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Frederick George West
Elizabeth Sanderson
(Cal 1841-1903)
Serjeant Richard Robinson
(Cir 1834-)
Ellen McLachlan
Frederick George West
Harriet Robinson

William Richard West


Family Links


William Richard West

  • Born: 2 Apr 1896, Walthamstow, Essex, England
  • Marriage: Elsie
  • Died: 1980, Rhodesia aged 84

bullet  Noted events in his life were:

• Residence: Great Britain, 1896-1912.

• Residence: Australia, 1912-1914.

• Occupation: Soldier, 1914-1918, Egypt, Dardenelles & France.

• Residence: Rhodesia, 1979.

• Author: WARNING.

This autobiography was written by William Richard West in the latter years of his life. It was written for the family in order to pass on the history of his life and family and was circulated to the known family by mail. I believe I have the original copy and as an important source of information I have made it available. I am still planning to divide it into logical chapters to make it more readable, when I have the time.

As far as I understand, William's daughters did not enjoy the manuscript and felt it was too bitter and self-deprecating. Although his father was not perfect, it was felt that he gave a particularly biased account of him. It has also been pointed out that his statements regarding his wider family may also not be correct. He was living abroad at the time and appears to have lost contact with a lot of his family and therefore was stating embellished rumours .

Please make up your own mind on the statements, taking this into consideration.

