Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monday 28th February 1944

The situation has improved. Although the officers here have done nothing for me, Sergeant Perkins has done his best. On Saturday he got a job at Woolwich Arsenal Station for me – I'm a sort of guide and advisor for new arrivals, drafts etc. It is cold, monotonous, tiring work (standing or pacing up and down the station platform for hours) but it will save my sanity alright, because there are no rules attached to it, except to be there and be helpful.

No need to worry about parade now, and I'm out of those bloody barracks all the time except for meals, sleeping, or when they want me for something special. There is another bombardier at the station – one Jock Willmott, an easy going sort of man – and we make our own arrangements re hours of duty. One of us has to be there every day, from 7:30a.m. to 10p.m. so we take turns at having an afternoon and the following morning off, relieving each other at 1:30p.m. This is my morning “off” and I'm writing this in a cafe near the station.

I received my pay eventually, last Saturday. We – all the forgotten men – paraded at 10:30a.m. and were paid at 11:30a.m.

Ruddy chilly in the railway station; I immediately caught a cold in the head! In between trains I found interest in studying the people who passed to and fro. Three drafts came, by various trains, and I met about 20 new arrivals (one can tell them by a puzzled air and a kit bag) and directed them, one by one, up the road towards the RA Reception Office. (Poor sods!)

An MP stood beside me for several hours, halting various people for their passes. He was stone-faced and I thought perhaps not human, but after about two hours I saw him slowly turn his head and gaze woodenly after a girl whose figure had apparently pleased him. This proved he was alive after all.

Besides watching the passing show there were ticket collectors to talk with – Oh! it wasn't a bad job, and certainly better than being in barracks doing nothing or on fatigues. Once, in the evening, I sat down on a collector's stool for a rest; but people began offering me tickets and asking about the next train to London Bridge or Gravesend, so I had to get up again!

Work on Sunday morning was much the same. Jock relieved me early – at about 1 o'clock – and I went towards the next train and spent the afternoon in Hampstead. When returning I rang April, at Romford. I emerged from the telephone box feeling considerably less happy than when I entered it; at any rate this spoiled my appetite for supper so that was one shilling saved.

However – it's obvious these snatched telephone conversations and occasional letters are doing more harm than good. They cause dangerous little arguments and misunderstandings. We must see each other.

The bloody Army!

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