No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood.
British Army Exhibition
British Army Staff
Jess Darling: I omitted to tell you yesterday about my ‘cruise’ on the Seine… There is little to tell, but you must be kept informed of the movements of your hard-working (!) husband.
One of the Seine peace-time pleasure steamers has been taken over by the Canadian Welfare organisation, and is available to all Allied troops who wish to do a bit of cruising… at a price of 50 francs. So yesterday afternoon, the weather being ideal and very hot, I boarded the “Hospitality Jane” – as the boat is called – and so became a member of a very obvious tourist party… complete with ‘guide’. We went upstream for a start… and I found that I was quite well acquainted with all the famous landmarks detailed by the guide. These included the Palais de Justice, Conciergerie, Louvre, Pont Neuf, Notre Dame, City Island etc. The party consisted mainly of Yankee soldiers… and almost all of them had cameras… looted from Germany, no doubt. And the photographs they took!! They are a funny crowd, Jess: just like big children, many of them. Each item announced by the guide had to be photographed… and they took the snaps from the weirdest angles… often with the sun direct on the lens.
We passed one rather imposing granite building which is actually a store… something like Lewis’s. It is called Samaritaine:- and flying from the roof were two huge yellow flags bearing the name of the store. As soon as he saw this place, a Yank next to me grabbed his camera and took a snap… and then turned to his pal and proudly announced that he’d “got a photo of that joint”. “What is it?” asked the pal… “I dunno, but it looks good: I’ll bet them flags come out swell on my photo.” And he went on contentedly chewing his gum. That little incident is typical of their behaviour: they are terribly impulsive – rather delightfully so at times.
Just beyond the second island (Île St Louis), we turned back, and so headed downstream – and eventually passed our starting point near the Chamber of Deputies… On this journey, I saw the various bridges, the Eiffel Tower, Chaillot Palace etc from a new angle: I also saw the thousands of bathers along the river banks… and the inevitable fishermen, patiently dangling their rods in the water and waiting… waiting… meanwhile puffing their pipes, or chewing chunks of dry bread – or just staring transfixed at their tiny floats bobbing about in the water: but there were no catches, of course.
There are two or three more islands in the stretch of river about 6 miles downstream from the city… but they are not very interesting. On one of them is a Statue of Liberty, smaller, but seemingly identical with the one at New York: it was well photographed by the Yanks, needless to say: I suppose one of these statues is a copy of the other… I don’t know which is the original. Not far beyond the Eiffel Tower, the river banks are quite uninteresting:- the buildings are mainly factories and blocks of working-class flats. One large factory is that of the Citroen automobile concern, but it seemed intact so I presume it was not used by the Germans. But lower down the river is the enormous ‘Renault’ motor works: it sprawls along both banks and monopolises an entire island. The Germans used this factory… with the approval of Renault himself… for manufacturing tanks… and so it was bombed by the R.A.F. on two occasions. There is not much evidence of damage from the river, but the factory covers such a large area that it is difficult to judge from our glimpse of its edges. One of the Yanks, commenting upon the apparent absence of damage, suggested that there must be plenty of British or American money in Renaults…! Such things happened in the 1914/18 war. Incidentally, Renault, the collaborator, lost his factory: it has been taken over by the state.
This was the limit of our journey… and we turned round and headed for ‘home’… arriving at about 5.0pm. So much for the cruise: it was quite a pleasant little trip, and not a bad way of spending a boiling hot afternoon.
Today… a gloriously fine day again… I have done my sight-seeing on foot (and Metro!). I went by tube to a place called Charenton Ecoles… a village about a couple of miles beyond the S.E. limit of the city… And then I walked to the river… and upstream for a couple of miles. This part of the river is a glorious playground for children of all ages… and that includes adults. Today, it was a mass of practically nude and highly sunburned humanity… some swimming, some playing ball games, some sunbathing, some boating… and some fishing. I expected to find some open country… with perhaps a little tranquillity and absence of crowds… but I think I would have had to walk much further for that… and I just couldn’t do it. But it was lovely to see so many people, many of them obviously very poor, really having a happy time more or less free from expense.
I am now almost ‘on my knees’… and with a couple of blisters on my toes… But it serves me right for doing another ‘hike’ this evening. I went to the Arc de Triomphe to see a little ceremony performed at the Unknown Warriors tomb by the British Legion, and then I wandered along to the river, making a long detour back to the hotel. But it has been a beautiful evening, Jess… sunny and warm… and not so hot as the afternoon.
I was amused by one little incident on the river bank. There was a girl painting a view of the river… including the Chamber of Deputies on the far bank: she was quite young… about 18 years I imagine… but her indifference to onlookers was typical. Immediately in front of her, and included in the foreground of her picture, was a wizened old man… his legs dangling over the parapet and the inevitable fishing rod resting across his knees. He was solemnly chewing away at a hunk of bread… and a hard-boiled egg… and gazing at his float in the water. I was leaning upon the railings about five yards away… wondering whether the old man would fall into the water from shock if he got a ‘bite’. I could see the girls picture… but she had left a blank space for the old man’s face: I wondered why. A little later, the girl went to the old man and said something… and he immediately turned half sideways… and continued chewing and watching his float… completely indifferent. The girl then started painting in the face in her picture… having now got a better profile.
This is not a funny story, but I mention it to illustrate the nice atmosphere which seems to pervade the banks of the Seine: it is a friendly place.
And now, my sweetheart – I have to leave you… Apart from my rest tonight, I have two blisters to nurse, curse them!
Goodnight, Jessie Mine…
Always – I love you
P.S. Still no news about departing… But todays orders announce that next Tuesday will be a holiday, (joke!) and liberty trucks will be run to Fontainebleau for anyone wishing to go. I see no reason to assume that I won’t be here by then, so have put my name down for the trip.