- Ryan Kriste (2011) -

• Author: An Autobiograhy. An Autobiography
William Richard West
(1896 - 1980)
On the eve of April 2nd. 1896. An observer walking through the purlieus of the East end of London would have noticed a dense and oppressive atmosphere; even the stray dogs and cats of the districts were conscious of the dense and brooding atmosphere and slunk around dust bins more slunk than usual. In a butchers shop in the neighbourhood, the master butcher of the premises was attracted by the cries of his partner who was taking the money. Wiping his hands on his apron, he left the front of the shop where he had been haranguing the passing people and trying to inveigle them to buy his rotten meat. "What the hell is the matter now said the master to his spouse". "Fred, I think I had better go upstairs, my time draws nigh". "You can't leave the bloody shop now, someone might come in for two pennyworth of cats meat while you are away. Get under the counter and be quick about it". And that is how I, William Richard West came into this world straight from Hell from where I had been ejected because Satan had become jealous of me and feared the loss of his position. He said, "I think he will be a good candidate for that other Hell which is lower than this and I can teach him nothing more. See I have had his hair curled and given him an angelic expression; no one will dream what a viper he is. But the father I have found for him! That is my revenge for the dance I have been led by this reptile. He even tried to steal one of my wives; the horn toad one that I purloined off my chief assistant. Come on, let's fit a delayed fire cracker under his napkin and launch him off on a new life with Freddie West down there. He'll lead him a dance. He was my best pupil in the last century". As I was born, the sound of the fire cracker was lost by the noise of chopping pigs heads on the shop front and as my mother emerged having dropped me in the saw dust, I was picked up by the wrapper and nearly sold in place of a pound of sausages to a customer. "Ere, she said, I saw those sausages move, I ain't bloody well going to take them, so there", so they unwrapped me and I was saved from the frying pan and a quick return to my old mentor, the devil. A pity, I think, I would have loved to have seen his face when I arrived all covered in dripping. I was taken upstairs and the saw dust was brushed off and they fumigated me, because they said that I had already begun to stink. And then my Sire came into the room, because he wanted a drink. Spying me he said, "Is that the kid, suffering cats, you have really gone to town this time, which is its arse and where's his face". "Oh Fred, cried my mother, he really is the most beautiful baby. Hold him for a minute". As he clasped me to his manly bosom, I piddled down his manly chest, for even at that age I recognised a pure bastard when I saw one; and my intuition told me that he was as pure as they came and I was in for one Hell of a time and so I was, as this sorry tale will prove to all those who have the compassion of a crow.
The following day, it commenced to rain for six weeks and nobody could find an explanation for this dismal display of inclement weather. I knew. You see, in the hurry to get me out of Hell. Satan had forgotten to have me searched and I had secreted a secret weapon that they use in the torture chamber down there. The precise nature of the weapon I am unable to disclose; suffice to say that it enables the wearer to secrete an abnormal amount of liquid that can be disposed of at will and the plain fact was that I did not like butchers' shops and I was trying to wash my fathers shop down the drain. Some future historians may cavil at this effort of mine, saying in effect, that such conduct would lead to self destruction, as, destroying my sires livelihood, I destroyed myself, But one's cerebral development is little developed at such a tender age as I was then. Suffice it to say that I met with no success and the instrument of my revenge was worn out before I achieved anything. In later life I bitterly regretted this for there have been many people that I would have dearly loved to use this thing upon and when I survey the watering part of my system at my advanced age I could cry with mortification and I suppose produce more water that way than by the orthodox manner. My father's manner did not endear him to the buying public and my early life was spent living in one place and another, all these places being butchers' shops or the dwellings attached thereto. I realise now that the cause of his failure to succeed was due to the fact that as soon as he got on to the box and started to cry, "Buy, Buy, Buy", and the crowd started to gather, his egotistical mind banished reason and he thought that he was on the stage of a theatre and that the people around him had come to worship him. All his words and actions could be resolved to mean and say, "Look at me, Freddie West; the biggest gun you have ever seen or are likely to see." So he invariably started to insult the audience by asking them if they thought that he was going to give them his meat for nothing and asked them if they thought he was a bloody fool. And if a buck navvy was so foolish as to say, "Yes mister, I think you are a bloody fool" then things ended in a fight, my father invariably coming home an easy winner. This was no doubt due to the fact that dada was half mad and on these occasions, full of beer as well. Well it seemed that this combination was very good indeed for fighting members of the working class who were, of course, well soused themselves, or my father would not have fought them could he have seen that they were able to stand up straight.
My mother was totally under this persons dominance. I could imagine it was similar to the same sort of fascination that a snake could have on some people. Seeing him in a total contradiction of all ways of life and behaviour that a normal person would have been used to; finding that people were made to listen to the tripe that he forced down their throats and they were forced to concede to it and, to his face accord him a simulated respect, she was hoodwinked into thinking that here was a man among men and not that he was a detestable blackguard, the product of a very bad environment, that was ultimately going to result in her destruction, which it did. If such a person is capable of love, he loved her, but all the total love of a sewer rat is not very great. I suppose she knew that he could not be trusted to be faithful. However, I must not forget that I am not here to act as the judge and jury of my parents and time draws a curtain over all these things that once used to be a bit irritating to my naive and sloppy, callow mind. If I have learned nothing else in this incarceration on this planet, I have certainly learned that no one can judge anyone else. One's spare time for these things can be profitably spent in self examination and if this be done fairly and thoroughly the self disgust generated cures one of the desire to be presumptuous enough to try to judge others. This is a job for gods. And even if they make mistakes it must be excusable. For, in spite of all that I have said I have often thought that there was something more to my parents than has been said. In this world of hypocrites and liars and soft spoken humbugs one sometimes finds that there could be something missing. Perhaps my people supplied this to a world parched for the want of it. And perhaps all that was wrong was that the leaven was too concentrated. Time continued to march on and I find myself moving from Walthamstow to Walworth Rd. By the Elephant and Castle. Then to Forest Gate, then to Eastleigh, in Hampshire. A peculiar experience was to befall me at the end of my stay there my mother had born her youngest son about nine months before. She had a hard time with him and at the time of his - Charlie's birth my father, irritated beyond his endurance, at having his rest disturbed by my mother's screams of anguish was adding his curses to the pandemonium that reigned. Charlie was a sickly child and one can imagine how my father must have jibed about him. I remember he was rickety and they used to give him a sort of undercooked beef tea. A few days before his birth, my father entertained my mother by trying to kick one of his horses to death. He had one hand in it's mouth and was kicking it in the stomach. As he did this the terrified horse would rear up and carry father up with him, and upon their descent the procedure was repeated, with my mother crying, "Stop it Fred". Of course my mother did not know that the only way to stop him was to shut the door behind her and then, the audience, now gone, the show would have stopped. Things like this could have interfered with the pre-natal period and caused some interference with the birth of Charlie. Of course, it wasn't necessary at that period, that a woman of quality should always be "A fine Woman". This consisted in enclosing the body in "stays" made of whalebone and steel, so that all the bodily anatomy was displaced from it's proper place. A further contribution was that around that time some relation had stayed with us and brought with him a young woman who could, at an earlier date, have been cashier at the Walworth Rd. Shop. It could have been that when staying at our place father was intimate, sexually with her, and my mother found out. Anyway, when I cam home from school on the last day of my scholastic period at this place {{Aged about 11}}, she said that "She was going to London and taking me with her". So off we set. When we arrived in London, some mental part of my mothers mind must have become deranged, for we walked for a long time without getting anywhere. We had no food. At one time she tried to sleep in an empty railway carriage at one of the London Stations, but a porter fetched a policeman and we were turfed out and continued our exploration of London. We finally landed at a house somewhere near the Old Kent Road, and from there I was taken to a pub, which could have been the Elephant and Castle, and there my father arrived and after giving me a good scrub we went back to Bishopstoke. I never saw my mother again. By now, with all the love and good treatment that had been showered upon me I had become a fine specimen of English boyhood. I could steal and lie with the best that Borstal could produce. I was crafty and cruel and it was only due to a certain mental laziness that I did not really cause my father grief by letting him see that all his care and prayers for me were abortive. Of course, he had other cares besides us children. We were mostly the care of my elder sister 'Lizzie' (who has gone at last, to reap the reward for being a slave and mother to her mother's children.) And Fred, my eldest brother, who was treated like a slave, and, when my father became wealthy was discarded like a worn out shoe. However, one cannot concentrate upon becoming a good parent if most of one's life is consecrated to daily finding the winner of the 3-30; on getting full of beer and then getting rid of it, etc. And these reasons must be, in all fairness, given if any criticism is to be made of my parent. There are other reasons of similar nature that I could bring to light (But I hope that no one would have the temerity to accuse him of any imperfection.) I digress too much! We must now pull up our roots from Basingstoke, and take a trip to Portsmouth where we dallied for a time whilst a romance, that put that of Anthony and Cleopatra in the shade was enacted between the wife of a naval officer and my father. As usual, she had to be a fine woman and she had two 9.2 naval guns in her turret, that shot an arrow through my father's heart at first sight, at point blank range. They used to visit my father, this fine couple, and dine and my father would ply this admiral, or petty officer, or stoker! Whatever the hell he was, until he became torpid. They would leave the husband to sleep it off in the other room whilst he acting as the officer of the day made a thorough inspection of her armaments and tested the ballistic properties of this man of war he had captured from the British Navy. I should revert to Basingstoke for a while and embellish the place with a fuller record of my own doings. Whilst I was there I became a member of the church choir. This was probably due to the fact that the school head master had become friendly with my father and used to call upon us and drink his beer and I suppose he thought that as he never used to reciprocate he would show this favour to my mother. This is conjecture but I can say it gave me a great opportunity to bawl out on Sundays like Basham's Bull and I suppose it was only the thought of losing the beer that made the choir master refrain from having me booted out. We were paid 3/6 or 4/- a quarter for this job and we had strict instructions that the money was not to be used for any immoral purpose such as keeping two homes and taking trips to the Continent etc. The minister's wife was a business type and thought that she could make a bit on the side if she could supply the choir boys with a sort of uniform suit. So we pestered our parents to buy us one of these things and the minister's spouse measured us up. Come the great occasion when these suits were delivered and the joy of wearing them on the next Sunday. The sleeves of my coat were about 4" too short and the short pants went about 4" past the knee. I paraded before my mother who fetched my father and I wept and said "I can't wear these" "You will you bloody calf. You pestered your mother to get them and now you bloody well will wear them." The anguish I suffered as I made my way to the church on that Sunday I suffer now as I indict these lines. When anyone appeared I hid behind trees until they had passed and when the trees gave way to shops and houses as I passed through the village, I took cover in the doorways of these places. At last I made it too the church when I found that most of the choir were similarly equipped. This relieved the tension. One would think that being constantly exposed to ridicule at an early age would case harden the mind to it but I must affirm that in my case the opposite occurred. We will now return to Portsmouth and I will recite you a tender love story. On the last occasion that these naval strategic exercises took place there was a sudden flash of light, accompanied by smoke and a person with a camera was observed to be making a hasty exit. The smoke was caused by the camera man letting off a magnesium flash which was used by the photographer to take an indoor picture of the naval exercise - Photoflash bulbs had not been discovered -. Simultaneously, the husband burst into the room. His face wreathed in smiles and he warmly clasped my father's hand and placed his other arm around his neck. "Oh, Freddie" he said, "I knew you would do the trick for me. Every time I return from duty at sea I have had to listen to tales of my wife's infidelity. The baker, milkman, postman, greengrocer, fishmonger and even the coalman have all taken what they desired. But how could I prove it? So I formulated this plan. I am afraid that I shall have to cite you as co-respondent, but after all you betrayed me. Now I can divorce this whore and have some peace of mind at last. I wish you joy with this filthy feminine dog. Come, take this half finished bottle of antiseptic which I no longer need." And that is how we gained a stepmother. In the full flush of her beauty she was a fat, simpering, china doll faced sort of a person. She soon learned to drink as much stout as father drank beer. But she crooked her little finger from the glass whilst my father gripped his glass firmly with all his fingers because years ago someone managed to grab his glass and drink the beer. My father never forgot these things. When he scowled and gripped his glass more firmly one knew that he was remembering.
As I pen these notes, the floodgates of my memory are opened wider and I think that we will now return to the Walworth Road for 'tis there that my consciousness began to fully awaken. I see my brother Harry and myself arising from our bed in the middle of the night and going into the shop on a voyage of exploration. Harry was two years my junior as the world knows time; but he was fifty years older in sin, for I remember both of us rushing to the kitchen and drawing water to put out the fire he had started by lighting the wrapping paper on the counter. For a long while I pondered over this action which seemed so stupid, but it was many years before I realised that why Harry inveigled me to accompany him was that he went down to the shop to try to find any money that might have been dropped on the floor by the till and that disappointed at getting no results that fire was the instrument of his revenge. But probably, seeing the flames rise so high and the vast quantity of paper, he must have realised that he would lose his home, as well as the parents that he would be revenged upon. So he decided that he would put out the fire. This was a great mystery the following morning. The onlookers saw the fire and the water that had extinguished it, but they could not see the reason. No one knew of Freud or Jung at the time. Had they been told the truth, they could have seen the thing as just a little escapade of two little boys playing with matches, who being so young they should have not been allowed to come into the possession of.
