Officer in Waiting
4 May - 12 June
The Somme Again
13 June - 24 August
Dompiere & Mont St. Quentin
25 August - 6 September
7 September - 10 November
11 November - 28 Feb 1919
The WWI diary of Percy Smythe was transcribed by his daughter Betty Smythe.
Fri. 24. Viv was to send a wire when coming back from Ireland, but none came this morning. Borrowed £1 from Mrs. Morgan to get the replicas taken of my picture. Took the picture in to London, and found a place in the Strand, Chesney Studio, which, judging by the quality of the work displayed in the window, seemed quite up to the mark. Ordered half a dozen replicas, which would cost altogether £2-10. Rather expensive, but its as well to get good work done.
Took a snap of Trafalgar Square, with one of Landseer's lions in the foreground.
Went to the Grafton Galleries and looked over the exhibition of Canadian war pictures. They were fine, and being enlarged almost to life-size made everything appear so plain and realistic. There was only one picture of that common enough sight, the unburied dead. Such photos were, no doubt, expressly avoided. The mud was very clearly portrayed in some of the pictures, but those showing bursting shells conveyed but a limited idea of the real thing.
Went to the Britannia Club for dinner, and then took a walk along the Embankment to St. Paul's Cathedral, hoping to get a few good photos. But the sun kept well behind the clouds, only showing his face for a few passing moments once or twice, so I was disappointed. Took a bus to the Strand, and strolled down to Charing Cross. The Strand was alive with those most detestable of human parasites - "night-hawks". Their evil smiling faces were to be seen every few yards along the pavement, and they seemed to single out the soldiers for their special prey. There is no excuse for these vile creatures nowadays when there is plenty of work for everybody. They are too lazy to work for a living, and would rather live a life of leisure and wickedness, preying upon the weaknesses of men and bleeding them for their money.
The weather showed no signs of clearing up, so went out to Hounslow. No word from Viv. An aunt of Mrs. Morgan's was with us for tea. Though over eighty she looked no more than sixty, and was quite active.
Felt rather lonely and moody this evening, so, begging to be excused, strolled down to Hounslow town in search of lively company. Met a lovely-looking girl poorly dressed, and smiled and spoke to her. She seemed glad of my acquaintance, and I soon learned that she too had just strolled down town because she was lonely. We went for a walk together, and I found her a very interesting and cheerful companion. Before parting, we agreed to write to each other. Her name is Queenie Tomaglio, and her father is an Italian, but she looks English enough herself, with fair hair and blue eyes. In spite of a more or less pronounced cockney accent, she seems fairly educated. Arranged to meet her again tomorrow morning.
Sat. 25. The Italians seem to be doing splendid in their great battle, which is still raging. No word from Viv this morning, so it looks as if I shall not see him after all.
Mrs. M. let me have another two pounds to pay for those replicas. That makes four pounds I owe her. Went down to Whitton and met Queenie and we walked up to Hounslow town and took a tram to Hammersmith. It was a nice ride and was so fresh and breezy on top.
We parted at Hammersmith, and I went on into London to the Chesney studio, and got picture. Saw the negative for the replicas, and it seemed all right. Back to Hounslow in time for dinner. Wrote a letter to leave for Viv, and asked him would he pay up some of my debt to Mrs. Morgan if he had the cash to spare. Idled the afternoon away with the children, Eileen and Linda. Took some photos of them on the sofa in the front room.
After tea, left with Mrs. Morgan, about six, and we walked to Heston, where we parted and I took the train into town. Got the 8.15p.m. train at Waterloo, and managed to get into a compartment with only Tommies in it. Arrived at camp about midnight. My blankets had all gone, but I managed to get a couple to finish the night with.
Sun. 26. Church parade. Wrote to May Stone, Queenie Tomaglio, and sister Mary. Walked down to Ludgershall this evening and had a brief talk with Dorothy Jewel. She was very busy working overtime at stocktaking, but I am to meet her tomorrow, when she will accidentally miss the 5.30p.m. train and go by the 8.15 instead. She seems a bonnie little lass, lively and innocent.
Went back to camp and to a song service at the Y.M.C.A. hut.
Mon. 27. Wet all day. Started a letter to Vern. Got leave to be absent from the N.C.O's. parade and the night operations tonight. It was still raining persistently when I went over to Ludgershall. Dorothy was busy working overtime, and anyway she could not come out as her father was there. Stayed there for some time talking to her. She asked me very shyly if I were married and I showed her my pay-book, with the entry, "Next of kin:- Mother." Arranged to come again on Wednesday, when she hoped to be able to escape her father's vigilant eye.
Got rather wet returning to camp. There were four letters awaiting me, three from Mum and one from Viola, written in the end of May and the first part of June. Mum's first letter after the news of Bert's death was a mixture of deep grief and a brave struggle to be cheerful. I could hardly keep from crying as I read it. Poor old Mum, it must have been a terrible blow to her, but she is a very brave and good mother, and her faith in our God and our Saviour will bear her up through the time of trial. They will not wear black, just a piece of purple ribbon in memory of our dear old boy who has given all in the cause of justice and liberty. Mum will probably get a pension, as Bert was the oldest son, unmarried, and helping to support her before enlisting. Viola says Mum feels it very keenly, but is bearing up wonderfully.
Clytie has been a great help and comfort to Mum. Dad has been very ill suffering with acute dyspepsia, and the doctor says he must give up the trade, otherwise it will be impossible to cure him. The bad news came as a knockout blow to poor Elsie Maloney.
Continued writing letter to Vern.
Tues. 28. Raining all day. Indoors parades. Card and letter from Mrs. Morgan. Viv left for France yesterday, seemed very downhearted, had bad luck all through. He did not mention anything about paying some of my debt to Mrs. M., so I suppose he must have been short of cash.
Finished letter to Vern. Asked him would he send Mrs. M. two or three pounds on my account.
Developed some of my films this evening, using the ruby lamp and getting under my blankets for a darkroom. The negatives turned out well. There were two of Eileen and Linda in Mrs. Morgan's front room, two of Trafalgar Square, showing the lower portion of Nelson's monument, one of the Houses of Parliament, one of Bath Rd., Hounslow, one of Mrs. Morgan, Eileen, and Linda in a group, and one which was a failure.
Wed. 29. Wet and cold. Lettercard from Mrs. Tanner and a letter from Viola. Viola says Rita is leaving school, though very reluctantly, to stay home and help Mum with the housework. Poor kid, it must be a big sacrifice for her to make, but it is necessary, for there is too much for Mum to do alone, though hitherto she has gone on doing it uncomplaining. But now that such a load of sorrow has settled on the home, Mum can no longer go on as before. She has had a hard life, my dear old mother, but has always battled bravely through everything. God bless and keep her.
