Sunday, November 16, 2008

Monday 4th May 1942

As Regimental Orderly Sergeant,this afternoon I mounted the guard. For half an hour before the parade, I was having mass instructions on how to do it, from Bill Watling, Frank Brooks and Don Pounds. Match boxes were being pushed hither and thither for demonstration purposes. Everyone had a different way of performing the intricacies of the complicated evolutions!

Well primed then, I walked onto the parade ground to face a long rank of men – 43 altogether. There were 3 orderly NCO's, 2 defaulters, 11 in the Fire Picquet, 5 in the RHQ Guard, 11 in the 339 Guard and 11 in the 519 Guard – all in single rank except the The Picquet. Ling was in the rear, as the new ROS.

So I staggered onto the parade ground with my mouth quite dry and a lump in my throat (should I be able to speak?). Just then I noticed that the RHQ Guard had fallen in about 3 paces too far to the right of 339, leaving an ugly gap. So I turned back more confidently and strode officiously towards those wastes. The bombardier came to attention, with an anxious look.

“All present?” I demanded. “Yes, Sar'nt.” “Well close your men in on 339 three paces. Bring them to attention.” “Yes sir.” And I gloomily watched him whilst he nervously got his guard correctly placed. Then, feeling better, I marched away a vast distance across the miredam, halted, turned about, and bawled the initial mouthful:-

“Hundred and forth – Essex Yeomanry Regiment – Royal Horse Artillery – Guards – Fire Picquet – Other Duties – and Defaulters – 'SHUN!”

And the inspection began. When I'd nearly finished the rifles, I remembered, slightly horrified, that I hadn't given “Eyes right – dress!” at commencement of the ceremony. However I sort of blamed someone else for it in typical Army fashion.

“Bombardier,” I said sternly to Denny Search, “Your Fire Picquet is badly dressed. When I give the whole parade eyes right, in a moment, see that they get properly dressed. And a clear pace between ranks too.”

Eventually it was all over, and the Orderly Officer had come and gone, leaving Ling and I alone on the parade ground. “God!” I said, “What an ordeal! My mouth's bone dry!” “So's mine,” he said, “Look!” And sure enough there was no sign of saliva in his mouth either!

“Phew! Let's go and see if there's anything to drink in the mess.”
Praise the Gods, there was. Lime juice with ice in it!


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