However due to a wily Scottish Recruiting Sergeant who lined his pockets at my expense when I was working out my notice of quitting my job whilst lodging in Glasgow, Scotland, I ended up in a Scottish Regiment.
My Military title for next seven years was No Pte T. My Regiment was, The First Battalion. I had signed up for a total of twelve years, seven years with the colours and five years with the reserves. This is an eyewitness account of what I saw, heard and could not avoid from September to It has been written from memory, but since there is no way I can remember the actual conversations but can vividly remember the dialects and the faces of the speakers and the situations I am able to write this in some detail.
Many books have been written about the miseries and tragedies of war with dates and witnesses and whilst being informative can at times be boring. With this in mind I have leaned toward the lighter side and some of the happier or comical episodes of my service abroad.
Since some memories invade my mind when I try to sleep I have been forced to take medication for the rest of my life. But I have made bold with the happier times of my service. I would point out however, that if one were to go to the zoo and on finding no animals there, and were informed that the R. To write this and omit some of the detail because it may offend some would be akin to the zoo with no animals and therefore pointless.
In short if one removes the walls from a house there is nothing to hold up the roof. To avoid confusion later I would point out here that I changed identity tags for the last two years of the War with one Harry Tenny who was a Sgt Engineer in the R. The reason for which will be found in the following pages. Tommy's War Part 2 9th August It was pouring with rain yet again. I had voiced my intentions to my stand in Father who was the Foreman of the gang who roamed about the countryside digging trenches in the ground and laying heavy ceramic pipes in them and then covering them up with earth.
I reflect on the fact that we humans had to be taught how to do this when cats and dogs do it naturally and without the aid of compasses or maps.
The Post Office Engineers would come along at a later date and complete the job by pulling massive tarred cables through the pipes and thus enable some of the outlying towns to communicate better instead of gathering wood as they had done over the ages for a huge bonfire on the nearest hill to light should the area come under attack from marauding Sassenachs, Vikings and Danes.
I had joined this roaming gang of human moles as a tea boy in my hometown, and when they had finished there I begged my Father to let me travel with them, since there was no work on offer where I lived. A week later on idly perusing the spot I noticed that either the mortar had retreated between the bricks from the tobacco juice or it was the acid in the juice that had eroded the mortar and the rain washed it down into the garden where it snuffed out any garden life for a radius of about fifteen inches.
It occurred to me that should one get one of these lethal torpedoes in ones eye, one could be blinded for life. Dad always spat when he did not get his own way. Mum always thought it a filthy habit. The others and myself got into the wooden office that was now stowed away on the back of the truck and with all the other tools and gear we settled down for the long drive to Scotland. I stood up looking through the window of the hut as Barton began to disappear into the distance.
But soon I got tired of standing and with mixed feelings I joined the others who were lolling on sacking and half asleep. I suppose the novelty of moving had worn off long ago for them. To me it was another new adventure. Having travelled for about an hour the driver would stop and get out, then after a short walk would get back in and off we would go again. And looking the other way one could just see the road for about a hundred yards then it seemed to merge with everything else that was white with snow.
At each side of the road were tall trees with outstreched branches the top half of which were laden with snow. Then it became obvious why we had stopped, as the others made for trees and stood behind them silently like it was Eleventh of November and they were observing the two minutes silence for WW1 with down cast eyes.
The Penny sort of dropped as I observed steam rising suddenly from the now wet base of a tree as the snow began to disappear like a family of moths eating a hole in a blanket.
Another chap lingered to admire his paintings of eyeholes in the snow and decided to sign it with a flourish and half filled his left boot. Then we had the pantomime of watching him trying to balance on one foot as he unlaced his boot and then removed it.
And the day after tomorrow what or whom ever would be so much shark manure on the sea bed where other little monsters will come and pick at it and they in turn expel it and so on down the food chain. The fact that the train was over crowded did not help the fresh air situation either, however we got to El Alamain and it was a pleasure to get off that over heated tin of sardines and by now it began to smell like one. It is hard looking at things online, I had pretty much decided on the Alice, but decided IRL it wasn't for us.
Taking off the wet sock and wringing out most of the liquid manure he then replaced the sock and boot and laced it up again to the grins of us who were stood watching his antics. It suddenly occurred to me why some of these trees could be leaning over at alarming angles when others were so straight and proud. These trees growing at all angles were on the edge of the wood, so I assessed they had been extra watered over the years by passing travellers who having topped up at the last Inn in Town now had stopped to water their horses behind a chosen tree as they hid from the view of other likely passers by on the road.
Then there was a snowball fight that faded out when Bill snarled, "Pack it in yu lot an' ger on the bleed'n' truck, we ain't got time tu play bleed'n snawballs" and we got onto the truck again with some albiet a bit sullen at the reprimand but glad to be on our way none the less, and we resumed our journeymore or less in silence.
It was too late to go looking for digs so we spent the night in the wooden office and the next day Bill set off for the local Labour Exchange to see if he could get some Men to work for us digging the trenches. I found out that this town was Galasheils in the lowlands of Scotland. I must confess I cannot remember too much about Galasheils except to say it was a bit on the quiet side except for the local drunk who would come and watch us work while he stood there in a daze hiccupping and glassy eyed and wondering what we were looking for digging up on the grass on the side of the road.
From there we moved to Selkirk. Each time we moved Bill sat in the nice warm cab next to the engine while we sat in the cold wooden office hut on the back of the truck watching the snow cascading past the window. While we had a plentiful supply of old potato sacks to sit on and cover our legs it was still bitterly cold in that draughty cabin when it was moving. Selkirk Town I remember well.
It had a huge hill as a backdrop to the railway station that terminated at Selkirk.