It turned out fine this afternoon, and we had a bit of a route march. The captain refused to give me leave for tonight. Wrote a short note to Dorothy telling her I had to stay for the N.C.O's. parade, and sent it down with a serjeant who was going down town. Fell in with the N.C.Os., but while they were marching over to the lecture hall, I slipped away unnoticed and hurried down town. Dorothy was unable to get away, however, as her father was there. When an opportunity came I spoke to Mr. Jewell and asked him if he would not let Dorothy come out with me. But he would not listen to reason, saying that she was too young, and that she was already corresponding with one boy. Felt rather disappointed and down-hearted, but determined not to let him beat us. Went in to the Y.M.C.A. hut and wrote a note to Dorothy, saying would try and see her tomorrow evening for a few minutes, when we could make arrangements for the future. Waited about until she came away from the offices with her father, when I managed to give her the note without being seen by the watchful father.
Two letters tonight, one from Clytie and one from Jean. Clytie's was a very nice letter, full of comfort and cheer. She says Mr. Harward came out and spoke words of comfort to Mum and her. Also Rev. Chalmers, of Gladesville, came with the official news of Bert's death, some days after Viv's cable was received. Clytie has taken some photos of our folk at "Koppin Yarratt", and will send some by her next letter. Jean enclosed some photos in her letter. There was one of Mrs. Skinner's shop, one of the McPhee family, and one of Miss Preston, Mrs. Skinner and Jean, a rather nice one, and another of Clytie and Miss Preston. Clytie looked well, but rather older.
Thursday 30. The Russians are again retiring in disorder, and things are looking very grave over that way.
Letter from Queenie Tomaglio. She will send one of her photos, as promised, about the end of the week. Wrote to Mrs. Morgan. Put in an application for 12 hours leave to Andover on Sunday, hoping to be able to arrange to meet Dorothy there. Had to wait after parade to see the O.C. about it, and so missed the opportunity to get down town in time to see Dorothy. Went down after the N.C.O's. parade. A clown on long stilts was carrying on a street performance near the station.
Fri. 31. Route march through Ludgershall. Dorothy was standing at the door of the N.A.C.B. looking very serious, but, on seeing me, her face lit up with sudden pleasure. She formed the word "tonight" with her lips, and I nodded agreement. She is a dear little kid.
We marched out a few miles beyond the village and then halted for lunch. There was plenty of sunshine and I utilised it to print a number of photos. The one of Eileen and Linda on the sofa comes out very nice. The Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and Bath Rd., Hounslow also turned out very good.
We went through some attack operations while returning in the afternoon. After tea, went down to Ludgershall expecting to see Dorothy, but was very disappointed to find she had gone. Went into the Y.M.C.A. hut and wrote her a letter saying if leave granted I'd come to Andover on Tuesday. Left the letter with one of the Y.M.C.A. ladies, to give to the schoolmaster, with whom she resides, to deliver to Dorothy for me. He is a volunteer worker at the N.A.C.B. offices.
Saturday, 1st. Wattle Day in dear old Australia. Fixed the photos I printed yesterday, and printed some more. Went down town in the afternoon with Jack Cummings. There was a note for me at the P.O. from Dorothy. She will meet me, if possible, in Andover tomorrow afternoon. Jack and I strolled up and we met Sam Gordon. While talking to them I was agreeably surprised to see Dorothy for a moment at the door of the N.A.C.B. Went down and met her. She was detained with some work which had to be got through, and thus was unable to go by the midday train. Father was away, so our luck was right, and we were able to enjoy a little time in each other's company. At least, it was very enjoyable to me. Dorothy is a dear little girl, with auburn hair and grey eyes full of mirth, a sweet round face full of expression, not exactly beautiful, but frank and honest. In manner she seems very like Viola, roguish, loving, and lovable. She has thought of a plan whereby we can evade her father's watchful care. She has a bicycle, and can ride out to Weyhill some evenings and I can meet her there. This is awfully jolly and romantic, and again amplifies the old saying that stolen fruits are the sweetest. We shall use the Y.M.C.A. hut as a base for exchanging letters. Dorothy told me she is a teacher in the Wesleyian Sunday School at Andover, and I was very glad to know that, for I had had no idea as to what was her attitude towards religion. She left by the 3.30p.m. train. After tea, went over to Tidworth and bought some Paget and Intona papers.
Sun. 2. Enquired about my leave this morning but could ascertain nothing concerning it at battalion orderly room. Went to church parade, and remained for Communion. Tried again for pass, but still it had not come. Came again after dinner, and the leave corporal found that brigade had issued the pass at 9a.m. to the wrong battalion. It was 1.15p.m. when I got it, so had to lose no time, as I was to meet Dorothy at 3.30p.m. in Andover, 7½ miles away. Walked very briskly and arrived at Weyhill in good time, but could not keep up the pace for the rest of the way. Arrived in Andover, rather hot and tired, about five minutes before the appointed time. It seemed a rather nice little town, somewhat larger than Wareham. Was not there more than a few minutes when Dorothy came along looking adorable in a neat navy costume. She had had a job to get away from her father, who wanted her to take a walk with him. We went out for a delightful stroll together, and I took a couple of photos of her with my "Ensignette". Dorothy had to be back for tea by 5 o'clock, so we arranged to meet afterwards, if possible, and go to church together. Her mother knows all about our keeping company, and makes no objection, but father is the one we have to reckon with. Avant la chère petite m'avait quitté, je l'ai prise les deux mains et lui demandé un baiser. Elle était bien adorable. Elle rougissait doucement, et je l'ai prise entre mes bras. Ensuite, elle m'a pris le main et m'a donné un baiser affectueux, pas le baiser froid, formale, ou passionne, mais le baiser plein de la vie, et de l'amour.
[Before the dear little child left me, I took both her hands and asked her for a kiss. She was quite adorable. She blushed sweetly, and I took her in my arms. Then she took my hand and gave me an affectionate kiss, not a cold kiss, formal, or passionless, but a kiss full of life and love.]
Went around to the Soldiers' Rest Rooms and had tea for 6d, which left me 3d for the church collection. There was a nice old lady there who came and entertained me with an interesting conversation. Later, I was surprised to see Timothy Ryan and Holmes at another table. The latter is a corporal now. They were on an escort job bringing a chap named Smith back to Perham from London. There have been a lot of promotions in the 61st. Bn. Robson and Hosking are serjeants, Henries, Barney Walker, and others, are corporals.
Leaving the Rest Rooms, I met Dorothy again on the bridge. Her father told her he would come to bring her home from church. "Where ignorance is bliss, etc." We went into the Wesleyan chapel for the service. Dorothy's voice was sweet and strong in the singing of the hymns. After the service, she went out first, to see if the coast was clear. Her father had not come, so all was well. We arranged to meet at Weyhill, if possible, on Tuesday evening. She is to ride out with her girl friend, Miss Smith.
