at two hours notice. Staccato account:-

The switchboard in an orange grove. Busy; there was an RHQ and 414 Bty. line on this time. “LACE” and “LACE QUEEN” respectively. I was “LACE PIP” I did not sleep for an instant. Dare not; in any case LACE called me every 15 minutes throughout the night. Alone in the grove. George Hignall and Hallows slept about 10 yards away, out of sight and I'd hear murmurs of voices from the lane beyond the grove; sometimes sharp commands from the nearest gun - Jack Chenery's. Ling was in the lane too, on “X” wireless set and Underhill on “H”.

Following forenoon – all very tired – M1 stuck in soft sand as we were rushing madly to a new position. Digging desperately... The whole Regiment roaring past us. Long journey home over awfully rough and dusty tracks. At last we reached a road and for half an hour I had intermittent sleep, the driver expecting me to tumble into the road at any moment.

Camp, a rotten meal and then an hour in which to straighten out our kits and wash and shave, before parade. Maintenance. Pay parade 6:15p.m. We were told that kits were to be ready for the usual pukka Saturday inspection by 7a.m. tomorrow. At 7:15 the battery must be ready to move off for another drill order. I'd just begun to clean my bloody buttons when the signallers were all turned out to get things ready for this drill order.

We were loading vehicles etc. until 9 o'clock. Then I had a hasty snack in the canteen and turned in at 9:30p.m. as the trumpeter sounded First Post. Reveille was at 5a.m. next morning. Somehow we got our kits ready and were on parade at 7a.m. down at the new gun park, a mile from camp. To our horror the OC told us that next week there would be really intensive training. Ye gods! We thought, what is this?

Back from the drill order and maintenance done – more or less – by lunch time. Spent the afternoon in preparing for guard – yes! another weekend spoilt! Rather a “cushy” guard though, at the water tower on the cliffs. We paraded in shorts and puttees and took canvas slacks and slippers with us. Weird night scene, in the guard room below the steel ladder. Lantern; concrete walls and floor and ceiling; large pipes coming up through the floor; slits in the walls; steel ladder disappearing into the tube above. Underhill, Tabor, Watson and Young were with me on the guard. Only five of us, one man always up on the roof with the phone, looking out for suspicious ships or planes. Looking down the tube from above, the guard room looked like a (film) smugglers hide out or perhaps hell.

The orderly officer came at 11:40p.m. Underhill was on the roof then and his voice echoed as he called down the tube to me. I woke up, got out of my net and met the orderly officer climbing the first ladder. After he'd gone I slept again. Heard the reliefs change each time. Once I was awakened rudely when the mosquito net fell down on top of me (a lot of mosquito here; we've all been bitten, despite liberal applications of Dovers Cream). Otherwise I slept soundly. Reckon I had about nine hours slumber – nine hours!

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