Sunday, January 25, 2009

Friday 3rd March 1944

We had a long, somewhat strained, but satisfactory telephone conversation last night and this afternoon, I had a letter from April written at about the time the telegram was sent.

This weekend (I've put in an application for a pass) we shall meet in Town. (Whether the pass is graciously granted or not!) If in ordinary writing, there would have been only one full stop, and a comma in the text of that telegram, April told me. “Very sincere regrets. All will be well, my love.” I am very glad and I think all will be well now, too.

Last night I saw in Orders: “The Commander Woolwich Garrison directs that the light coloured part of the NCO's chevrons and Good Conduct badges be coloured white. Also: All ranks, whatever duties they are performing, will wear waist belts as well as gaiters during all parade hours.” The only whitening materials available appear to be chalk and “Silvo” metal polish. Both these “run” when exposed to rain... I morosely applied “Silvo” to my greatcoat.

“I can guess the reason for that bit about the stripes,” sneered an NCO, “They'll get all the surplus NCO's whom they've failed to bust down to gunner and march 'em all out into the square when Jerry comes. They'll line up – Jerry will see the row of stripes gleaming – he'll dive down – give 'em a quick burst of fire – and over they'll topple, like skittles! Next morning in the office, they'll just cross the names off the lists for PSO or discharge – see?”

“Joking apart though,” put in a nervous man, “I'll be down into that shelter next time I hear a siren. Jerry's no fool, mates – 'e got that factory down the road last night alright, didn't 'e? It's our turn next.”

“Yes,” croaked another, “'E knows just where the Garrison is. “E'll drop flares again – and then – you see. We're for it.” “Don't be silly,” I said coldly, “This is the last place and we are the last people Jerry would want to destroy. Of course he's no fool, therefore he knows we all hate the Army and that we are the heart and soul of the English Quishing movement.” “That's about right too,” agreed a gloomy “graded” man, “All we want from the ruddy Army is our ticket!”

This midday I had a civilian visitor – Nobby Brown of Ashhurst and Ward 3 at No. 41!
I was on duty at the station when he came, (standing by the barrier, watching the passengers stream by) and laughed when Nobby loomed up, hatless and wearing a navy blue suit and coat.

We had lunch together in a cafe near the station and took a stroll through the streets afterwards. Our conversation was a good deal about the famous characters (including the Ants!) of the Compound where we once dwelt in No. 41, mixed up with grim talks about that shocking asylum near Oxford.

I felt quite inferior to Nobby, seeing him free in civilian clothes and afraid of nobody. I was a fool to ask to remain in the Army! Nobby is going to clean windows for a living, to begin with. He's “in partnership” with “a mate” who will provide the gear and the knowledge and will earn 7d for every 5d of Nobby's.

“Fair enough!” said Nobby, “But I don't suppose I'll stay at it very long. It'll do for the time being, while I have a look round, see.”

My cough is getting worse. Now there is less worry and apprehension inside me, I must cut down my cigarette smoking. Besides, they cost 2/4d for 20! Tobacco, fortunately is mostly free just now as Father has obtained several tins of Royal Navy tobacco for me.

End of Dawn (2) 1944


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