We parted, it was just 8 o'clock, and I set off at a brisk walk in order to get within the 5-mile radius by nine. It was a beautiful moonlight night, with a fresh cool breeze blowing. Arrived at camp a little after ten. Feet rather sore from walking. Letter from Queenie Tomaglio with her photo, which was very nice. I wonder if I ought to correspond with her now!
Mon. 3. The Germans are making a big bid for Riga. Inspection by some general today. Rather tired all day, and my feet have been very sore and burning after yesterday's walk. Took a photo of Russell. Went down to Ludgershall this evening, and there was a note at the Y.M.C.A. for me. Dorothy says probably she will not be able to come to Weyhill tomorrow, but, if not, will come Wednesday or Thursday. Took a couple of snaps of Ludgershall to complete the spool in the camera. Wrote note to Dorothy and left it with Mrs. Reid of the Y.M.C.A. to deliver per the schoolmaster.
By tonight's paper, disaster has overtaken Russia. Riga is lost to the Germans, the Russian troops are in full flight, and the way to Petrograd is thrown wide open to the invading hordes. It seems as if Russia is doomed, one of our strongest allies lost to us, and the Huns will be able to fill their larders with Russian foodstuffs.
Developed films tonight, but spoilt them in the process, the water used being too warm.
Tues. 4. "A" Co. refused to go on parade this afternoon because the midday meal was insufficient. The C.O. came and talked to us, promising to do all in his power to improve matters, and then we went out. Paid today, 5/-. My overdraft will be cleared in another five days.
To Ludgershall this evening. No note from Dorothy at Y.M.C.A., and no sign of her at the N.A.C.B. Mrs. Reid was not at the Y.M.C.A. hut tonight, so, in case Dorothy may have sent a note and it did not come, I walked out to Weyhill, for it would not be nice for her to come and not find me there. Arrived there somewhere after eight, and waited until 8.30p.m. A couple of girls rode along, whom I thought may have been Dorothy and her friend, but it was too dark to see properly, and they did not stop. Came back again, and arrived at camp just about dead-beat at about 10p.m.
Wed. 5. Route march this afternoon. When we got back to camp, I hastened away to Ludgershall in order to see Dorothy before she left by the 5.30p.m. train. She was at the office window when I passed, and came away shortly afterwards. Told me she had left a note at the Y.M.C.A. arranging to come to Weyhill tomorrow evening. She never got the note I wrote her on Monday night, whatever could have happened to it. Saw her off by the 5.30 train, and then went back to the Y.M.C.A. for her note. Was told, however, that there was nothing there for me. This seems rather strange. I wonder if there might be any treachery on the part of Mrs. Reid or the schoolmaster. If either of those ...st letters has fallen into Mr. Jewell's hands, our tryst at Weyhill tomorrow might not come off.
Returned to camp. Met Brown, of 7th. Rfcts., 3rd. Bn. Had not seen him since leaving Gallipoli, two years ago. He has a big scar on his face from a Gallipoli wound, but I think it rather improves his appearance. He was so very ugly before. He got five bullet wounds from a machine gun last Easter, and does not expect to see France again.
Went over to Tidworth and got some hypo. Wanted to get a pin put on a collar badge for Dorothy, but being Wednesday, the jeweller's shop was closed.
Thurs. 6. Parade dismissed at 3 o'clock this afternoon, on account of there being night operations tonight. Squared the platoon serjeant not to mark me absent. Put in an application for 12 hours ............
Left her a little after eight. We could hear the train on its way from Ludgershall, so she would have to ride fast in order to be at Andover station in time.
Sat. 8. Moved up into the draft camp this morning, and may now go on draft any day.
My leave has been granted for tomorrow. Went out to Weyhill this afternoon and met Dorothy. She had got leave from her father to come out and gather some blackberries. We went for a happy delightful ramble through the grounds of Juniper, and were as free and irresponsible as two children. Took a photo of Dorothy sitting on a style. We wandered around on to the main road, where there were some blackberries to be found. Needless to say, we did not gather very many. It was as happy an afternoon as ever I spent anywhere. We parted in Weyhill about half past six, after arranging to meet at Andover tomorrow afternoon. La petite est bien triste parce que'il faut que je parte d'ici bientôt pour voyager en France. [My dear child is sad because I have to go back soon to travel to France.]
Sun. 9. Wrote letter to Mum. After church parade, got my leave pass from battalion orderly room.
Met S-M. Morcom, who was our C.S.M. in "A" Co., 24th. Bn., when I was with them last year. Arranged with him to come with me to Weyhill tomorrow evening and meet Miss Smith, if she will come out with Dorothy.
Went to Andover this afternoon. It was raining lightly off and on, and held but little promise of a pleasant afternoon. Met Dorothy just beyond Weyhill, the dear child having come out to meet me, and we strolled away along a side road, overtaking Miss Smith and her sister. Got to Andover by a roundabout route over some muddy tracks, passing Berry Ring, of which Dorothy had told me. Left the girls in Andover, and went to the Soldiers' Rest Room for tea. Finished writing letter to Mum.
Waited near where the Salvation Army were holding an open air service, and by-and-by ma petite came along, her sweet little face radiant with sunshine. Her mother and the Misses Smith followed. We all went to the chapel, Dorothy and I together and the others somewhere behind. It was a real joy to listen to Dorothy's singing in the hymns, and a church service would be always delightful with such a companion. After the service I was introduced to Mrs. Jewell, and was surprised to find her a comparatively young woman. We took a walk to the Junction Station, Dorothy and I going the long way around. Then we wandered back into town, and all too soon came the conclusion of a very happy evening. Got back to camp about 1.30a.m.
Mon. 10. Wrote to Dad begging him to leave the trade for health's sake, and suggesting to him to use Bert's money to pay off the home.
Got off parade early this afternoon and went to Tidworth for the badge brooch. After tea Morcom and I walked over to Weyhill. While waiting there Morcom got talking to some strange girl and arranged to meet her on Thursday night. He does not seem too particular about whom he goes with, for this girl did not seem up to much.
After a while Dorothy and Miss Smith came along, and we all took a walk through Juniper grounds. Tonight has quite decided things as far as I am concerned. I had been so afraid of a possible repetition of the Gladesville affair, not knowing how much I could depend upon myself for constancy, but now not a ...................
grand opportunity for the Germans! Will the war ever end?
Wrote to Viv. After tea, went down to Ludgershall. There was a note for me at the Y.M.C.A. hut. Dorothy cannot get away tonight, but will come to Weyhill tomorrow. Could not help feeling a bit disappointed, but of course one must not expect too much of a good thing. Wrote her a letter in reply, and went round and left it with the schoolmaster to deliver.
Came back to camp and wrote to Viola and Rita, and commenced a letter in French to Ida.
Wed. 12. Horniloff's army is approaching Petrograd, and Kerenshy's supporters are preparing to oppose him.
