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 An Opportunity to Show What I Can Do (part 1)

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Tim of Aclea

Posts : 366
Join date : 2011-12-31

PostAn Opportunity to Show What I Can Do (part 1)

Since we had to spend all day with little to do, I and many others often spent an hour or two trying to make ourselves presentable. Since I had a cast on my leg I could not take a bath. On 16th May 1943, I was interviewed by the Medical Officer, a captain. He apparently decided after the interview that I should go first to South Africa and then to England and to be discharged from the army for ‘ceasing to fulfil army physical requirements.,

It was the sister who asked the Company Sergeant Major, who had a bed near me, to tell me that I was going back to the UK. When I returned to the tent it seemed strange and quiet and everybody seemed to want to tell me. After I sat down the he told me but I thought that they were pulling my leg and told them so. Later, though, the sister told me that I would be returning directly to the UK and not via South Africa as had been thought earlier. I felt very surprised but please to think that had survived the war. When the news spread that I was going home to the UK a few soldiers come up to me to see me and touch me in the hope that my luck would rub off on them and they also would get to return to the UK. In fact it was to be several weary months before I was to return home.
Being in hospital meant that I more easily able to send and receive post. My mother wrote to me after she heard that I had been wounded “Well dear, we were all grieved but so thankful dear that it was not more serious. I am pleased to think you are having a rest and some good food. I do hope you will not go in to any more danger. We are all longing to see you home again. That will be one of my happiest days. We are all happy now thinking of you all. It was 2 years yesterday since you buried your dear Rollie. I picked some of our lovely flowers for his grave. It was a great effort.”

She wrote to tell me about how my brothers were getting on. “Well dear Jack, Leslie has been home for 14 days - went back this morning. He did not want to go back; he had his girl here for one night. She is a little Wren, at Shearness - quite nice. Lawrence and Gill came home to see her and approved. Lawrence has had to send his airforce uniform back so he is alright - he has got to join the Home Guard. He has saved £280 and wants to save more for after the war. Gerald is just off to the Home Guard; he is quite the soldier. He is lucky to still be at home. He thinks that your experience would have killed him. Cliff is keeping fairly well.”

My father wrote as well to me giving the news from back home “Wilf is at Gibraltar at present and seems fairly happy. Of course he will be glad to be back home again. Leslie is in barracks at Chatham waiting for another ship. He came home on leave twice and brought his little Wren, each time for a short visit. John, he has got the disease good and proper but he will get over it before he is as old as me. Gill is still going strong at Banbury. Lawrence is still at Coventry doing very well although I think he would like it better if he was working out in the fresh air. By the way, Lawrence, Gill and myself went to Wembley yesterday and saw the football cup final, Arsenal v Charlton. Arsenal won 7-1. It was very enjoyable except the football and that was rotten. I have seen much better football at Reading who by the way reached the semi-final. As you probably heard on the BBC news, the ban on church bells is lifted for Sunday singing. I went last Sunday evening and rang at St Mary's Reading.”

Leslie was soon to marry Edna, his ‘little wren’, and afterwards wrote to me from the United States where he had gone on convoy duty. “Well old chap we are both in the same boat now, both married and away from our wives, although you were more lucky than I. You did have a year after your marriage. I wish I could have had the same. Still, it is grand to know what I have to come back to and it certainly will not be too soon for me to return to England, although I could be in a lot worse place. I have seen a lot of the continent and have experienced very kind hospitality. The news now seems to get better each day and I feel sure that the end of the war is now in sight and then Jack what a grand day for us, when we both go into civvy life again and are able to get our homes together and plan for our future. I feel very sorry for you that you are missing the joy of seeing your daughter grow up but I know that you will have great plans for her future.”

On 25th May I wrote to Vera to tell her “I am pleased to say my leg is getting better and I have a smaller plaster on now and I can get about a little on crutches and tonight I hope to go to the cinema. I spend the time mostly reading and am able to get the daily paper and some oranges as well. Life is very hum-drum and I will not be sorry to get up and get about. This is a terribly dear country and the people rob us; things are as dear as at home.” On 18th June I wrote that “The weather is still very hot and rather tiring. Last night we went to see quite a good ENSA show. There were some nice girls there and one was a contortionist and she wrapped her legs over her back and under her chin and she was quite good.” ENSA stood for ‘Entertainments National Service Association’ but some of the shows were so poor that many of the soldiers said it should for ‘Every Night Something Awful’ so it was pleasant to see a good show this time. On 8th August I again wrote to Vera telling her about an open air cinema that reminded me of the open air theatres of Greece. I commented that “When I look back on conditions and the outlook of a few months ago, I am very thankful and even if I to remain out here I will be thankful that I am still alive and able to look forward to coming home. Three chaps I know quite well from one unit have died of wounds; one had a wife and two children, another one had just married.”

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