At this time I was given a silver watch by my father and it was not long before I worried the works with a pin so that they refused to co-operate with each other and would not indicate the time of day. I got permission to take this wrecked piece of mechanism to a watchmaker over the road from us, and I remember how hourly I marched into the shop and politely asked if the watch was ready; until in a fit of badly suppressed passion the pimply craftsman went to a glass faced case where the horological corpses were laid, and taking my watch out he gave it to me and said "Here, take your bloody watch!" The watch disappeared. I do not know what happened to it. Perhaps, in a fit of temper at the cavalier treatment the watch man afforded me, I might have flung it from me; but it was no loss, I had spent hours of contemplative enjoyment with the pin and at my age one minute more or less was of little consequence.
I was a beautiful looking child at that time and wore buttoned up boots that came almost to my knees and of course this, in the common area where we lived, was a sign of very high breeding indeed and combined with the extremely big mop of uncut hair that enframed my face like a halo, the casual onlooker could have been forgiven if he had concluded that I was an angel descended from one of Michaelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel of Rome. One bright Saturday morning my father desirous of glorifying himself in the eye's of the public that later on would be queuing up to buy his remnants of rotten meat with the few coppers that they had left from debauching their wages in the pub adjoining the shop, shied himself to the barbers and took me along with him and after having his hair cut and his moustache cut and scented brilliantine rubbed over his hair, so that as he bent to hold a joint of meat to his drunken customers the scent of his hair would drown the stink of the meat, lapsed into conversation with the loquacious knight of the scissors. "That's a beautiful child you have pupped there, ain't it Freddie". "Yes, but that bloody mop of hair makes him look like a cissie. His mother loves it like that." "Perhaps I could trim it just a little bit so the wife won't mind and then you both would be satisfied. It's a pity that you both don't love this little treasure". "What the hell. Don't you think that I am master in my own house? Cut the bloody lot off". And so the foul deed was done. Off came the flowing locks and that is the way I became a man. Then this making of men became the usual obsession that always overcame my perpetrator. There was a small smock to be made; a little butcher's steel to be got; some of the hair to be taken home to fashion a moustache for the man child. That evening, when the shop was at it's busiest and everything was seen through beer and whiskey spectacles a passer by would have been arrested by a child standing on the long stool that went across the front of the open shop on which the salesmen mounted to hold forth on the quality of their goods and display these wares to the admiring drunks that solemnly cogitated about the wise spending of the coppers they had left, by some mistake, in calculating the amount of time they would have to down the lot of their capital in booze. The child was quite drunk. For his father decided that he didn't want his customers to think that he was bringing his children up to be snobs. On the upper lip was a moustache made from the shorn locks of the morning and a thin treble was saying to the customers "Come and buy my lovely meat 4˝d a leg and 4˝d a shoulder. The sort of meat that father likes and mother enjoys. Come on there, weigh up the ladies leg". "Oh the sweet precious child, don't 'e tike arter is dad. Bless him". These and like remarks were being bartered from the old girls that thronged this butchers child. I felt like Napoleon upon capturing whatever he did, as I swayed and stropped my knife upon the steel; perhaps thinking, in a drunken way, that it was a sword and that when I had achieved sufficient sharpness I would amputate the heads of all these people that I saw through a drunken blur. My mother did not approve of the incident
And then my father became possessed of a carriage and a pair which was the same thing as today becoming the owner of a Rolls-Royce. Every Sunday if the weather was fine, the working class turned out for the chief amusement of the week end; seeing Freddie West make an exhibition of himself, leaving the residence for unknown parts in the carriage and the pair. After hours of preparation and with the crowds growing larger every minute, the great minute was the 'moment' in my father's life crystallised and we sallied forth to reap the homage of the multitude. Firstly would come from the side door of the shop the Lord of it all; looking neither right nor left, striding the short distance from the door to the equipage like a bantam cock; dressed in a grey top hat, a moustache waxed as if it were false; in the lapel of the morning coat a rose red as a harlot's lips, small feet encased in boots that shone with metallic lustre. A stern and forbidding figure warning the facetious that this was not the time to exercise their wit. He stands by the carriage waiting the appearance of my mother and his duty is to gallantly help her to the rostrum from which the driving of the horses will be done, and this is the seat of honour, and may we mention danger, also when my father is in control. When the impact of my fathers appearance has worn thin my mother sallies forth dressed in the period of her time. Her figure has been moulded by stays that would make a boa constrictor look a very feeble creature and therefore part of her stomach has been made to augment her capacious bust and the other half of her stomach has been forced where no well bred person would mention, so, that in the fashion of the day she would look like a person from Mars a very peculiar person indeed. But to the people of the period she looked like the Queen sailing along to join her gallant. The nurse, followed by the issue of the marriage next trooped into the middle of the carriage and while we settled down the occasion was sometimes spoilt by the coarse remarks of the proletariat. "Oe do eh think eh is. Bloody swank pot. Look at 'is old woman, she'll bust if she don't get out of them stays of 'ers. Go on Freddie; whip 'em up. Where'd yer get the cat's meat from Freddie?" The horses were very restive by now. They had been cooped up for a week, and the day before they had had a very good feed of oats so that they could do their part in entertaining the "governor's" public. They had a equine nature and they well knew that they were a part of the show and that they had to pay for the oats they had been fed. So as the admiring crowd gazed upon them, they tossed their flowing manes and neighed and rolled their eyeballs and did a lot of impatient stamping and they would have kicked the front of the carriage to pieces but for the fact that they have a thing to stop this pastime of horses called a crupper, or something like that. When the patience of the onlookers had reached exhaustion point it was time to wind up the business by a superb display of horsemanship. So the whip was taken from it's receptacle, the reins were held and the handbrake was taken off. The horses were treated to a touch of the whip, so that they would know who was master. For a moment there was silence. One horse looked at the other with tears in his eye's as if to say. "He whipped me", and then with distended nostrils and fire coming from their mouths there was a convulsive heave of the carriage and mother was nearly pitched from the box into the gutter as the carriage tore down the road behind the bolting horses, swaying from one side of the road to the other. The driver, really cross with this undignified display of the equines who cost him so much to feed and to be manicured, was really giving them a taste of the whip, which as he was telling the horses as they bolted would last them until he sold them for cat's meat the next day. But every thing must come to an end and eventually the horses, winded and therefore tired, settled down to, as they thought, a steady trot. But this was not to be and my father lashed them to gallop again, although they couldn't bolt anymore, saying "You pleased yourselves when you bolted, now you will please me to bolt, you bastards". He didn't blame the application of the whip when starting off. How these horses must have hated him; they being well bred? How must most people have hated him. He thinking that nothing could be done without force and invective. How must the twigs of the growth of his offspring have been bent to his personality. And my mother. What would she think of this demon that possessed her? Suppose we children had the gift of reading the future. What circumstances accrued would have undermined our fortitude to carry on with living, had we known. How wise are the Gods that we do not perceive coming events? But this mouthing must cease for a little voice murmurs to me that neither would I have been born on this planet and neither would I have had such a parent if it hadn't been necessary that this "Knife of the surgeons". My life now. -- be used to remove the things in my spiritual progression that hinder my progress. And all my father was, I have been at some time, now or in the past. I think, that in a kinder environment and with a loving father I could have broken their hearts. I have been worse than my father in previous incarnations. We are all creatures of circumstances that are devised as part of the lesson we must learn and I would like to think that now my mother and he would have found peace with each other and are
like a couple of soldiers that have returned from the war that they fought together in and laugh together at their experience. "Do you remember the carriage and pair, Fred"? Sort of thing. I don't know. Perhaps it would be better to hope that a more equitable adjustment had been made and that they had gravitated to companions more suitable to their different temperaments. When it was time to return, the horses were the only conscious part of the party, for there was the hero of the piece asleep on the box with his head supported by my mother's shoulder and the kids were out to it. The clip-clop of the horses occasionally intruded on the mind as the cavalcade wended it's way across the still streets of London town. (The horses knew their way home). As we stroll down memory lane, we find much that informs us that we were born wicked. For instance when I was very young, I went into the maid's bedroom and ransacked her box. In the box was a silver watch and this I stole and wandered down to the garden and there to a summer house, prepared to investigate the works of this fascinating thing I had found. But I must have been observed for someone screeched out. "Oh, you wicked boy, what have you stolen? Come here this instant". As I answered the summons, I remembered that in full sight, I hid the watch behind my back, childishly thinking that they would not perceive this action. No, I was too young to have been taught to steal, so it must have been part of my mental equipment that I had brought with me from my past. Or perhaps, the Devil that the parsons kid us up about to explain our rottenness had decided that he had a better start early on me as there was good material for him in me and he was right, if that is what he did think.
When we were at West Green Rd., there was a copper in the kitchen that started to smoke and
when Lizzie told my father, he said "I'll soon fix that. Bill! Go and get twopennoth of gun powder from the oil shop over the road". The old boy carefully weighed out the twopennoth and I was agog with interest to follow the proceedings. Father wrapped the powder in a lot of paper and bunged it into the copper fire, closed the door and we waited. There was a resounding Whoosh, the distemper flaked and a picture depicting a butchers idea of a love idyll fell off the nail in the kitchen and the glass was broken. The following day after much cogitating, I went to the oil shop and said that father wanted another twopennoth of gun powder as the other lot wasn't powerful enough and could he please give him a bit of overweight to compensate for the disappointment of the failure, but of course, I used kids' jargon, halting and falling over my speech as kids do. So the old bloke put another spoonful in as he was a bit benevolent. With some other kids gathered from the side street I initiated them into the ways of gun powder and recited the tale of the copper and told them what I proposed to do. I got an empty meat preservative one gallon jar and, making sure that it was dry, I put most of the powder into the jar. The remainder I made up in the form of a fuse by making a thin trail of powder and wrapping it longitudinally in a piece of paper. This I placed in the mouth of the jar and, making sure that the way to the partition door between the slaughter house where we were and the passage that led from it to safety was clear, I tremblingly applied a match to the experiment. We dashed for safety to the door and closed it swiftly. Nothing happened, so back I went and had another go. This time the fuse started to sputter and I rushed to the door and as I slammed it shut it was shaken violently by a terrific explosion. Us kids gazed at each other with consternation and with one accord we bolted down the street. About two hours later, when I had recovered and gone over the lies I was going to tell if questioned a dozen times. I went back to the house and entered by the side door and after a few minutes I wandered down to the slaughter house. By an act of parliament it was necessary to lime wash this place every year, the accumulation of fifty years lay all over the ground. No sign of broken pottery was visible but otherwise the place was a shambles with all the filth of the walls on the floor. I went to the house and not a thing was said about what happened and I was thankful that they imagined that someone had tried to blow up the place for revenge or something. That old oil man certainly knew how to weigh twopennoth of gun powder.
About this time, the clock in the kitchen stopped working and one Saturday night, as this clock was the time keeper for my father who looked at it on his way down to void his bladder, which he found necessary about every half an hour to make way for the copious intake of beer that he found necessary to sustain his life, I thought that, as the self appointed clock repairer of the family, that I had better get it going for him. So off it came from the mantelpiece and soon the working parts were on display on the paper covered table. "What the hell are you doing with that clock", says papa as he sees the operation in progress. "Thought that you would like me to get the old clock going for you dad." Says I. "Well you had bloody well better now you have interfered with it". These rude words distress children and I started to think that perhaps there would be trouble if I could not make the thing operate. I managed to get all the wheels in their right places and wound the clock up, but it wouldn't keep ticking. Of course there had to be a lot of ferocious glaring when my sire came through on his half hourly pilgrimage to the drain and I think that it was due to this that my usually keen mechanical brain suffered a relapse. I was desperate for oil for the works, but all I had access to was some oil from the refrigerator, that was, as I now realise, far too thick for such a delicate piece of mechanism, it being largely laced with glycerine so that it wouldn't freeze in the compressor cylinder. But I had to get the time piece working so that I could bask in the sunshine of my father's approbation and I have always been a good tryer and rather resourceful, even though I say it myself. There was always a lot of dripping around the house for we were largely fed on this nutritious food and as none of us had died yet from over lubrication of the intestinal tract I thought that it must be jolly good stuff for a big family to live on and as my parents set such value on this animal fat, I thought how pleased would be dad if I could find yet another virtue in this substance that he trusted so much to sustain the life of his loved children. It was difficult to apply the dripping to the works because it was winter and the viscosity of the dripping was therefore rather low, which is a scientific way of saying that the dripping was hard. But I have, I fear, in rather a boastful way, mentioned that I had a resourceful mind and I decided that if I heated it up on the stove it would be more fluid and I could apply the lubricant with ease. This deduction turned out to be correct, but it was rather difficult to handle, because as soon as I dipped the skewer in the hot dripping it became hard too soon because I had no apparatus to keep the skewer at the requisite temperature whilst performing the delicate operation of anointing the wheels. I was thinking very hard all this time and at last I concluded that the only way to really get the lubricant everywhere where it was needed was to pour the hot dripping over the entire works and I did this, hardly being able to wait until I had done so, so eager was I to see the clock merrily ticking away and to hear my father grunt, "Well, you made it go after all". And I managed to coin the answer that I would give - modest but confident, but not appearing to show off, kind of answer -. By the time I had put the works into a case a startling transformation had taken place. It was like the trick of a magician. Where a minute before there had been a gleaming frame of brass holding the polished wheels and