Letters Home No6

Monday 20th December 1943

By Tricia Leonard

Dear Everybody
I received your letter, Dad, this afternoon.  It was very welcome and I decided to reply to-night
I am in the Grand Hotel on the front. There are three of us all from my billet, who have been detailed as runners from 5.45pm till 9.15am to-morrow.
We have had a pretty hard day to-day, the latter part was hard anyway.  We had a lecture on gas.  Most, if not all, of the instructors are sure that gas will be used, and our instructor advised us to tell our families to get their respirators adjusted.
We go to the Arcadia cinema for a lot of  lectures and films and we went there this morning for a film and we were all waiting there for it to start and our corporal asked us if anybody knew anything about aircraft recognition.  Me, the mug, said, "I do, corporal".  He said, "Well double round to the flight office and ask the sergeant where the next lecture is.  This is going to be an aircraft recognition film and you won't need to see it!"  That shook me!
We get webbing here. It consists of a ceremonial belt, two straps that go over your shoulders and cross at the back and go through the buckle at the back of the belt and join on in the front by means of two clips.  We get a water bottle, a mess tin, a large pack and a small pack and a lot of other accessories.
Before we leave here we have to do a two mile run with; large and small pack, water bottle, mess tin, bayonet, rifle, boots, tin hat (steel helmet), groundsheet, gas cape, and what have you.  It has to be done in 13 minutes!!  We have to do it in 20 minutes.
We had some real hard square bashing this afternoon.  An hour and a half right off.  And all we did was marking time, about turns, saluting, right dressing and of course marching.  By the way we have to call out the time for all the movements.  We didn't finish drill until 5.05 and we had to be here at 5.45 and have tea in between those times.  We, our billet of 14, were just marching to tea when we came out of a turning just behind a column of airmen of about 500 - also marching to tea, so my mate Charles and I broke formation and doubled along the pavement.  I was in so much of a hurry that when I did get my tea I dropped the lot.  I got another one though.  Then we hurried back to don our overcoats, webbing, with groundsheet on the back, gas cape on neck, steel helmet and respirator at the ready and rush down here, arriving here at 5.55.  It's a pretty easy job here, running out to the canteen for tea, cigarettes and apple tart.  We've got to keep the fire alight all night.  We are going to all stay awake until midnight, then two hour shifts till six, I'm on 2 till 4am.
According to everything we'll have a good Christmas here what with days off, beer and concerts and the officers waiting on us.  How did you like my long letter and diary?  Have you received my civvies yet?
I've just been disturbed to make the sergeants' bed, the sauce!  The planes are going over pretty heavy now.
Well, I think I'll ring off now.
Love to you all

This page was added on 24/01/2008.