May 25, 1942
Just a few lines to let you know how our manoeuvres are progressing. We left our concentration area the night before last and, after a seven-hour convoy, arrived at our battle station. This was, of course, another wood. It was raining hard when we started and developed into a steady downpour. Our cooks were on the job, however, and had a good breakfast ready by 6:15. Since then, we have just sat around keeping in contact with the enemy forces by means of O.P. plus devious sources of information.
Yesterday broke fair and cold and we all thought the rain was over. By noon more heavy-laden clouds had gathered blotting out the sun once more. Spasmodic showers kept us dashing for cover but we still had hopes of better weather on the morrow. Today I woke to find a cold N. E. wind and scudding grey clouds. I crawled out of my bed to eat a breakfast consisting of oatmeal, hardtack, coffee and canned bacon. I felt much better about the whole thing about this time, so I made a tour of the camp taking in the command post, the wagon lines and gun positions.
The sun tried to break through all morning but it seemed to give up the ghost toward noon. We had a very good dinner of hardtack, canned stew, rice pudding and tea at 12:00, after which I retired to a truck to read a detective magazine. At 3:30 the sergeant major rounded up all hands to man rifles loaded with blanks to repel an unexpected infiltration of “enemy infantry.” I spent the next two-and-a half hours guarding a slope leading up to the kitchen but as I saw no enemy and the rain was beginning to fall I returned to camp by a different route, thus avoiding the Sergeant Major.
We had supper at six, quite good, though hardly enough to keep the worms quiet, after which I went back to my magazine. It really is raining in earnest now with little chance of stopping tonight. A chum and I are sitting in the cab of his three-tonner writing and smoking. I have just described a dinner of fried chicken with all the trimmings and almost landed out in the rain for all my trouble. Rainy weather always has a depressing effect, particularly when you have no warm fire or family circle to look forward to, and I think most of the boys are fed up just at the moment. This is the sixth day out, so we will soon be over the hump, as the boys say. It really would be quite pleasant if only this D—N rain would stop. I guess the crops need it though and I’m still enough of a farmer to appreciate that, so I will stop complaining. I haven’t seen a paper lately, but expect things are much the same. I was pleased to see that the Conscription Plebiscite went through and frankly, that four out of five was a rather higher percentage of affirmative votes than I expected from the boys on active service. So many of them have been soured by the events of the past two years and openly state that “just because I was a sucker, I see no reason why I should make any other poor devil go through with it too.”
Well, it’s getting dark so I’d better make up my bed in the back of the truck and turn in.
I hope I haven’t bored you too much with my lengthy weather report and promise to write again when I’m in a cheerier mood.
Well here it is another day and the dirty weather still persists. I was very much cheered to receive three letters from home all dated around April 24. The first I read was from Mother, the next from nurse Audrey, and the last from farmer Swinton. The photograph of Dad was quite the best he ever had taken. I like it particularly because he looks happy and fit. The sudden retirement must have come as quite a shock but I feel sure it was all for the best. As Alan says, “Our financial position would very likely be about the same in three years’ time as it is now and Dad might just as well enjoy the rest he so thoroughly deserves before he is too old to get the benefit from it.
Another thing, I’m sure with Mother’s guidance, they will be a hard team to beat as far as the poultry and livestock are concerned. Audrey seems to be quite happy, though I couldn’t but help notice a note of loneliness in her letter. After all, it is a pretty drastic change from the kind of sheltered life she had at home. I feel sure, however, it was a very wise move to get her started on a self-supporting job and the contacts she will make will develop her shy personality.
From Mom’s report, you seem to be in much better financial position than a year ago, in spite of a poor crop and the added expense of another well. I think this year will pretty well see the finish of this miserable war, and I for one sincerely hope so. At 6:30 this a.m. we were attacked by “enemy troops” who succeeded in capturing our kitchen before our supporting infantry came to our aid.
The whole thing of course is more or less a farce but one is supposed to remain out of action for twelve hours and then rejoin the fray as reinforcements. Our guns escaped however, which would be very important in real action. I often wonder how much good these extensive manoeuvres are as they always lack reality. The rain is still pouring down so I don’t expect there will be much doing today.