spindles of the works it seemed that by some sleight of hand someone had substituted a pound of solid dripping and I knew that I would have to shake the clock very hard indeed if I was going to get it going for Pa-pa's next visit of inspection. I must digress to remark that although it cannot be denied that young people can think things out there is not the ability to spread out their thinking so that all the pros and cons so to speak are taken into account. Now that I have reached mature years I realise that if the clock had been kept in the kitchen oven the dripping would have kept thin and perhaps dripping used like this could be a good thing to put on a clock if you didn't want to tell the time and that many bosses who are plagued with what they call, clock-watching employees would pay a good price for a dripping oiled sort of a clock. But, as I have just said, the more mature mind of age comes into action and one then concludes that the unions that are communistically inspired would paralyse industry by calling strikes. Even now I am sometimes plagued, in the still hours of the night, when I review all the sins of omission and commission that I have committed as to whether I sinned that day or stopped too soon because I might have been on the verge of a discovery that would have astonished the horological world. But Pa-pa, wasn't an intellectual; in his primitive mind was planted all he wanted to know about clocks and that was 'A' clock either went and told the time or it didn't; and he would not, I knew, be prepared to listen to any reasoned argument that would dispel these fixed ideas (ONE of the curses of the aged). There stands the clock back on it's shelf. To all purposes it looks as good as new, but there is not the merry tick that I was to astonish my father with. I have no feeling of guilt when I am to come before my father at the next drain inspection visit. There is a little apprehension that he will not see eye to eye, so to speak, with the jargon that I have decided to dish out to him. But after all, I have done my best and I have proved that I have the ability to think things out and making use of the only tools I had for the job, I logically used them to the best advantage. And so I bolster myself up and sit there smirking with satisfaction, prepared for perhaps a little show of mild irritation and disappointment that he still won't know the time yet. I hear the hurried tramp of his fast moving feet, as if he is anxious to tell the time and I am filled with foreboding because I have just remembered that he can get very cross when he likes. There he stands looking at the clock. He listens, then he glares at me. In dignified silence I wait as he takes the clock from the mantelpiece and opens the little back door. There's a howl of rage and the clock recoils from it's impact to the floor. "You bugger," he yells. "You stinking rotten bugger". As I make my exit from the sordid uncontrolled exhibition of temper, I think "It'll be a long time before I fix another clock up again for you; you ungrateful beast," grown people don't realise how sensitive a little innocent child can be, when they have such unappreciative ways in their treatment of these innocent creatures. Surely a modern psychologist would have said to my father. "Mr. West, you were wrong to have raved at your little boy, you might embitter his life for ever by such cruel treatment. You should have got him another clock to play with and then he would love you, but now he dislikes you. You have given him a complex and he won't want to help you next time". And my father would have said, "That's what I wanted to do; make him leave things alone that he does not understand, you silly sod. Yah! Go and open another block in a hospital for the scatty children that are queuing to fill it up through the teachings of people like you. You ought to be in a 'rat house' yourself."
It is breakfast time. A bell shrills through the house. Lizzie goes to answer the madam's summons. "Send Will to me she says". And I go up stairs to obey the summons of the fat queen. "I want you to get me a rasher of bacon for my breakfast. You must tell the man that there must be no bone and not too much fat, about twice as much lean as fat would be about right and if he would trim the rind off before he weighs it, I would like him to do so. You must watch him weigh it and don't pay more than two pence." And now we have arrived at the bacon shop and I go to the counter and with a red face I start to make the spiel as instructed. "Just a minute youngster", the shopman says. "You're one of Freddie West's kids ain't yer". Then he goes to the frontsman and I hear him say to him. "Come and listen to this kid's ditty. He wants a 2d. rasher of bacon and you should hear how the old cow has worded him up. The bloody fat stinking bitch". Hearing this, all's right with me again and the scalesman is my friend for life, for we have in an instant of time proved that we are one together. So the next time, when I have to again go through the Gethsemane of the 2d. rasher, I shout out to the shopkeeper. "Another 2d. rasher for the old cow, same as before". Lizzie, after the rat called George was born, which Liz had to mother, used to dunk the kidneys or whatever she was frying for the cow's breakfast in little George's piddle and no doubt it was fitting that in some way like this, contempt sufficient to ease the burden on Lizzie's soul could be released.
Poor old Lizzie. She was the nurse, the house keeper, the char lady, the cook and on Saturday night, the cashier. Desirous of escaping she made a match with a young Italian next door, one of those soft drink shops come café sort of things, and they married. But it was not to be. The husband had a row with his partner and in a fit of rage Lizzie's husband grabbed a shot gun and blew his partners head to pieces. He made his escape over our flat slaughterhouse roof and he was never seen again. That left Lizzie robbed of her freedom for there was no proof that this man was dead. There was a rumour that during the first war he had joined up in the Italian army. She lived with a one legged tailor for years; had children by him, but of course never married. She escaped one form of slavery to be caught up in another, she was, in spite of her overwork, a beautiful woman, and now that she has gone from this planet I hope the Gods spoil her with love, for she knew it not here.
Fred, my eldest brother, was the man of all work and he too had all the guts squeezed out of him by my father, and when he left him, he collapsed like a rotten carrot for without the driving force of his father he was useless, like an old dog that aquires a new master; and this master might be more kind, yet the old dog cannot transfer his loyalty that has for too long been in the wrong place.
Harry, my youngest brother was the real crook of the family. I don't think he was by my mother. I think he was a side issue from the surreptitious philandering of Dada with a cashier or something, for he was a lower type, if you can imagine anything lower than me. Like Charlie, but different mentality. A real dyed in the wool thief born and bred to it as you could say. It was he who put us up to robbing the old man's pockets as they were hanging on the bed post. About 12 P.M. Lily, Harry, and I would gather outside the parent's bed room and commence to study the breathing pattern of these two. When it was judged to be of the right type we crept forth one at a time and placing our childish hands in the pocket where the coins were, we had a dip in the lucky bag. Perhaps it would be 2/- or half a crown. I, personally, would, the next evening, proceed to Liverpool Street Station with some kids and then we would buy a fresh cooked crab from the fish shop and crawl around the station eating it. But the game got hotter; for Harry discovered where they hid the till interior when they went away for the week end. It was in the front room over the shop, on top of a built in cupboard by the fire place. To get to it, it was necessary to place one foot on the arm rest of an arm chair and then place the other foot on the edge of the over mantle. This over mantle carried a lot of French bric a brac. There were three enormous glass covers enclosing, in the centre a highly ornate French clock with cupids and things in enamel and gilt and the two side pieces carried a similar lot of trash; one then grasped the moulding of the cupboard top and hanging precariously, heaved up on one hand and with the other grasped whatever came to ones hand. Well, this day I went through the usual preliminaries and was just heaving up for the grab when the overmantle came away from the wall and down crashed the whole lot of ornaments and the big domed glass centrepiece was smashed to fragments. Oh, the shock I had as I gazed at the shattered remains. I should have thought that the parents would have had more sense than to put this thing up so insecurely. This happening might have given me night terrors for years and so warped my personality that I would have had to undergo psychiatric treatment, if there were such things in those days. I felt that at least I should have gone to the child welfare organisation. But I knew my father was too stupid to know how to knock a nail in a wall securely, so I did nothing about it; I didn't even mention it to him. They could not prove anything but on the next occasion, when he had a row, he said. "Another thing, I know it was you that busted the bloody ornaments off the mantelpiece in the front room, I knew when I saw you playing with those toys where you got the money from". And that was funny, because I got the money from Fred and Lizzie, because round that time Xmas came along and they had been thinking that they would treat us kids to something as no one ever did. So, if I had made a song and dance about that, father might had thought that they had pinched the money, for I can't imagine that they were given so much in wages that they would have any to spare on us kids. So I had to take it. And now I must say that that was no hardship, for my father never hurt me with his hands more than a flea. Yes, he raved and swore but never struck me, and when I chucked a chopper at my stepmother and it missed and stuck in the wooden door behind her and wanted a bit of pulling out, when she made him take action. I would swear that my terrific yells satisfied him, so that although he came armed with a ferocious expression and a riding crop, I never suffered physically. A very queer lot were the West's. I must have exerted a soothing influence upon him! Yes, the chopper incident was funny. She had a son of her first husband living with us and he was preferentially treated by her and we were afraid to wallop him because of her squawking to father. But one day I walloped him just for the hell of it and in spite of her efforts my father did not seem interested, so when he was at market she arrived in the slaughter house armed with a cane. "I am going to punish you for hitting Bernard", she said; and whoosh, along came the chopper that was being used by me to chop up the fat for some more dripping, which, as mentioned before was our staple article of diet. Ah! I thought, because nothing has happened to you for all the rottenness that you have been practising on us you have put yourself in a false position. Now you will know that your hate is returned. She bolted out of the joint like a cut cat. Of course instinct warned me to go blubbering into the house where she could hear my anguished cries of pain. And I was sobbing. "he 'it me, He 'it me…". I can tell you how mutual was the smug look she gave me when next we met. "Whore".
I forgot to say, in "The gunpowder plot" tale that the parent's bed room opened upon the roof of the slaughterhouse and the window would have let in the full blast of the explosion.
Round this period I began to study electricity, because I had found that I could get a shock from the wet board of the switchbox. One day. When I was making sausages, I thought, what a joke it could be if I connected a wire to the rack where reposed the sausages and then got some one to steal some of them. A small crowd of vermin that used to come into the sausage factory that I was the lord of were let into the secret and I fixed the wire and then kidded a simple soul of their ilk to commit the crime. He was a naturally honest type and he had to be encouraged a lot before he took on this deed. Whilst he was distracted by some artifice, we hid ourselves and then waited. Slowly and furtively he appeared on the scene armed with a knife. As soon as he made contact with the wet sausages he jumped and howled like a dervish and we fools were so startled by the wild display of human energy that we took no action to cut off the juice. He went as near to electrocution without it happening as ever a person did. When he was finally free he sat whimpering in a state of utter collapse. It was a dastardly thing to do, and my only excuse, was that I had no idea at all of the dangerous nature of the experiment. A short time after this the little Gods thought that I had better be punished, so. I was told to paint the window box that surrounded the window of the bed room where my parent slept which overlooked the slaughterhouse roof. It began to get dark and as I knew that I was expected to finish this chore that night I thought that I had better fix up a light. I hunted around for a piece of wire that I could connect to the switch below and a lamp holder, but I could only find enough for one single run, and then I thought that if I connected the other part of the lamp holder to the lead roof then I could get a circuit. I did this and the light came on and I thought how clever can I be to do such wonderful things and while I painted by the light that I had so wonderfully brought into being. I was mentally congratulating my ego for its cleverness. And then I thought that I would shift the light to a more advantageous position, so I grabbed the earthed side of the lamp holder and the little Gods laughed fit to bust their sides, as I tore it from the roof and thereby mad myself the conductor for the lamp; holding the bare wire in my hands and screaming "Turn it off, turn it off". But there was no one to hear my anguished cries and I thought that I would soon be dead as the awful alternations of the voltage stood me up paralysed so that I was as stiff as a ram rod. I knew that I had the wire in the right hand but I could not unclasp the fingers. But the Gods have always been kind to me and by a miracle I was released for the thing that was killing me ceased and I have never tried to electrocute my friends since. I sometimes wonder whether I have ever got entirely rid of the surplus energy that I took aboard that night and whether my children have had a bit of it transmitted to them. I have hinted that the madam was an expert money saver where the diet of little children was concerned, but even she knew that people cannot live on dripping alone. So about every two months or so I was commissioned to go up the Holloway Road and purchase a seven pound pot of alleged mixed fruit jam, costing I/3d. This trip must have been about seven miles and of course there was no fare. I used to do the trip on roller skates and it was quite eventful barging into people on the way back and hugging this stone pot of excreta to my chest as if it contained all the "Unnumbered gems of Arabia". And it would have been that to the madam had I broken it. But the madam had some form of self made justice that was not inscribed in "The laws of the Medes and Persians" for she reasoned that if she could save money by poisoning the offspring of my father's first marriage, she was entitled to pocket it, so she surreptitiously opened a banking account, perhaps to tide her over a possible accident to her sexual organs, when if for any reason they had failed my father would have no further use for her. I read, that in the last war the Japanese supplied for the use of their soldiers who had no access to harlots, rubber women that could be inflated with hot water and used as a substitute for the act of procreation. It is a pity that these things couldn't have been invented before their time so that my father, like the madam, could have also practised the economy with other things than the mixed fruit jam. I think Liz' discovered the bank book hidden away in one of those tin deed boxes that a child could open and it was so arranged by Fred and Liz' that the old man should come upon this damaging piece of evidence that madam didn't really love or trust the old man. Oh, the recriminations, the cursing, the tears on the part of madam who was trying unsuccessfully to make her tale ring true; which was that she was only saving for perhaps a rainy day when despair shaking my father's heart at his failure in business she would go to her little tin box and say, "Take it all, I did it for you Fred", and him bellowing out "You did it for your bleeding self, you bloody cow". But it failed really, for he could not play the game of the outraged husband for long. As soon as he was reminded of his own tricks and infidelities, reason would give him tolerance and she would be smirking and sick making soon after. For, whatever she could do, I am sure that he could do it better, as they say in the song. There used to be an inefficient refrigerator compressor in the slaughterhouse that periodically used to want packing round the piston rod and my brother Fred was the chief engineer in charge of it. Fred had had mumps for weeks and he had become the butt of father for his neck was very