Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Friday 17th March 1944

Railway Station Comments:-

Being kind and helpful, for which there is plenty of scope at the Station, aids me to be less introspective and worried. There are mothers struggling on the steps with babies in cumbersome prams; small, weak-looking ATS girls staggering under the weight of huge kit bags; there are puffing old men and women; worried soldiers, over-worked ticket collectors, people with mountains of baggage; and of course, dozens of enquiries each day about trains, which I'm now learning to answer accurately.

So many people want helping; being helpful passes the time more quickly than standing about woodenly, like a soldier. and the people one helps are so grateful, they're worth being courteous to. The only travellers I'm not interested in are officers, unless they actually accost me (usually in a haughty way). Officers can afford to pay for a porter to carry their luggage if they must have someone to serve them.

On duty at the station today (7:30a.m. to 10p.m.) but was relieved during the morning for pay parade. For once it was a happy, easy pay parade too. I only had a couple of minutes to wait in each of the three queues before I drew my money. A clerk told me that my credit balance had at last been notified from RA Records at Sidcup.

Handing in of the week's laundry parcel was also an easy job this time. There was no need to queue; I just had to go across to the Postings Office to get permission from a lance bombardier to the effect that it was OK to hand in the laundry parcel. Wonder of wonders, the lance bombardier was in the office indicated and soon gave me the required consent, verbally – it was not even necessary for him to sign a chit. Receiving this permission means I am not expecting to be posted to Newcastle before next Friday! Wonder if I shall go eventually? In any case it is a relief to know definitely that I shall be here next week.

Sergeant Perkins cried jovially, “You'll soon go, Dawson! And then...!!” He fluttered his hands. (Obviously drunk or crazy,I thought) “What are you symbolising, Sergeant? Over the bounding billow?” “No! Oh, no! You'll never go overseas again – never!” “Won't break my heart if I do, though,” I said. “Tell you what will happen to you!” cried the Sergeant, peculiarly elated, “You'll get your ticket! That's what you'll get! Your ticket!!”

“There's nothing I want more, I assure you,” I responded, and came away, still wondering at the cause of the worthy Sergeant's manner. Maybe he is fey.

Last night I heard someone – an educated Scotsman – utter sentiments very similar to my own. “This is a terr-rible place, this depot,” he said, “Men lose their self-respect here and that's sometimes worse than losing life. In action, they increase their self-respect. And if they sur-rvive, as most do, they're all the better for it. But here, in a dump like this, they all become demoralised. A terr-rible thing!”


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