Very cold and windy today. Quite a change from the delightful weather we have been having for the last two weeks. Fell in with the others this afternoon, but after the roll-call I slipped away unnoticed. Repaired my clothes where they had been torn and worn. Finished letter to Ida.
Went out to Weyhill after tea and met Dorothy..............
complete control of the country and the army. An iron discipline is to be enforced, and disobedience to be punished with death. The Russian armies on the Riga front have turned and are forcing the Germans back.
We might well rejoice at the turn events have taken.
Route march through Ludgershall today. La petite attendait à la porte du bureau de N.A.C.B. pour me saluer de la main en passant. [My dear child was waiting at the door of the N.A.C.B. to greet me with a wave as I passed.] When returning through the village in the afternoon I formed the word "tonight" with my lips, and Dorothy nodded assent.
After tea, went to find Jock Cummings to come out with me for Miss Smith, but he was not in his hut, and I could see no sign of him anywhere. Went down to Ludgershall hoping to see him knocking about there, but was disappointed. Called at the Y.M.C.A. hut and was surprised to find a letter there for me. Dorothy wrote it on Thursday night when she was home alone, and she must have been in much the same mood as I was when I wrote to her, just about the same time. Her letter was very cheering, and helped me to look forward with confidence to our meeting tonight, quand je suis determiné à proposer à ma chère petite, si je pourrai obtenir l'occasion. [when I am determined to propose to my dear child, if I can get the chance.]
Went on through the village, and, when some distance out, met the girl that Morcom was to have gone out with last night. She was disappointed she had not met him and had come out tonight in the hope that he might take a walk out that way. She seemed a rather nice girl, and I was inclined to alter the unfavourable opinion I had previously formed of her.
Some distance farther on a lonely looking soldier was sitting by the roadside, and, in order that Miss Smith should not be disappointed tonight, and also so that she should not again act as a third person and thus be in the way, I stopped and asked this chap if he would like to meet a nice girl. After a little hesitation he consented to come with me. It seemed a rather shabby trick to play on Miss Smith, as I know nothing whatever about this chap, but anyway "what the mind does not see the heart will not grieve over", and ignorance may be bliss...........
as if we have known each other for a long time. God has been good to me, and to Him I owe a heart full of gratitude. All too soon we shall have to part, and then there will be the dangers of the battlefield to be reckoned with, but we can only trust our loving Father to bring us safely together again.
Miss Smith and Les Mitchell seemed to get on very well together. Before parting for the night Dorothy and I arranged to meet again tomorrow if possible. If not, she will leave a note at the Y.M.C.A.
Sat. 15. Paid this morning, ten shillings. After dinner, went over to Tidworth to get a birthday present for Dorothy. Went into the Bookshop and selected a neat leather-bound volume of poems by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Also got four spools of films and a packet of solio paper at the store. That left me with two shillings.
Returned from Tidworth and went down to Ludgershall. There was a note from Dorothy at the Y.M.C.A. saying she could not come in the afternoon, but would be out at Weyhill about six or quarter past.
Went back to camp and read poems in Mrs. Wilcox's book until tea time.
Met Dorothy at Weyhill about quarter to seven. She had had an accident coming out, having collided with a man who was riding on the wrong side of the road. She sustained no injuries, either to herself or the machine, but the man's bicycle was somewhat damaged and he wanted her to pay half the cost of repairs. And he riding on the wrong side! Such impudence.
We took our favourite walk down through Juniper. Gave the little darling a fresh-blown red rose which I had specially procured for her. We rested awhile in a wood where the ground beneath the trees was covered with dead leaves, and I gave her the book of poems for her birthday, which I thought was tomorrow. Its not really until Tuesday, but that's only a detail. Dear little girl, she was very pleased with the book.
While making our way back to the village we got on to the subject of marrying, and Dorothy declared she would not be married until 25 years old, which will be seven years hence. Of course I contended that that was far too long to wait, and then the little minx agreed to bring it down to 23. Still I held out for 19, and in fun suggested tossing a coin to settle it. So we made it a double toss, two heads for 23, two tails for 19, and one of each for 21, and 21 won the toss. That will be three years hence. I wonder will our dreams come true?
Before parting we arranged to meet in Weyhill tomorrow evening about six, Miss Smith and Les Mitchell to come also.
Sun. 16. Wrote to Mum and told her about Dorothy and our engagement. Also wrote a birthday letter to Vern. He will be 23 in a few days time.
Went to O.P.D. church parade and remained for the sacrament. Got leave pass at B.O.R. Wrote to Mrs. Morgan this afternoon and enclosed 4 photos of Eileen and Linda, and one of Mrs. M. and the two children.
After tea, went over to the Command Depot, but Les had gone. Went on, and met him with the two girls this side of Weyhill. We strolled through the grounds of Juniper and rested in a wood, each couple conveniently out of sight of the other. My little girl was wearing the rose I gave her yesterday. Red rose, a token of true love. Plucking a sprig of ivy, which is the token of constancy, she fastened it in my tunic. How happy we were! Free from all cares and responsibilities. If only we could go on through life in that happy carefree manner, what a joyful world it would be!
When returning through Weyhill the M.P's. did not stop us at the boundary limit, so we went on towards Andover. Dorothy and I drew pictures from imagination of the little home we would have in Australia after the war. It would be a nice little four-roomed cottage, bungalow style, with veranda all round, slate roof, with red tile ridging. We furnished each room in imagination, even to the overmantels, window curtains, bed drapings, and pictures.
Parted at the outskirts of Andover, after arranging to meet again at Weyhill on Tuesday evening.
Mon. 17. My dear old Mum's birthday today. That makes her 54 or 55, I don't know which.
Went down to the village this evening in case there might be a letter at the Y.M.C.A. from Dorothy, but there wasn't any. Went to bed early.
Tues. 18. Today is my little darling's birthday. She is now eighteen, about as old as Ida, quite a child compared to me. Wrote to Queenie Tomaglio and to Beattie Bostock.
The weather has been very unpromising all the morning. Had a lecture this morning on venereal disease by Doctor Hogan and Archdeacon Ward. It was very interesting.
About tea-time it came on to rain slightly but persistently, and I gave up hope of seeing Dorothy tonight. However, went down to Ludgershall in the hope of getting a letter. There was one, and it must have been written before the rain started, for Dorothy said she would be coming to Weyhill tonight. So, in case she might possibly come, I walked out there, and, as there were no M.P's. at the boundary limit, went on some distance towards Andover. Would have liked to go right to her home, but of course that would never do, with her father at home.
Got back to camp rather wet and tired. Wrote a letter to Dorothy and addressed it to the N.A.C.B., Ludgershall.
Wed. 19. Too wet for parade today, so got busy with my correspondence and brought it up to date. Wrote to Ettie Cunynghame, Mrs. Tanner, Jean McPhee, Miss Prigg, and Myra Long.
It still persists wet and miserable this afternoon, so there is little promise of being able to see Dorothy tonight.
