Fraser Pakes' Memoirs Part Two
Parades, Parades, Parades...
continued from Part One
4th February 1956. We went into Hamilton this evening and saw some lovely shops, the goods are mostly English but there are some American products. They aren’t really all that expensive - quite cheap watches. The opposite sex observed in Bermuda called for immediate attention in this report. The coloured women make the white women look like grandmothers. They are really attractive and wear the most wonderfully coloured clothes. I was struck too at this early date by something else regarding the coloured population. All the coloured people are very friendly and everyone of them we passed in Hamilton said “Good Evening”, even those passing by on bicycles. There are quite a few Americans and British but the coloured people outnumber them 4 to 1. I’m not sure whether we had been told that ratio, or if it was my amateur observation, but certainly my remarks on the coloured population’s attitude to us was different from what I called the ‘white’ population. I would say that in that time, getting to know the whites on the Island, with some shining exceptions, was not easy, especially finding white girl friends. My letter ended with more statistics, namely the important subject of food: Food is the great expense here. Orangeade costs 10d, ice creams 9d, oranges 5d, cakes 5d. Haircuts cost 7/6d in town.
14 February 1956
(Photo left "I'm smiling but when can I wear civvies?") The intake was awaiting their moment to be able to wear ‘civvies’. I can’t wear civvies until March 15th (6 months after joining up) so if you send them by sea they should arrive just about the right time. In the meantime I intended to buy a pair of brown shoes to wear with my B.D. We had discovered Mr Cardy who had his shop somewhere in the garrison buildings. I remember him as a tailor always sewing stripes on to someone or other’s uniform. He sold watches and other knick knacks and somewhere in my memory - Cashmere Bouquet soap. The food isn’t as good as at Bodmin but it isn’t bad. A lot of energy was being applied immediately in one direction: The boys out here take literally hundreds of photos of the place. In the weekend you can see them busy sticking them all in (albums). Exploration of the Island soon began. We went to St George’s Church at the other end of the island on Saturday and passed through the big American Air Force base. It is a well known fact that you rarely see an American airman or sailor in the town. They have absolutely no need to go out of their camp - everything they want is there. Some things never change !! We have a nice cinema laid out in the gym with a proper little box office. It costs 1/- for all seats. It shows films on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, the films come up from Hamilton after they have been shown there. There were other forms of amusement to take up our time off-duty of course. I went baby sitting with Luke to a Corporal’s house on Saturday. We had a nice supper and were sitting back relaxing when the two children about 6 a piece started crying. I had to comfort one while Luke comforted the other. They kept waking up and crying after that from 8.15 to 12 midnight. What made it worse was that the Corporal had left a bottle of rum on the table saying “Help yourself” and Luke got at it and became drunk. We washed up and broke a cup, but as they didn’t pay us anything we didn’t tell them. It’s quite a frequent job out here and most boys get from 5/- to 10/- a night, but ours was a Scot (Editorial note): this piece of political incorrectness has been included in the interests of maintaining the integrity of the quotation!). The baby-sitting incident reminded me to pass on further valuable information to my parents: Do you know that if you’re married out here you are given a house, a car, a housemaid and a gardener even if you are a Private (Regular). However there are few Privates (regular) here really, they are nearly all Lance Jacks. Clothing was always to be an indicator of what time of year it was: They have tried to make an official winter here. It is the thing to wear a jacket and tie from November to April. We still wear B.D.s 'til April when we start to wear K.D. (Tropical kit). (HQ Platoon photo above left - outside their barrack room - wannabe bugler on right - Front Row left to right - Murt, Histed, Graham, Hawkins, Philp, Hunt. Back Row left to right excluding face in shadow, Geech, Lean, Banks, me, Mathews ).
