Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Friday 7th January 1944

Nobby said “Drop a “G” in for me with the Canteen Corporal, will you, Steve? I'd like a job so as to keep out of that bleeding ward.” Accordingly, I “dropped the G” and with satisfactory results. The Corporal said yes, he could do with another helper and so Nobby started work with me this morning. As things turned out it was just as well, for I was away most of the day and if Brown had not been there, the precious RAMC privates would have had no fire to huddle round in the afternoon.

Yes, things moved with a jerk today!

At 11 o'clock a dozen of us interviewed the MO. (This MO seems to concentrate on my attacks of malaria and consequent lethargy and depression, instead of hinting that I'm mentally deranged by asking if I hear voices etc.) I told him I'd like to remain in the Army, at the close of the interview.

After dinner – stap me, it was swift work for the Army! - we were re-assembled and taken to the civilian block for a Medical Board. There were men from all wards; we sat on comfortable chairs in a room which was warm and had photographs of dead and gone Chairmen around the walls. a big and solid table, decorated with two massive ink-wells and a typewriter, occupied most of the floor space. A civilian girl was sitting beside the typewriter, reading some important-looking documents, probably this was April's job in a similar sort of institution.

We smoked. I looked for some time at the nearest photograph, which shewed an old man with Gladstonian whiskers. The title beneath proclaimed “Hugh Hammersley Esq, Chairman 1858 – 1878”. When I became tired of Mr. Hammersley's stern features, I picked up a telephone directory. It was the Reading-Oxford directory, and to my pleasure I found familiar names therein, once again proving I was in England.

“Randall PG, Lynwood, Old Windsor...”
Plow Inn Ye Old, Flowers Bottom Speen...”
“Chequers Inn Hotel, Fingest Henley...”

There were about twenty of us in the room. At last it was my turn (a dozen or so had had already gone, all to be discharged from the Army) and I went through a door marked “Medical Superintendent” into a room where three officers eyed me in a friendly manner.

“So you've had malaria, have you? ... Yes, yes, I see... Feel fit now? ...Good... And you'd like to stay in the Army? ... Yes, good... How'd you like the Pioneer Corps, hm? ... No? ... What? Use your brains! This must be a dangerous fellow! Wants to use his brains, in the Army... Yes... Well, we'll recommend you for suitable work... It's in order for this Board to make recommendations, isn't it? ... Yes... Alright my boy! He might do quite well in the right job, you know!...”

“One thing, sir,” I said anxiously, “If I stay in the Army does it mean a long wait here, in this place?”
“No, no. We'll have you away in a few days time.”
“Thank you, sir.”

I came out feeling ten years younger, smiled, saluted the people in the other room and cried, “ “Back to the Army again Sergeant, back to the Army again. That's Kipling for you!” They all smiled. Even the girl at the table looked up and smiled.
It's about the first time since coming to this place that I've said anything that made people smile...

As soon as I got back to the military block an orderly took me into ward M3. “You gotta see the Ministry of Labour bloke. About a trade for you in Civvie Street.”
“But I don't want a trade in Civvie Street,” I cried, “The Board has just said I'm to stay in the Army, perhaps for years!” “Well, you gotta see 'im, just the same. Those are my orders.” There's the Army for you, in all it's wooden stupidity.

We waited an hour or so. The others came in, one by one. Four more, including Grindall (yes – the magdnoon Boat Toucher) had been re-graded to remain in the Army. Eventually I found an intelligent and kindly-looking officer and appealed to him. “These five men have only been re-categorised,” he said, “They don't want to see the official.” and the door was unlocked and we were allowed to leave.

It may be strange that I asked to remain in the Army when I could quite easily have got a discharge by looking a bit worried and neurotic at the right moment.
There are three reasons why I'd prefer to remain in HM Army despite my general dislike of it.

1) I'd feel a bit “lost” at present in “Civvie Street”, with everything changed and re-organised and it would no doubt be impossible to make a proper home in war time.

2) There must be some congenial jobs in the Army; this is my chance to get one.

3) If I was discharged now, on the grounds of mental unfitness, I feel that the shadow of being mentally deranged would take a good deal of living-down. But if I'm allowed to remain in the Army, it proves that the Authorities consider there's nothing now wrong with me, and I can take a normal discharge at the end of the war.
The third reason was the most potent one.

Here ends Midnight.


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