Later: Went down to Ludgershall after tea, expecting a note from Dorothy to say she would not be able to come as it is too wet. There was a letter at the Y.M.C.A., but she said she would be at Weyhill at six o'clock if the weather cleared at all, and would have to take the 8.10p.m. train from there to Andover. Evidently she meant to take her usual train from here and get out at Weyhill.
The sky appeared to be clearing up fine from the west, so I set off for Weyhill at a brisk pace for it was already nearly six. There was no sign of Dorothy about the village, so went down to the station thinking she may be waiting there for the Andover train. Was disappointed, however, so, after resting there awhile, returned to camp.
Thurs. 20. Vern's birthday. He is now 23. Postcard from Mrs. Morgan saying back from Bristol. Viv's lost belongings had turned up at Boulogne and were being forwarded to her. He was also sending her the money I had asked him to send, so she will probably get a double lot, one from Viv and one from Vern.
Ducked away off parade this morning so that I could go over to the Command Depot and ring up Dorothy on the `phone. Asked her about tonight, and she said she had arranged to go to a picture show in Ludgershall and go home by the 8.5p.m. train. So we fixed it up to go to the pictures together. Off parade this afternoon, had early tea, changed my old tunic for a new one, put in an application for 12 hour's leave to Andover on Sunday, and went down to Ludgershall. Met Dorothy there and we went to the pictures together, but I'm afraid we missed most of what was being shown on the screen. After the pictures we had a pleasant walk along the Weyhill road, and then the little girl left by the late train, after we had arranged to meet outside Andover tomorrow night.
Fri. 21. Route march as usual today, but we went along the Andover road instead of through Ludgershall. Halted in a field for lunch, and the ration transports failed to turn up. Made a meal of barcelona nuts from a hedge near by. Printed a number of photos during the midday halt. We waited there for more than three hours, and then, as the ration carts did not put in an appearance, we were marched back to camp.
After tea, went over to the Command Depot and found Les Mitchell, but he was busy tonight and was unable to get away. Set off for Andover and went across country in order to avoid the M.P's. at Weyhill. Was late starting so had to lose no time. Took short cuts through fields of turnips and mangel-wurzels, and in places had to force a way through dense hedges, in which I could find no opening. Got out on to the main road some distance beyond Weyhill, and met the two girls just this side of Andover. Beatrice was not too well and was feeling out of sorts, and she was rather disappointed that Les had not come. We strolled out some distance along the Amport road, and then made back towards Andover. Before parting, Dorothy and I arranged to meet in Weyhill tomorrow afternoon and go blackberry picking. Returned to camp by a long round-about route through Amport and several other villages, arriving here just before midnight. Including the route march and the "mad mile", I must have walked at least 25 miles today, and the first seven being with full pack. No wonder I felt dead-beat. Went in to one of the mess huts and was lucky enough to find some bread and jam, so had a little supper before retiring.
Sat. 22. A ship has been sunk on the way from Australia, and all the mails lost. That means more home letters which will not reach their destination.
Went out to Weyhill this afternoon, arriving at the boundary limit about twenty past three. Waited until four and had quite given up hope of her coming. Was just about to come away, feeling rather glum, when I caught sight of the dear child walking along and wheeling her bicycle. She had had a puncture on the way out. We took the machine to Myles' and repaired the puncture there with the assistance of one of the men. Then we wandered down through Juniper and picked a few blackberries, but very few. We rested at the first style, and I finished the spool of films in the camera with a couple of photos of Dorothy sitting on the style. Afterwards she got reading some of the entries in this diary, and became so interested in it that I let her take the book home to read it through. We are to meet at Andover tomorrow afternoon. We stayed rather late in the wood at Juniper, and it was about seven when we set off on our separate ways homewards.
Went to bed early.
Sun. 23. Fixed the photos printed on Friday. Went to Church parade and stayed for Communion.
After dinner, got my leave pass and went over to the Command Depot, but could not find Les. It was late, so I hurried off along the Andover road, thinking Les might possibly have gone on ahead. Met the girls near the railway bridge, and we walked back towards Weyhill in the hope of meeting Les, but saw no sign of him. So we strolled back to Andover again and I went to the Soldiers' Rest Room for tea. Wanted to give three penny stamps, which was all I had, for threepence worth of cakes, but the same nice old lady who entertained me with a pleasant conversation here three weeks ago, would not take the stamps and insisted upon my being her guest. She provided me with quite a respectable light repast, and even wanted to give me the price of the railway fare back to Ludgershall, so I should not have to walk, but of course that would .......... of us meet in Ludgershall Wednesday evening, but Dorothy and I also arranged to meet on Tuesday if possible. She is to let me have the former boy's letter, so that I may answer it for her and explain matters. My poor little Dorothy, she does not at all like the idea of my going away to France soon, and I think she is rather afraid that something may happen to prevent the fulfilment of our happy dreams of the future. But God is watching over us, and He will take care of us.
We parted in Andover about nine, and Les and I walked back to Perham arriving there at something to twelve. Managed to unearth a little supper before going to bed.
Mon. 24. Very terse postcard from Mrs. Caborn saying her mother had got the replicas of my picture, and asking where I wished them to be sent. I wonder why Mrs. Morgan herself did not write?
Developed films tonight. Some of them seemed pretty good. Wrote to Mum and Dad.
Tues. 25. All late 6th division N.C.O's. have to be put on the instructional staff here. That means that I cannot go to France after all. Am awfully disgusted over it, but though I tried to persuade the attending officer to let me go to France, it was no use, as he said the orders were from Hqrs. at Tidworth. May be able to get away later on, but at any rate it will mean a delay of two or three weeks. It will be hard luck if I have to carry on as a lance-corporal, especially as I'm so anxious to get over there and make a bid for promotion, so that I shall be able to save a bit with which to get a bonny little home in sunny New South Wales for my little girl and I.
No parade this afternoon on account of there being night operations tonight. Took some prints from the film I developed last night. Those of Dorothy were not a good likeness. Wrote to Mrs. Caborn and to Mrs. Morgan.
Went over to the Command Depot and rang up the Canteen Board offices. Dorothy said she could not meet me tonight, and was leaving a letter at the Y.M.C.A. After tea, went down to Ludgershall and got the letter at the Y.M.C.A. Wrote a letter to her in reply, and left it at the schoolmaster's to be delivered.
Came back to camp and shifted my belongings into the instructors' tent at "B" Co.
Wed. 26. With the Lewis gun instructors today. Nothing much to do yet. The sky looked very threatening all day, but the rain kept off until about teatime, when it began to come down. Nevertheless, I had early tea and hurried off to the village hoping to see Dorothy before she left by the early train, if she was unable to stay. Fortunately her father was away, so she was able to come out and speak to me. Whether she could stay depended on whether Miss Smith arrived or not, but, to our pleasure, Beatrice came. She had been to Southampton all day and had had no tea, so we went with her to a restaurant. Afterwards we walked up hoping to meet Les, but, not seeing him about, we went on out to Perham, and I called at his hut, but he was not there. Then we came down town again and met him there, and we all strolled out along the Andover road. Many of our boys were getting about, and, as usual, there was among them a number of cads who don't seem to know what decent behaviour is.
