No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood.
British Army Exhibition
British Army Staff
My Darling: I have three pleasant things to report today… firstly a letter from Jess: secondly a parcel from Jess: and thirdly I have seen a good picture called “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. This picture is based on a book of the same title written by Betty Smith about three years ago. I remember reading the reviews at the time and they all spoke very highly of the book. It is a story about slum life in Brooklyn, N.Y. of perhaps 20 years ago. It is what I would call a really good picture… with splendid acting and well cast characters:- and the story is grand: rather sad, but obviously true. It is the type of picture I would advise you to try and see – if you are able to even contemplate pictures these days.
The ciggys… ah Jess: you have helped to save my life: I have been really short of smokes since coming to Paris. You see, we only get the bare official issue here i.e. 50 per week free, and 75 per week at ‘Naafi’ reduced prices… and 125 ciggys per week are not enough for most of us. With the unit, I always manage because it is always possible to supplement the weekly issue by buying or bartering with non-smokers. But here, cigarettes have a very high value amongst the civvies, and the non-smokers… well, we soldiers can’t compete!! The two hundred you have sent will mean that I can now enjoy my ciggies for at least three weeks without worrying. You couldn’t have sent them at a more opportune time… and I thank you for them, Jess.
Your letter speaks of the election… and your indecision about who to vote for. It is an awkward predicament and I can appreciate your dilemma.. It is a tragedy in my opinion that the ‘left’ voters should be so dis-united. To my mind, the most important thing just now is to get the Tories out – right out. And I would have thought that their opponents would have made some sort of compromise arrangement to ensure this end. But no: there are many ‘four-cornered’ fights in the country: and I’ll bet in every case of a Tory winning the seat, the majority of the votes will be against him. It is heartbreaking.
What do you think of the way Churchill has been exploited by the Tory party? I am not surprised that they have made so much use of him, but I am surprised that Churchill has allowed himself to be so used. It demonstrates only too well their consciousness of their miserable record, and their lack of any decent policy to put before the country. Looking at the matter impartially (so far as I can be politically impartial!) I feel rather sorry for Winston. We cannot question his war leadership, nor his pre-war opposition to Baldwin and Chamberlain… and yes, and Beaverbrook. He created for himself a deservedly splendid reputation as a national leader, and he was, I believe, held in deep respect by the majority of people in Britain, whatever their political colour. But now!! Well… I think his conduct has been almost shameful during the electioneering. And his broadcasts were pitiful:- a disgrace to himself, and a reflection upon all of us for having so implicitly trusted such a man for so long. For his sake, I hope historians draw a veil over his career after V.E. day. I think the matter was well summed up by the M/c Guardian, a quotation from which I am enclosing (you have probably already seen it in the News Chron.). The Guardian speaks of a ‘pathetic descent’… and to me, it seems quite feasible that his descent will be terminated by the Tories getting rid of him on some pretext or other… after (if!) he has won the election for them.
I was agreeably surprised to see in today’s papers that Attlee appears at last to be adopting a more vigorous attitude towards Churchill – particularly in the Laski controversy. He has left it rather late, but it is a good sign nevertheless. I have a little more confidence in Labour’s prospects now… but am still almost ashamed to admit that I believe the Tories will win – with a small majority. How I hope that I am wrong!
I don’t seem to have anything else to write about today, Jessie Mine. I haven’t done any work, apart from an hour or so on the vehicle this morning. I went to the pictures during the afternoon, the best time to get a seat. And now it is evening and drawing towards supper time. I think I will go for a stroll to a nearby canteen for a cup of tea: we get coffee for supper in this hotel and I’m a bit fed up with it. Perhaps I will have something else to talk about later.
I almost forgot about the photos I received today. The photographer gave me five copies, but I’m only enclosing three with this… the envelope may bust if I include more: will send the others later. The figures are – L. to R. Sgt. Jakeman (B Sqdn) Tpr. Willoughby (A Sqdn.) Tpr. Anderson (H.Q. Sqdn.) Cpl. Day (A Sqdn.) (Sgt. Greenwood C Sqdn.). The thing behind us is a Churchill tank-!!(Click here to see this photo, plus 5 others showing RTG beside the tank at the British Army Exhibition..) And in the left background is the ‘cubist’ style poster depicting a British Tommy and a Union Jack. This poster stands above the main entrance to the interior part of the exhibition. Higher up still are five flags flying horizontally from the top of the building: they are the flags of France, China, U.S.S.R., U.S.A. and Gt. Britain. The whole of this facade is floodlit by army searchlights every night until midnight – and two searchlights shine upwards forming a letter V. against the night sky. One night last week, the searchlights were not allowed to operate. And the reason-? Simply that the French flag had torn itself to pieces during the afternoon… and it was too late for a new one to be fitted that day. Unfortunately the ‘flag’ incident about the Lady Spears Hospital Unit had been announced the day before, and everyone was flag conscious. So had the British Army Exhibition searchlight unit failed to illuminate the familiar French flag on the following evening, people may have started thinking – and talking – and wondering. And Gen. De Gaulle would probably have had triplets. So the searchlights were, wisely I think, given an evening’s rest.
Speaking of flags – do you know Jess, I’ve never before seen such a place as Paris for flags: official ones, I mean… not just household and shopkeepers flags, but great massive things on huge poles. In the Place de la Concorde alone there are 117 huge flag-poles! I think there must be a Ministry of Flags in the French Government: it must employ a large labour force. And exhibitions! The place is lousy with them. At the moment I can recall those of the British Army, The American Air Force, The French ‘Our Allies’, The “Tunisia ’45”, the “Australia”, the ‘Crimes Hitlerien’, – and there are many more. And adjoining our exhibition, is the building of the ‘Palais de Glace’ – a large circular affair like our reference library. This is being converted into an exhibition for the French Ministry of Finance. Already, they must have spent thousands of pounds on the place – and of course, there are French flags everywhere, with three of them flying from enormous telescopic poles on the Champs Elysses. The French government certainly is flag conscious.
I better finish now, my sweetheart. I might be saying something I “didn’t oughter” if I go on.
Good night, Jess.
Always – I love you – me