badly swollen and it must have been hell to be out of bed let alone working like a horse. Well, this refrigerator had to blow it's packing and poor old Fred had to pack the gland. The gland nut was a big bronze castellated thing weighing about six pounds and immediately under it was the cross head that pushed the rod up and down. Fred, worn out, was resting the left hand on the cross head and undoing the nut with the other, and probably, because he was so run down, he had forgotten to release the oil pressure on the oil bottle. The nut's nearly off now, only two or three threads to go, when bang comes down the pressure from the oil bottle, off comes the nut and off comes Fred's little finger at the first joint. They take him to the hospital and when he returns there's no sign of the swelling and the mumps have disappeared. They found the bit of finger laying on the cross head and father packed it up and sent it to uncle Bill at Walthamstow for a joke. Extremely funny, don't you think? I see myself making the sausages for the week end trade out of the fat heap that would have been sold to the soap manufacturer if we didn't make sausages out of it. The bread was obtained from a bakery and they got it from their dustbins for it was covered in green mould. I was about 15 at the time and the job nearly drove me mad. The motor for driving the chopping machine was mounted on a wooden bench and it was very resonant and every time one started this thing up it was as if all the hounds of hell were let loose. I hear the wailing noise now and if I sounded this noise in your ear, you would faint with fright. So there I am being driven mad by the noise this thing makes and fashioning, for the Saturday night customers, that will be so drunk that they will not know what they are getting, some of the most horrid food that ever the devilish mind of man could devise. The main constituents were mouldy bread and rotten fat with a generous helping of ground ginger to mask the smell of putrefaction. There were the trimmings from joints of meat that had gone mouldy and those batches that had that in them were the best flavoured of the lot for it gave them a punch that the purely fat ones had not. No one bought these abominations, they were used to balance the scales in the quick trade that was done on Saturday night, when a Dutch auction was gone through as the pub opposite turned out it's customers and they were faced with the problem of providing the joint for the week end with the few remaining coppers they had left. Supposing the joint weighed 4lbs 3 ounces; the scalesman would put a sausage on the joint and say, "There you are lady, 4lbs and a half, with a nice sausage for the old man's breakfast". I have seen the gin soaked mothers, open the package and give the raw sausage to a child held to their bosom. Talk about antibiotics and all that modern gup they talk about. They say, "That out here (Rhodesia) the old way with children was to treat them rough and if they didn't survive or got ill they bashed their heads out on a rock". Well they did the same thing really in the old days in the slums only their technique was different. But of course, if the customer wasn't looking, when they got home the sausage had disappeared for it had been brushed off on its way to the wrapper and would be used many times until some customer bawled out "Here, where's the bloody sausage", and then, with profuse apologies the sausage was retrieved from the back of the scale. There were frequently fights between my father and the customer and what with the eternal shouting of the wares and the incessant injunctions to 'Buy, buy, buy', it was a proper hell's brew that went on from about 8 p.m. until midnight or after. When the shop was closed about 1 or 2 a.m. everyone foregathered round my father to listen to his boastings that they had heard every Sunday morning for so long, but from which there was no escaping if one wanted to have the last drowning of beer for the day. One Sunday morning he decided to sack one of his workmen for the reason that he had been blowing the gaff on father and his doings in the days when he had worked for years back and Fred, the dirty dog had squealed to the old man. "There you are Sam" said father. "That's your wages for this week and here's another week's wages and I don't want to see you again". Sam, was shocked, "May I ask governor what you are sacking me for?" And then the old man started to tell Sam that his son had told him that he had been blowing the gaff about him and his escapades of the old days. Days that were dead and finished with. Oh! He knew he hadn't been perfect, but those things were finished with and he had long ago turned over a new leaf and was able to hold up his head with the best of them; and so on, ad nauseum.
Suffering cats, I thought, if he's turned over a new leaf, what a terror he must have been. There were complaints of short weight constantly being made to the weights and measures dept. and the inspector got a customer to go in the shop and buy a piece of meat while under observation and then they came in and weighed the joint in front of the old man and it was a fair cop as they say, in the thieves argot. Father found out that the man lived up the turning over the road from us, so the following Sat. night, or rather Sun. morning, they went into conclave as to the method of punishment to be awarded this miscreant, for as father said at the time, "They couldn't expect to get fair weight when he sold the meat so cheaply". Various suggestions were made but they were not practicable. I then suggested that it would be a good idea to crawl up to the house, put some carbide of calcium in the letter box and then pour some water through the box. "And what the hell would that do", says father. "I'll get some and show you", I said. So I gave a demonstration, very pleased indeed to be the centre of attraction for a little while. When I had finished and everyone was poisoned by the fumes, father was most enthusiastic and the job was put into commission right away. Father was in the lead, Fred followed him, then there were two or three assistants following, with myself taking the rear. Surely there were people looking at this cavalcade as we wended our stealthy way up the road? So the letter box was quietly opened and the pieces of carbide dropped through the letter box, about 1/2lb. Of the muck; the water was poured on top of it and then we retreated. But the next week end more direct actions were undertaken. Having heard nothing about our doings, my father concluded that things had misfired and he was nothing, if not thorough; so they took up some empty beer bottles and flung them through the windows and my father was so wound up that he stayed outside after the job was done preaching to the invisible audience about the evils of trying to intimidate honest tradesmen like him. Well, remember that just before this he had made a sermon to the chap he sacked to the effect that he had turned over a new leaf. I ask you, what sort of a person could he have been before salvation? On the corner opposite, the same side of the road, there was an oil man's shop and the old patriarchal whiskered owner had two sons working for him at the time. Now the eldest of these two sons was a big muscular person that was not afraid of father, also he had the gift of repartee that was superior to father's and as it did not contain so many swear words to the square inch he was able to flatten the old man with a greater economy of words and the onlookers often awarded the bronze medal of approbation to this oil man's son by smirking more at the old man than at the oil merchant. This infuriated my parent and he was forced to use more subtle measures to get even with this upstart. So they concocted an advertisement which they sent to the offices of the Daily Chronicle for publication in the Situations Vacant column. A good wage for a shop assistant at that time would be about 30/-s. a week. "Wanted - Assistant for oil shop. Must be hard working and trustworthy , 4-10-0 per week and house and light provided free". On the eve of the advert, the street was crowded, for the applicants came from miles around in answer to this ridiculous bait and it was a great problem for the police to keep the road clear for traffic. It was a dirty trick to play on people. And so I could go on and on. It was not the kind of 'twig bending' that one would think could produce worthy citizens for the great new world that was to dawn that was to be heralded in by the biggest blood bath that Europe had ever experienced. Snigger!!
But my time was running out. Madam's propaganda was meeting with some success and I fear that I was assisting her by my lack of respect to papa. So, one bright morning after a pretty hectic week, father called me to him and giving me a cutting from the situations vacant in the Daily Chronicle and three pence for the tram fare, he said, "Here go to this place and see if they will give you the job". The job, was for a butcher's boy at High Street, Stoke Newington. To push a tricycle round the town and side streets, get orders for meat, come back to the shop and deliver them when made ready. In between, one helped round the shop, serving at the cooked meat counter, boning out meat, etc. Oh! The joy of being able to eat the beautiful cooked ham and pressed beef and real saveloys and German sausage; I thought that I would bust. It was there that I first met your mother, for she was the daughter of the manager and I am not going to put on the record anything about that. But it was with her brother that I agreed, together with another young assistant in the shop, to go to Australia under the immigration scheme then in being. I think that it was only , 2 or , 3 deposit that one had to pay to obtain a passage. The balance due was to be refunded upon getting a job and the sum was only about , 10 or so. I think now would be a good time to get away from this sordid tale of my happy childhood and seek pastures new and hope that all our troubles will vanish and that soon we will be permitted to live, repair our ego and find out how the rest of the world live. How good are the little God's that they withhold all the future from us and let us not preview the sordid state of the programme that we are to complete before the days of regeneration are to come? "A man went to hell and the devil said, "Come on in. It's all very simple. See those doors there. Have a look, see and choose which joint you would like to be in". In the first door they were all standing on their heads so the man said, "let's have a look next door" and in there they were sitting round drinking tea. So he said "I'll go in here". No sooner was he domiciled then a whistle blew and a voice roared and said "on your heads" and they inverted themselves and the floor was covered in excreta." And one can't escape this life thing either. The road has to be trodden that was allocated for us in the beginning.
One day, Bert, Elsie's brother said, "Sid, how about us going to Australia"? And without any further thought, I said "All right, I'll go with you and Bowles. Bowles was another shop assistant that worked with us. Bert made the arrangements and beyond finding the , 2 deposit for the fare, the balance to be paid from the first wages received when we got a job in the country, I gave no further thought until, one day I found myself waiting at the Tilbury Docks to board the P.O. Liner (Branch) "Benalla". A sturdy craft of about 12,000 tons. We were ushered to the fore part of the ship and there we found, down the first deck, the wooden partitions that were divided into cabins that held about six berths. It was comfortable enough and we soon settled down to enjoy a sailor's life for about six weeks. There, with all the leisure in the world one was able to study the human element in all it's ramifications. One fellow was addicted to drinking bottles of Chlorodyne and he could be seen at all hours of the day opening his little case and licking round the top of this very powerful anodyne. He had a very pale face and had a big revolver in the case next to the small bottles of Dr. Collis Brown's Chloradyne. The drug really had got a hold on him. Another fellow had a case full up with woodbines and these he smoked incessantly. But he was a fine big chap and they were apparently harmless enough to him. The lies we told about our ancestry and our experiences would have filled volumes. We were a very callow lot. But after a week of doing nothing but lying to each other we became very bored with the life and when a seaman told some of the immigrants that the hold under ours was full of Wolfes Schnapps in cases full of little bottles of this potent gin, much thought was given to the digestion of this information. Look-out men were chosen as were hatch men and unloaders and on one bright night "operation cargo broaching" went into full swing and many of the cases were brought up to be studied and sampled. There was enough Gin floating round the crew and passengers for a week and those that really liked Gin had enough of it to last them for a very long time; that is if insensibility from which there was no awakening until the bout had worn itself out was the yard stick. In the cabins, the morning after the robbery took place were dead people and on the deck under blankets were human corpses, alive but yet dead to the world. Every one seemed to be drunk that one met and although the sea was calm, the gait of most of the walkers that could walk was reminiscent of those at sea facing the worst storm in memory. The captain was evidently a man of huge discretion for he made no appearance upon the scene until the debauchery had died down and the, when the drinkers were walking about with their tongue's hanging out, dry and swollen he came down to the cabin deck and said that he knew all about the happenings and that if anything like this happened again, he would treat the whole of the immigrants as mutineers, turn the fire hoses on them and batten the hold down until we reached port. Perhaps he was bored too and had had a few bottles from the adventure for he didn't seem very angry, also it was supposed to be very good gin and could have been a good substitute for. "Yoh Ho and a bottle of rum". And the captain could have been, in a former reincarnation a sea pirate that knew a good gin when he saw it. I had no part in this deed. I could not lower my principles to steal booze. Had the cargo been gold coins, I would have been one of the ring leaders. The sip of the gin that I took tasted like varnish to me and I thought that the escapade was childish; to steal gin; how humble a prey. We docked in Melbourne and then we marched up to the immigration offices in Flinders Street, where the jobs with a travelling voucher and railway ticket were given to us. There also we parted, the three butcher boys never to meet this side of life again. Bowles was a very refined sort of boy and I heard that he married a farmer's daughter which wasn't so clever, for out there the farmers work harder than the horses. Filled with high adventure and with not a bean in the pocket, I sallied forth to the railway station on my new adventure. I think the name of the place I was to come to was 'Cowangie'. For the first fifty miles or so the railway was normal and then as I continually changed my train as we went farther and farther from civilisation there was a steady deterioration in the transport facilities and, making a long story short I eventually came to the last leg of my journey after about three days of starvation and travelling. This last train that took me to the "Eldorado of my dreams" was composed of carriages that had no glass in the windows and the dust covered everything and everyone. The carriages were loose coupled to each other with three links of long chain and every time the train stopped there was a terrific jerk and clashing that would have frayed the nerves of anyone. The track had become a single one and the pace was about an average of about six miles an hour. Periodically the train stopped to get up some steam for an ascent of a foot or so, or the driver stopped the cavalcade to allow a cow to cross the line. The passengers were now a very seedy lot, composed of for the most part of bush farmers and sundowners. The usual topic was water and how to get some where there was none. I nearly got into a fight when an argument started as to which was the best make of windmill for a place where there was no wind. Listening to these people in a sort of dream state and expecting to die of starvation at any time now, I had heard dimly the names of people who made windmills and I said "Oh, the so and so is the best". And then they directed all their venom on me. "Someone ought to punch you on the nose". Said one whiskered 'old out-back' and then, finding that he had a sucker, he started to spar up and I thought, I hope he kills me first blow and puts me out of my misery. And then, one man who thought that he would save my life, interceded and said. "Leave him alone, can't you see that he's only a bloody 'pommie' (This is the name they gave to Britishers). How often do we do what we think is the right thing, when if we did know all, we would not do these things? This saviour that entered my life at this time, could he not have been my biggest enemy? By preventing my demise at this time did he not make me take the bitterest cup of my life that any has known. Death would have come easily, for I was three quarters there already; starved, bored, and longing for the butcher's shop, with the delectable pork luncheon sausages, the York ham and saveloys and the pea pudding and boiled pork. But the way has to be taken and so I had to travel the path and soon we were to come to the end of the one path; that of the railway.
