Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday 26th March 1940

We are leaving Gedera tomorrow for a station some 30 miles further north, on the coast. Nathanya: this will probably be our permanent home whilst in Palestine and to which we shall return after firing camp. A good deal of the kit has already gone – and many of the tents. Tonight we shall sleep on the ground, without bed boards or straw filled paliasse – not that that is any great hardship, I’ve done it often enough before now! All my kit has gone, except that which I carry in my valise and two blankets.

Yesterday I received a delightful present which fills a gap in my intellectual world here – a book, published this year, entitled “Word from England”. Delicious poetry and prose, much of which I’d read and wanted to study afresh. Jack Chenery – a gunnery bombardier, age 26, married, solemn, dry witted, good soldier, not very popular, ordinary looking, Essex accent, very well educated and a friend of Sid, Stan, Ron and I (ie – The Snakes) – was interested in “Word from England”.

Today he said to me, “Steve, what is that poem of Rupert Brookes called “The Treasure,” which I saw in your book? Could I copy it out? I want to include it in my next letter home”. “I’m sorry Jack, “ I said, “But I’ve packed the book and sent it on with my kit; however, I can give you “The Treasure” from memory. I did so, wondering whom he intended the poem for. Who in England that he knew, would be interested in Rupert Brooke? (It was of course his wife, I later found.) A retiring sort of man, non-smoker whom I think I’ve never heard swear. But “one of the best, old Chin,” as Sid said. He wrote neatly, in a TocH diary, whilst I slowly dictated:-

“When colour goes home into the eyes
And lights that shine are shut again
With dancing girls and sweet birds cries
Behind the gateways of the brain:
And that no-place which gave them birth
Shall close the rainbow and the rose –
Still, Time may hold some golden space
Where I’ll unpack that scented store
Of song and flower and sky and face,
And count and touch and turn them o’er
Musing upon them; as a mother who
Has watched her children all the long day through
Sits, quiet-handed in the fading light
When children sleep, ‘ere night”

Regimental Canteen Orderly tonight. I’ve played “rummy” with Stan, Ron, Sidney and Jack Chennery and won a few mils on the evening. (Canteen Orderly, doing a little gambling!) I’ll be away from here within five minutes and then turn in. Reveille is at 0400hrs tomorrow!

The mail came tonight! I had letters from John, Eileen, Rio, Lois and Win (who was the donor of “Word of England”). April and Mad Willy wrote yesterday. So all my friends are in my pocket once more – except Mother, I’ve heard nothing from her for ten days or more.

Now the Canteen – and Gedera – will close down! And so will Dawn 1940. (I wonder just what sort of day will follow this Dawn?)

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