Monday, February 02, 2009

Tuesday 2nd May 1944

Nearly the whole battery went to Newcastle General Hospital today, to give blood for the invasion casualties-to-be. We were more or less detailed for it, about a fortnight ago. There was a “pep” speech from the Colonel at a regimental muster parade and subsequently the order was delivered, “Fall out on the left anyone NOT willing to volunteer as a blood donor.” Of 200, about a score or less on non-volunteers stood forth with defiant or sheepish looks upon their faces. “Take their names, Sergeant Major!” That's what I call being detailed to volunteer!

At the hospital this afternoon, they wouldn't accept a pint of my blood, because I'd had malaria. I was hoping they'd test the blood, pronounce it OK and help themselves. It would have been cheering for me to know my blood was good enough for transfusion. Apparently not however. Half a dozen of us were told that it was quite impossible to make use of anyone who had ever had malaria.

An extraordinary wind blew all day, at gale force. It flung clouds of dust from the parade ground at the cowering ranks ranks of men until everyone was semi-blinded and deaf. Conditions resembled those produced by a desert high wind; but this ash dust was more filthy. Back in the billet huts, a layer of grey dust settled on the floor, beds kits and eating utensils, everyone was coughing and black of face, whilst the Nissen hut seemed to groan at each new furious blast. I should never have expected such an experience in England!

After tea, I braved the high wind and went along a derelict tramway track into the woods. The trees broke the wind a little, and at any rate there was no ash dust there. I found a cafe in the woods! It lies just off the track and is approached through a large, tangled garden, not looking the least like precincts of a cafe. Nevertheless, one can buy coffee, tea, cakes, cigarettes, toast, beans and pie there – and the wind does not penetrate!

There's a thick belt of trees in front of the room where I'm writing this; chestnut, lime, fir, oak – and they're all in leaf. In the foreground are clumps of rhododendron bushes encircling a small lawn, the grass of which is rough, long and speckled with the yellow of dandelions. Only a slight wind is blowing on that enclosed lawn. I've seen all trees in leaf except beech, ash and elm, and I've heard the cuckoo.

So here ends Morning Mists, 1944


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