Thursday, February 05, 2009

Tuesday 23rd May 1944

The Mrd. Board appointment being timed for an awkward hour, 11:30, I decided this justified a complete day off duty.

At 9 a.m. I strolled in cold sunshine down the tramway track and then along the path through the woods. As I stepped out of the bushes onto the road, a Major came by on a bicycle, smoking a cigarette. I saluted joyfully and he, startled, lurched awkwardly across the road and then saluted back uneasily, with his left hand, and the cigarette stub, which he'd grasped at and missed, still in his mouth.

Leisured, I had a cup of tea at the YMCA in town, did a little shopping and went on to Fenham Barracks.

Mary Webbs' “The Golden Arrow” will be among my “milestone” books now (like “The Passionate Year”, “How Green was my Valley”, “Waverley” and “Busman's Honeymoon.”) for I was reading it – at the bottom of the first page of Chapter 30 – when my name was called and I entered the Board Room.

Awful minutes of waiting, whilst the two doctors sat writing and asking occasional, routine questions. Then one looked up and said, “Well, Dawson, we're recommending you for discharge...” They handed me my pay-book, marked: “23/5/44 E 77Div Medical Board” on the medical classification page.

The interview was not one of unalloyed joy however. One of them said, “We feel you should go into hospital again, for treatment, really. The psychiatrist also – he recommends that you should be discharged but also suggests you should enter a hospital voluntarily, afterwards. But – you don't want to go into hospital, do you?”
“Certainly not, if I have any say in the matter!” “No, of course not. Well, you'll probably be alright once you are out of the Army.”

They bent over the documents. I heard one say, “No! Put that he's not willing to accept hospital treatment! He did say he didn't want to go into hospital, didn't he?”
I quickly saw the point of that! The question doesn't arise – unless I apply for a pension! Then the authorities can refuse it, crying “Oh, he refused our treatment! We could have cured him!” Well, damn them I don't particularly want their pension. I want my freedom. I want to be fit enough not to need their ruddy pension.

Pleasant afternoon, reading and writing letters at the YMCA. I came back to camp at about 6 o'clock. Everyone was in the hut, cleaning-up, reading, shaving, playing cards. All looked up as I entered.

My face betrayed me. There was a yell of “You've got it Lofty! Good for you boy! Get out of this shower of shit!”

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