No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood.
British Army Exhibition
British Army Staff
Jess Darling: I have very little to write about this evening: I have been on duty at the exhibition and nothing much has been happening. So, at the risk of boring you, I will have to talk ‘shop’.
There has been a slight variation in the normal routine today, firstly because it was the last day for the A.T.S. military band, and secondly because a team of gymnasts has arrived from England, and they did their first performances during the day.
The band has been very popular – and very much of a novelty. They did their normal turns during the morning (i.e. both the bagpipe section and the military section) and then at 12 noon, both bands lined up and paraded away through the city, with the military band playing a march. They looked extremely well as they marched off with the kilted pipe-band and a drum major leading the column. That was the last we saw of them. I believe they have given a farewell concert in one of the theatres this evening. They leave for England at midnight, and I believe most of them are sorry to have to go. Tomorrow we have a new band – that of the Ox and Bucks regiment – all males this time.
The team of gymnasts, about fifty of them, have come from England specially for the job. They are from an army school of physical training and their programme is somewhat different from the usual P.T. demonstrations. Formerly, it was usual to see a neat turn out in white vests and trousers, and tennis shoes, and all kinds of fancy stunts such as human pyramids, and drilling and cart wheeling and Indian clubs etc… But that style of P.T. must be out of date. The demonstration today consisted of some heavy and rather spectacular work with huge logs of wood, and using rifles as ‘Indian clubs’, and heaving anti-tank guns over obstacles. It is really a condensed ‘commando course’. The lads were dressed in army boots, and overall trousers only. They work damned hard and do their stuff very well. But how on earth they perform at all in this appalling heat I don’t know. It has been as bad as ever again today. It is almost impossible to move without perspiring freely. We are all now longing for rain – just to freshen up the air a bit.
The hardest work I have done today has been with a few French youngsters. Two of them spoke English freely, and they have been round the tank umpteen times during the day: And the questions! Gosh: those kids knew things which are supposed to be military secrets! But I think I managed to satisfy their curiosity – and at least one of them is returning on my next ‘duty day’ to learn how we sealed-up the tanks prior to the Normandy landings.
Today too we have had rather more American visitors than usual. Two of their officers in particular were very interested in our operational tactics… and I enjoyed a long discussion with them – swapping yarns, and what not. I like these Americans, Jess. They have their faults like all of us – but they are intelligent and enthusiastic – and very much alive. Their outspokenness may be embarrassing to strangers, but I find it is just part of their natural ingenuousness. And they can be very funny:- they appeal to my sense of humour, anyhow.
And now I’m going to bed – to try and sleep in spite of the heat. I have a free day tomorrow – but have no plans. I will certainly steer clear of the Sacre Coeur.
Goodnight, my love
Yours – always