Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Friday 27th August 1943

5p.m. I'm in Ward 3, behind the barbed wire. Been here nearly all day. I still feel too agitated to read books or write this.

8p.m. It happened like this. The sun seemed very hot during the morning “exercise” and I felt very jaded. When we fell in on the parade ground, nothing seemed to be happening, so I crouched down, hat in hand, thus getting in the shadow of the squad. Suddenly the man on my left nudged me, “Get up! The Sergeant's coming!” I got up. But it was too late. One of the three sergeants who run this parade, was rushing towards me. He halted fifty yards away with a look of extraordinary malevolence (I think he'd already lost his temper) and yelled, in a contemptuous tone pointing to a spot about two paces in front of him, “Come out here!”

I didn't move. “What – I'm not a dog – just English – you know.”
“Say please – not like-that-trying to – humiliation – aren't you”
It was ghastly. I was incoherent. He rushed up to me and snapped, “Put your cap on!”
“Oh – don't mind-doing that.”
“Oh, you don't mind, don't you?” He led me away to where the other sergeants stood. “What's up?” asked one.

I can't remember much of the next few minutes. My face began twitching horribly, and I put up a hand to hold it still. He kept on trying to break me by bullying orders
(“Don't stand there! Stand two yards to the left. There, I say!”) and by asking many questions. I said once, “I don't want to speak to you. Leave me with the other sergeant” He nearly frothed at the mouth; his eyes glared.

Eventually I was taken through the camp to the guard-room. I gave up my belt, cap, and emptied my pockets. At this point I began to regain my wits and retained 10 “V” cigarettes and a box of matches which I concealed in the palm of each hand. They put me in a cell, about 12 foot by 10 foot by 12 foot, with a heap of blankets. There was an observation hole in the door and a small window about 7 foot six inches from the ground in one wall. There was an iron grating in the window, held roughly by seven nails – one was missing.

I divided my fags and matches into two lots and hid them – seven matches and five fags in the blankets, six matches and five fags in my socks. Then I recited poetry aloud, whistled loudly, and furtively smoked. Gradually my limbs stopped trembling. But once the sergeant came, he upset me all over again. However I upset him, as well! He said, “If I have my way you'll stay in here about 10 days. That's what you want. There's nothing wrong with you. I know you!” “Leave that to the medical staff, my good fellow,” I said, “You know nothing.” Subsequently I annoyed him by calling him “Your Majesty”. His eyes were murderous. “Well, that's what you want isn't it? You want me to cringe, don't you?”

“You haven't been on a charge before?” he gloated, “Well, it's time you were! I know your sort!” “And I know you, King,” I cried, “You aren't a medical orderly and you know nothing about mental work. You're just a Regular soldier!” This stray shot went home, for he snarled, “That's nothing to do with it,” and went off.

Presently he returned, had the door opened, and said, “Come on. Get your things. I'm going to take you somewhere else.” It was obvious he was going to take me to one of the closed wards, but he contrived to make the remark as sinister and threatening as possible. So, after collecting my gear from Ward 1, I was brought here. For a moment, I feared that this might be the ward to which my enemy was attached, but thank God it was not.

The orderlies left me alone and I soon felt quieter. In the afternoon I killed countless bugs (30-50) in my bedding. Good old William came and spoke through the wire. “My God, old man, I could see that coming, as soon as he spoke to you like that! If I'd been near you, I might have helped. A few soothing words...”

In the afternoon the psychiatrist saw me. He was very kind, saying I'd probably have to appear before the Colonel, but he would give the latter a favourable (ie very neurotic?) report. He asked if I often felt that people were persecuting me? I said no. Indeed, except for that one bastard, everyone had been very kind.

Nye, from Ward 1 came to see me also, to return and discuss “Random Harvest,” which he'd read. He was good enough to say that he, and perhaps one or two others, would be delighted to give evidence re the unpleasant attitude adopted by the Stinker. This offer was quite unsolicited. “Several of us felt the same way as you,” said Nye. Curiously enough, they didn't think I was flustered and trembling, and nearly crying. “You sounded absolutely bored and uninterested,” he said,”It was quite amusing.”

Perhaps that's why the Stinker got so frantic. Thought he'd failed to frighten me.


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