Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thursday 6th January 1944

This morning I volunteered for farm work. With five others I joyously walked out of the main gates on to the road – nobody supervising us. Half a miles walk brought us to the village of Littlemore and to a field where the farmer was threshing. A queer machine, motor driven, was doing several things at once. Beans trickled out of a hole at the bottom and corn was coming out of several holes at the back of the machine. At the other end chaff was being vomited onto an elevator which took it away up out of sight somewhere beyond a straw stack. My job was to pick up with a pitch fork the stooks of corn which others tossed to me and pass them up to a dumpy land girl who crouched on the top of the juggernaut.

(I believe “stook” is the correct name for bunches of corn!)

The land girl cut off the string and pushed the loose stook out of sight somewhere, into the machine. She had a henchman up there, whose head and shoulders alone were visible. He was red-faced, open-mouthed and beaming; he wore a trilby hat and looked a proper farmer's boy.

I thoroughly enjoyed two hours of this and kept fine and warm. At the end of that time the stack of corn was gone and the threshing and our work done. We strolled back, calling in a shop in the village, where I bought one ounce of some strange tobacco and a box of forbidden matches.

Here is a typical Army paradox. I'd been at liberty and armed with a pitch fork all morning. When I came back however, I had a supervised hot bath; that is to say, an orderly turned on the water with his special key, watched me wash myself, and emptied the bath when I'd finished. He didn't leave me until the water was gone – otherwise I might have attempted to drown myself!

i/c fires in the canteen this afternoon. In between whiles, I walked with Horrocks, in the grounds. He has come up into the con. ward now. The others are still below, but Brown says things will be better now as the night staff have been changed. One man (named German) was the ringleader of all that brutality.

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