Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Friday 7th November 1941

At roll call this morning the BSM was carrying a big list of names:- “Fall out in front the following! - Gunner Sullivan,1st RHA!...”

(“Yes”, we whispered, “It is the Tobruch draft... 1st RHA...”)

“Gnr. Ballantyne, 104th RHA! Bdr. Oxley! L/Bdr. Belcham! Gnr. Stevens!...”
The 104th men in my troop began to melt away into the ranks of the Draft.
“... Bdr. Dawson!... “Hah!”
And I walked out, too.

(“Glad to be going,” someone muttered nearby. “Yeah. Too much bullshit 'ere” “Yeah” “Reckon the Regiment will soon be relieved now, any'ow”)
Then there was a laugh in the ranks of the Draft.

“You'll all parade to see the MO at 10:15,” roared the BSM (He is a permanent Base wallah) “Sir!” whimpered a voice, “I can't. I've got to go to 'ospital sir”
“YOU'LL BE HERE ON PARADE JUST THE SAME!” thundered the BSM. And then, “STOP LAUGHING IN THE RANKS!”

There's nothing heroic about soldiers going back to war. But there is no shrinking, either. They're just fed-up, philosophical, and cynically resigned.

“Some of these Base wallahs ought to get a taste of Tobruch.” “Sure.” “Ah well, it won't be so bad up there, now the winter's coming.” “No, not so thirsty.” “Don't fancy the trip up much!” “No! Bomb Alley -” “Well, what is to be will be.” “Yeah.”
“I'm goin' to take a few tins of fags up with me this time, mate.” “Yes. And matches!”

I'm now taking this – and a few letters, spare clothes and odds and ends, to the Regimental store, at the Citadel. Here endeth the story of Sunset 1941.

After The War:-

I'll smoke Craven Curly Cut and read the “Daily Mirror" because I enjoyed them both so much in the desert.
I'll not join the Territorials or any other military voluntary force.
Maybe I'll go back to Scouts in some village troop (as Rover or ASM) a) To teach internationalism. b) To make a niche in that village's social life. c) To keep in touch with open air life. d)To recapture and improve on old happy days and ways. (Perhaps this last is hopeless. Can one recapture?)
I'll study history and geography and English till I'm expert. Especially geography.
I'll drink more beer “in stinking pubs” than I used to. Must get rid of this thirst!
I'll use “Kolynos” toothpaste. It's qwise!

Next time I'm in Civilisation (probably Cairo):-

I'll spend some time in a bookshop. I'll buy – a) Fiction b) An up to date pocket atlas c) A student's book of geography d) Rupert Brooke's poems.

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