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by eveline shore

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eveline shore
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05 January 2006

? June 13 1940. Saturday afternoon. Tidworth.
Dear Mum and Dad,
I’ll write you a letter while the going’s good, because I’m awaiting the corporal to fetch us out for a bit of trench digging or spud peeling. We’re in trouble once more. On Thursday night’s orders we were supposed to get an old overcoat for driving in, and as it was our first night off for ages, we all went out and when we read the orders, the stores were closed. Some of us went up on Friday dinner time but they were closed again. So at the 2 o’clock parade on Friday dinner, the Sergeant-Major saw us wearing our great coats and asked if we had drawn our old coats. Of course, we said “No” and tried to explain, but he wouldn’t listen and asked the orderly corporal to take our names for a dose of fatigues, so that’s that. On the same day, those who were not driving were pulled up for closing 2 windows before 1 o’clock dinner time, and there is 12 in the room. The Orders are that every window should remain open until 1 o’clock, and the officer who inspects the rooms noticed these two closed and reported us. We closed them because we were changing into gym kit, and forgot to open them again.
I think my luck was out on Friday, although it’s the 13th today. When I fetched my coat at teatime, it wanted every button stitching on, and there were 15 of them.
I don’t know what the weather is like over home, but since last Wednesday it’s been cold, raining and very windy. It still is, as I write this.
The lorries that we drive about in have only got two little window screens and a bit of canvas roof and the rain just pelts inside the cab. Sometimes a gust will blow the roof up and the pool of water will pour in. Thanks to our greatcoats and steel helmets, we managed to keep ourselves dry.
We have another corporal now. I don’t know whether I told you, but our own corporal has gone to take a new squad over. The new one is as different again. He’s always joking and telling tales about when he was in India with the niggers. He says the niggers will give all they’ve got for a rifle, and when they go to the barracks to try to steal one, they strip and plaster their bodies with grease, so that if someone did try to catch hold of them, they would slip off. I don’t know if you ever saw Ned Sparkes but our corporal is the dead image of him and acts like him.
When we were up the stores, drawing our old coats, the Squadron Leader came out of his office and asked us if we were after our leave passes. Of course, we said. There was no such luck, but he said, don’t worry, your turn will come very soon, perhaps during our next fortnight. I notice that 20 and 22 squad are on leave this weekend, and 24 next weekend. Perhaps we will go with them if they can spare two squads again. But if they can’t spare us, it will be our turn the following weekend. It’s only a very short leave, you know, from Friday teatime until Sunday midnight, including travel, but I shall come over.
The food we’re having now is champion; for breakfast every morning this last few weeks, we have had porridge, bread, marmalade and bacon or something else in place of bacon. There’s been plenty of it too, and dinners have been good too and plentiful. We can’t grumble at all about the food.
There’s two corporals who take us for driving and one comes from Crewe, and the other from Tideswell in Derbyshire. It’s nice to be with corporals who know the Potteries and surrounding districts.
Is Levi’s face better now? I suppose it is by now, I hope so in any case.
I hope you’re not having any air-raids. Eveline hasn’t mentioned them this last week or so, and no news is good news I think. We still keep pretty free from them.
Did you know Arthur Pickin is billeted in an hotel in Barmouth. He’s fairly lucky, it’s a very nice quiet place. I can’t see what use soldiers are around that area. Eddie Sambrooks from Burslem is expecting his girl down here at tea-time, to stop until Monday Morn. He’s all excited and putting his best boots and suit on.
Well, I’m hoping to see you on Saturday or the following Saturday. I’m all right for everything, money included, so don’t send anything until I come over. It’s nearly tea-time now and I must close. Good afternoon. Remember me to Uncle Sam, Auntie Ethel, Uncle Levi and family and all others.
Cheerio and all the best. From your loving son, Albert. Xxx.
The corporal didn’t come after all, perhaps he is saving it for tomorrow.

June 16 1940. Sunday. Tidworth.
Dear Mum and Dad’
I had your letter on Sat. We went out all day on Sat, complete with full kit, all types of guns and ammunition, ready for action. I don’t know what the idea was, but we all enjoyed it. We stopped at a village pub for dinner. It was a feast, we had bread, butter, potted meat, lettuce, and rice pudding, of course a drink to top it up. It was a very nice village, thatched cottages, roses round the door etc. We came back through Marlborough and past the White Horse on the hills.
We’ve been driving all week and our usual run took us past the White Horse. One day we passed a convoy that had drawn up for dinner. It was 1½ miles long, about 300 lorries and endless motor-bikes. They were all Canadian. It’s nothing but military vehicles around here, and the petrol they waste is shocking.
On the parade ground, all the lorries are standing there with the engines running for about 10 minutes before we start and they only do 8 to 10 a gallon. They found out we could drive all right on Monday, so instead of saving petrol, time etc, they took us out all week, and it was all wasted. They could have learned dozens more and given us something else to have gone on with. It suits me though, but when we have to economise so drastically, it makes me mad to see 100s of gallons of petrol wasted every week.
We are working over now until 7.0 every night, and last week it was rumoured about that we should have to work 7 days a week. Anyway it hasn’t happened yet. It’s nothing but rumours round here.
Do you know it’s just over a week ago we were told that we were to be rationed with food. You can imagine how our hearts dropped and yet it was all in vain. Ever since then we have had really decent meals and plenty of it.
I’ve been to church this morning, with the church parade, about 100 of us. It’s the same old story though, standing on the square for 3/4 of an hour, being inspected and a little bit of drill just to please the captain. . . ( unfinished or page missing).