We stopped at my destination. There was a tin shanty where was stored anything the train delivered. Nailed to the wall was a tin cylinder that had a red flag on a stick and there was a notice above the tin that said "Take the flag from the tin and wave it, if you want to stop the train". This was of course 'pure bull' for by the time the train had reached this place the thing was going so slowly and had been for the last fifty miles, that you could have boarded her and put your luggage aboard unconscious that there was motion. Standing at the side of the track there was a trap sort of thing bound together by fencing wire and between the unlevelled shafts there was a sort of horse that was all bones and had all the sorrow of the world in his eyes as he pensively gazed upon me. The occupant of this 'Charon's' Vehicle was a whiskered man of, what I took to be about fifty years of age, but who later turned out to be about thirty years old. Well, I thought, this can't be the man I want, so I waited with this man watching me. At last he shouted "A'int you the young man come to work for me"? "Well", I said "I have a letter from the government addressed to a Mr. -------". "That's me", he said. "Jump in, we've wasted enough bloody time already, let's get home and do some work" So I staggered up into the seat and with strict abjurations to the hoss to get a bloody move on or he would kick the daylight out of it we started to amble along the track with the equipage creaking and the trap swaying so that it was necessary to keep a good grip of the sides. The spokes were very loose in the hub of the wheels and they creaked alarmingly. "You don't look as if you could do a day's work young man, you are too fat", was the opening gambit of the conversation that dragged out the journey of about fifteen miles. And then, because we ran over a fat snake that was about ten feet long, he started to discourse about snakes. I was terrified. According to him, if one got bitten by most of them the only thing to do was to chop off the part as soon as possible. And he gave me the details of self amputations that he had been indulged in for the last few years. "Then of course there is the hoop snake". He said. "Wh-aats that"? I said. "Oh, he puts his tail in his mouth and bowls himself along towards you. He's damn fast too and steers himself right on you and as soon as he gets up to you he bites you on the arse and down you go, and you never get up again, I can tell you". Black snakes, blue snakes, pink snakes, horned snakes, snakes with legs, thick snakes, thin snakes. My world became a nest of snakes blotting out the sun and the sky. I was swooning with fright when the horse stopped and we had arrived to what was home to him. And there it stood basking in the sun. This baronial home of my employer. This jewel set in the heart of the wild Australian bush. Rearing up to the sky were - well at least ten feet high - were ten gum poles and on top of the poles was a crazy lattice of poles that compromised the roof. This was covered with corrugated iron. The walls were formed by old grain and artificial manure bags split open and sewn together and they were nailed to the poles. At one end of the place there was an open fire place and stone pieces had been arranged to prevent the fire burning down the wall. A piece of the roof iron had been formed to make a chimney. The place was divided into two halves by a wall made of the same material as the outside wall. The floor was earth. The door was made of packing case wood. Outside the ground was bare and sandy. There was no sign of growing vegetables and no chickens disturbed the ground. The sun beat down with unremitting fury. I asked for a drink of water and he gave me an old jam tin and indicated an old iron tank about a quarter full of brackish water. "Help yourself". He said with a generous gesture; but when I filled the tin the second time he told me to take it easy as water wasn't so plentiful as all that. I was living only for bed and sleep and when this time came he pointed to a tent at the side of the bag house and said that this would be my habitat, but that I would have my meals at the house. So I crept under the door and gingerly looked under the bunk and all round the floor obsessed with the fear of finding a snake. At last, having investigated between the blankets I got to sleep and was awakened while the stars were still in the sky by the raucous voice of the land baron bawling out that it was time to get up and do some work. After we had made a breakfast of bread and tinned jam he said come outside and said "I'll show you what to do". Walking some distance he came to a veritable forest of high gum trees and he said he wanted these trees chopped down for he was going to do some fencing as soon as I had chopped down a hundred or so and had then cut them into ten foot lengths and then split them down to form fencing standards. Thinking that he was a humorist I grinned to let him see that I could take a joke and said, "But what do you want me to do really"? He became furious, and indicated that I was to do exactly what he had told me to do. But not of course in the beautiful English prose and lyrical sentences that you find me writing this autobiography in. For my employer could not read or write and was a stupid lummox to boot, for he had engaged himself in a task that was an impossibility for him to fulfil, for later I found that the annual rainfall was negligible and one could easily die of thirst in the district. Indeed I nearly proved this when I got lost myself one afternoon and tramped all the afternoon and night through the bush and in the morning I came upon an old cart track that providence had led me to and choosing the right road instead of the left, which brought me to habitation instead of death, for had I taken the other way there was nothing to come to but bush with no people at all to come across. I think we had better get back to the trees now. The farmer gave me an axe and said with sarcasm, "I suppose you can use this" and he had a fit when I said that it was the first time that I had clapped eye's on the thing. He demonstrated and told me to have a go. The axe was very blunt and I couldn't hit in the same place twice which is a great defect for successful tree cutting. But eventually I got going, but that night I noticed large blisters that had formed on the palm of the right hand and they were beginning to feel sore. I thought that in the morning I would be able to have a rest for my back and arms when I showed my boss these signs of toil. But when he viewed the blisters he said "Yes, you were bound to get them, carry on till the skin gets hard and then you won't get any more". About an hour of chopping produced the most exquisite agony, as the blisters burst one by one and the handle became a red hot iron bar which was remorselessly burning my hand to bits.
A month found me an utterly different creature from the person that had first landed in this part of the woods. All the fat was burnt out of my body and I was as fit as a fiddle and I used to climb trees for the hell of it and I think the boss was dubious about bawling too loud at me any more. Later on he asked me to take his twelve bullocks down to the bore hole run by the government about four miles away as they hadn't had a drink for a long time and in spite of the fact that I had been felling trees, when one animal decided to stray from the path, although I knew that it would have returned to the company of it's fellows, I chased it to a stand still until cornered by me we stood with heaving lungs both blown out of wind. Lost again with the bullock, I had the sense to follow him back to the track. But, thirsty though he was he led me back to the homestead and later on the rest of the troupe wandered back, none of whom had had a drink. When I told him what had happened he was annoyed and said that I knew that the stray would have returned, and so I did.
I was supposed to be paid 10/-S. per week but I got practically nothing, for the fact that the chappie had no money at all and was up to his eyes in debt to the store keeper and the reason that he was chopping the trees down to fence with was that he hoped to get a further loan from the government based on the fencing that he could borrow on, as it was a property improvement. Later on my life was lightened by the arrival of a young Australian person who was employed by a relation living on the next homestead, for these two farmers had decided to co-operate in the fencing project and do so much mileage on the one place and then do the like on the other. The bosses could have done more work themselves if they had not spent so much time spying on us two. We were chopping and splitting the posts and trees and they were digging the post holes. Then they had to go back to the holes and blast the holes where they had encountered rock. We, as observers, spying on them doing the blasting were intrigued with the noise and decided to have a bit of fun at their expense. Accordingly, when they were out of the way we went to the next hole that they were due to blast and did the job for them. But we drove the hole for the charge very much deeper than they and then rammed a lot of gelignite down the hole and put a light covering of earth upon it, and left it for the blaster to perform.
They would sink quite a lot of holes first and the blast them when they were in the mood. Eagerly we awaited the blasting time and when they started this operation we were viewing their operations. They put the usual one or two charges down our hole and when it was fired there was a most satisfying convulsion of the earth, and there was a hole that one could have buried the house in. That night the conversation was all of the explosion and many theories were expounded as to the cause of this phenomenon but never the right one. I was lent to another relative some distance away after this. He was a big clot, but I did get the ten bob wages per week. Just before I left, the boss's wife returned with the first born that she had gone to a place called Kyneton to have, where her mother lived. 'Lal was a little poor washed out thing, pale, and I reckon that she had had a hard time with this gorilla of a husband. The morning after she had arrived I got up and went into the bag house to have breakfast and the boss asked me had I washed my face and when I answered in the negative he led off. Of course he was posing in front of his wife, for the fact was that water was very scarce and neither of us washed before his wife's arrival. We sweated so much that we had always bathed in our sweat the previous day. But he was like a cock on a dung hill. Before his wife returned he used to look at the cartoon on a newspaper that some groceries cam wrapped with from the store and after I had read the caption and explained the joke he would suddenly start roaring with laughter as his tortuous brain worked out the meaning. This happened with the same joke night after night and I knew that he was not too clever. The night that she returned when I was in the tent, I heard him roar and I thought, he's showing her the cartoon, but I didn't hear her laugh and the next morning he told me that he had forgotten the joke and asked me to read it for her. My boss's wife then arrived and because I had soldered an iron tank for my former boss some time previously she decided that I was a genius and when she returned to Kyneton she took me with her. She said that her neighbour, a Mr. Morris was a wealthy man and she could get me a job with him as he had a lot of machinery that she was sure that he would like me to look after for him. He was what they would term a gentleman farmer. He had been adopted by his grandfather, who had died and left him a lot of money because he was the owner of the 'Rutherglen vineyards' which was a well known firm of wine makers in Australia. This Morris had a light plant driven by a big flywheeled horizontal petrol single cylindered engine. When he was away in the town of Kyneton getting drunk as usual, I tried an experiment with the switchboard which caused the discharge ammeter to lose it's indicator hand and when he returned he asked me questions about it. I silently pointed out a roof nail that I had planted at the back of the marble board and then suggested that that might have caused the short circuit. I suggested that we paint his little two seater. As soon as we started to lay the varnish on the paint a cloud of midges descended upon the wet varnish and when the varnish dried it presented a finish that I had not seen before nor since.
By now World War I had commenced and to make a long story short, having no brains and not being able to conjure up realities until they presented themselves to me, I joined up in the Australian Army with no idea of what fighting was to be and that was another milestone in my life that I was not to forget. It was after that experience that I began to formulate the theory that this planet is the hell that people talk of and that we won't be rewarded for our misdeeds later on; that we have already been judged and we that are here were awarded this sentence of life in hell when we were born this last time. It isn't until you are inveigled into or forced into a place like the army of the two World Wars that you are able to realise the capacity that the human has for self illusion and making the most of a bad job. That in spite of the terrible, man is still able to, on the face of it, retain his sanity and come from these things, on the face of it, a normal person once again. To marry and have children and not to devour them, because of the appetite that has been fostered by being in a war for killing and seeing blood. To have to cringe and crawl to bosses after the war that are more your enemy than the soldiers of the opposing forces ever were. It is true that they fought to kill you and you them for self preservation, but were they not sheep led to the slaughter as were you? But until the mind of man changes or is changed and the latter will have to be the case, one must eat or be eaten, so constituted are things. But if the war mongers were forced to comprise the first line of attack and fight it out themselves would not they be less impatient for war? But it is not as simple as that. The common peoples are just as bad as the people who pronounce war and it is largely due to the people of England as to anyone else that the two devastating wars of this century were fought. But this thing must cease, this is an autobiography, not an excursion into the mystery of man's stupidity; it is a confession of stupidity.
The minimum age for enlistment was 19 years and as I wasn't that age I stuck a year on and was duly attested. We went to Broadmoor camp just outside Melbourne for training. The camp consisted of acres of round bell tents that would accommodate about ten men. The first Sergeant Major was homosexual. I know, for he tried to get pally with me and I not knowing anything about that business only cottoned on to what his game was when he asked me on one short leave period to go to a hotel in the country with him and stay for the night. This was a funny thing for whatever there is wrong with me it never was the lack of desire to perpetuate the human race. If all the oil of life that has escaped from generative organs on to my shirt was used for propagation I would have fathered a million children. The Lieutenant of the company was a man - to look at only - that was cast in a very heroic mould indeed. When we marched down the streets of Melbourne on our going away parade, he walked at the head of the column with his iron jaw and prancing way of marching that turned all the heads of the girls that saw him, and the lads of his company said, "Ah, there's a man to lead a fellow, plenty of guts that one for sure, I hope that we have him when we go into action, that bloke would go through hell". But he didn't last for a fortnight on the Peninsular. They sent him home with acute neurasthenia. If he had been a private they would have shot him. But let us return to Broadmoor camp. Soon the soldiers started to die like flies and they were probably the cause of it; them and the lice for the tents were lousy. It was a disease similar to Spanish Flu, indeed, it might have been the first incubation of the disease, for it started with a very high temperature. Oh, the horror when one first discovers, after feeling itchy in the middle, that one has got lice. Every one in the tent must be lousy, but for a while no one will admit to it and they are seen under the showers at all hours of the day. The relief when some one with a bit of moral guts discloses that he is lousy and reports sick and when he comes back it seems that the doctor has practically laughed at a soldier complaining about this state of affairs. All soldiers get lousy, and it puts the bloody doctor in a good humour that he will be able to say at mess that evening, that a soldier said that he was lousy. We learnt to form fours and right and left turn and the ranks of officers, how to salute, and most of it was very ribald affair for every one was green and the N.C.O's were mostly chancers that were trying to get along by mugging up the army training manual.
