Sunday, November 16, 2008

Friday 15th May 1942

I was due to go on leave tomorrow morning but it has again been postponed, this time until after-duty on Sunday (probably Sunday afternoon, we're working over the weekend). Last night, after a morning and afternoon of preparation, we moved out of camp at dusk and bivouacked near the ranges. Several hours sleep and I wakened at 4:45a.m., just before the sentry called me. Some telegraph wires were thrumming, unusually loudly.

A mug of hot tea from the cook house, truck packed, and then I walked over to the troop position with the GPO (Lieut. MacRae-Brown) and Group Ac (Jack Tabor) and showed them the approximate gun position. We hadn't been there long before troop vehicles rumbled over the skyline and into the sandy hollow where we stood. Lines were already laid and by 6a.m. (in 20 minutes) communications by line and wireless were OK and my maintenance men were tapped in – Fleming on the “D” link line and Hatch on the OP line. I had Hallows as Troop telephonist, with Quick (a new signaller) under his wing. Newby was on GC wireless set with another new man, Jones. Things went quite smoothly and there was little panic except for some of the new subs. There was only one OP, which was manned by BHQ men.

Made plans for alternative link-ups, tidied up the lines etc. and then with my driver, “Whacker” Newton (the Duke) filed off boldly to Fleming's listening post, heaving primus, milk, water, tea brew can and sugar out of a truck against which the Colonel was leaning. I'd established Jock in a slit trench so we got in there and made a brew, recalling the others from their duties one by one.

“Calling Charlie maintenance.” “Maintenance here.” “Hatch?” “Yes.” “Right. Come in and get your topee. OK? Leave the “D” signaller there.” “I've got my topee.” “Oh! Well, come in. I've got another job for you.” “Right.”

(“'Strewth!” said the listening “D” link telephonist to his NCO, Ted Gayler, “I can guess what they're on ! Pip toc beer!”

Thereafter things were fairly quiet, except for the familiar WHAM! of 25 pounders, and at 9a.m we closed down and reeled in. Breakfast in camp at 10:30a.m. and then maintenance.

Later there was a conference at RHQ, presided over by the CRA and the Colonel. The officers were severely criticised (the new ones of course) but there was only one small criticism of signallers. They didn't appear to have noticed anything wrong with “C” Sigs. although there were a few slips, I know. Tomorrow there is another night drill order, this time with wireless and tanks.

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