Somewhere in England
This letter tells of seven days leave [undated but likely in February 1941] which Alastair spent with his Aunts in Devonshire. He also met Aunt Lila, who, as he wrote, was very much a dowager and, at her house, met Beryl McMorland, wife of Douglas, who had recently been commissioned an officer in the East Lancashire regiment. He tells, too, of meeting Maud Swinton, sister of E. D. Swinton, whose home was near Woolwich Arsenal, but was not going to let the bombs scare her out.
Before returning to camp, Alastair also visited in Brighton and also spent two days in Brixham, near where the convalescent home was situated and where he spent several weeks after his accident.
On his return to camp, which at that time was situated some place on the coast in training for a possible invasion, he asked to be relieved from his duties as driver for the Major and put back on the guns. His request was granted and he was transferred to A troop and gun #3.
Alastair’s application for transfer to the R.A.F. was turned down by his Colonel. His sports officer told him that the regimental team were playing an exhibition game of hockey and that he had been appointed to the team, which pleased him very much. To continue his letter ….. (W.F.H. Swinton)
I had twenty-four hours at the gun position and the same length of time off duty. During the day of duty, our time was spent cleaning and oiling ammunition or polishing the gun itself. In spite of all this, I enjoyed myself, much to the surprise of the old gang in H.Q.
I think I have made a step in the right direction, at least I feel sure that with a little effort, I can win my promotion. At least I am doing work I like, which is half the battle.
In case you are wondering what kind of weather we are getting at this time year, I’ll just tell you. It has rained almost continuously for four days and today it is dull and foggy. We had a brief glimpse of the sun yesterday and it felt very much like summer.
To return to the War, I will give you my private impression of the present phase. I think this period can be compared to the one just prior to the invasion of the lowlands last June. However, I believe we are much better prepared to withstand the onslaught this time. Nevertheless, it will be a desperate struggle and should bring the actual fighting to a close before the middle of summer. I still think we will be home by 1942, so just keep your fingers crossed.
I didn’t get time to mail my letter, so opened it and will carry on. I’ve done a great deal of thinking about my future after the War since I’ve been over here. It makes me really very much ashamed of myself to think of all the years I spent in a rut back on the farm. I only wish I had realized my mistake in time to warn Alan against quitting school before he finished his grade twelve at least or have a good trade. My greatest trouble was my interests always lay with the trivial things. If I had spent half as much time and trouble planning my future as I did learning to play hockey and baseball, I would probably have made a good start.
I haven’t seen or heard from Liulf for over a month. He too has been trying for a transfer to the R.A.F. but has met with the same difficulties. All my officers seem to like me which makes me all the more certain that if I can master the 25-pounder, I will be on my way up. I used to think I wouldn’t mind being a gunner for the duration, but suddenly discovered I did and made plans accordingly, so don’t be too surprised if I come home a Sgt. Major.