No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Jess Darling, I must now deal with one or two points in your recent letters… the latest of which arrived today: dated 7.11.44. You refer to Mrs. Grimshaw’s grouse about her husband who may now be called up into one of the services. And you ask whether you are heartless. If you are, dear, then I am doubly so. To my mind, one of the best features of the demob. scheme is that former ‘reserved’ workers may now be called upon to do something a little more active towards this damned war. Such people are bound to grouse. They have tried to ease their consciences for years by loudly proclaiming their hardships… often implying that their ordeal has been worse than that of the servicemen. But now the government has cut the ground from beneath their feet, as it were. By making them liable for active service, the government have revealed without question that war employment is not regarded officially as a hardship… or any other word you care to use.
You can take it from me Jess, that all my colleagues are delighted at the prospect of so many erstwhile ‘reserved’ employees being liable for service. A taste of the army will do many of them a lot of good… particularly those bounders who edged themselves into reserved jobs to save their skins. And in any case, many of them have little to fear. By the time they are conscripted, the European war will be over, and their job will simply be a matter of joining the army of occupation. No doubt they would like we fellows to carry on over here as policemen… but fortunately the government have different ideas.
I can’t see what Mrs. Grimshaw is grumbling about. Even if her husband has to join the army, he will probably land in Germany, where there will be little likelihood of him being killed. She won’t have the dreadful anxiety of losing her husband… as you and so many others have endured for so long. In fact she has never experienced this anxiety. Even during the 6 months of her husband’s absence, she knew he was not in the front line fighting the enemy. There was no more chance of him being killed than all the civilians in London.
Och! We hear many stories like Mrs. Grimshaw’s and they make us feel sick and disgusted over here. Perhaps you can imagine the pleasure we servicemen derive from the knowledge that there is a chance of a few Jack Benthams having to don khaki. I would like to add “a few Bill Mottrams”, but I fear his age group will save him: more’s the pity!
You comment on the American elections: I did not sit up waiting for the results my dear because we have no wireless here. But had I been at home… Well… you know of my admiration for Roosevelt: I think I would have had an all night sitting. Anyhow, I am glad and relieved that he has been returned, but I don’t think I ever really doubted the issue. I only hope now that his health will enable him to participate in the peace discussions.
You send me grand news of our Poppet. He must indeed be progressing if he can now haul himself into a sitting position. How grand it must be for you to see all your untiring efforts of the last few months resulting in the development of such a fine little chap. You have much to be proud of, my dear: and your husband has a wife to be proud of too… But he always knew that! I often wonder whether his (Poppet’s) first tooth has appeared… and feel very annoyed that I cannot know until a week or so after the event. It will be something for you to write about, anyhow. I imagine that Barry will be starting to crawl within the next few weeks… and that is going to cause you additional trouble… especially where fires are concerned. You must forgive me for meddling dear Jess, but I do want to remind you to get a guard for the dining room fire: it is so important. The electric fire is a different proposition. Perhaps you could place it on the oven out of his reach when you are using it… unless you can get a guard for that too. If I were at home, I would fix a wooden barrier on the stairs, particularly at the top… it would save you a lot of worry. Perhaps Toddy (RTG’s brother) could do something in this direction… or maybe Mr. Steele… or – brainwave? why not ask Wilf? His father is a carpenter or cabinet maker. Is that a crazy idea? Try and have something done, darling… for the sake of both of you.
That was a lovely letter I received the other day telling me all about your morning routine with Barry. Your description was so vivid that I can picture the whole operation perfectly. You may not know it, but it was quite an exciting story to me… and a very charming picture.
Regarding the cigarette business, ‘Browns in the Boulevard’ must be ‘Bats in the Belfry’. The duty free parcels have never been stopped: I don’t know where they got this information from. Probably they don’t want to bother. As a matter of fact, I received a parcel of 200 Players two or three days ago… from Bob Plowman. It was a very pleasant surprise. I have yet to write and thank him. I will try to write him a decent letter soon. And now you mustn’t start worrying because you cannot send me ciggys. In the first place, you have more than enough to worry about with little Poppet. You have given me a very good idea of the enormous amount of time and attention he needs, and I know it is impossible for you to visit Stockport. Furthermore, I am not short of ciggys, my dear. If ever I do get low, I simply scrounge some from one of the numerous non-smokers in the squadron. This is easier than it sounds because there are several non-smokers who frequently receive cigarette parcels from well-meaning friends at home. And then there are the official free issues of 7 per day, and an occasional free issue from one or other of the ‘soldiers’ organisations in England. So you see, my sweetheart, I am not in need of ciggys. You would soon know if this were so: I couldn’t write letters without a plentiful supply of smokes. Just now, for instance, I am smoking like a chimney. I am sitting up in bed, fully dressed, to keep my feet warm, and around my bed is a mass of cigarette ends.
I was sorry to hear about Mrs. Wright’s apparent complications. Noel must be dreadfully worried if he knows. And judging by his appearance when I last saw him, I doubt whether he is in a condition to stand much more worry. But she is in good hands, and that must afford Noel much consolation.
We are still enjoying a fairly easy time, Jess. Little work is being done, and we are having a series of inter troop football matches: this is the official way of preventing boredom. There are also frequent cinema and Ensa shows in the town. Last evening, there was a squadron dance… the first since the one I descibed at Beaunay near Dieppe. But how different was this latest effort.
Last evening, we had a decent dance floor and a separate room for the ‘bar’. And we had electric light. The guests too were Dutch people… so different from the French. The more I see of the Dutch the more I am forced to compare them with the British. There was a huge attendance last night… and everyone seemed to be thoroughly happy. I only stayed in the place for about an hour, but I was impressed by the naturalness of the girls and their lack of sophistication: it was so refreshing to see so many decent and clean looking girls.
The way our lads overcome the language difficulty amazes me. A casual observer seeing the various groups of males and females apparently in earnest conversation, would never have believed that most of the couples couldn’t understand each other. Many of the girls spoke a little English last evening, but there were many who didn’t. This seemed to make no difference: everyone was laughing and talking and generally very care-free. There is a 9.0 pm. curfew in this place for civilians, and this caused a minor complication. When the invitations for the dance were sent out, civilian girls were informed that they would be unaffected by the curfew as they would all have a British military escort to their homes… a rather pleasant sort of escort duty for the lads! Unfortunately, this curfew exemption did not apply to civilian males. (I cannot say whether this was a deliberate ‘arrangement”!!) In spite of this, crowds of males turned up with their girls… but the men had to leave just before 9.0 pm. and the girls stayed on until midnight. How galling for the men! Fortunately for us, we have nothing to do with this curfew business. I suppose it has been imposed by the military authorities, but the civilian authority supervises it. It is the Dutch police and ‘Maquis’ who do the patrolling. And last evening, it was the ‘Maquis’ who ejected the males from the dance. And they stood no nonsense either.
You may be interested to know that we have just been issued with a very fine new item of equipment. It is a very elaborate waterproof overall for winter use. It is a one-piece suit made of gabardine (?) and lined with a woolly cloth. Down the front are two long zip fasteners: they open a flap from chin to toes. There is a high lined collar, and over this is a hood to cover our heads: the hood is fixed with large press studs and is easily detachable. The whole thing is a damned fine piece of work and very cleverly thought out. It must be almost entirely waterproof. I imagine that we will use it for long journeys in bad weather… not for working on the vehicles.
I must say good night now, dear Jess.
I love you so much, my darling.
Always and always