Next, a first mention of an activity which was to feature in a good deal of my letters home. The people drink like fishes out here. One boy drunk 10 rum and cokes the other night and is in hospital !! Another went the rounds of all the night clubs and drank 8 neat whiskies. He was carried home. There are some very swank clubs here. the Long Tail Club and the Bermudiana are two. I don’t do much during the weekend. Sunday I lay in bed ‘til 10 o’clock. the wireless here is ‘Luxembourgish’ but more interesting. There is a Radio Bermuda. They broadcast ‘Lost and Found’ notices and ‘Engagement’ announcements even. We also get American radio. I now get around to mentioning what I actually was doing officially. At the moment I am working in the M.T. office (Motor Transport) with little to do. I’m not all that keen on working in an office out here forever and I may go into an ordinary rifle platoon. They have only a little more work to do than I have at present, they go swimming most afternoons whereas I have to stay in the office doing nothing. The others can’t believe that I don’t like sitting doing nothing all day. This fact obviously did not go unnoticed by the authorities as I concluded my letter. Oh well I’d better stop now (I’m writing this in the office) the Sergeant’s looking at me. (Photo above right - The Coy Commander’s official Land Rover and me).
The MT office was passed by each day by the local milkman and it was always great in the hottest months to buy a pint bottle of cold chocolate milk from him. Oh how we enjoyed those, in the days when no one worried much about fats and calories. (At other times we’d go into the Coy Stores and buy a bottle of pop. That stuff was held in a large cooler-like chest filled with water - as I remember - the varied types of pop all mixed up and clanking, wet and cold and inviting in the heat - memorable!)
March 26th ‘56: Sometimes we don’t mention things in letters we should and one such is names. In this letter home I mention a man who was so kind to a number of us in Bermuda. The man was ‘the Padre’ and I am ashamed that I can’t remember his name at this point. I was invited out with another boy to hear some records owned by a friend of our vicar. He had a terrific collection of LPs and 78rpms, the gramophone he had was marvellous, we had something to eat before we left him. This was the first mention of him but I and a few others in the time we had in Bermuda visited him often and he, knowing that homesickness was a problem for a number of us, particularly the teenagers, virtually offered his home to us as our home. Visiting and traveling on the Island could be made easier by using a very popular form of transport: I had a ride on a Mobilette on Saturday. they are ordinary autocycles. I got quite a speed out of them, secondhand ones cost about £25 I think. Of course no letter home was complete without a comment on ‘drinking’. The number of people that get drunk here is amazing, the worst ones are the Corporals, we’ve just had one in our room. Its mainly rum and beer that gets them going. There must have been a chain of thought here because I next record that. (Image left: clothes catalogue photo of Bermuda's version of a "College Girl 1950's") There are quite a few college girls here now, some of them are rather nice but they are all rather aloof. ‘Few’ - A definite understatement. College Week was a BIG event and hundreds of College students came to the Island, which, as the brochures showed,was well prepared for them. The chain of thought then moved back again. Some of the people in our room have just returned from a Rugby Cocktail Dance. They drove back trucks in which they had to lay - literally - DCLI blokes who were completely out with drink. There is one corporal who will probably be ‘inside’ tomorrow for smashing windows in the Officers’ Mess and telling the Officer in charge to “---- off!” More trouble had occurred elsewhere. The cook was nearly put in close arrest the other day when we complained about some meat fritters which weren’t cooked - we got another meal through it anyway. Another time - a lunchtime - I recall, loaves of bread were discovered to be mouldy. A very angry officer grabbed them, marched out the door and booted them one by one on to the parade ground to great cheers from the diners!
?? 1956: My thoughts had turned to financial matters in my next letter. We receive here each week £4. This increase is due to the local overseas allowance of £3 which shows you how much more you need in Bermuda than in England. Out of this £4 I have arranged with the Pay Sergeant to put aside £1 a week in savings. This is beside my credit balance which is now about 5/- a week instead of 4/1. with the remaining £3 I am using £1 for general use (buying of toilet articles, cleaning materials and some cinema prices) and the £2 for the buying of food, presents, postcards and clothes. If the £2 seems rather a lot (!), you must realise that it costs 5/- (the cheapest seats) in the cinemas here and you know the food prices. In about 4 weeks time my star classification comes into effect. At first it should make a difference of 3/- a week extra.
