My Life by Lionel Graves. (Page 14)
Friday 30th Nov. Went to Madame Tussauds in London; had breakfast at the Union Jack Servicemans Club, lousy! Caught 12.50 to Salisbury, got in about 3.15pm got taxi to camp. Walked to Salisbury in evening with Johnny Drew (6ft 2in) Titch Reynolds (5ft 4in) and Hird, went to pictures.
Saturday 1st December. Paid this afternoon. Sorted into troops this morning, alphabetically . A-G was No. 1 platoon 104 strong. Leaving tomorrow for Newhaven, might sail to Dieppe and then train to Marseilles, just a rumor.
Sunday 2nd Dec. Left this morning for Newhaven arrived there at 4pm and went to transit camp at Dover Castle. Had late dinner and a wash and clean up. Went into town at night for a few drinks.
Monday 3rd Dec. Reville 02.30 (am) breakfast 3.30 am. Paraded at 4.15 (the C.O. Told us that it was the worst draft to pass through the castle, because the 4th battallion Black Watch had gone into town and got roaring and fighting drunk and spent half the night getting back to camp and away from the police)
Waited in pouring rain 45 minutes for the trucks, swore heavily, like troopers! Went by truck to the boat and boarded the “Isle of Thanet” a cross channel boat. Sailed at 06.30. Strong winds and choppy sea, felt seedy but was not sick. Plenty of others badly sea-sick, especially the Black Watch with their morning after hangovers.
(The following comments I added later – not in the diary and you can take it as a rule of thumb that anything in brackets is a later addition.
I didn't feel at all sad at the sight of the White Cliffs of Dover disappearing into the rain and dullness of early morning, but just the opposite, it was a great adventure, the wars were over and we were fed up with parades, guard duties, fatigues and bull that seemed to be our lot now that training was over. On the ferry I was alright until I went below decks and the fug and stench of sickness was overpowering. I had to go up on the deck, stand in the bows in the driving wind and rain, ducking the spray from the waves breaking over the bows – and felt a lot better).
Monday 3rd December. Arrived Dieppe 10.30 or 11.30 French time. Transport took us to camp and we had a meal, then 20 free fags given us and a NAAFI card. Changed money got 1,300 francs, got 50 fags from NAAFI and a ration of chocolate and soap. Had tea then went on to transports to station, got into old Jerry 3rd class carriages, wooden seats etc, probably took Bismark to war in 1870. Left 6pm for Toulose.
Tuesday 4th Dec. After a freezing night of travelling, stopped and had grand breakfast of porridge, sausage, spuds and bacon. Given haversack ration. Passed through Orleans, Toulouse – cup of tea. Wrote two letters. Had meal and wash at Barm. At one stoppage of the train, not at a station, some girls were waving from the top of a steep bank, about a dozen Black Watch left the train and dashed up to talk to them. The officer in charge of the whole draft went mad, trying to get them to board the train and we had to wait a long time before we could continue and that was only when the engine driver kept hooting and slowly moving the train off.
(At several stations I acted as an interpreter for mates selling bars of chocolate, soap and cigarettes to the war weary French)
Wednesday 5th Dec. Another nights travelling, arrived at 7.30 am and went to the transit camp in Toulouse where we got some dinner and NAAFI rations. Went down to the harbour and had a look at some of the French fleet which had been scuttled earlier in the war to prevent the Germans getting their hands on them. Saw the Dunkerque, Strasburg, battleships and two cruisers. Transport took us to the boat, the Ville d'Oran, a fast medium sized passenger ship converted to a troop ship, the voyage takes 3 ½ days instead of the usual 5. Saw several sea planes as we went out of harbour, docks in a hell of a state!
Thursday 6th Dec. Had a good sleep last night in a hammock. Johnny and myself are mess orderlies today and have to collect the food from the galleys. The sea is a bit rougher. Bought 100 fags and 3 bars of chocolate for 60 francs. Sat and wrote letters in recreation room. Passed Stromboli at 6 o'clock tonight and the Straits of Messina 7.30. Saw lights of Reggio.
Copyright ©2000-2008 L. Graves. All Rights Reserved.