June 23 1940. Sunday. Tidworth.
Dear Mum and Dad,
I had your letter on Friday, but have only just had time to reply. All our squad have been put on guard for 2 or 3 weeks. We’re guarding a big aerodrome about 6 miles away, although I’m only a waiting man for fear a chap doesn’t turn up, I have to get on parade with them. I was wanted last night. We are like on active service, with our blankets, greatcoat, equipment, guns, ammunition, etc, and we slept in tents. It’s a lovely aerodrome and the chaps live a lords life, everywhere spotless, tiled walls and posh baths and hot and cold water, a good NAAFI and nice living quarters. It’s called Upavon, the biggest of 8 around here.
We’re working like niggers now. Starting last Friday we have to do an hour and a half’s digging trenches every night and this morning we’ve done some, and while I’m waiting to be called out this afternoon, I spot my chance to drop you a line. It’s not that we’re working endlessly all day, but we don’t get 2 or 3 hours off at a stretch. I’ll bet we only do 9 or 10 hours a day, but after each period of instruction there’s 10 or 15 minutes allowed to change clothes or smoke, and when we have about 11 periods and 3 mealtimes a day, the time soon goes.
While on guard we have to parade at 8.20 every night. It takes 20 minutes to get ready and we are called up at 5.0 am at the aerodrome to get us back at 6.0 am.
Taking it all round, it isn’t a bad life now. They allow us plenty of time between the periods, but I would rather do, say, 3 hours or 4 at a stretch and have a substantial break. Anyway, we’re nearly half way through our training and we may be posted somewhere in England, perhaps nearer to home.
All last week I was having a series of lectures on motor cars and lorries. When I get home again, the car will never see a garage again, unless it wants a new body or chassis. It’s surprising what we did learn, almost everything about a Morris, and they had working models of electrical gear, engines, gearboxes, back axles, etc.
We were examined on it on Friday afternoon. I got 43 out of 50. I might have got 50 but I just couldn’t think how an Autovac petrol pump stopped when it was full of petrol, and as soon as I came out of the room, it dawned on me, but the damage was done.
It’s funny weather for midsummer. All weekend it’s been raining and it’s very cold too, more like December, and yet on Friday it was the hottest ever. My fags were ready lit when I drew them out. It must have been 99 in the shade.
Eveline told me how much she like the coat dress and material. She says they’re beautiful, and she and I thank you very much indeed for them. You certainly paid for them. You must accept that £5 I gave you to save. I shan’t need it so please take it towards the cost. They were terribly expensive. I told Eveline about the shoes, but I haven’t had a reply yet. I only posted it on Sat.
I should like to bring you around here after the war, if only to see the corporals and sergeants and talk to them as a civvy. But apart from this, the surrounding countryside is beautiful. There’s dozens of fields that are half filled with poppies, and one field I’ve never seen a sight like it in my life, it was absolutely crimson all over, just as though some-one had painted it. On Monday we went on a run to Stonehenge, it’s not like I expected. You could walk round the stones in half a minute, but it’s really marvellous. The stones are 25 ft high, and similar stones are placed along the tops, they weigh about 20 tons. They got them up by placing hundreds of logs and making a slope of them up to an upright stone, then hundreds of chaps pushed and pulled it to the top. Those logs that were jammed they burnt away. It’s the old story, the field is fenced off and people are charged a shilling to go around them. We saw them from the road and an NCO told us their history.
I see Daddy Horwood couldn’t resist his annual how-do-you-do. I suppose the list of names was just an excuse, because the outing is off.
Levi is having it rough isn’t he. What he wants is a few days off and keep plenty of Johnson’s oil on. It’s wonderful stuff. I will always use it. It did Eveline’s chilblains good, and cuts and scratches are healed up in no time. I opened your box of chocs on Friday night and they’re nearly all gone now. Were they with tea coupons? I forget. Anyway, they were lovely. I’ve been eating them like grapes. Thanks ever so much for them.
Eveline told me you are going to send a parcel between you. I don’t know what to say, but I don’t want you both to go to too much expense I know things are tightening up in Civvy Street. Thanks all the same, they’re all welcome and very much appreciated.
The White Horse is a carving in the hillside, about 180 ft long and it’s carved out of chalk. It’s always white and can be seen for miles. We saw it last August when we came back from Torquay and when we stopped at that big manor, Erlestoke, in Wiltshire, we saw it about 25 miles from there and nearer to home.
Erlestoke Manor is only 20 miles from Tidworth. There’s no news about leave. We’re all confined to barracks. We’re classed as on active service. Up to last Sunday it was possible to get an 18 hours pass for Sun from 6 am to midnight, but that’s stopped now. If it resumed I think the Pottery lads will try to hire a car. We are all drivers so we can take it in turns to drive. According to some of the lads, they say, if we can get enough petrol to come home, they’ll be able to see us back again. We’ll have to wait a week or two yet, I’m afraid. I can’t see why they shouldn’t let us take our guns and some ammunition to go home with. We would be just as useful at home as we are here, perhaps more useful because we would be spread out.
That Greek, by the way his name is “George Constantiza Christa Adoula”, well, he was missing on Friday 2.0 parade and nobody knew where he was, so he caused quite a commotion between the sergeants, corporals and the Serg-Major, because he should have been there. The corporal decided to slip up to the room and have a look for him. And there he was coiled up like a hedgehog and fast asleep on his bed. The reason we didn’t notice him was because his bed is up in the corner and his mattress and blankets hid him. They were piled up on the end of his bed. The NCOs only laughed at it, but if it had been anyone else, they would have been behind the bars now.
Well, Mum, I’ll have to close now. Remember me to all. By the way I haven’t heard off Aunt Polly or Uncle Sam yet. Good afternoon and good luck to you all. I’m feeling fine so don’t worry.
Bye-bye, your loving son Albert. Love to all - xxx.

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