We went to a very nice snack bar-restaurant in Hamilton on Saturday - the ‘Buckaroo’ where all the DCLI go. It's a very reasonable place and they treat you well there. Ice creams cost 1/3 but you get a Hell of a lot. The letter here does not mention the famous practice there of becoming a ‘pig’. As I recall you could have a trough shaped container holding a large amount of ice cream which, if you ate it all it was then free and made you a member of the Pig Club. (If you didn’t finish it you paid the cost.) It has all American appliances, grills, great coffee percolators, ice boxes for the drinks, hot fudge containers, egg flip tanks etc. (Photos above left at The Aquarium) All of us were involved during our time on Bermuda in collecting postcards, and looking for souvenirs of the island to send or take home to give to friends and relatives. What to take? The specialty of the island is cedar goods. they make lovely ashtrays, egg cups and other things out of this wood. As you go along the roads here you can smell the cedar yards away, it's very strong and rather nice. Another very popular form of souvenir were the clear perspex (?) molds containing coral and tropical fish (Photo lower right an example of one I brought home) - pen stands, letter openers, even lamp bases. Some of these were expensive but there were also ‘Bermuda’ labeled clothing, pennants and the usual ‘souvenir’ objects found anywhere. Given the popularity of visiting hotels and clubs on the Island it wasn’t surprising that souvenirs included the ubiquitous swizzle stick. Purchasing our own civilian clothes on the Island could be complex. The shops are either American or British. the latter sell tweeds (for this climate !) which sell like hot cakes with the Americans. None of us had come to Bermuda with the right clothes for the climate, particularly the hottest months. Few were interested in the woollen Argyle socks, the plaid scarves, and other ‘Scotch’ goods sold by shops aiming at the American market and some of the ex-pat population of Hamilton. The famous ‘Bermuda shorts’ I recall only a few dabbling in, although I did think that the Bermuda business men - in their charcoal gray jackets and Bermuda shorts suits, pink shirts and black ties, with knee length socks - did look exotic.
(Images left: Bermuda 'woollies') The style of clothing worn by some of the coloured men on the Island went too far the other way for most tastes. The coloured men go around in tartan caps, bow ties, black trousers, cowboy boots, riding around on motorbikes covered with mirrors, silver stars, streamers and strips of squirrel tails flying from the mudguards. On their pillion seats they write such things as “Skull Man”, “Go Man Go” “Rock and Roll”. The flowery, tropical-type shirts was about the furthest people would go. We visited the Aquarium the other day and saw a wonderful variety of tropical fish. We also went to some wonderful caves, like those at Cheddar. These two things are about all you can see on this Island. We are beginning to feel the smallness of the island already. We usually travel by taxi from the town to our garrison - its the cheapest way of travel (the buses are too slow and infrequent) It costs 3/9 and when you have 4 in a taxi it only works out at 9d each. I closed with a comment made in different forms a number of times in my letters. Everyone is friendly in Hamilton except the British residents who rarely speak to you. In hindsight I still think it was true for the time. In the ‘50s Bermuda was still very much a ‘Colony’ and as such still held on to that colonial mentality and behavior found across what was still the old British Empire . The concept of the British Commonwealth was only slowly emerging. I am sure things are different on Bermuda now.