We had no uniforms then, everything was in short supply and I don't remember firing a rifle until we got to Egypt. There was a great competition to go on guard, especially at the camps main gate for there one could strut up and down in front of the admiring relatives and girls that were waiting there to see their boys and relatives, showing off, just like children. "Oh, would the power----------". One day I was detailed for guard duty, so I went to the store where the guard duty uniforms were kept; but someone had been there before and all I could find was an overcoat whose tails dragged on the ground, and a hat, that was kept up only because it rested on my ears. But nothing less, I put on the ensemble and in spite of the sniggering that I seemed to notice, I insisted that I do my stint of guarding the front gate of the camp, when they drew my name. We were told that we had to salute all officers below the rank of Major and present arms to those of Major and over and I was busting to get a Major to present arms to, as I had only just mastered this drill and I thought I'll bring down the house with these onlookers if only I can do the 'present arms' in front of them. It had been raining and the mud was sticking to the tails of my overcoat, as it draggled in the mud and my hat constantly obscured my vision as it flopped past my ears and what with toting the rifle that wouldn't fire anyway, as it hadn't got a bolt and if it had there hadn't been ammunition made for it since the siege of Mafeking; I can imagine that I wouldn't have made what a Guardsman would have described as a good soldier. As I trudged up and down by now getting a bit bored and wishing I had taken the packet of fags, that one of the guard, that had managed to get a uniform that fitted him, had offered me for the position I was occupying, I thought that I was receiving more attention than my military position justified, so, as I covertly watched my audience, I saw that I was an object of ridicule and I was thankful that the hat hid my ears for they started to burn. As I staggered up and down my beat, my feet started to get sore for the military boots that I wore were about three sizes too long and the mud had started to drip off the hem of the trailing coat, down the back of the boots into the soles of my feet and the chafing, was making me spoil the style of my military marching. "Ah! That's it", I thought, "They are laughing because I'm slouching a little, I'll put a bit more snap into the steps I'm taking", and I started to jerk my legs a bit to let them see how agile I could be. And then; I suppose the back of the coat was stretched a bit more by the wet, but it caught in my feet and down I went and scrambled up covered in mud. And at that instant of rising, along comes a scarlet dressed soldier with a crown on his sleeve. I only knew that crowns were present arms and didn't know that they were only Sergeant-Majors when on the arm and this crown was on the arm. Up came the rifle and I seemed to hear the instructors 'One! Two! Three!'. As I brought the rifle butt and nearly knocked it on the ground. He stood back, the bloody fool and laughed till the tears came to his face, and there were all the audience grinning at the best soldier in the camp. "A very good effort lad", he said, "but the crown has to be on the shoulder not on the arm, I'm only a Regimental Sergeant-Major". Desiring sympathy and never being able to keep my mouth shut, I had to tell the other members of the guard what had befallen me when I went back to the guard tent; but they had no sympathy and for days after I would hear if a friend passed me "Presen' Harms!", and as I turned there would be the silly sod laughing fit to bust his sides. How unkind can one's friends become and how bitter can one become also. Later on, there was always trouble because we wouldn't salute and my experience must be the reason why I never gave a salute after unless it was inevitable that one had to. The "Physical Jerks" were a joke to me and a tragedy to those old ones that had just managed to scrape through the age barrier. "On the knees, be-nd" the instructor would bawl and down we would go for the fiftieth time and the groans of the old put one in mind of what purgatory could be. "You rotten bastard", some old stager would say. "Put a bloody sock in it" would some one else mutter, and to these dirges from the suffering would the exercises go on.
Before I joined up in the army I had hired a car with a driver and had bluffed my way to getting a driver's licence. I had mentally driven so many cars - although I had never actually driven one at all until I went for the police test - that I thought that I could not possibly fail. A big fat copper got into the car and said "out of the yard and turn to the right". Out I went on this big old Minerva taking the centre of the narrow one way street. "All right, stop her", so I stopped. "Now turn round and go the other way". "Not with this thing, surely", I said. "You shouldn't have brought such a fat gutted thing up for the test". First of all I got to the curb and then I locked and reversed and locked and went forward until I thought I would burst something. The steering was so hard the car moving slowly, but I eventually got her round and that little exercise probably got me the licence, for I got the hang of the car by the continual gear shifting and poking the wheel. He did say as I was going through the circuit, "I've seen better driving from a fellow that just come from the bush", and as that was precisely what I had done and never handled the wheel of a car before, I thought, well that's a recommendation not a condemnation. I got pally with the driver that used to hire to drive the soldiers to and fro from Melbourne to the camp and one drive I said, "Let's have a go" and as we sailed along the track weaving from side to side one of the passengers said, "what are you trying to do, kill us"?
The Australian soldier was derided by most of the members of the other forces and particularly by the officers of those other armies, but I must say that he had more guts in the average than other soldiers and coward that I could still recognise courage when I saw it and at this time of my old age, I consider that it was an honour to grace their distinguished company. As I write this, the names of many people that I knew in the army of the time come to my mind and I would be pleased to meet them when all is laid down. There is nothing that brings people closer than shared danger and it is peculiar that a person met in war and peace, although the same man, can be such a different personality under the different conditions. Perhaps in another hell the common misery of all could make the place habitable so different do people become who suffer together. I suppose that's where the possession of the soul was first thought of as an explanation as to why the human can rise to great heights through suffering more than through joy. Excuse the cant. All too soon the time came for us to go away to foreign shores and fight for the profiteers' money and the politicians' glory; to try and rectify by fighting and dying, other people's folly and sin and to earn the 6/- a day that we had been getting for nothing. Soon we were to learn that no one gives you something for nothing, least of all your country and that physical fitness is not so much for your health and well being, but given to make you stronger than your enemy so that you will kill him instead of the opposite; but it is a terrible pity that the enemy do the same thing otherwise there would be wisdom in these things.
By now we all have our bright new boots, slouch hats and uniforms and guns and bayonets that made me shudder every time the command "Fix bayonet", was yelled. Some wit would say, "The Germans have bayonets with jagged edges and the Turks have them with fish hook edges". I used to think that whatever the enemy had in the bayonet line, no one would be much use if they were as long as ours after having one stuck into them for one could easily spit two men at a time with the ones we were supplied with.
So one fine day, there's a rattle of kettle, a blaring of trumpets and the Drum Major's baton goes to the sky as we march to the ship that is to take us to Egypt and then on to the chance to earn undying glory fighting for the mother land. We must have looked a goodly crowd of heroes, for we had on our nice new uniforms with our brown boots and the rakish hat that distinguished the Australian soldier wherever he was found; that is if his lurid language did not do this before his hat was observed.
We embarked on the troopship "Borda" another of the P.O. liners that had been converted. I had purchased very cheaply from a comrade a little .22 automatic pistol together with about 300 rounds of ammunition. This I thought would be a more genteel way of killing the enemy than by using the barbarous bayonet, for I did not like this weapon a little bit. It wasn't that I felt so much compunction about sticking it into the enemy; I never got to that in my thoughts; I used to think of having it stuck into me most of the time and I could feel the sliding thing going into my belly when I was particularly sensitive. Well, as I was so sorry for myself, I couldn't be blamed for thinking that perhaps the enemy thought in a similar strain so that's why I thought that when the time came and the enemy laid at my feet defeated, I would say, "wait a minute", fiddle about in my pocket for the automatic and polish him off in this humane way, in preference to making the bayonet sticky and covered in blood and perhaps, my getting blood poison when I cleaned it off. There was always the 'I', in my thoughts, I'm afraid.
At about 12 knots the ship poodled along and beyond parading for a bit of drill in the morning, life was fairly boring. And then one morning the orders for the day were posted as usual on the board and I noticed that any personnel that were in possession of arms other than the regulation rifle and bayonet were to hand them into the orderly room immediately. Gone with the wind then was my humane ideas about the enemy. It was to be the bayonet after all. "No, I won't do this thing", I thought. Why should I give my property to this fat old bastard of a commanding officer so that he can flog it and put the money into his own pocket. So I kept it. And then two days after a corporal came up to me with an armed guard and said, "You're under arrest", and I was marched to the orderly room and charged with disobeying orders. I was awarded four days down in the hold in the ships brig, with only the company of the numerous rats to confide in. It was solitary confinement, I think, for I can tell you that it was very lonely stowed down so low and I used to hope that they wouldn't forget me if the ship struck a rock or the German's fired a torpedo into the vitals. I did have ample time to soliloquise while down there and I began to think that if this fat old fool that had had me put into the ship's clink was a German soldier, perhaps there was much to be said for the 'good old cold steel', that we often used to say when discussing the Germans, that 'they didn't like', although we admitted that otherwise they were good enough soldiers. Listening to their talk, even then I thought how the ego works to give the human courage to face the impossible. Does anyone like cold steel? After eternity, I came up into the fresh air and after days of boredom at last we arrived in Egypt and after days of travelling by train we got to the great army camp of tents that were located at Heliopolis about five or six miles from Cairo, that sink of iniquity, where all the depravity of the human mind was shown to the inquirer. And I would say that soldiers are very curious people. It was at Heliopolis that our training really began and soon the fat of indolence was stripped from us and the trip on the ship was looked back to with nostalgia, when at the time we were bored with it. With a full pack, rifle and bayonet, bandoleer filled with ammunition, a blanket wrapped round the pack and even spare boots we marched across the sand for twenty miles in a day. Some of us died of pneumonia and the young ones got like fighting cocks; but this didn't happen in a day. Sore feet, exhaustion, and thirst had to be dealt with. The water ration was one water bottle and when that was finished, with the sweat pouring from one, you can imagine the suffering of people that liked their little drink. I was not bothered and managed to give a few drinks to the exhausted, but sometimes the drinkers didn't like the contents of my bottle for it was almost neat lime juice that I used to get when some of the others refused this ration. It was so strong that eventually I had to go to the quartermaster's tent and ask for a new water bottle as mine had got corroded through where the enamel had cracked. Of course we weren't always marching through the desert; there was leave and we could go into Cairo where there was much of what a soldier far from home needed most, women. There was sufficient of every form of vice that the most exacting soldier could ever need. Perhaps one would think there was a different way to indulge the sex instinct; well down the 'Wozza' one could find an open place where for a few piastres one could see a big fat Soudanese having a go at a French whore. When I first saw this exhibition, I was a bit fed up with the thing. I had gone out with some pretty tough soldiers that night and I think that they were trying to take the rise out of me. Without thinking much, I gave the Soudanese exhibitor a fearful whack on his bare bottom just when he probably was at the point of reaping the payment for his work. We all carried swagger sticks with a knob at the end, partly for swank but mainly for protection, for we went everywhere and there were some rough joints to be found. The Soudanese turned and his eye's were suffused with blood and although there were about four of us trained soldiers, with one accord we fled through the streets or lanes of the Wozza knowing that if this fornicator caught us he could have strangled us with one hand.
If we were not able to get the limited leave, the next best thing was to get on the picket that was sent into Cairo every night to get the defaulters out of the brothels and grog shops after the expiry time of the leave passes. Oh, the joy of searching the brothels, hoping to find under the bed someone of your own company, or finding them hidden in the wardrobe behind the clothes and if lucky to fish your mate out and take the mickey out of him standing naked before the guard. Sometimes the picket members would get a crush on a whore that was so well spoken of by the soldier that we had found hiding that they would ask the Corporal if they could have a go at her and there was the whore wheedling the Corporal to let him allow his guard to have a go at her. "How did you get on", they would say when we got back. "We found old so and so under the bed and old so and so in the privy, but I won't go with that Corporal again, he's a bloody spoil sport. There was a smashing little tart that I begged the rotten bugger to let me twist the arse off and the rotten sod refused. Wouldn't have taken a minute, I told him. Said he would lose his bleeding stripes. The Bloody crawl arse bastard!!"
