Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tuesday 18th August 1942

Today's “Mail” screams:-

“CHURCHILL SEES STALIN IN MOSCOW”
“VITAL DECISIONS MARK TURNING POINT IN WAR”
“Great Welcome for Churchill”
“PACIFIC BATTLE NEARING CLIMAX”
“US Marines make further landings on Solomon Islands”
“RUSSIAN GUNS CHECK DRIVE FOR STALINGRAD”

At the bottom of the page it whispers:- “Half a crown more for old people, this week”

And on an inner page:- “Britain has more pets but fewer children” “Birth rate declining steadily for last 70 years...” And a Professor comments:- “A people's birth rate is the measure of their faith in themselves. We must build a social structure in which we can welcome babies for their own sakes...”

Feeling much fitter now. This is just as well, for we're having a strenuous time (mentally), on this Signals Course. For the Army, it's an ideal existence. We do no guards or fatigues and very few parades but apart from instruction, we spend many hours each day on study and writing up notes. Haven't had time to read a book of fiction, or write a letter since the course started!

We work under difficulties though. It is so hot that when we write we cover up the whole of the page except for the space where the pen nib is moving. Otherwise the sweat oozing steadily from our hands and arms would cause smudges. Every now and then the paper with which we cover the page has to be changed. It is becoming saturated. Every few lines, we pause and dry our faces with a handkerchief. Otherwise the sweat drips down from there! And all the time, flies buzz devilishly around us.

However, we're still in the Army, and yet having to use our brains! Indeed it's getting a bit tough for my poor old desert brain already.

“...The minus SO4 ions went to the minus Zu rod and chemical action caused a sediment of ZuSO4...”
“...Total resistance = 27”
“... paraboloid mangamin 3 ¼ lens reflector...”

It is a bit tiring sometimes. But – outside the lecture hut we hear the thudding boots of less happy wretches. Drilling to win the war.

“Suppose we introduce another resistance, here...” says the lecturer at the blackboard and faintly through the windows we hear a squad of soldiers, counting, in unison.

“One, two, three, One, two, three, one.”
... “To your FRONT – SALUTE!”
“... The current will pass through this coil...”
CRASH – CRASH! “One-two. ONE,TWO,THREE,FOUR. One, two, three,One,two”
CLATTER! THUD, THUD, THUD.

Oh yes, we are the happier mortals!

NB: If this is ever read by a professional soldier, he will doubtless point out that the sequence or emphasis in the counting in Saluting drill, given above, is incorrect. This is probably true. But there! I've never taken much interest in the Counting; it seems slightly fatuous.

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