The Great War, I was there - Part 51

19181917—374* My BRAVE. OLD BATMAN Tales of the ‘General’ of Talbot House by Rev. P.B. Clayton, C.H., M.C. I n Chapter 223 "Tubby ”Clayton wrote a most entertaining account of life at Talbot House (Toe H), Poperinghe, during its busiest period in 1916-1917. Here he writes a character study of his old soldier-servapt known as the “General," which is brimful of delightful stories of a brave and faithful companion. He also describes the tragedy which befell the famous officers’ restaurant“ Cyril’s ”when it was destroyed by shellfire Permit tome introduce you to areal old soldier—the “General,” ashe was universally known to three generations of Talbot House clientele, and to all the children of the neighbourhood. On and off the Army has known him for thirty-one years as No. 239, Pte. Pettifer, A., 1st The Buffs, and though later attached on grounds of debility to what is vulgarly known as an Area Enjoyment Company, the peak of his cap retained the dragon that, no right-thinking man would desire to see replaced. lie has refused to put up his proper array of good-conduct badges, as they would interfere with the set of his sleeve over his elbow. For chest pro­tection he wears a Military Medal, Indianan Frontier ribbon, the South African, and the so-called Mons. He is sagacious past belief in the ways and by-ways of the Army, which he entered as a band boy in the year of my birth. A certain faded photograph of a cherub incredibly pipeclayed, and of a betrousered young warrior with an oiled forelock emerging beneath a hat like an inverted Panatella box, repose in his wallet, and maybe seen by diplo­matic approach on the general subject of Brodrick caps. Long ago he might have put up sergeant’s stripes yea, and have been by now Q.M.S., or even R.S.M. but he would not. Uneasy lies the arm that wears a crown, and to bethe “General ”is honourenough in his honest old eyes. There is, indeed, a matter touching his pro­ficiency pay concerning which he does not rest content. The correspond­ence whereby it is finally to be exacted, as it has long ago been deserved, was still travelling to and fro by parcel post, and, at the time when this chapter was writing, lay heavy on the conscience (let us hope) of the instructor in mus­ketry at the depot, whose apostolic predecessor should long ago have testified to Pettifer’s proficiency with a Lee-Enfield. In the intervals of eivilianism which he has experienced the “General has adopted a mode of life as modest as any affected by the great staff officers of la Grande Armee. I am given to understand that, if country-bred, they have the habits of Cincinnatus if town-dwellers, they have a penchant for the trade of tobacconist. Pettifer, for his part, lived in South Hackney, and drove a capacious cart. Trust an old infantryman to find something in peace­time which keeps his feet off the ground! I wonder whether the demobilization authorities realize this deep-rooted desire for an antithesis, illustrated in the other sphere by the story of the Navy man who proposes to march inland carrying LAMP THAT NEVER OUTGOES The Toe H Lamp of Remembrance, which is never allowed togo out, rests on the 15th-century tomb of Alderman John Croke in (he Church of AllHallows, Barking-by-the-Tower. It is enclosed in a casket given by the Duke of Windsor when Prince of Wales, and is conveyed each year to the rendezvous of the Toe H Festival of Remembrance. Other photo­graphs connected with Toe H appear in pages 1211 and 1213. an oar until a spot where FIRM FRIENDS IN WAR AND PEACE The Rev. P.B. Clayton is here seen with ex-Pte Pettifer, the beloved “General,” of whom he writes in this chapter. Toe hasH been described as“ a movement to teach the younger generation class recon­ciliation and unselfish service.” It was granted a Royal Charter in 1922. By courtesy of Toe H 2017 he reaches he is chal­lenged with :“What in hell is that thing on your shoulder?” Then, he says, he will plant the oar and settle down for life. One might suppose that so old a soldier could have no illusions left. But if, as some would have us think, faith inhuman nature is soto be classified, then is the “General ”the most offending soul alive. To him all men areas incap­able of sustained deceit ashe is himself. I have known him, however, wildly deceitfid for a whole half day on end— i.e. the morning of April 1, when it is prudent to avoid him. 2 e
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