from Diary number one
I here once more take up my pen, to jot down the objects and scenes with which I may come into contact during the closing days of the titanic upheaval, which has rocked and badly shaken the whole framework of civilisation and indeed the very world itself. Many months have elapsed since last I made any notes and now as I am penning these I find myself sitting at one of the dining tables at the Salvation Army rest for soldiers in London, Blighty. Am on my way back to France after 14 days furlough and seven days extension which was granted to me by the Royal Engineer Records Chatham. In spite of many thing I have spent a really pleasant and enjoyable time, at the old home in Stafford, in the company of my father, Sister Doris and my little treasure boy Derrick. I left Stafford this morning with my little boy at 11.37 am and went first to Warwick where I left Derrick in the care of Mr. and Mrs. Kendrick at 48 Avon Street. I think that these forced partings from the little chap, who is so dear to me, have caused me deeper and more cruel pain, than all other pains that I have known. If there is such a thing as love in this world, it must be surely just like that, how little Dux is loved by me. Left Warwick at 5.58 pm and arrived at Paddington at 9.10 pm. Took a bus to Victoria station and passed by the Marble Arch and Saint James Park, which was profusely decorated with flags and bunting in honour I suppose of the visit of the American president, who arrived today. At Victoria station went into the free buffet, and had a sandwich and cup of tea. Wreaths in the evergreen and other laurel decorations were hanging up everywhere and welcome greetings to the soldiers were emblazoned in large letters upon the walls, one inscription ran something like this “We pray for all who have died and we thank all for bringing us victory and peace” another ran “Welcome home the nation thanks you”. Was directed by a gentleman to board a small motor lorry, which had two seats down the centre and a roof, something after the style of the well known Irish “stage coach”. This vehicle took a party of us to the pace where I am now and where I have engaged a bed no 182 for the night for the price of half a shilling.
Slept fairly well. Was awakened shortly before 5 am by some individual blowing loud blasts on a whistle and calling out “boat train”, was very tired so I did not get up immediately. Later had a wash and partook of a good breakfast comprised of Ham, roast meat (cold), bread and butter and tea for 9 d. Walked down to Victoria station, where I found already assembled an immense crowd of soldiers returning from leave, and most of them appeared to be at least several days overdue, having preferred to stay in Blighty for Xmas. In consequence of this large number, the trains seemed to go anywhere, as eventually I found myself at Dover instead of Folkestone, where I stayed until after midday in the military barracks on the top of the cliffs. We were then marched off again to the docks and boarded a boat, which took us across to Boulogne, where we landed about 5 pm and marched up to the rest camp which also stands upon the summit of a steep hill and is well known to Tommies. Later went out and spent the evening in a cafe. Returned to billet at about 8.45 pm. It is now 9 pm and as blankets are being served out I must stop here and go seek my bed for the night.
Slept rather uneasily. Two of us had made down our kip together for extra warmth. Breakfast at 6 am, when we were provided with an excellent meal in more than sufficient quantity. My portion consisted of an ample slice of fish and bread and butter, we were afterwards dished out with a tin of sardines, a bun, two cakes and a small piece of cheese for the journey up to our units. Paraded about 7.30 am and then fell out to join the party for “q” train. It was a miserable day, with rain and wind and sludge, through which we had to march to the railway, a distance of about 5 kilometres. This long trudge was somewhat remarkable by reason of the great number of troops en route, in ascending the hill through the town, the road was black with moving troops for as far as the eye could see, half of them just returned off leave and the other half descending the hill on their way to Blighty. We were all packed into the train somehow and started off about 10 am. The journey proved long and tedious, the train moving “tres doucement” and stopping frequently. At 6.15 pm we were still 3 kilometres from Abbeville and in spite of the darkness I left the train and made my way to the road and followed it to Abbeville on foot. On the way I dropped into a barbers for a shave and then made my way to my favourite cafe in the Rue St-Gilles, where I endeavoured to appease my hunger and fatigue in the pleasant occupation of devouring a hot meal in the shape of mashed potatoes, fried egg, bread and a litre of beer. Reported at the depot at 9 pm. Obtained a couple of blankets from the guardroom and betook myself to the hut marked “night details”, where I made my kip for the night.
Slept soundly. Paraded at 7.15 am for breakfast and issue of cigarettes and matches. Reported again at orderly room at 8.30 am and was told to report there again tomorrow at five minutes to ten am, on account of being “adrift” for one day, so suppose I shall be punished in some way for overstaying my leave one day. It was not likely that I should start back on Xmas day and for that reason I did not go back until the following day (Boxing Day). After dinner went into Abbeville to by a few things to send to my little nieces Ivy and Annie and bought a couple of small silver brooches for them as a new years gift, also bought a small brush for polishing my brown boots, and two pretty cards for my own dear little boy. This evening I am on guard from 6 pm until 6 am. My periods of duty are 10 pm to midnight and 4 am to 6 am. It has rained pretty heavily most of the day and the wind is still blowing furiously. There is nothing I hate more than doing guard, and it fags me dreadfully. Wrote a letter to Mrs Corbett and my sister Doris, also a postcard to Danielle.