No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood.
‘C’ Sqdn, 9th Battn RTR,
Jessie Mine: I feel a complete stranger in the squadron just now. There are a lot of new faces here, but apart from these newcomers, the work the battalion is now doing is totally different from anything in the past and so I feel very much an outsider. I haven’t yet been able to go into all the details of our new role, but I can tell you that it consists of the final stages of the demobilisation routine through which all the prisoners have to pass. They come to this place by rail in large batches – about a couple of thousand on each train: they are then herded into ‘pens’, searched, documented, and then sent away. This procedure seems to take about twenty four hours – and during this time, they remain in the open – sleeping in the field ‘pens’. Women are dealt with as well… some of them ex-service women, and others just German civilians. But the women sleep under canvas away from the men. I will tell you more about the whole business as soon as I am able.
It looks as though my letter writing is going to be a bit skimpy for a few days, Jess. I keep coming across lads I haven’t seen for weeks… and we talk… and time passes… and letters remain unwritten. But, worse still, I am now the S.O.S. (squadron orderly sergeant) a job I hate and detest… but I will have to put up with it until I depart on leave.
As a matter of fact, I expected some such job after my long rest, and I cannot complain at all. The S.O.S. is a beastly job at the best of times, but here it seems worse. I am badly handicapped for a start in not knowing two thirds of the squadron: they are just names on paper to me. Also, the variety of duties and jobs for which the S.O.S. has to find men is a headache… The ‘duties’ include billet guard, cookhouse fatigues, squadron runners, P.O.W. camp guards, P.O.W. search parties, P.O.W. marshalling parties, camp police, potato peelers, and all the other daily odds and ends… If any man is put on any of these jobs out of his turn, he ticks like hell… It is difficult to keep a proper check on all the activities of every man – but an S.O.S. has to try and accommodate everyone. I will need my leave by the time I have spent a week or so listening to the tickers.
Have just been mounting the guard. I have a suspicion that more interruptions are on the way: I dare not expect peace until midnight. So, whilst I have the time, I must tell you about leave. Originally, I was scheduled to go on Aug 28th, but there have been cancellations of sailings, and yesterday, I was to go on Aug 31st… But today has brought another cancellation, and now I am due to leave the squadron on Sept 1st. In actual fact, I would have been home somewhere about now had I not been in Paris… but I lost my turn through being held up for so long after the closing of the exhibition. But I cannot complain: in fact, I prefer to wait a few days rather than rushing away on leave without time to sort myself out… Also, I now know definitely that I am going home very soon… and it is lovely having a few days in which to be able to think about the pleasure in store for me… No – altho’ I hate delaying my homecoming, I’m not ticking… By the time you receive this, I will be a mass of dithering skin and bone – and only a day or two away from that wonderful journey to my love – and our little son. I have a little toy dog for him: I hope he doesn’t fling it down a certain hole!
I will leave you now dear – before I have to go and attend to some other ‘duty’. Please excuse my awful writing: I have had to write hurriedly.
Goodnight, Jessie Mine –
And thank you darling… for being You.