Sunday, January 25, 2009

Friday 18th February 1944

Today, there were small, bitter snowflakes driving in the wind.

I shall not be able to take any more “French Leave” as all NCO's now have to parade for a roll call at 4:30p.m. each day. This information did not at first perturb me however, as I applied yesterday for a weekend pass and expected it would this time be granted.

I began my preparations for a weekend leave this afternoon, by going to the Soldier's Home just outside the gates, where I had a hot bath. It was really damn hot water and I half filled the bath. It is very pleasant there after a visit to the ordinary depot baths, where you queue for a long time, bath in lukewarm water, dress on a wet and dirty floor and know all the time that there are poor buggers outside waiting for their turn!

Just before the 4:30p.m. parade I collected my Africa Star and Territorial ribbons from a shop, where both had been mounted on a band. Proudly adorned with these gay colours (but hidden under my coat) I went on the parade. In the space of one minute – sixty seconds – I was reprimanded for not wearing gaiters, told no weekend pass could be granted for another fortnight and detailed to be on Church Parade this Sunday.

I became visibly agitated; I was taken in to see the Officer... Luckily I had to wait a few minutes before he came, so I read a letter that had been thrust into my hand just as I went on parade. (Seeing it was from my Father, I suddenly had a wise idea that it would do me good to read it first.) It was rather a wonderful letter from NCD to “My Dear Boy.” It calmed me considerably, made me pull myself together.
So nothing awful happened.

The Officer was humane and kind and promised to get me away from here as soon as possible, to Newcastle-on-Tyne. (Is Newcastle some Avalon, in the far north? They always mention it as the elixir for all evils! Yet according to he ordinary men it is pretty evil itself – a huge depot like this, where useless NCO's are broken and reduced to the ranks.) The Officer said it couldn't be helped, about the pass; it was Regulations. But he'd try and get me a pass for the next weekend, if I was still here. Regarding Church Parade, he would let me know more tomorrow.

I eventually went out to the Soldier's Home and cooled-down, (and lost my precious emergency ration tin and 20 cigarettes!) I wrote Father to thank him and then telephoned April to say I could get no weekend leave. Bless the lady! She sounded as bitter as I was and said alright, she would come to Woolwich and see me on Sunday.

Weakly I agreed and we made plans for a rendezvous – rather doubtfully as I did not know what time I should be free on Sunday.


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