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Joining Up Enthusiasm, Cardiff, 1939

by Boybach

Contributed by 
Boybach
People in story: 
Mr. Eric E. Powell
Location of story: 
Kent and Cardiff
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A2021798
Contributed on: 
11 November 2003

I was sitting in a cinema in Gravesend in the afternoon of 1st Sept. 1939 with my younger brother as we were both holidaying in Kent. In the middle of the feature film a notice was flashed on the screen requiring all Territorials and Reservists to return at once to their Units {mine was "L" Section 53rd(W) Divisional Signals).We promptly left the cinema, returned to my aunt's house, packed our bags and took trains, first to London, then to Cardiff. As we looked out of the carriage window on the journey to London we were able to observe the barrage balloons already positioned around the Capital. How well prepared we were!
On reporting to the Drill Hall in Cardiff I was told to go home and come back the next day.
Thus, after a homely welcome, I went to bed to have a good night's sleep - so I thought.
At 4 a.m. there was an almighty thundering on the front door. Rising from bed, my courageous mother opened the door to be confronted by a military gentleman who bawled out," Does L/Corporal Eric Powell live here?" My, mother, somewhat speechless, just nodded, at which point a green paper was thrust into her hand and the same voice bawled,"Here's his Notice to Join".The fact that I was in an upstairs bedroom was no impediment to the clarity of his statement.
So I arose, but wiser counsels now prevailed and I took my time about preparing myself to report back to the Drill Hall.
Here, 1st September, we were mustered, collected some kit and hung about all day. Occasionally refreshments were served.Speculation was rife. "Would Hitler take any notice of Chamberlain's ultimatum?" We thought not.
Eventually bored to tears we were sent home and told to come back the next day.
So, Sunday dawned, and back to the Drill Hall we went. Some perfunctory drills took place and then we all poured into the canteen to hear the radio.Thus we were soon enlightened with the dire news. We were at war with Germany.
Then it was very serious stuff. We were lined up for medical inspection.The M.O. took station seated at a table and eventually I stood before him - salute,number, rank, name,- and sit down.
"Are you fit?" asks he. I nod. "Right!" He stamps A1 in my Pay Book. Dismiss. That was my medical.(13 years later I was called up as a "Z" reservist. Before being pronounced fit I was examined by a panel of about a dozen doctors. Unfortunately, they came to the same decision, so it was me for fortnight's recall to the Colours!)The next day, after another night at home, we departed for our home station.
This turned out to be an Institute not far from Cardiff. Here we learned to drive, how to sleep on a hard floor in the Institute Hall, and get used to the uniform I would wear for the next six and a half years.
Those were quiet expectant days but they weren't to last. Three weeks after arriving we were discovered. We were too good and the Regular Army needed an Infantry Bde. Signal Section to fill a gap in the ranks of the 5th Infantry Division. And so it was Aldershot here we come, and "Hello France!"
We little knew what was now in store for us. But that's another story.

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