20/3/56: One of the big rites of passage during our NS days was the date at which we were allowed to wear civilian clothes off-duty. It came for me on March 15th and was an important topic in this letter. I wore them to the pictures (“Young at Heart”) in the evening and felt completely different. It was so lovely to put on something different and merge in with the crowds. I went to my special cafe - The Buckaroo - afterwards and had French Fries (they never call them chips here), two eggs, 4 lots of toast and two cups of coffee - all for 6/6d which isn’t bad for out here. Its really a nice place and you get a free meal if you go there on your birthday. All the DCLI go there. The cheerful tone continued with mention that it was, shirt sleeve order now: K.D. is the next step . On the subject of the radio, the wireless here is full of commercials and is not very exciting except when the “Goon Show” comes on, on Mondays. There’s the “Messiah” on at the moment but I bet it won’t stay on long. I moved to the topic of postal costs, Parcels cost 1/- an ounce to send air mail so I think I’ll send presents by sea mail. The ‘Messiah’ has just been turned off. Moved by the sacred music recently turned off I felt I should own up to a misdemeanor I was put on show parade today for a dusty rear sight on my rifle, but it didn’t amount to much. (Photos above left and right show Fraser Pakes, Alfie Luke in civvies)
My work at the MT office continued to pose little problem: My job is very easy in some ways. We have no Sergeants around all the time and there is only an occasional officer who comes down. but, there is a lot of responsibility in it, especially as it is the end of the year accounts at the end of March.
(Photos above left and right: MT Lines at Prospect Barracks and MT Office showing Archie Lang and another at work)
(No date but near Good Friday) The big event of the week has been the annual floral pageant. it was a real sight, these floats moving along Front Street, Hamilton, with the ‘Queen of Bermuda’ docked on the other side of the street at the quay. The flowers, Easter lilies, passion flowers, looked lovely. But the thing that interested me most was the crowd. It is rare that you can see all the various elements of the Island’s population, gathered together at one time. The first is the white element consisting of American, English, French, Canadians and of course the Bermudian, an awful type of person on the whole; of Anglo-American extract. None of our boys get on very well with them and we don’t have much to do with them - they would like us out of the Island I think. The next and largest group is the coloured group, they come originally from the slaves brought here but they all look completely different from one another and there is some West Indian blood here as well I think. I’ve spoken of them before. The third group and the smallest are the Portuguese. These people can stay and work on the island and if they work well and behave then they can eventually stay. But if they ever cause trouble they have to leave the island - none have. This is the group into which a number of our men have married or are contemplating marrying when they leave the army. A bugler in our room is getting demobbed out here in order to marry one. I closed with a comment about our Company Commander: In the March 3rd issue of ‘John Bull’ , in the article on “These Men Are Dangerous” you will find a photo of our Company Commander Major Marsh, a member of the SAS. It tells how he drove away in a German staff car.
On Thursday last I was sitting in the ‘Longtail Club’ with Archie Lang and got into conversation with the owner of the ‘Traveller’s Club’. He was dead drunk and kept on talking about England. He stood us 2 extra drinks though, so that made 3 rum and cokes I had in that place. I had more in the ‘Traveller’s Club’ and then a further 5 in the ‘Princess Hotel’. Consequently I didn’t feel too sober. Archie, who is going to Cambridge University in October had an unknown quantity of whisky and sodas. We went into the QUIET lounge after and he played the piano (terribly) while I sang “I’m Only a Wandering Vagabond” (terribly) to the great delight of the residents in there. Then a waiter came in and said “Excuse me sir but it’s a little late for playing the piano” (it was only 12.45 a.m.). After making a speech on the hotel landing we went back to camp. (I don’t know why I insisted on telling my parents of these sorts of gory details. I probably thought they would find it all funny, which I am sure they often did not. However they never commented back on such activities and kept their views to themselves. I’m sorry, Mum and Dad.) During May there was a performance of "Rose Marie" in the Garrison Gymnasium. There were some slanderous remarks floating around that suggested that the intense interest of some of the DCLI boys in taking part in this production, was wholly due to there being the prospect of young women taking part. A total coincidence of course.
Near June 5th 1956: A sad factor of life for a number of N.S. boys was the reality of leaving girl friends behind in the UK, and suffering what too often happened while they were away: I couldn’t believe it when I heard about (?) (Truro girl) marrying poor old (?) DCLI boy. Still he won’t be an unusual case everyone around me seems to have lost their girl friends, everyone takes it quite casually!