The girls left by the 8.5p.m. train. Dorothy said she would leave a note at the Y.M.C.A. for me tomorrow.
Thurs. 27. With the Lewis guns today, but nothing to do. Got note from Dorothy at Y.M.C. A. this evening, and wrote one in reply.
In Flanders the British have now taken the third "beke", Zonnebeke. About this time last year, while in Belgium, I went through the ruins of Zillebeke several times. Looking on the map, I wondered how long it would be before we had possession of the three "bekes", Zillebeke, Hollebeke, and Zonnebeke. We have all three now. The famous Polygon Wood has also been taken.
Fri. 28. Route march today, through Tidworth, and around in the direction of Andover. Halted in a field for lunch. Arrived back at camp about 4p.m. After tea, went down to Ludgershall and met Dorothy. We went for a walk out along the Collingbourne road for a change. The little girl left by the 8.5 train for Andover.
Returned to camp, not feeling too well, lay down on one of my blankets and went off to sleep. Awoke about an hour later, and turned in.
Sat. 29. Inspection by Major Steele this morning. Took some snaps of an aeroplane which was flying very low over the camp. Parade was dismissed at 10.30a.m. Went over to `plane which had landed on the hill over towards Tidworth. Took a photo of the machine. The brigade major rode up and sent us all away, except the officers.
After dinner, went down to Ludgershall. There was a letter from Dorothy at the Y.M.C.A. She could not come out this afternoon, as her mother and father wanted a quiet afternoon out, and she stayed in to look after the children. Wrote a letter to her in reply, and spent my last penny on a stamp for it.
After tea, took a stroll out towards Weyhill. It was a glorious day, with plenty of warm sunshine, and reminded me greatly of the lovely spring days we used to have back in New South Wales. Wandered down through Juniper, and took a few photos, finishing the spool. Coming back to camp, it was just as beautiful a night as the day had been, bright with moonlight.
Sun. 30. Fatigue job instead of church parade this morning. After dinner, got leave pass, went over to Command Depot, and Les and I went out to Weyhill. It was another glorious day, just like yesterday, and promised a very enjoyable afternoon. Near the white house by the crossroads there was a girl whom evidently Les knew, for he got talking to her, and in the end he went off with her, leaving me in the lurch.
Went on into the village and met Dorothy and Beatrice. Was at a loss as to how to account for Mitchell's absence, but anyhow I told Miss Smith that he did not feel up to coming right out. We strolled back and went down into the wood near Juniper. Took a photo of Beatrice and a couple of Dorothy. Miss Smith wandered back to the road and there found an Australian soldier, whom she got talking to, and eventually he came with us and thus restored our numbers again to two couples.
After a while we all wandered back into Weyhill, and then we were undecided as to what to do about tea, as Fred Marshall, Beatrice's new-found boy, did not have a pass and so could not come into Andover. He suggested that we all go to some farmhouse for tea, and Dorothy demurred, not knowing how to explain her absence when she got home, and I didn't fancy the idea, not having any money, though I did not tell them so. After discussing every possible scheme we could think of, Dorothy and I decided to go without tea, and urged the other two to go to a farmhouse as suggested. Then, if questioned at home afterwards, Dorothy could truthfully say that she went without tea. So we left the other two by the church and walked back along the Ludgershall road, where we feasted on wild blackberries.
Afterwards we strolled down through Juniper, where we met Fred and Beatrice. After all they did not go to a farmhouse for tea, for Miss Smith would not go without Dorothy. Spent a very happy evening wandering about our favourite grounds, which were beautiful in the clear moonlight. All too soon it was time for the girls to turn homeward, and we all came back into Weyhill. Fred could not get past the boundary limit, for there was a horrid civil policeman there who advised the M.P. not to let him past. The same fellow made himself abominably horrid to a civilian who was riding a bicycle without a front light, and threatened to put him in the lockup. We made arrangements for all four of us to meet in Weyhill tomorrow night, and then I went on with the two girls to the outskirts of Andover, where we parted, the end of a very happy day. While making homeward I was overtaken by Sjt. Dykes, and we went along together. He was telling me about the different girls he had, here and elsewhere, and how he had deceived them, leading them to believe that he loved them, and, when he had gained their love and confidence, had taken advantage of them and finally cast them off. Unfortunately there are only too many of our boys like him, and it seems an awful pity that so many poor girls should walk blindly into the trap so cunningly laid for them, and then have to repent in sorrow and shame for the rest of their lives.
He also told me, about how he had always managed to dodge the M. P. 's. when staying out late or all night. He had never once been caught, he said. Just as we were coming over the hill about half a mile from camp we suddenly came upon two mounted military police. Did not see them until close up to them on account of the fog.......... Beatrice while on the way back to Weyhill. She and Fred had gone off along some side street, and that was how we missed them.
Did not encounter any M. P.'s. tonight, fortunately, as I did not have a late pass.
Tues. 2. Wrote to Mum and Dad. Went to Ludgershall early this evening to make arrangements with Dorothy about tomorrow, as I may not be able to dodge the N.C.O's. lecture in the evening. Arranged for all four of us to meet in Ludgershall. Dorothy left by the early train.
Wed. 3. Letter from Mrs. Morgan, and one from Aunt Lydia and little cousin Flora. Mrs. M. says she got the large pictures all right, and they are very good. She has packed three ready to send home. Clytie told her in a letter that our folk are not wanting for anything, either financially or otherwise. She has had a photo of Bert enlarged for Mum. At "the hills" they have been having wet weather and floods. Flora says she has not missed a day from school for three years, in spite of rain and floods. That is something of a record, especially considering that the school is two miles or more away. One Myrhee family, the Handcocks, have sent eight out of nine brothers to the war. I wonder if they are the same Handcocks whom I vaguely remember visiting once when we were at "the hills". I think I was about seven years old then.
After tea Fred and I went down to Ludgershall, where we met the two girls, and we all walked out to Weyhill. Dorothy and I were some distance ahead, and in mischief we dodged behind a hedge and let the other two get on in front. We all met again at the railway station, and Beatrice was quite vexed with us for losing them. Perhaps it did not occur to her that she had done the same thing on Monday night. What a difference there is between those two girls. They are as unlike as chalk and cheese, and yet they seem to be the best of friends. Arranged to meet my little girl again tomorrow.
Thurs. 4. Raining today. Stayed off the morning parade and wrote to Mrs. Morgan, Mary, and Viv. Asked Mary for news of Vern since the recent fighting in Flanders. S-mjr. Morcom told me that Viv was all right, as our battalion was not in the actual "hop-over", and only had two casualties.
