Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tuesday 18th January 1944

The Army got me rattled today – and that in spite of the fact that individually, all the petty officials were kind and helpful. I was the only new arrival from overseas and this was a help. All the departments I visited seemed to have been forewarned by chit and at most places I was greeted with the words “Ah! You the man from abroad I think? Good! Come in and let's get you finished.”

I handed in the ancient greatcoat and received a new one of utility pattern; I received ration cards and a pass and travel vouchers for leave; I filled in an application for award of the African Star.

After many calls at the Pay Office, I received £9-10 and found my leave period was only three weeks instead of the usual four. “What!” I cried, “£9-10-0 for three weeks? And I'm getting married, too!” “Sorry,” said the Pay Sergeant, “but that's all I can give you now – Regulations you know.” “But I've got £70 or £80 in credit! Can't I draw any of that?” “I'm afraid not. Actually I've rung RA Records twice but they seem to have no trace of you... If you care to wait until 3 o'clock or so, I might get authorisation to give you a larger sum.”

But I was getting in a panic. I'd been living all the morning with the thought – stick it! only three more hours... only two more hours... so I dare not delay my escape any longer. (Craven? Yes, I know.) Nor could I gather the nerve to ask why the leave was restricted to 21 days. I got out. After a few more weary calls and a final check of my new kit before I handed it into stores, I got my kit bag for leave, packed it and set out. I saw Cogliollo and shook hands. “Why, you're looking better already! You'll come back with an alert quick step and a smile – you see! Yes, I'll be here when you come. Good luck now, and have a very good leave!”

Out of the gate – away from that damned place! I still felt shaky when I reached Glenmore Road, but soon felt better in the pleasant homely atmosphere there. Pat and Lid have often enough been good to me in the past, but they've never done me such a good turn as this, giving me my first English home.

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