That was not of course true. In my case Marie (Edyvean) "the girl I left behind me" (Photo right), fortunately was willing to wait out the tour of duty, so that we were able to write back and forth to each other until I arrived back in the UK.
June 1956 On the matter of food (again !). The food here is the same day after day. Eggs, bacon,potato, fried bread for breakfast: potatoes,cabbage, meat and carrots for dinner. Fruit costs me 6d per apple or orange and tinned pineapple, or apricots or peaches which costs me 2/9d a time. On the climate and clothing: The temp is getting to 83 now and soon we will be going into buff order - no shirts or vests. We wear KD slacks in the evening, they are very light and the laundry bleaches them from an ordinary khaki to a very light khaki. and on current affairs: We had a couple of naval deserters locked up in our Guard Room. they had deserted in the States and had got to Canada before they were caught.
June 1956: We are out at Warwick Camp (no new address, post gets brought from Prospect each day) now for shooting classification. Its only a few hundred yards from the sea. We swim each afternoon. We were shooting on the range this morning which is on the beach. There are horrible great cockroaches here and land crabs and millions of ants everywhere. We are having a film a night at the moment. We have two weeks at Warwick then when we return to Prospect we’ve got the Queen’s Birthday parade and then leave starts - fortnight on a little island out here. We’ve been practicing funeral drill as we are expecting a Lieutenant Colonel out here to die. the graveyard has been cleaned up and the coffin bearers chosen (I’m in the escort). I’d like the old Colonel to see us and ask what we were doing! (Above right: Pakes pretending to work)
20th June1956: A number of us got the extra thrill of needing the hospital services at some stage in our life in Bermuda. I shall be in hospital about 3 weeks. I’ve picked a good time, everyone is getting ready for the funeral I told you about - he’s kicked the bucket. On a happier note I next had juicy gossip to impart! Opposite our MT Office lives the CSM of the RASC, who we see taking home lots of rations from the cold storage depot which he is in charge of. The other day his small son went along to the Sergeant in charge of the petrol in the RASC motor transport and said “If you want to know where your motor grease is going, my Daddy is taking it” When asked how he said “He puts his hand through the hole in the door where it is kept “. You should have seen the Sergeant’s face!!
June1956: Well my operation is over now and I am convalescing. The army hospital obviously impressed me and I noted. It really is a lovely ward here, I wish I had a photo of it, because it looks so expensive (!) There are only 10 beds in it and the room is quite cosy. The room is mainly filled with matelots resting after drunken fights. Well at least I’ve missed the funeral guard we were practicing for, it was quite a mess-up I hear.
June1956: I must get to bed now. We have to be in bed by 9.30 and lights out at 10 o’clock. I have just been sitting outside on the slope of the hospital lawn overlooking the sea, playing chess in a temperature of 80 degrees.
29th June 1956: Well I’ve been in hospital nine days now. the hospital is only about 500 yards from the Garrison but we can’t see it from the windows. There were more things to see in the hospital beside bedpans it seems: Really you’d think there was a war on here if you could see Bermuda now. They have just completed a NATO exercise here, and for the past few days there have been jets and bombers going past our windows. Also 16 submarines have just moved out in single file which was quite a sight. Nighttime brought new sights. My
nights are continuously disturbed by patients coming in at all hours of the early morning. Last night at 2 o’clock a matelot arrived. He had come off a bike and was slightly drunk, the night orderly was detailed to patch him up.
