Arrangements are detailed.
The rifles have arrived, one per man plus bayonets and
60 rounds per rifle. (God bless America!) The rifles are
in cases thick with grease after twenty-odd years' storage
in an arsenal. Our Company Commander, always to the fore
when help is wanted, has them degreased at his works, saving
hours of training time. A member provides slings, another
paints the 2in. red band during his free time on guard duty.
We have been mounting Night Guards in our stable guardroom
since 12th June. One N.C.O. and six men per night, each
man doing one night in six. Two hours at dusk and dawn on
O. P. duty, the remaining hours on patrol or sentry-go.
We receive many visits from officers of the Company calling
to deliver equipment or stores now beginning to come in,
or making a perilous climb in the darkness up the numerous
ladders to our O.P.
The weeks fly by. We have now been in three months. Good
progress is being made in training and everybody is now
a little more confident of his ability as a soldier. In
another sense, too, we see a change, the keenness and enthusiasm
are better than ever, but we now have, in addition, a strongly
developing esprit de corps. We are
all getting to be very proud of our unit and a healthy spirit
of comradeship and mutual respect prevails throughout the
platoon. The Sections vie with each other for a mythical
pride of place in efficiency. Fathers bring sons (a graceful
compliment to the unit) and the other men bring neighbours,
and so we maintain our strength despite our losses by call-up
and the writing off of non-starters.
Night guards have become more active. The
guard report book tells of many things: of quiet nights
and exciting nights, of planes overhead, of bombs and heavy
flak, incendiaries and fires, flares from the air and from
the ground, suspicious light flashes and signals and of
hours spent in investigation, often without result; of patrols
contacting searchlight units, neighbouring detachments and
Civil Defence. It tells of long night watches, frequently
without sleep and in an atmosphere polluted by a smoky stove
and by countless generations of horses. It does not report,
however, the full day's work done yesterday or the full
day's work which will commence when the guard is dismissed
and at a pressure only known to those who took part in the
post-Dunkirk industrial drive.
Every Guard report contains much of interest
and the following two extracts are typical of the nightly
incidents of that time:
August 15/l6th, 1940
21.00 hrs. Guard mounted. O.P. manned.
A very clear night.
21.25 Visit from Platoon Commander who visited
22.00 Visit from Orderly Officer.
22.15 Guard reports searchlights up.