Monday, December 01, 2008

Friday 20th November 1942

Tubby Cartwright (water NCO) has moved in with us, so there are now five in the bell tent. A couple of days ago there was torrential rain, following which a brown flood of muddy water came swirling in under the walls of our tent. We had to dig an extensive drainage system then and there. That night and ever since we've made our beds on Jerry ammo boxes. (marked 2cm (Tr) Patt Fur Troopen) and so this place (the mud has caked hard now) is even more home-like.

“What do they do in the officers' mess?” asked someone the other night, during a break in our conversation. “Ha!” said Bill Bax, “Don't you know? They sit in a circle making plans; With furrowed brows they are asking, “What can we do to make the men unhappy , tomorrow?”” But it's not too bad here. The afternoons and evenings are generally free-times. The only thing I object to, is the 30 minutes marching drill which follows the first parade of the day. That does seem useless!

“Dawson?” said Cartwright heartily. “A mad sort of hawk. Do you remember our great adventure, Steve?”
“Ah! The day we saved Tobruch, Tubby?” (I knew this story, one of Tubby's famous ones.)
“That was it! My! What a day. We were sitting in a little wadi, cobs of iron flying all round us, and do you know what that bugger did? Started reading bloody poetry to me out of a book!”
“What poetry was it?” asked Bill.
“That's just it! Sassoon or something. “Does it matter if I lose my blasted leg...”
Yes! He was reading that to me! And bags of shit flying, you know how it is. I tell you, you want to keep away from Steve at time like that. He's too cheerful, I don't think.”

Of course, “does it matter if I lose my blasted leg” is Tubby's version of Siegfried Sassoon's cynical poem:

“Does it matter, losing your leg?
For people will always be kind...”

In a few days time, I get an increment of 3d a day for having served 3 years as a bombardier. Three years! One can hardly say I'm keen on promotion. I think I've become a bit of a character. a) For being so long a bombardier, b) For being the teller of so many anecdotes, most of which prove me to be a waste, c) For being the author of so many quaint phrases, d) For trotting out poetry at appropriate and in-appropriate times and, e) because I keep such a comprehensive diary.

Yes, I the solemn and dramatic Dawson, have now got to the stage where I am considered a bit of a philosopher and a humorist!

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