14th August 1956: Last weekend we hired autocycles out and went right around the island. It only cost me 10/- to hire one out for the whole weekend. You can get speeds up to about 35mph which is about right for this Island. (Photo left: Invoice for Motobloc rental). Since I work in Company Office I couldn’t really be expected not to look at my personal documents which are kept in the CSMs office in a big black tin box. I found it interesting to see that against the words “Is liable to make a good NCO ?” is written “An academical one, yes”. Sergeants keep saying to me “Now look here Pakes you're supposed to be clued up“! Well we ‘academics’ could be physical as well and I was looking forward to some events coming: We have got a practice for the inter-platoon swimming sports on Wednesday, the swimming sports will be held at The Eagle’s Nest, where there is a nice pool. There are also the Athletic Sports to come yet and other physical activities were open to me too. (Photo above right: Cricket & Athletic field, Prospect)
5th September 1956, Once in a while something unusual happens like the other day when we had to arise at 6 o’clock and run down to the sea to do a swimming test. It consisted of each one of us dressing up in a pair of denims, and putting a steel helmet on, and swimming 25 yards with a shovel, on which was attached a pair of army boots, in one hand, while you had one free arm to swim with. I nearly drowned but managed to get there. Most of the subalterns had to resort to the use of a life belt halfway across. I was very pleased at that. Of course the incongruous sight of a person swimming with a shovel made all the coloured people lined up along the edge of the road to watch, roar with laughter!
Like all National Servicemen counting the days of service left, it was always a big thing to say what I said at the beginning of my next letter. 15th September 1956 : Well, recognise that date? I’ve now been in exactly one year. To mark the occasion this morning we received the remnant of hurricane ‘Edith’. I have never in my life seen such rain. Later we learnt that more rain had fallen in 3/4 of an hour than fell in the whole of May and June and there was a total of 5 inches of rain in 3 hours. I could also report that: I have been in a wireless cadre and passed it so I can call myself a wireless operator now. In war I would go down the deepest bunker with Company HQ, with the C.O. I went on a scheme the other day when one platoon was attacking the other in the dockyard where there was an old fort. It was quite exciting with thunder flashes and smoke bombs being thrown about. I happen to know as well that there is a scheme (labelled as ‘Secret’, on the C.O.s desk which I had a look at !) coming off next week which will pretend that a hurricane has flattened the Island. The media at that time was limited on Bermuda. They don’t allow TV here, I don’t know why exactly. (Photo left: I was tuned in)
4th October 1956: (Photo right: Me and Archie Lang) Archie flew back to England yesterday, don’t let his nickname fool you. His real name is Peter Leonid Forbes Wizosky Lang, grandparents Russian. He is going to Oxford University to study archeology. He had been my closest friend in Bermuda and we had had great times together. I was sorry to see him go. However something else would now begin and occupy much of my time in Bermuda from then on. I am the permanent baby-sitter for Major D.R. Holton Hart, Royal Leicesters, Commander of Bermuda Local Forces. These jobs are quite recognised by the army and every effort is made by the DCLI to leave you free for the job. I must always be prepared to ‘sit’ at a moment’s notice. He picks me up in his car at camp and takes me back afterwards. I have all the food I want (the kitchen is left at my disposal and I cook whatever I want) I get paid 2/6 an hour. He goes to Admiralty House, the Governor’s Residence etc, quite a few times a month. His residence is ‘Bay View’, looking out over Hamilton, the islands and the yachts. Besides this activity I was busy with other things too. I have just finished pressing my KD jacket for 2 guards of honour coming off soon. It took me 7 hours in all stretching in 2 hourly periods each evening for 3 days. They become almost white and when they are starched they stand up stiff as a board. The Guards of Honour are: On 28th Sunday, Church Parade attendance, Hamilton Cathedral at the handing of new flags to the cathedral by Vice Admiral Sir John Eaton KBE (the man who had his hat knocked off by a matelot). On the 30th a big guard at the quay in Hamilton to say farewell to him as he is going to serve in NATO.
11 October ‘56: Something was missing from our barrack room and we put it right. The other day we contributed £1 each towards a portable long playing record player for our barrack room. It cost £12 and has 3 speeds. Each platoon has their own player now. (Photo right: My bed space: we favoured the minimalist look). I see both the James boy and Paul Harding are both full Corporals now.
