Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday 19th February 1944

One year today since I left the 104th and went into hospital!

I was awakened by an air raid at 1a.m. The bangs and bumps and dronings and zoomings kept me awake for half an hour or more (it was hellish cold, even in bed, half dressed) and during that time I pondered about Sunday night and an air raid which might occur whilst April was on her long, tedious journey back from Woolwich.

This morning I had a talk with Sergt. Perkins, who is a sort of acting BSM here. A very nice feller indeed. He told me, "That officer is worried to death about you – but there's nothing he can do.” He promised to give me a fatigue job tomorrow so that I would not need to parade for Church. “All you can do for now is just try to stick it here,” said this very human Regular soldier, “It won't be for long. I'm off to the officer right now to see that you are included in our next posting for Newcastle. Of course it's shameful that you should have ever been sent to a place like this... If anyone worries you, or chases you about, come and see me right away...”

His conception of Newcastle is a place where I shall get discharged from the Army! The Doctor's view was of a kindly home where they would see that I had a nice, suitable job! And the men say it's a grim depot where surplus NCO's get broken – that's what they are all sent there for! Who is one to believe?

Before I left Sergt. Perkins I got the clue to his kindness and understanding. Once he had an NCO here who fell on the floor, on parade and wept. “Of course, I didn't realise his trouble. I gave him a bollocking there and then... Afterwards - when I knew – I went to that NCO and apologised,” said the sergeant, looking me frankly in the eye.

Forenoon – i/c fatigues in the canteens again. For two hours I was able to do some real work and keep warm, for they were short handed and were glad of my assistance for washing-up in the kitchen.

This afternoon I prowled the icy streets of Woolwich. What a place for my wife to come looking for me! And where could we go that was pleasant when we met? With these thoughts and the knowledge that there was no 4:30p.m. parade tomorrow and also thinking deeply about air raids, I rang April's digs in Romford. She had not arrived from the hospital yet, said Mr. Hack. I held the line for twenty minutes or so, passing the time pleasantly enough by reciting poetry, singing and whistling into the unresponsive telephone. Then April came and in a few words I cancelled all the laborious arrangements we'd spent half last night in discussing, and said I would see her at Pitsea some time tomorrow.

After this, I felt rather lighter in heart.

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