No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jessie Mine, It was well after midnight when I got back from the dance last evening and so I was not able to write. I seemed to spend most of yesterday on this dance. In the morning, I had to go and inspect the hall to see what I needed to light up the place: this involved a fifteen mile run in each direction… And then in the afternoon, I took out my lorry-load of equipment, and three or four “labourers”, and did the job. In the evening, I was standing by all the time, in case of trouble with the machine.
The dance seemed to be a great success… and I think our lads especially enjoyed it. It is the first time they have been able to fraternise for about a fortnight. I think most of the Dutch lassies enjoyed it too – although how on earth they converse with our fellows puzzles me. But dances can be very boring to onlookers – and I must confess I was glad when it was over. I believe we will be having another in a few days time… and I will have to be there.
During my trip in Holland yesterday, I was amused to notice how the ‘egg-racket’ has developed. The Dutch youngsters have tumbled to the ‘Tommies’ fondness for eggs, and so they now stand on the roadside, and hold up hands full of eggs to passing vehicles. We stopped by a group of these youngsters… and found the price to be one egg for five cigarettes – or three eggs for a bar of soap. But these youngsters didn’t want ciggys… they wanted soap: we had no soap, so there was no deal. the next time, however, cigarettes were acceptable… and so we purchased three eggs for fifteen ciggys… and the ciggys were “Piccadilly’s”… some of our latest free issue. They are terrible things, but the Dutch kids haven’t yet discovered that we are only too glad to barter the beastly things. No doubt they will find out soon enough, and then I suppose they will demand more than five of the Piccadilly brand. If they do, we will start hawking ‘Plane’ or ‘Martins’ cigarettes… until the deception is again discovered… It’s a difficult life darling… especially for honest people!!
In Dutch towns just now there is much gaiety and celebrating for the returning ‘slave workers’ from Germany. I saw many of these men yesterday: they are quite easy to distinguish in the streets because they all have very closely cropped hair. Many of them are deeply bronzed too – due to years of work in the open on German farms. They seem to be reasonably well physically… and I suppose they have lived fairly well… especially those who lived with German farmers. I have not yet seen any of the ex-inmates of the Nazi ‘horror’ camps.
Speaking of horror camps reminds me of a peculiar oil-painting in our officers’ mess next door… the home of a prosperous German. This painting is of a moorland scene… with two or three silver birches in the foreground with a background of heather in full bloom. It is quite an attractive picture really – but when examined closely, there is a rather sinister irregularity about the skyline… and then when you examine it more closely, you find that this irregularity is nothing but a complete concentration camp… Clearly visible are the watch towers for machine guns, the searchlight towers for night use, the barbed-wire compound enclosing the squat wooden huts for prisoners. And set apart, are the more pretentious brick buildings for the staff. The meaning of the picture is puzzling. Is it a scenic work, with an incidental background… or was the artist inspired to paint the camp… from the nearest point he could get to it? The picture, an original, has now been ‘ceremoniously’ destroyed by our officers.
Jess… I haven’t told you about the people in Germany who seem to me to resemble the ‘Barber of Seville’… in a rather grim sort of way:- they are the Burgermeisters. Every German town we have occupied has its Burgermeister:- he may have been appointed since our arrival, or have remained in office from the Nazi days… But, however appointed, I think they all have a pretty worrying time nowadays. The famed ‘Barber’ only ‘barbed’… but these Burgermeisters have to be almost magicians to fulfil the demands of the Allied authorities. Our own specimen here will illustrate what I mean.
Immediately after our arrival, some of the lads decided they would like a piano:- so orders were sent to the Burgermeister, via our interpreter, that a piano must be installed at a certain house within so many hours. Well within the stipulated time, a horse-drawn lorry rolled up with eight men… and a piano. It was a damned fine Steinway grand! A whist drive was arranged in another billet for the same evening: we wanted fifty suitable chairs: The Burgermeister was given about two hours to find them for us… and he did: he sent a gang of men to install them too. Another day, some of the lads decided that we needed more radio sets. The Burgermeister had to supply us with three… in a very short time… and he did. It is the same with every mortal thing we want – we just demand from the Burgermeister… and we get it. In this way we have acquired glasses for the dance-hall bar, beds, electric lamps, electric fires, plumbers, electricians… and goodness knows what else. And most of the local civvies who come round pestering to see the ‘Commandant’, are referred to the Burgermeister, no matter what the day, or time. The boot is on the other foot now alright… we demand all services and goods… and we get them without any nonsense. I certainly wouldn’t like to be a Burgermeister under present circumstances…
There were three letters for me yesterday… two from my sweetheart, and one from Kath. You do seem to be having a hell of a time with Barry just now. Your nerves might well be on edge. You have my sympathy, darling: I only wish I could be of more help to you. It would be so much easier for you with two of us… Wouldn’t it be a godsend for instance if you could slip out at any old time without having all the trouble of preparing Barry for an outing… And you would often be able to relax and forget the little fellow for a time… knowing that he was with his daddy and quite safe… Being alone as you are, dear, imposes much more than a double strain upon your nerves. You have no relief whatever from work and duty… Oh! Jess… if only this bloody war would finish..!
I am not worried about your confession of having slapped Barry. I don’t think you really wanted to hurt him, darling… This is the first time that you have ever touched him in – should we say – anger. This is a circumstance which speaks for itself… Your restraint, self-control and patience during the last few months is incalculable… I’m pretty certain that Barry would have had more than one slap by now had I been solely responsible for him. As for those Joey sittings-!! God! Jess: I marvel at your patience… and with so little encouragement.
“Hitler is dead”… I have just heard those words over the radio… Is it true?.. Does it matter?.. How unimportant his death now seems… In the mess here, the announcement hardly caused a murmur… the general opinion being “what the bloody hell does it matter now, anyway”… No… Hitler has died too late to really cause a stir:- Had it happened three or four years ago, people would no doubt have marked the occasion by getting thoroughly drunk… But now… it just doesn’t matter. If he has died today, May the First will indeed have great significance for future generations… International Labour Day… and Hitler’s Death Day… Perhaps it is poetic justice that the date of Hitler’s death should forever be a day of rejoicing amongst the working classes.
What a large number of very famous, and very infamous, names have recently departed into the history books… I can’t think of them all, but I recall Lloyd George, President Roosevelt, Dr. Fleming and Hitler, Mussolini (with about 15 of his thugs), “Sertorius”, General Dentz… and a few other Nazi gangsters who have committed suicide. History is certainly galloping at a terrific pace just now…
Must go now, darling.
Will be with you again tomorrow.
Good night, Jessie Mine
Always – I love you