Shifted out of the tent this afternoon, back into my former hut in "A" company. Asked Mr. Wilcox for news of the 56th. b'n., and he said that four captains had been killed, but he only knew the names of two of them. That sounds very bad, for it is rare that a battalion has more than four captains.
Met Dorothy in Ludgershall this evening, and we enjoyed a very pleasant walk out to Weyhill. My little girl asked me to write to her tomorrow night. She took the train home from Weyhill station.
Am a bit anxious about Vern. There may have been five captains in the battalion, as they had done no fighting for some months. Anyway we can only trust in God and hope for the best. He knows what is best for us, and will work all things together for good.
Friday, 5th. Another big advance in Flanders, and the Australians have been in it again. At the conclusion of "Physical Jerks" before breakfast this morning, we were delayed somewhat and then the serjeant in charge began to put out markers to form us up in close column, which would mean a lot more delay. Someone in my squad began counting, more of us joined in and soon almost the whole squad were at it, and it was a very hearty "out!" that we finished up with. As it happened, a major was approaching with Mr. Butler, and they heard the counting out. Our squad was detained while the others were sent away to dismiss, and then the major gave us a very severe lecture. In fact, the language he used was positively insulting. He appears to be one of those fanatical military cranks who look upon an act of indiscipline as a despicable crime.
Not on the usual route march today, the N.C.O's. school being kept back for company drill. It was very cold marching about those bleak hills of Perham. This afternoon about four we were formed up around the stadium to witness the day's boxing match and hear a lecture from some colonel afterwards, but, as it was rather cold and I was not particularly interested in boxing, I slipped away and went back to our hut. Wrote to May Stone and told her I should not be leaving for France for another two or three weeks.
After tea, went down to Ludgershall. There was a letter from Dorothy at the Y.M.C.A. The dear little girl will meet me in Weyhill tomorrow afternoon. Wrote her a letter in reply. They say that Major Steele announced from the stadium this evening that the camp moves to Sutton-Veny on Monday week. That will mean a week longer at Perham with its happy associations.
Saturday, 6th. Raining early this morning, but it cleared later. Very cold out on the downs, drilling.
After dinner, fixed some photos and then walked out to Weyhill, where I met Dorothy. The weather was rather unsettled, and inclined to be showery, and once we had to take shelter behind the "white house". Went blackberry picking, and this time we did manage to harvest quite a respectable quantity. Then we rambled back through Juniper, and rested a little while at the style. Took a snap of Dorothy, and got her to take one of me. Before parting, at Weyhill, we made arrangements about meeting tomorrow afternoon at Andover.
Sunday 7th. Raining heavily this morning. Did not go on church parade, but instead went and interviewed the Asst. Staff Captain, Mr. Pitt, who is from the 56th. battalion. Told him I had heard that he had got news from the battalion, and asked if there had been any mention of Vern. He told me that four captains had been killed, and gave their names, but no mention had been made of Vern, so in this case no news is good news. While there, Mr. Pitt mentioned having seen my application for O.T.C., and said that it had gone through to the commandant.
Towards midday the weather cleared somewhat. Went over to the Command Depot and looked up Fred Marshall. He cannot come to Andover, as he did not put in for a pass, but arranged to meet us in Weyhill after tea. Went to the office for my leave pass, but was told that it had not been granted.
After dinner, went to the Brigade office about my leave, and was told that the application had not come in early enough. I had put it in at the school office on Thursday, so evidently the trouble was all caused by some neglect there. Anyway I determined to go to Andover, pass or no pass, and risk the consequences.
The draft were all formed up near Brigade Hqrs. waiting to move off. Morcom and Jack Cummings were on it, so stopped to say goodbye to them before leaving. Morcom told me that our battalion has suffered rather heavily in the second of the two recent battles in Flanders.
Walked out to Weyhill and then went around by the Abbott's Ann road in order to avoid the M. P.'s. stationed at the boundary limit. However, I met one just as I was getting back towards the main road again. Handed him my pay-book and told him to take my name as I had to go to Andover to keep an appointment. But, anyway, being a little bit of a sport, he did not take my name, and, after a lot of apparent indecision, allowed me to go on the condition that I did not go right into the town.
Met the two girls at the corner on the main road. A heavy shower of rain had come on, but soon passed over. They had got away early this afternoon on account of there being no Sunday school, it being too wet. We strolled back as far as the railway bridge. Dorothy was full of life and fun, and the dear little girl is simply adorable when in that mood. Arranged to meet again after tea. Returned to Weyhill by the Abbott's Ann road, and went to a Soldiers' Tea House for tea. There were two officers there with their girls, besides a couple of corporals, and the meal was quite a pleasant and sociable one, the officers making themselves very agreeable.
Went out towards Andover and met the girls, and we came back through Weyhill in order to meet Fred. He, however, did not put in an appearance. The evening turned out very cold and windy, and was not at all pleasant. Accompanied the girls in to Andover, as far as Millway Road. Before coming away, Dorothy and I arranged to meet in Ludgershall tomorrow. Had to face a heavy head wind all the way home, and got back to camp rather tired about half-past eleven.
Monday, 8th. After "Jerks" this morning I was surprised to find that I was warned for draft for tomorrow. Was issued with winter clothing during the morning, leather jerkin, gloves, singlet, etc. Wrote to Mum and Dad. This afternoon there was a kit inspection to see that we had everything complete ready to proceed overseas. Asked the staff captain about my application for O.T.C., and he told me to see Mr. Pitt tomorrow morning and get him to parade me to the commandant.
Went down to Ludgershall without waiting for tea, in case Dorothy might not wait for the late train, it being such a wet and unpleasant evening. She was going by the early train, but I persuaded her to stay, and we went to a picture show. It was nice and warm and light in there, the pictures were good, and we had a very pleasant evening. Afterwards we went around to the station, and the M. P.'s. allowed me to go in. Alors j'ai dit à ma chèrie que je dois partir en France, demain peutêtre, et elle était un tant soit peu triste. En-suite nous devenious assez serieux, et la petite était bien affectionneuse. [So I told my dear child I'm going to France, tomorrow perhaps, and she was a little bit sad. As a result we became quite serious, and my dear child was very affectionate.]
Arranged to come down early tomorrow evening if the draft does not happen to leave, and to ring up, if possible, in the event of us going.
Tuesday, 9th. Draft not going today. Paraded to the asst. staff captain's office, but Mr. Pitt was not there. Another officer told me that the applicants for O.T.C. were paraded before the commandant last night, and that now it was too late to get in for this month. Anyway, he said, there were only three a month allowed from the brigade, and no less than 68 applications were in for this month. So its ten to one the chosen three will be those who have someone to pull strings for them.
Wrote to Mrs. Morgan, telling her we were probably leaving tomorrow, and asking her to send to Dorothy my two last diaries written in France, as the little girl is eager to read them.
