World War 1 Memoirs
found out, for we had been examined before we were taken at all. However for some
hours several hundreds o f us at a time stood in the draughty corridors with nothing on till
we slowly came to a winding staircase leading to a room with several doctors at desks.
We went out the far side and back round to the room where we had left our clothes. One
afternoon we had to dump our civilian clothes and write labels for them to be sent home.
It was a job to find our sizes in the army rig out. Several old soldiers were in the large
room where this issue took place and they made a lot (of money) out of us, for unless we
gave these fellows a drink we had to put up with just whatever size clothes came out over
the Quarter Masters Counter at the end of the room. In our room at the empty house that
night it was a sight to see fellows altering their tilings and sewing, for we had each a
"Housewife’7 in our kit with needles and thread etc. I remember the puttees were one of
our biggest trials to get them folded right to get onto our legs next morning. One thing I
missed in the issue and at first was a bit put out, was a rifle. These seemed short so I did
not get one whilst here. I found later when we had so many moves etc. that it made my
load lighter by that amount, also only those men with rifles were put on guard each night.
We soon realized what a blessing in disguise this shortage o f guns meant to a lot o f us. As
a matter o f fact I did not get my gun till settled at Reading later, and then it was an old
type Long Enfield of Boer War vintage with the date on the stock 1898. If I missed rifle
drill and guards I had several saluting parades in which some of our mates stood at points
on the big yard and the rest o f us marched round and round them saluting as tho’ they
were officers as we came by them.
After we were rigged up as proper soldiers we were taken on a few route marches and
thus I knew a lot about the district of Lewisham etc. These marches were very cheery
affairs indeed for we all sang or whistled the war tunes. One amusing saluting incident I
must record, I had joined at Bristol with a farmer’s son from Hazlemere and we were
more or less stuck to each other for some months, after getting our khaki we were able to
obtain passes for evenings. We had one from 4pm and set out to visit his brother, a
policeman at Wimbledon. We went by bus so far and then walked over the Thames to get
to Waterloo, half way over the bridge we saw a military looking man coming towards us.
Visions of “pay stopped” if nothing worse came to us as we got ready to meet, we did a
perfect salute but had no reply save a grin. Later we saw more o f these men and found
that they were Volunteers with GR on armlets. We were very careful afterwards and
learned to be engrossed in some shop window etc. when anything doubtful was in view.
We had a very nice time at Wimbledon and got back at 11pm I heard from home with an
address of our Minister’s son who had a church in Bromley. I went there for a few visits
and had some fine hot baths. They made me feel very much at home. I regretted that in a
few days we were gone from Grove Park. I was again tested for driving.
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