10 November ‘56: I have been doing a job for the Army. I was detailed to work in the local Dog Show as a cashier at the gate! We did it for the 3 days of the show and we got paid £1 a day for it as well with all meals found. The show was held in the Bermuda Agricultural Research Gardens. (Photo left: Pakes on Important work for Queen and Country). We have the Armistice Day parade tomorrow, and some of the HQ platoon are being invited, me included, to Christmas Dinner on Boxing Day to our Company Sergeant Major’ s. He has ordered two 15lb turkeys, 1lb of ham and 1lb of pork. He is very nice.
December ‘56: I have just finished a most interesting scheme. The object of it was to try and get into Kindley Airfield and plant a ‘bomb’ in the power house. It was a night scheme and the Company Commander had decided that the attack should be made by a small group in rubber dinghies. I went along with 3 other people in the Admiral’s launch as control. By about 10 o’clock in the night I went out with Major Marsh and the CSM in a dinghy to take a rubber dinghy to one of the Platoons which was on an island. Everyone was dressed commando style. However when most of the attacking groups reached the airfield by water they were almost all quickly captured by the American Air Force, who were beaming searchlights. One lot however knocked out 3 guards, took their uniforms and walked into the air base dressed as American Air Police. I myself was nearly marched off to the guardroom by a guard with a Sten gun until Major Marsh intervened. When the scheme was over 6 of us slept for the rest of the night on the launch. Of course all the officers and the CSM had the best berths below and I had to sleep on deck covered by an old tarpaulin! I closed the letter with a news flash - No naval personnel are allowed in the camp now after they broke up a dance that was held here the other day.
2nd December ‘56: We have got a Court Martial starting next week. One of our NCOs , a Corporal, hit a Sergeant with his rifle, or so the Sgt says at least. He (the corporal) could get nick and be sent to Jamaica for this, but I doubt it though as the Sergeant happens to be the most unpopular man in the camp. I wish I could remember what the result was . (Photo lower right: HQ platoon boys, 1956)
Boxing Day ‘56: Just why I thought my parents would want to hear about the details of some of my Christmas activities I will now never know! Last Friday we had the Platoon party, Major Marsh and the CSM being our hosts. In all these little parties someone is always made to go the whole way in drinking, and at this one it was me that was the object of their attention. The last thing I remember was putting on my steel helmet and running on to the parade ground and standing to attention. Then I went out like a light. They poured water over to bring me round but I didn’t. They put me to bed. On the next morning, Saturday, I just couldn’t get out of bed. I thought I was going to be charged for being absent from parade. However the Platoon Sergeant and the Sergeant Major came to see me and just roared with laughter and went out. It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that I felt better. Since then all the officers have been asking me if I want any rum and generally taking the mickey.
(Photo left: HQ barrack room complete with decorations and singing cleaners) Christmas Eve we left work at 12 o’clock. On Christmas eve evening we finished decorating our barrack room. I went downtown. There everyone appeared to be walking in the middle of the road. On Christmas morning the CSM came around with tea for us in bed. At 12 o’clock we had our Christmas Dinner with all the officers and sergeants serving us. Needless to say they were dead drunk. A Captain stood on a table and sang us songs and we all had a very good time. In the evening I was on my way with 3 others to attend a Christmas dinner at a hotel called ‘Deepdeene Manor’ where we had been selected as representatives of the DCLI to attend the annual party. Everyone was in evening dress, me clad in BD of all things ! Beside the huge dinner the evening was full of champagne, rum punch and liqueurs, so that conversing with all types of high society people my conversation was all the while getting more sparkling. (The only piece of conversation that I recall from this evening is when the wife of one of the American guests asked another, “Have you heard this new singer - Elvis Presley - isn’t he strange" ! )
Now it is Boxing Day and I have just returned from the Sergeant Major’s where I have had yet another Christmas dinner and sherry ! My stomach !!
(Last of letters,1956)