Sunday, February 01, 2009

Thursday 13th April 1944

It is now possible to waste a good deal of time here but one still has little spare time so free that it can be put to any useful purpose. The rule of marching to meals by batteries is strictly enforced and at the end of the march one usually finds sixty to a hundred men already in the queue. So – if you happen to be at the tail end of 165 Battery it is quite likely there'll be 300 men ahead of you, waiting to be served from the single serving bench.

Tea parade (last parade of the day) is at 5 past 5. After you have queued, had your tea, washed your pots, returned to billets, walked to the bath-house, obtained warm water, washed and shaved, returned to billets, disintegrated your stacked kit and made your bed – after all this, the evening is well advanced, but it is still advisable to clean your boots and polish your brasses before going to the canteen. And the canteen closes at 9:30p.m. so there's not much time for writing letters or reading a book at the end of the day.

However, we three signallers at any rate, had a pleasantly useless day's “duty” today. In spite of the petrol shortage, that amazing Sergeant of Signals was out for many hours with a wireless set in an 8 cwt. truck. During the morning I remained in the signals store with the receiving set, which is there, and did nothing except smoke and make up the fire, whilst another instructor worked the set. The only message he passed to the mobile set was that he heard it OK, every now and then!

In the afternoon, two of us went out with the truck, which careered madly over hills and through woods, whilst we occasionally switched to send and said, “Hullo Sugar One, report my signals, over.” Each time we did this the distant set (at one time 12 miles away) faithfully replied, “Hullo Sugar One, hear you strength 3 over.” Whereupon we said, “Hullo, Sugar One, OK, out” and continued to watch the country scene again.

After an hour or so, the Sergeant pulled into a roadside cafe, where we all had a cup of tea and a smoke. Then we roared back, past the camp and into Newcastle, where we halted outside a canteen. “Can't hear him now, Sarge,” we said. “Ah, never mind,” he replied, “It's these buildings and the tram wires. I'm going in here now. Want some tea?”

Afterwards – it was nearly five o'clock – we dashed back to camp (contacting the plaintive Sugar One when we drew clear of the town) and unloaded the set and equipment. That was another day's official work done!

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