No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood.
British Army Exhibition
British Army Staff
Jessie Mine: We held our farewell dance in the open last evening… and I planned to spend half an hour or so watching the affair, and then return to the hotel to write my usual letter. But I stayed much later than intended and so was not able to write: I’m sorry about this, dear – I hate disappointing you with letters. Soon after the dancing started, I heard a cultured English voice close behind me: I turned and beheld a well dressed man with a fairly elderly woman. They asked me something about the evening’s programme – and that started it – the talking, I mean. They were English alright, but had lived in Paris for many years – and they seemed very interested in English affairs – particularly the election and politics in general. I told them frankly what I thought, and was much surprised to find that they agreed with me. They looked rather obvious tories… but looks in this case were deceptive. They had followed the election via the English papers, and were thoroughly disgusted with Churchill’s exploitation of the Laski affair. And when I told them about the ‘lost’ service votes – well, they were quite indignant. And so we talked – and tried to find out why the average Englishman dislikes the average Frenchman – and vice-versa. But we couldn’t find the answer, altho my acquaintance admitted that these mutual dislikes were quite real.
It was nearly one am. when we said good night… and I toddled off to the hotel… leaving the dance still very much in progress. Gosh! I was tired, Jess: I think it must have been the heat, and my walk of the afternoon that did it. After lunch, I went to the Museum of Natural History and Botanical Gardens… and did a fair amount of walking… and it was hot dear… literally sizzling all afternoon. The most interesting things I saw were half a dozen skeletons… But they weren’t ordinary skeletons:- they were of pre-historic monsters… the “Diplodocus” species. One of them was 75 feet long – and looked as though it must have supported a carcase about the size of a barrage balloon… It was very instructive to see these relics of God knows how many hundreds of millions of years ago: such things ‘make you think’. The skeletons were in surprisingly good condition, and have been cleverly mounted on huge steel frames in their original shapes: they are even marked male or female.
From the museum, I wandered into the gardens… but the sun was too intense to remain in the open:- so I wandered off to a small zoo amongst the trees, and sat down in the shade – watching some flamingoes and other queer looking birds. The youngsters nearby were having plenty of fun throwing stones at the “giant tortoises”: but the latter weren’t in the least worried… the stones simply bounced off their armour plating. After tea, it was too fine to remain indoors, so I went along to the river… just to look at the water and the odd shipping: it seems a bit cooler on the river bank. Several people were swimming and generally enjoying themselves. The Parisians are very lucky having such a clear and smooth-flowing river in their midst – especially in this hot weather.
Judging by reports this morning, last night’s dance was very successful. It was attended by a huge crowd – and there seemed to be enough free beer and cakes for everyone. The Yanks were there in strength – doing their weird jitterbugging etc. It is amusing to watch – and seems to be enjoyed by those taking part – but as an example of the ‘art’ of dancing, it is very ugly in my opinion.
Today, Sunday, is the last day of the exhibition… and this morning we had an official ‘march past’ the brigadier – preceded by a drum-head service. It was my misfortune to be the senior of the R.A.C. detachment, so I had to be on the parade. There were the usual crowds watching, and a few of them joined in the hymn singing. To me, the whole affair was made tolerable by the band: it would have been a terribly tedious affair without them. They opened the proceedings by playing a lovely arrangement of Bach’s “Jesu Joy” and later they played Grieg’s ‘Homage March’ and one or two other little ‘voluntaries’ in addition to the three hymns. We did the march past to the French “Marche Lorraine”. It was all over by 11.30am… so my exhibition days are now over, because it is not my turn of duty today. Tomorrow morning, we have to line up the vehicles ready for departure – and then leave them until we get further orders. But we still know nothing definite, so please continue writing here, Jess. We may hang about for days yet.
I have received two letters today – one a letter card – and both dated the 18th. I see that you have been before the Co’op ‘board’ to state your case – and am pleased to know that you have at least had this satisfaction. I hope it was not too much of an ordeal for you, darling. I imagine you as something of a “Daniel in the lion’s den” – painfully alone… and confronted with those swindling old men. But I’ve no doubt that the latter wouldn’t be feeling at all comfortable… And I know too that you will have given your evidence ably and convincingly. I’m dying to hear what happened – and look forward to reading your story. My letter to the chairman can hardly complicate matters. I wondered at the time whether it may conflict with whatever action you were taking, but I simply had to do something – and letter writing is all I can do under present circumstances. You at least have a comrade in distress in Jess Aldcroft – and I’m sure her experiences must help to strengthen your resolve not to be browbeaten by these swindling tradespeople. I deeply admire your courage and determination, and only hope that the worry and bother will not be too much for you.
The telegraph-pole business – well, I had to laugh, dear one. You were so ‘up in arms’ about it. I suppose you will next have a visit from a G.P.O. official… but please try and refrain from telling him where to stick his pole – that would be rude!!
I have had tea and been for a stroll since writing the foregoing. The weather was perfect – as usual – so I made my way – via Rue Richelieu – to the Tuilleries gardens, and spent at least an hour sitting beside a large model boating pond – wathcing the youngsters. And then I went to the river:- I like the river – there always seems to be something there to engage one’s attention… and today I saw two tiny submarines moored to the bank. I don’t know whether they are British ‘midget’ submarines, or German, but they are certainly very tiny. But even if there is nothing on the river itself, there are always the bridges to look at – and the Paris bridges are worth looking at. From the Concorde bridge, there is a lovely view to the east… parts of at least half a dozen bridges can be seen… their lovely arches and white stonework standing out beautifully in the vivid long light of the evening. And to the west, there is the Alexander III bridge, with its huge single span curving gently across the river, and its elaborate ornamentation and spectacular gilded statues at its four corners. I take the word of authority for the meaning of these statues: they are of “Fame” and “Pegasus”. And beyond this bridge, can be seen the imposing mass of the Chaillot Palace building with its rather modern lines and clean stonework.
Back at the hotel this evening, I found an unusual amount of bustle and excitement. It was caused by the P.T. team: (male) they are leaving for England tonight. I sincerely hope I will be doing the same in the very near future. There will be more departures tomorrow, including, I think, the A.T.S. – P.T. team. They, too, will be going to England… But they live in a hotel about a mile from ours, so their parting will not disturb the normal peacefulness of our Mondial. Nevertheless, I imagine there will be some long faces in their place tomorrow – many of the lads seem to have become rather more than friendly with A.T.S. girls!
When I came in tonight, I noticed a parcels list on the order board – and I see that a parcel has arrived for me… But it is locked up in the office and I was too late to claim it tonight, but will do so in the morning. I don’t know who it is from… or what it contains – but I believe I could guess in one!! Will tell you more about it tomorrow – but thought I would mention it now, just in case it is from my sweetheart.
And now – to bed.
Au revoir, Jessie Mine
Always – I love you