Sunday, September 07, 2008

Wednesday 20th November 1940

How we've slackened in alert, preparedness since leaving the desert! Well, we never dreamt there'd be air raids around here! At about 4a.m. I awoke, hearing a mournful siren cry - “Oooo! Oooo! Oooo!” “Siren” I thought sleepily. Then I heard a droning noise. “Plane, too.” I decided lazily. Crack! Crack! Wham! The building felt the shock of the thud! and a flash flickered at a window. “Good Lord, an air raid!” I suddenly realised, disgusted with myself. Thud – flash!

Where the hell was that bloody tin hat? Where had I stored the damn thing? Thud – flash! Crash! (Though I did not know it, this was my first experience of anti-aircraft gunfire. What I imagined to be bombs were the reports of AA guns around the camp.) Eventually, giving up the search for the tin hat, I put on my coat and slippers and went outside the store-shed to see what was happening. A good show!

Guns were firing all around and the sky was full of searchlights wheeling vainly (I once watched them swinging, in practice only, with April beside me, in Slinky B) and of the red flashes of bursting AA shells. Quite a few of us were watching, hopeful to see a flaming plane (sadistic sods) but were disappointed. There were so many gun-flashes on the ground that we could not even tell if bombs were being unloaded. The whole show struck me as being more nerve-shaking with the concentrated din and flashing of our AA guns thrown in than when we had no protection, as in the desert. I thought rather grimly of the people at home...

Tonight in the canteen there are some RAOC NCO's straight from England. One has an accordion and they are sitting in a group roaring out Chorus in perfect harmony – usually. They seem a very gay, light-hearted crowd – in contrast to the EY NCO's who are sitting in twos and threes, talking solemnly, as usual. Just now they sang a song I don't know very well; maybe it was popular after we came away. Something about “...When the lights of London Town shine again.” Ah! That will be the night! When they lift the black out which is steadily, irresistibly creeping over the whole world...

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