10th January 1945
My Dear Barbara
I hope you are quite well, and not too cold. It’s as cold as the devil here, and about 6” of snow.
Well, I have received my papers for the Army at last, thank God. I go on Thursday week, (18th Jan) and have to report at Fort George, Inverness, Scotland! Since the nearest railway station to Fort George is 638 1/2 miles (according to the Railway ABC) from Euston, I shall have to start travelling on Wednesday night. Actually I catch the 7.20 from Euston in the evening, and arrive at my destination at approximately 2.30 the following afternoon – so you see, it’s one helluva journey! Still, I’m damned glad to be really getting cracking at last. I left the service of the Council (praising God as I went!) yesterday in order to have a week’s holiday.
Tomorrow I am going to meet the “kids” from the office and we are all going to the Palladium to see Tommy Trinder in “Happy & Glorious”. It is quite a good show, according to all accounts.
Well, one and only, I’m afraid it looks as though I shan’t see you again for a very long time, maybe not till after the War, although if you let me know when you have any leave and I let you know when I have any, perhaps one very happy day they will coincide. As you probably know, I am an awkward sort of blighter and therefore if my next few sentences are rather clumsy, please forgive me. I’ve only known you a year, Barbs, but I think a hell of a lot of you ( I bet this is giving you a laugh, but it is not meant to be funny) and so I just want to wish you all the best and please take care of yourself. Write to me sometimes when you can, and confess all your sins etc. “Poppa” will write whenever possible, and will endeavour, despite the anti-inspiring influence of potato-peeling etc., to make up a poem or so.
I have hoards of letters to write so I will close now, and please will you write soon.
All my love
You asked me to write you a poem
And to your pleas I could never be deaf
But to tell you the truth, my darling,
I’m pretty well out of breath.
I’ve written so much drivel
During the past few years
That besides being out of breath
I’m pretty well out of ideas.
You say you have no preference
You don’t mind them doubtful – or clean
As though, I’d write that sort
(The “doubtful” ones, I mean)
So I’ll just wait for inspiration
And until that happy time
Will you please accept, dear Barbara,
My apologies, in rhyme.
11th February 1945
Thanks very much for your letter which I received today. I was getting really worried, wondering whether you had eloped with a Yank or something.
Believe me, sweetheart, I really do sympathise with you having so little spare time. I know, to my cost, what it means, especially when you are a long way from home. Today, I was feeling right down in the dumps and your letter cheered me up no end (no kidding). So you can congratulate yourself on being a comfort to a poor lonely soldier (2nd class – 21/- a week!) even though you are nearly 700 miles away. How I wish I could be in London now, walking along the Embankment with you, and watching the lights of good old London shining on the river, or sitting opposite you in accounts 4, shocking old Sydney Bridges with various ambiguous cracks! Anyway, I hope you have the best time ever on your leave, write and tell me how many different guys you went out with!
So you want my impressions of Army life. Well, Barbs, my first and foremost impression is that it is a damned fine life, although I shall be glad to leave Fort George. I shall only be here about a fortnight more thank God, and then I get posted to a regiment. Actually, the scenery round here is marvellous, massive mountains, etc., but when on a route march, one doesn’t feel much like admiring the countryside! Now I am getting well through my Primary training, I am doing a lot of the real stuff. I do a lot of shooting with the rifle (I have my own rifle, a lovely little piece!) and with the Bren-gun, and we chuck hand-grenades about from time to time. Besides this we have a lot of drill, marches and P.T. The marches are pure hell! The other day we did a seven-mile route-march in full battle order. That means carrying rifle, pack, ammunition belt, respirator and God knows what else! There are eight of us in my “cell” and the other fellows are a jolly good crowd, all secondary school blokes and ex-RAFVR. The NCO’s aren’t bad, although occasionally the platoon sergeant is a thorough s…! Needless to say I have been on fatigues three times already for various minor “crimes”!
When I get posted from here, I hope to go to either the Isle of Wight or a place near Manchester, because I have volunteered for paratroops, and these places are where paratroops are trained. I have passed the requisite medical for them, and the officer said he saw no reason why I shouldn’t get into them OK. Most of my relations seem to think I am mad to volunteer for the Paratroops, but please, darling, don’t think I and just trying to be a hero. I am definitely not heroic, but I do want to fly somehow, and, next to the RAF, you can’t beat the “Red Devils”! Anyway in about 3 or 4 months’ time I hope to have completed my training and be on my way to drop over Burma (or better still, Japan). Quite honestly, though, I can’t say I am looking forward to my first jump, but if the other guys can do it, I am darn sure I can (I hope!!!). So wish me luck, sweetheart, and I can’t fail!
I am afraid this is a pretty lousy letter, Barbs, but as you know, the Army is not much incentive to the budding journalist. That reminds me, I emphatically deny the fact that poetry-writing is effeminate! You try it, my challenge still holds good and it’s no good trying to wangle out of it, my girl! Anyway, just write any sort of letter telling me what you are doing etc., because I’m afraid I think about you a helluva lot, darling! I mean that, so don’t you dare grin about it!
Well, I am afraid I shall have to close now as I have all my cleaning to do.
All my love
P.S. Please excuse pencil, no ink left.
P.P.S. We have been issued with berets!!
P.P.P.S. Have you any old photos of yourself knocking around. If so, please remember yours truly, in want a lucky charm.