- Contributed by
- Harold Pollins
- People in story:
- Harold Pollins
- Location of story:
- Kensington Gardens, London
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 July 2004
In the summer of 1946 the unit I was in was closing down and some of us were posted to the camp in Kensington Gardens, London, which was to hold those who were to take part in the Victory March through London. All sorts of personnel were to take part, with contingents from many (perhaps all) of the allied forces.
The unit to which I belonged had a lowly part. We were the permanent staff of ‘K’ Lines. We supplied the cooks, sanitary squads, police, and other Headquarters staff. I was in the Orderly Room, and my particular task was to be the filing clerk. There was little to do as only a handful of correspondence came into HQ and a similar small amount was sent out. It didn’t take long to accomplish my daily task. I had a few files, marked KVC (for K Lines Victory Camp) 1 or 2 or 3. Memory suggests that sometimes I got confused and some items were marked by me KCV. But no-one ever looked at them so it didn’t matter.
Since my family lived in London I went home every night. I imagine this must have been accepted and since Kensington Gardens were open there was no difficulty in entering or leaving it. There was no security to talk of. Going home enabled me to pick up copies of books which I was able to read in the Orderly Room when I was unoccupied, which was during most of the day. I remember that I tended to read all the novels of Jack London which my father had collected before he got married in 1913, when he had belonged to the left-wing Social Democratic Federation. Jack London was at that period a well-known author, broadly of leftist tendencies, but in any case, a good writer of exciting fiction.
The clerks in the Orderly Room had an easy time apart from one duty. One of us had to be in the Orderly Room during mealtimes, in case the telephone rang. The Commanding Officer was an old, kindly, Essex Regiment Major. The Adjutant was a young man and I came into conflict with him. On one occasion I was on dinner duty in the Orderly Room. I was lying on my back on a bench reading the paper which I held up above me. The Adjutant came in and said something to me. I don’t remember what he said, but I must have taken offence as I stood up very slowly, and threw the paper on to the table. He said ‘I’ll have you for dumb insolence’, but nothing came of it.
But the second time, when again I was on duty, and nothing was happening, did result in action. I took myself off from the Orderly Room for some reason. As it happens, the telephone rang, for the first and only time on such an occasion. The Adjutant was obliged to come in and answer the phone.
The next day I was marched in front of the CO for, I suppose, dereliction of duty. He punished me by transferring me to the sanitary squad. He must have thought this was a downgrading but he misunderstood. I left his tent and gave a little dance of delight as the sanitary squad were independent, not under the supervision of officers. In the mornings we did various jobs of cleaning up, collecting the rubbish, and, joy of joys, travelling with the rubbish lorry to the Westminster City rubbish dump. That was about all, and we were finished by about mid-morning. Thereafter we had the day to ourselves and we wandered around, sometimes stopping in the cookhouse for snacks. A most memorable and pleasant part of my army career. But it lasted only a few, short weeks.
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