Thursday, September 04, 2008

Tuesday 22nd October 1940

Brigade exercise on the Plateau beyond the escarpment. A 24 hour show (never before have I slept with so many miles of flat flatness stretching so far in every direction) which proved fairly cushy – but nevertheless, it was in the dry, stony desert of the Plateau! We only had one battery position so there wasn't much line laying or exchange work. Most of the time, the solid tyred M1 was bumping along in the wake of the infantry.

We “brewed” at lunchtime, a lovely cup of tea. As Dick Gilbert would say, it was, “Nectar to my parched lips” We were soon thirsty again however! It seemed a “chummy” truck. George Hignall was with us, in the front seat. Naden, Grant, myself and one of the replacements, White were in the back. (Ken White, a Nottingham man, was called-up about the same time as we left England. He's from a class of people I belonged to for years – until I got to Egham perhaps. Youth Hostels, hill-climbing, rambling, books, photography, camping, poetry. Lovely to hear him recite - “Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack” - and lovely to see his snaps of fit-looking young men in heavy shoes or boots, with sticks, taken against hilly backgrounds. That was my happy world for years – and will be again – maybe! No more time wasted in Territorial training if I ever get back again. I'll have a holiday in the Lakes, or Wales or the Peak District...)

However, as I was saying when thoughts and pen both wandered, we soon got thirsty again. It had been ordered that there should be no lights, fires or smoking on the Plateau after dark, so we were naturally eager to “brew” (“mash” we call it in my family!) before nightfall. When we halted at sunset, M1 spewed men who hastily got the primus going. Bugger me! When the water was nearly boiling – it was about 95C or 203F – the order came to mount and move on! I held the hot can of preciousness over the side as we jolted along, so that not a drop should be spilt. When we finally halted, the twilight – to say the least - was well advanced but we put canvas sand trays around the primus and gave the billy can a bit more heat. It boiled in five minutes. Ah! A grand cup of tea!

We dug our slit trench and then kipped down beside M1 A lovely bed, one blanket underneath and a blanket and greatcoat on top – cold nights now! Flatness all round, as far as the eye could have seen in daylight. Plaintive crying of bagpipes from the Argyll and Sutherlands' bivouac nearby.

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