Sunday, December 07, 2008

Tuesday 5th January 1943

Yesterday, I noticed a squad of men erecting two EPIP tents joined together. “What's that for?” I asked; and was told, “This is the battery recreation tent, mate.” Your library is going to be in here, too.” another working man told me. “Ah!' I said.

(My library, by the way, made a steady and unspectacular start a few days ago, and now has about 20 regular borrowers and contains 84 books. Each day a couple or so more people join and each day I receive about a half dozen more books. This is absolutely as it should be. Small and steady beginnings...)

This morning the welfare activities in which I seem to have become engaged were vastly enlarged. I was standing on parade with the Battery signals class, when a gun sergeant came up and said something to the signals officer. The latter told me to fall out. “Apparently you know all about it?” he said. “You won't be with us any more.” Concealing my lack of knowledge, I was taken to see the BSM. He stood by the EPIP tents I'd noticed previously. A squad of men was hard at work, joining on a third tent. “I want you to take over the furniture and accessories,” he stated abruptly, “Got a pencil and paper? Right! 8 chairs wooden, 12 chairs basket...”

“What's all this sir?” I demanded. “Haven't you been told then?” “No sir.” “Good Lord! Well, you're in charge of the new recreational room. There'll be a canteen to run as well. You're excused all other duties, of course. We want you to be open by tomorrow night, if you can. You'll have a lance bombardier with you. All you need do is organise. There'll be two fatigue men detailed each day. And you're to carry on until Bdr. Cartwright comes back from hospital, which won't be for some weeks.” I digested this with commendable lack of astonishment, and “took over” the furniture etc. Even my intelligence was enough to cope with this.

It's been a busy and fiddling day. I've been to the bulk NAAFI to get the initial stock of provisions – about £12 in value. Brewing tea for 200 men between 10:30a.m. and 11a.m. each morning seems rather a problem – with only one good primus cooker. There don't seem any other major difficulties in the catering direction. There is a canvas floor and a bar counter and one shelf. The darts board has been satisfactorily installed, the electric light has not.

For myself, I have got a little screened off recess behind the bar, about 7 foot by 6 foot, complete with my own little table, lantern and box to sit on. My private office and bedroom, in fact!


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