No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood, R.T.
9th Battn. R.T.R.
Darling Jess: This is ‘Cambrai Day’… the day of the year for members of the R.T.R. And we have been very fortunate in being able to celebrate in the usual manner. For a start, there was no reveille this morning: breakfast was at 8.30 am… and if anyone preferred, they could remain in bed. During the morning, there was a football match with 40 men on each side instead of the usual eleven. It was just a huge scramble and free fight in thick mud. I watched it for a time, and am amazed that no-one was hurt: they seemed to do everything but tear each other apart.
After the match, we all assisted in preparing a dining room for dinner. Tables and chairs were scrounged… likewise tablecloths and decorations. The place looked quite well after we had finished.
Dinner time arrived… and the officers and sergeants waited on, as per custom. Beer was served first, and then the food. It was quite a good dinner – viz. soup, roast beef and roast pork, apple sauce, stuffing, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, cabbage: the sweet consisted of apple tart, ice cream (two varieties) and jelly. And there were apples by the dozen, and grapes… dozens of bunches of large black juicy grapes! Cigarettes were also issued, 40 per man, and a bar of milk chocolate. Quite a banquet really… the dinner was fairly tasteless, as is usual with army food, but everyone enjoyed it, and that is all that matters.
There was an Ensa concert this afternoon, and dancing this evening. On the whole, I believe it has been a good day of entertainment… surprisingly good considering all the circumstances.
Darling: this is terrible notepaper: I’m going to burn this pad and try a different variety.
I received a lovely long letter today, Jessie Mine… so my Cambrai day has been O.K.
You comment upon reports of the Dutch people’s hatred of the Germans. This is precisely what I find whenever the subject is mentioned. It is a deep hatred… too deep for words. I firmly believe that the Germans are detested more by the Dutch than either Belgians or French. They are a sober people… less excitable or demonstrative than French or Belgians, and more realistic too, I think. It will, as you say, take generations to alter their view of the Germans. You may be surprised to learn (or will you?) that there were Dutch ‘Nazis’… similar to the English Mosleyites. Some of them collaborated with the Germans during the occupation… whilst others just remained passive. The former have either cleared out with their masters, or have been shot as traitors. The latter have been rounded up and are being forced to work in gangs. In this town, for instance, there is quite a procession of them every day being marched out into the country. They carry spades and are under armed guard. I suppose they are mostly inoffensive citizens who joined the party pre-war, believing it to be a genuine socialist movement. Their leader, Mussert, has disappeared. I shouldn’t like to be present if ever he is captured by the Dutch. He is believed to be in Berlin.
In this town, I find further evidence of the ordinary citizens’ apparent contempt for their ‘Maquis’. The general opinion here is that these Maquis did nothing during the occupation, but as soon as the “Tommies” arrived, they, the Maquis, hoisted their arm-bands bearing the word “Oranje”, and started parading the streets with rifles, as though they had liberated the place. There are plenty of them about… acting as a sort of emergency police force. They always carry their rifles… I don’t know why. In spite of ‘popular’ opinion, I still think there must be many Dutchmen who did good work during the occupation… altho’ I agree that their numbers must have been fewer than is indicated by the number of ‘Oranje’ arm-bands in the streets.
I see that the Belgian government is having trouble already with the ‘patriot’ forces. I am not a bit surprised: I expected it, in fact… France likewise. One thing I don’t like is the way these men are constantly being linked with the word “communism” in our newspapers. Is the old bogey being resuscitated? It seems very suspicious to me. I don’t like it. Did you notice that the Belgian government offered to incorporate the ‘patriot’ forces into the regular army?.. Rather a neat attempt, to my mind, to deprive these men of their freedom: they could easily be kept quiet in the army: it would be a simple matter to ‘dilute’ them by dispersal. But I don’t think the trick has worked.
I see by your letter today that I did tell you about the fire. Did I send a detailed account similar to last night’s? What a waste of good writing time!!