It also had lots of Woollen Mills and bonny Lasses. But it was also very cold and wet. Most of the places we had never heard of let alone seen, but Bill had a map and a magic pin. Bill would close his eyes and stab with the pin. Once he missed the map and stabbed his own knee with the pin and for the rest of that day walked round like a wounded zombie convinced he was going to lose his leg to gangrene.
But after several dabs with an iodine brush and a sticking plaster he was free of the miseries the next day. Sometimes the local pub would be so close it negated the regulations so Bill would have to have more stabs with the pin knowing that he would not get served in the local boozer on a Sunday. I lost count of the times Bill would end the evening behind the Pub with Pongo and Paddy holding him up in a bent over position while he spray painted the pub wall with bad beer and diced vegies.
Sometimes on these occasions it was just as well he had companions to look after him because he would wander out on to the road. Wearing moleskin bell-bottom trousers that sported a flap at the front like the sun-blind on a shop front held up by a button at either side. The problem with that kind leg and buttock attire though was, having just relieved himself he would forget to button up the flap, and because they fitted tight at the hip and with a belt to secure them, they could not fall down.
Having rousted the men Bill would retire to the orange colored wooden office with it's black roof and make himself a cup of tea on the little Primus stove then he would settle down and read the paper. Bill would tear the paper, just a little nick on the spine.
I thought it was a little idiosyncrasy but later realised he was reading the paper and also peeking at the blokes digging through the little slit in the middle of the now opened newspaper.
Two chaps having a breather for too long and having a discussion about Celtic and Glasgow Rangers would suddenly get a verbal broadside from the little hut on small cast iron wheels wheels. Then we moved to Auld Reekie. Known to Sassenachs and sundry as Edinbrough. It was not long before we were digging up the grass verge outside the barracks one of the Highland Regiments. The road that came out of Edinbrough had tram lines to Collinton. One could get off the tram and on walking through a gap in the iron railing at the side of the footpath descend the few stone steps that led to the path that meandered through Collinton Dell.
The noise of the street would be left behind and it was like being in another place in time. It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland and I wondered how long it would be before someone came and scolded me for being in such a delightful place for free and without a ticket. Somewhere in the distance I could hear the sound of water rushing along between or over rocks.
Also from the far distance came the sound of someone playing a haunting melody on the bagpipes. On turning a bend round some tall ferns the source of the rushing water sound was revealed and the bagpipe music would be over powered by the noise of rushing water. It was near Christmas time and I had to do my share as night watchman. I had just finished checking that all the red lamps were lit and trimmed, and properly hooked onto the ropes that prevented anyone from wandering into the trenches that had been dug almost the full length of the Military Barracks behind the hut.
Tiny flakes of snow were falling, when out of the darkness on the footpath an old bloke sort of waltzed into view but on spotting the old oil drum with lots of holes made in it with a pickaxe and the red hot coke now therein sending out waves of heat, he signalled his legs two points to Starb'd and staggered over the grass and began warming his hands at the coke fire. Then I moved and the old bloke almost jumped out of his skin. Ah dednie see yus there, yu scared the hell oot o' me laddie!
Then we were joined by two young ladies who were trainee nurses and had been to a party and were walking home to Collinton, since the last tram had gone. The old chap piped up, " Well ah'm awa ti mah bed the noo but afore ah go wid ye no like a wee drappie ti keep ye warm through the nicht?
We finished that job and moved to Glasgow. And I began to miss the Sunday afternoon tram trip to Collinton Dell where I would sit on a wooden bench seat and read the book I had bought about the last of the Mohicans. We got digs in Glasgow and resided with a Mrs Moig for a while in a street not far from Suchihall st. The first night was hilarious. There were also three little steps to climb to enable one to get into the bed. I pondered the pun and it was then I suddenly realised my face was burning red.
Then I saw it on the grass, a long thin line of what looked like curried prawns and rice pointing in the general direction of the fast disappearing mob. This is great for emergencies but it will be pretty pricey to connect.
The next morning at breakfast Mrs Moig had a twinkle in her eye as she asked, "Did ye hev sweet dreams in the bed ye cudnie find laddie? Bill and his mates hadn't found their beds in their room either and were too befuddled to enquire, and while debating what to do next, slumped to the floor in a drunken stupor and went to sleep.
Bill was in deep trouble with Mrs Moig the next day but it was a happy ending when Bill bought her a new bit of carpet to replace the partly digested one Bill had puked on. At work the next day Bill wanted to know what the bed and Mrs Moig issue was all about, but it was all cleared up when I told him that I was unaware that some Scottish beds are hidden in the walls and Mrs Moig had only shewn me where the bed was and was old enough to be my Granny.
Bill accepted the explanation and relaxed. On my right was the river Clyde, On my left was a waist high hawthorn hedge with gaps in it at odd intervals which led me to believe people or children were continually pushed through breaking off some light branches thus making the gaps.
Perhaps this was due to some people were too lazy or in a hurry and could not be bothered to go to the end of the hedge and walk round it to access the nearby lane that led to the street beyond.
I paused in my walk to watch a small sailing boat as the weak breeze gallantly tried to fill the sail and push the boat over the glassy surface of the water.
The chap in the boat who had been lounging back enjoying the view sat with a disgusted look on his face moved the sail boom back and forth hoping to catch just a little breeze to at least to get the boat and him back to the shore. But all that happened was the boat just rocked a bit as the center of gravity was altered.
As I watched, the thought crossed my mind that his next move would be to get on his knees and pray. If I had been in his position I would certainly have prayed for just enough wind to blow my boat to the side so I could get out and go home. Since the weather in Glasgow and the surrounding area could change at the drop of a hat I would not want to be trapped in a wee boat in the middle of the Clyde should the skies open up.
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