Went to Ludgershall this morning and Dorothy and I walked out to Weyhill. It was rather too cold and windy to be pleasant.
Wednesday, 10th. Heard this morning that we are not leaving until Friday. Paid today, 10/-. This afternoon our officer told us that the draft will probably leave tomorrow, and we have been warned to parade in marching-out order at half-past eight. After tea, went to Ludgershall, and very nearly missed the girls, Beatrice had come in, and Dorothy was just going to the station to catch the 5.40 train when she happened to turn around and saw me coming. She had thought that the draft went out today. We met Fred later, and he and Beatrice went for a walk, while Dorothy and I went to the pictures. We spent a pleasant evening there, although the pictures themselves were not up to much.
Persuaded the M.P. to let me on the station afterwards to see my little girl off, perhaps for the last time.
Thursday, 11th. Parade in marching-out order. After brigade drill, Major Steele gave us a lecture, and told us that the camp is moving to Sutton-Veny on Saturday, entraining at Tidworth. He said that the draft is going there also, and will not be leaving for France until some time next week.
Rang up Dorothy and arranged for the four of us to meet in Ludgershall tomorrow.
This afternoon the draft had to go up for medical inspection, and rumours became prevalent to the effect that we will be leaving tomorrow after all. Was half decided to go to Ludgershall this evening in case there might be some truth in the rumours. However, could get no definite information about it anywhere, so decided that the reports were unfounded. Went over to Tidworth to buy some necessary articles.
Friday, 12th. Packed up in case we should be going today. There was a muster parade and a nominal roll call, and then we were told that the draft, consisting of 770 men all told, would entrain at Tidworth in two batches, at 12.45 and 1.20p.m. respectively.
Went over to the Command Depot and rang Dorothy to tell her we were leaving this afternoon. She said she would look out for me as the train went through Ludgershall.
Dinner at eleven, and we fell in at quarter to twelve. This is the largest draft that has ever left Perham, and they were a very rowdy and unruly lot. The officers' orders were invariably met with cheers and interjections. After the commandant's inspection, he gave us the usual parting speech, and then we marched off to Tidworth, where we entrained. The M. P.'s. about the station were made a special target for jest and malice. They were regaled with cooees and hoots and cries of "Anzac!" "Cold feet!" "What did you enlist for!" "You cold-footed ..........!"etc.
After some delay the train at last moved out at about half past one. Quand nous approchions de la gare de Ludgershall, j'ai attrapé vue de ma petite attendant à me voir en passant. Elle m'a salué fortement à la main pendant le train passait à travers la gare. C’était la dernière vue que je pouvais avoir de ma petite chèrie, et bientôt j'ai perdu vue de lui en la distance. Et alors j’étais triste, car peutêre je ne la verrai encore pour grand longtemps. [When we approached the Ludgershall station, I caught sight of my dear child waiting to see me pass. She greeted me with a strong wave when the train passed through the station. It was the last view that I would have of my little darling, and I soon lost sight of her in the distance. And then I was sad, for I may not see her again for a long time.]
It was a wet, cheerless sort of a day, and I had a headache and was not feeling too well. There were some rough specimens of manhood in my compartment, and they amused themselves by hurling coarse vulgar jests at folks on the stations we happened to stop at. Evidently they considered it wit, for they would laugh at their own obscene repetitions as though they had said something funny or clever.
We arrived at Southampton about half-past three, and detrained at a wharf. There were there a great number of Australians who had come down from Fovant and Hurdcot several days ago. There were also numbers of American soldiers, who were a bit of a novelty. They had hats like the New Zealanders, and wore gaiters instead of puttees.
Instead of embarking, as we had expected, we were marched away to a hut encampment a couple of miles out of town. The streets of the city were filled with Australian and American soldiers, who seemed to have plenty of liberty.
After tea, strolled down to the city with another chap. We had a talk to a couple of "Yanks" on the way down. They were rather interesting, and once when the slang term "bob" was used in reference to money, one of them asked how many shillings there were in a "bob". Evidently they are not too conversant with our English coinage.
Southampton seemed a fair bit of a city, but we could not see much of it at night-time. My mate, who bored me with a continual idle useless prattle, was eager to have a good look around, while I felt lonely and bored and wanted a little quiet diversion. So he went on through the city and I went to the Gaiety Picture Palace. It rather belied its name, for there was only one comic picture on the programme. It was a fine roomy comfortable place, and the pictures were good, but somehow could not enjoy them half so well as the third-rate show in Ludgershall on Wednesday. I wonder why!
Went into a Soldiers' Rest Room afterwards and wrote a short letter to Dorothy, and then returned to camp.
Saturday, 13th. After breakfast there was a muster parade, and orders were read out. Parade to fall in at two o'clock this afternoon in marching out order, ready to move off. However, it was announced at dinner that the moving orders were cancelled.
Went out this afternoon and took a train through the city to Royal Pier, which looks a decent bit of a structure. Near the pier there was an old stone building of the 16th. century. It had formed part of the defences of some old castle. Strolled up through the town to see what it looked like. Some of the side streets were very narrow and squalid, and reminded one of stories of London slums. It is not so great a city as I had expected to see, and beautiful, imposing, or even artistic buildings were conspicuous by their absence. There was a small park at the top end of town, with a few nice memorials. A beautiful avenue of large trees stretched away from the city beyond our camp, which is situated in a pretty piece of wooded land, evidently a pleasure resort, called The Common.
Stayed awhile to witness a Boy Scout display in a spare piece of land. Besides the scouts, with their banners, drums, etc., there were a number of girls looking very sweet in blue uniforms and hats. I suppose they were Girl Guides, for most of them carried poles. Dorothy used to be a corporal in the Girl Guides, and I guess she must have looked adorable in that uniform.
After tea, strolled down town and went to the Palace Theatre, where (there) was a variety entertainment. Some of the items were fair and some seemed rather mediocre, but perhaps I was not in a mood to appreciate good talent. Felt rather lonely, and it seemed all the time that there was something missing from the scheme of things.
Sunday, 14th. After breakfast there was a parade and orders were read out. We are to fall in at 2p.m. ready to march out. It was a glorious sunny morning, not a cloud to be seen, and I strolled out down the Avenue, where hundreds of the townsfolk were out enjoying the beautiful weather. Wandered through the park, which looked rather pretty with its beds of flowers, and took a couple of photos. The trees everywhere are heralding the approaching winter, for their leaves are turning brown and yellow, and already the ground is strewn with dead ones. Everything looked so beautiful, and the children playing about the park seemed so happy and everybody looked contented, but somehow I could not get away from that sense of loneliness, for it seemed there was only one thing wanting to make the day perfect.
Went back to camp about midday, had dinner, received rations for this evening, and got everything in readiness for departure. Wrote a short letter to Dorothy. (cont'd)