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A Shout From The Attic: Drawing Lines

...Nights when the money ran short for extra food were hungry times. We took to invading the cookhouse store, carrying back two-pound loaves, slabs of butter, and seven-pound tins of marmalade. Feast followed! We had the stealth of the SAS, we imagined. For some reason, we did not question the honesty of it. One of the problems the Christian must face is where to draw the line, and at that time I drew it well away from where it should have been...

Ronnie Bray continues his reminiscences of a life in uniform.

To enjoy more of Ronnie's engaging autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

About this time, I fell for Doris Greenwood, a Mormon girl from Batley. She was a really nice girl. She must have smiled at me, and so I imagined myself in love with her. But she never answered my letters, and when I went to see her in Scarborough where she worked as a chamber maid on one of my weekend leaves, she would only say ‘hello’ before she disappeared back into its vitals.

I didn’t get the message she was giving me and went so far as to buy a cheap engagement ring that I sent to her in a letter. Her mother sent it back to me with a tender letter explaining that Doris was getting married to someone else, who she loved, and that she was sorry she didn’t have another daughter for me, because she thought me a nice young man. Although the rejection was not without pain, Mrs Greenwood’s thoughtful letter made it easier to bear for a young man struggling to come to terms with life’s disappointments.

Lodged among us was a company of the Royal Pioneer Corps. This important arm of the forces has often been the butt of jokes that demean a Corps with a noble history. Within its ranks are, traditionally, men of below average educational attainment. What they lack in intellectual expertise they more than make up for in the hard skills of trail blazing, road and bridge building, and destroying lines of communications. Theirs is the back-breaking toil, often under enemy fire, that makes an easier passage possible for the infantry and mechanised troops that follow them.

The commanding officer of the detachment was a Captain Wakefield, whose over-plump neck rolled over his collar at the rear, and since there was too much of it to get over in one roll it subdivided itself into several attempts. He shared an office with our adjutant, whose name I forget.

Captain Wakefield’s desk faced the wall opposite the door, so that on entering the office one came up behind him. To his far left, behind an unusual desk that had a sort of rood screen erected before it sat the Adjutant. A soldier entered the office on one occasion and, seeing the gallant captain sat at his table, stamped to a halt and threw up a salute. From behind the adjutant’s screen issued the stentorian voice of the equally gallant adjutant. “Have you never been told not to salute the back of a man’s head – even if it does look like a face?”

Nights when the money ran short for extra food were hungry times. We took to invading the cookhouse store, carrying back two-pound loaves, slabs of butter, and seven-pound tins of marmalade. Feast followed! We had the stealth of the SAS, we imagined. For some reason, we did not question the honesty of it. One of the problems the Christian must face is where to draw the line, and at that time I drew it well away from where it should have been.

I said my prayers night and morning silently by the side of my bed. The barrack would respectfully hush as I did this. It is to the credit of my companions that I never had my leg pulled about this. The only person who ever mentioned it was a chap who insisted that he said his prayers prostrate. What he meant was laid out on his back on his bed. He was going to be an Anglican vicar, he said. I found his morals and manners betrayed his intention I also began to feel guilty about robbing the cookhouse.

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