World War One Memoirs & Letters of Private W J Fletcher 138933 Army Service Corps 33rd Division

World War 1 Memoirs My first taste of army life came from the Sergeant Major in the recruiting office. After I had been sworn in and taken the shilling I showed him the cutting from the paper in which it said "all fares to and from the Colston Hall paid on application”. 1 was told to “clear out, you are in the army now and don’t answer back.” I went without my fare paid. My pay o f 6 shillings a day seemed to upset the SM whose own pay was not as much. 1 was very proud of a badge they gave us “Enlisted” . I was given a day or two off to put my affairs in order. I arrived home late and rather upset my people who wanted me to stay on munitions. I had lately been doing parts for aero planes and the time had come for all us mechanics to register at the works they found themselves in. 1 had been notified of this on the notice board and had given in my notice before going home. In the morning 1 went into Shepton Mallet and had my new teeth fitted in a rush. The dentist showed me how to do the rest of the fitting and his instructions were very useful to me before many weeks. I made the most o f my last days at home saying goodbyes etc. On the Monday I went to Bristol as ordered and waited at the centre till about 500 o f us were assembled and a band led us through Victoria Street to Temple Meads where we entrained for London. We went on a fast train about noon. This had been a record lot for the city and that was the reason we had been given the few days off to get the numbers up. Those of us for the Motor Transport Section went on to a train late at night for Grove Park, the big depot for our lot. Very late we were put into an empty house with 2 blankets each. My sleeping place was in the attic of a 4/5 storey house It was not very big and there were about a dozen of us, most of them had pipes or cigarettes going and as it was cold they all wanted the window shut except me. The air got so bad that when they were all asleep I quietly opened the skylight and made it much better. In the morning there was a lot of talk about the window being open. There was a frost during the night and icicles were on the tap in the garden, all the same we all shaved at this tap and it was some job too , and a great deal o f moaning about the trials of army life. We had plenty of grounds for grousing, to be civilians one day with all the home comforts and then to be dumped late at night into an empty house with a blanket to cover us and a dusty floor to lie on, well it was some change over. We had a few nights in this sort o f way and then were taken to camp, which during this time became rather notorious in John Bull (magazine). The weather was very cold and rough with heavy rain etc., one night most o f the tents were blown down and a lot of the men caught severe colds which developed into pneumonia and such like, many of them died from the effects o f exposure, I recall many reports in the paper about it. I slept a few rough nights in the tents just before the trouble, one night it rained hard and I woke up with a pool of water in the hollow my head had made in my kit bag. This was after I had been issued with khaki and full kit. From the empty house each morning we went to stand for ages in queues for a turn in the large mess marquees. We had a medical exam one day in the Grove Park workhouse which was the main depot for us. Why we had to go through this we never 2
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