I note your hint about a “great re-organisation plan” for the dining room. You suggest that it may be still-born:- but I don’t think it will… You have a way with you, Jess. Already, I visualise myself as a painter-cum-decorator… cum furniture heaver… cum carpet layer. And I had ambitions of being the laziest man on earth for 6 months after the war. Alas for my ambitions… still-born as usual!!
You didn’t tell me about your increase of the fire insurance, but it was a damned good idea. I suppose the present claim will be more productive because of your foresight. Please let me know how matters develop: I love reading about your ‘business’ tussles.
Jess… aren’t you a… a… a rascal?!? You have sent extracts from my letters to Ediswan’s (RTG’s pre-war employer) chief accountant… Well! What can I say. Is the person in question still Mr. J.H.W. Morgan? He’s a decent bloke and will no doubt pass them on to Crunden. So maybe I will be hearing from the latter. Or maybe he will write to you. Please let me know if he does… I will then write to him direct, providing conditions are as favourable as they are at present. But what if Mr. Morgan tells Mr. Garsden about my letters? I haven’t written Garsden for months. The poor old lad will feel neglected. You had better do something about it, my dear. I suggest you take a day off… as you did once before… and leave my letters for an hour or two with Garsden… And tell him some of the latest news concerning his one-time employee. It will give him something to talk about.
And whilst you are in town, I would like you to buy a Christmas present for yourself, and one for Barry. I am sending on the necessary cash as soon as I can make arrangements at this end. this is important:- I don’t care whether you see JWG or not… but I want you to buy my/your ‘Xmas present, see?
Another letter from you today… and one from Jess Aldcroft. I will acknowledge the latter, and then send it on to you. Thank you darling, for your explanation of the tithe business. Your comments caused much amusement in the mess here: but we couldn’t decide whether a man could be a landless landowner. I suppose the position is quite clear, according to ‘law’, and I suppose we will have to pay, but I am jolly glad to hear you are lodging an objection.
I like the news of your purchases for Barry. I can hardly believe that he is now old enough to be wearing things like ‘trousers’ and shoes. I’ll bet he looks grand… and am dying to see a picture of him. Did you buy anything for yourself? You must need some new clothing, Jess dear. I have already said that I am sending a little cash for presents… perhaps you had better devote it all to something you need, now that you have equipped Barry. I feel certain you must be in need of some warm underclothing.
Jess… I feel that I owe you an apology. This letter should have been posted on Tuesday morning… and now it won’t go until Thursday morning. The trouble has been my inability to scrounge a green envelope. The darned things are very scarce just now and most of the fellows seem to be making use of their weekly ration. I have tried to obviate a gap in my letters by sending two of the short letter cards, but they are unsatisfactory… especially for a man who wants to say things to his sweetheart. Today, I have at last acquired an envelope, and can now post this, but I fear you will have been wondering why the hell I have been so uncommunicative. Please forgive me, dear. In future, I will make sure I have an envelope before starting a letter… or phrase it so that I can let it be censored…
I have little more to report. This evening, the squadron have held their Cambrai dance, and the place was packed. I went along for an hour to do my turn on the door, but didn’t remain afterwards. This door keeping business has become a necessary evil. We sergeants take it in shifts. If we did not keep a careful watch on the door, the place would be filled with blokes from other squadrons, and other units, and even civvy males. With our own squadron, and their lady friends, there are far too many people present. I believe that this policy of excluding civvy males is causing some discontent, but I don’t see what we can do to avoid it. This dance was the last of the official Cambrai celebrations. There have been four dances, one per squadron, and the dinner etc. on the 20th… And the amount of drink consumed in the period… well, it is astounding, to put it mildly.
Tomorrow evening, there is another “excuse” for a ‘booze-up’. Our R.S.M. is leaving us, and there is to be a sort of farewell party for all sergeants and higher ranks. I marvel that men’s insides can stand so much of the poisonous stuff.
How do you like the war news, Jessie Mine? It is good, I think… amazingly good in view of the awful weather… But I can’t help thinking that there may be some surprises in store for Jerry. The present offensive is not unlike the final battle in Normandy, in some ways.
I have one or two jobs to see to, so must leave you now… but will be with you again tomorrow.
Au revoir, my dear…
Always – I love you