Then there were the nights when there was no leave. Laying down outside the tent with the blue sky very clear and the stars blazing as they only can in Egypt, we would go into raptures over our times in the city, mostly in the pubs and brothels. The pubs were mostly open air places where one could sip the imported lager beer and watch the picture show being projected on the wall of the building. After the heat of the day a glass of lager was as the Ambrosia of the Gods. Soldiers are not unkind and they often paid tribute to the womanly kindness of the whores they favoured. And if they were rewarded with a bit of the 'Pox', they were more interested in describing their treatment at the clap hospital than defaming the whore they contracted the disease from. There was a very good raconteur, a bloke called 'Chappie'. Of course, he was a master of the subject, for they used to say that if he looked at a whore he caught the clap off her. Of course he exaggerated a bit, but when he returned from being cured it was always the thing to go along and get 'Chappie' to tell us all the latest things they had done to him, particularly his arse, for it was into this part of the anatomy that most of the mercury was injected. Well, I don't suppose the stuff could have been injected in the very large quantities that 'Chappie' described into the instrument of contraction, for it they had done this the subsequent inflation would have made it impossible for him to have buttoned up his trousers; not for two weeks after anyway. All his teeth started to fall out and he also went bald, but when this was mentioned to him he put it down to the place where he once worked in Australia, where he said the water was very bad. Seeing the effects of the pox, I often wondered why the opposing countries couldn't have waged war in a different way than they did. Of course I know that there are mentally unbalanced people that rush at the enemy and kill an awful lot of them with bayonets and even shovels if they have lost the bayonets at the time. They do these things with what people call great bravery under the most dangerous conditions, sometimes when the enemy are firing machine guns at them or chucking highly explosive grenades at them and although most of these brave people get killed, sometimes they survive and then they get a bronze medal worth about a shilling, the metal of which is made from the original guns of Sebastopol. And, not content they try to win a bar for this medal and this time it often doesn't come off. That is what they call the 'rake off' that's what they give medals for, to incite one to further acts of stupidity - or to get others to emulate these heroes. And I can't think that these people leave people that they really loved behind them for they get killed for honour which seems a word that comes from the group of words in which we find swank, self advertisement, egotism, and bull-shit. But of course we know that man has to run one way or the other when he really is terrified and perhaps if you run forwards you get a medal and if you run backwards your own officers will shoot you, so as you have to run anyway; they choose to run forwards and think that they may as well let the enemy shoot them as their own officers. I never won a medal for bravery, but that was because my terror caused me to be petrified so I couldn't run either way. I make no claim for this, I was born a blue funker as they say, but no doubt it saved my life. Now, suppose, in times of peace the belligerent countries - as they all are, so rotten is this world - kept, instead of soldiers very large numbers of highly trained whores. Now, of course they do this already; what with the secretaries of company directors and the politicians secretaries and what not; but this thing would have to be done on a much lager scale than ever before dreamt of, there would have to be millions of whores - and there are if one believes in the television villianesses that the tooth paste people provide for our entertainment nightly. If a country declares war on another country, instead of the usual procedure, the whores of the political party officers, the Generals, the ministry and all the business directors and what not would be exchanged for the like with the enemies whores of a similar grade, suitable adjustments being made as to numbers, and it would be the duty of these whores to do as much damage to the morale of their new employers as possible for the patriotic love they have for their fatherland. Not forgetting the vested interest of the money makers that are of course the real war mongers. Surely this must be so when it is realised that, for instance England was selling scrap metal to her known enemies up to a few months before the first a second world wars and anyone would know that this metal is not used for powder puffs either. Not when this scheme of mine is put into operation as it surely will be when the parsons and all the lying humbugs who prate about their love for humanity but do nothing about it and only use their hypocrisy to dress themselves up as another wears whiskers or an evening dress suit or owns a Rolls Royce; all this for prestige value to cover the total nothingness of their stupid non intelligence; the boffins that are driving the people of this world to total suicide will mouth that there is nothing for their parrot brain learned knowledge to assist the world to new and better things. But this will not be the truth, for I know the people in power will soon liven up the normal debilitating action of this whores' war so that in a short time no ordinary people will be able to imagine what it is supposed to be. There will be much complication made on either side that only the most complicated computer using millions of tons of memory cells will be able to predict the next move to be made to gain victory. Inventions of lethal diseases injected by the whores will be made by either sides and of course cures to counter act these diseases. Methods of rendering the whores impotent will be discovered; firstly by experimenting upon mice of course. Methods of blowing up the politicians and Generals upon contact with the generative organs will be tried and also electronic devices to detect these infamous practices. Altogether there will be something for everyone. What would constitute a victory for the one or the other? I should judge that when the whores are all worn out, that would be a victory for the side who originally supplied the whores but of course there are infinite variations that could be made to make the new war similar in it's hypocritical reasoning and method to those that have been made in previous times. Such as the assassination of some nonentity, the need for breathing space, the desire to free the peoples of the world so that less freedom would be enjoyed and so on through all the sick making muck that has been drivelled up all through the centuries. Now what shall our slogan be. "A whore to end war". How's that? Almost as good as a homosexual pointing his finger at one on a post card and saying, "we need you to be blown to pieces to settle an argument between people, that you don't know from a bar of soap". When it's all over, we shall have to do the final hypocrisy and bring the last remains of the last whore home to inter her remains in a sacred place, mad sacred by all the mumbo jumbo of priests that for centuries have mumbled to a God of their own creation that most have never believed in - only talking to their congregation instead of God - holding their position for the prestige and wealth that it gives. Caring not for God nor the people and thinking only of themselves, as we all do exclusively.
Now I think the poor old whores should be left off the leash of my imagination. I know that I have slandered an ancient and much needed profession. I know that among these people there is more honour and love and kindness than in most walks of life and it was Jesus Christ who said to his disciples when they tried to drive Mary Magdalene away from the self chosen task of anointing the feet of her master. "Suffer her to come to me and do this thing she wishes. You Humbugs". And I think that it is time for me to go to war and start to really fight for what the hell I never found out, seeing that after it was all over the human race became even more rotten than it was before. Of course I don't mean the bread and butter earners but more the political classes and the war profiteers that just won't lie down this side of hell. Perhaps one should call them the cunning and the dumb and so divide the human race.
The last thing I did in Egypt was to visit the Pyramids. A party of us took the electric train that leaves from Cairo and crossing the bridge we travelled to this place where the old rulers tried to express in stone their belief in the persistence of the soul, and contradicted this belief by protecting their material body with a tomb that they thought would protect their carcasses and their material wealth for eternity. They thought they could come back to their body and enjoy again their earthly life; but their beliefs were an enigma to me having no logic in their formulation. But, rightly or wrongly there is always a fascination in the big things that man has left behind him as a monument to his ego, although such things are generally the result of slave labour that could only be excused by the people of the period saying, "these things were built by the abundance of labour that was available because of the failure of the Nile to inundate at different periods, when these things were due. But for this stupendous work that we wrought, millions would have starved to death. We were not enlightened enough at the time to supply grain to these starving ones for nothing, but we were induced to feed them for the work they did in erecting these pyramids of lime stone".
And so, the Pyramid of Cheops and the lesser pyramids stand there with the Sphinx, brooding in the glaring sun as a reminder to people like myself, that there is more in life than eternally screwing up nuts and bolts on tin cans. The immensity of the thing sends one. At the time I visited the place it was swarming with soldiers, guides and fortune tellers and the lady friends that some of the soldiers had brought out from Cairo for an outing. Climbing the outside of Cheops was an easy task. At the top, which is flat for quite an area there can be seen the scratched signatures of people from all the quarters of the world, made through the years in the rather soft lime stone of the edifice. I think the pyramid was 415' above the sand at the time I visited it, but it would be difficult to assess it's true height for through the centuries the sand has engulfed the base; for instance there is a temple buried in the sand next to the Sphinx that showed the tops of the temple level with the sand. One enters the Pyramid through an entrance above the sand and if one turns to the left there can be found a passage leading downwards which takes the visitor to chambers that could have been used for rites or storage of unknown things that have not been revealed to my knowledge. When I was there there was a lot of squealing of feminine voices in the chamber below and I am sure that the soldiers were desecrating the place. If one turns to the left there is found a steep narrow ascent that is polished by the countless crawling processions that have crawled up the way to what is described as the King's burial chamber. This ascent to the King's chamber was unprotected to the right, it was about two feet wide and one could easily fall down from a considerable height. At the top of the ascent one turns right and there to the left is an enormous chamber with a solid block of slightly scooped out hollow stone somewhat off centre from the chamber. The roof is very high. I returned to this place at a later date and later in the day when the sight seers had gone and armed with a powerful torch, I crawled up the way to the King's chamber. It was a bit eerie, but I satisfied my desire to be quiet at this place. On the first occasion of my visit I thought how romantic it would be to have my fortune told half way up the outside of the Pyramid, so I gave my hand to one of the humbugs that were importuning the suckers and the "Seer" told me that I should be killed in the war, which was not a nice thing to do to a windy soldier. "How"? I said, "Bullet right through the head", was the rejoinder. That's what comes through beating them down on their charges.
Fully trained, we left Egypt for Lemnos island and had a stay there for about three weeks, with more route marches across the island. And then, one night, we embarked on a little Greek ship where we were packed so tightly that we could hardly move, on the top deck. The sea was very calm otherwise we should all have been drowned, for the sea was coming over the "gun 'alls". Soon, the coast line came into view and the ship, with all her lights dowsed and the permission to smoke cancelled, crept up to the shore of Anzac cove and finally cam to rest about a mile from the shore. About a mile from where we were waiting there was a British monitor that was armed with two 16" guns and while we were waiting, every one very quiet and not full of fun, this battleship fired one of her guns over our head and a ton of metal roared past tearing the air to shreds, also our nerves. Some motor powered lighters came alongside and we started to disembark armed with all our equipment. As we got nearer to the shore we saw the barbed wire that had been staked down in the water to welcome the first invaders, that, trapped down by the wire had been decimated by the Turks as they struggled to free themselves from the trap that had been so well laid for them. The shore had little width before the ground rose up precipitously and it was there that the Turk machine gunners were ensconced sitting at their ease in little emplacements in the cliffs, until, perhaps at last, sick of the murder and the barbed wire now well protected in places from the barbs by the covering of corpses, the survivors were able to crawl over the dead and make a landing, many to still fall on the beach and later the rises, until the worst was over and those that followed up the rises were at last able to dig trenches and tunnels where they existed, where we found them, living in these tunnels like rats. And like rats we lived.
There were no machine guns for us. When we landed all was quiet that night and we camped on the beach; not many to sleep, I guess. The following morning we started to march in open order along the beach and then the war broke upon us. A battery of guns started to shell us with shrapnel and we all broke for cover until collected together again by the officers but not before I had nearly jumped down a well shaft in my anxiety to escape. There were a lot of these holes over the place where the sappers had been digging hoping to find water, for there was no water and all the water had to be ferried to the beach by ship and was stored in tanks. I saw this depression in the ground and flew towards it clambered up with all my equipment, but just at the last minute I spread eagled myself and so saved myself from a nasty predicament, for besides the fall there was human excreta at the bottom of the well - not truth. Up, up, we marched to the front line, which consisted of tunnels and then more tunnels. From these tunnels which constituted the front line proper, there radiated out at short intervals smaller tunnels only about six feet in length at 90 degrees and they terminated in a fox hole that left room for two men. When one stood up in the fox hole one was able to look over the top out to no-mans-land and the Turks' trenches were so near that we could hear each other speak. It was not a nice place at all. During the day both sides used to fix up and line bracketed rifles aimed to just miss the top of the fox holes and during the night at different times the trigger would be pulled in the hope that some unwary soldier would be peering over the top of his hole and get the bullet through the brain. These ideas were surprisingly effective and many a man was pulled out from his hole when his mate woke up to do his one hour stint of duty - it was one hour off and one hour on all through the long night - and found his comrade dead. And all the love and care; the birth pangs, the comely babe, later on the father's pride in the first born as he helps on the farm, perhaps pictures of him riding the first horses, the girl waiting and planning for the return; mealtimes and the family ragging and fooling away there, somewhere on an Australian farm. "I'll be back soon", he yells to the mother and father and his girl standing there forlornly on the country station watching their pride and joy go to the war. Everyone collecting to hear the letters read. The mother counting the days and then the years, but always hoping. His dog, getting older, but rushing out with his tail up anytime he hears the noise of the approaching visitor to slink back disappointed. One time they go into the town and the mail is different this time. There's a letter stamped with officialdom that fills the beholder with strange misgivings; but at last the father fills his pipe and when it's drawing well he opens the letter, and having read the news, he wonders how he is going to break the news to them all. Psychic perception is strong at these times. Perhaps the soul of the soldier comes with these letters of ill omen trying to comfort. But only time brings peace. And away in London there's a politician mouthing to his public and gassing - this amateur strategist - about his gamble to win the war by strangling the Turks at Gallipoli, and the biggest fool in the world would know after observation of the difficult terrain that to enter this country with the forces available at the points that were chosen was a blunder of the first magnitude. But, there he lies, poleaxed like a bullock in a slaughterhouse. "Soldiers are expendable".
Dysentery was rife on the peninsular and the soldiers were dying like flies. It was very hot and the open latrines were an ideal incubator for the disease ridden flies to breed in. The lice were very big and prolific and the favourite occupation of the troops was to take off the shirt and pants and count and kill the loathsome vermin and if an unusual type was discovered to point it out to the next door neighbour. We were out resting on the heights of shrapnel gully, at the time that a four days silence had been imposed upon all ranks not to fire weapons of any sort unless attacked. This was because Kitchener had been to look over the place and after one look he had decided that evacuation was imperative, so to prevent the mass annihilation of the troops at this time which would have taken place as the troops left their tunnels and marched down to the beach, it was decided to impose these four days silences until the Turk had got used to them and then on the last silence, start to evacuate whilst the Turks were saying, "Here it is again, they won't lure us out of cover". This worked like a charm and when the evacuation was accomplished there were very few casualties. But we will go back to our delousing. We were not told about these plans, so there we were blissfully doing this job in the sun with our clothes off, when one of our field guns is fired on the right of us and almost simultaneously the enemy reply with about three shells that burst in the midst of us.
There's a whole head tumbling down the slope in front of me. There's a body with all the guts exposed with everything working and the body crying, "mother", and lesser injuries to others and it's time to pack up the lousing game, that's for sure. There are plenty to attend to the dying and the wounded and I go down the slope flying to the latrine, not to void, but an excuse to escape, and there is the Adjudant of the company, a six footer with a brandy red face and a big fat nose holding his weapon, but unconscious of it, the water long ceasing to flow. "What happened", he says. I didn't answer, it wasn't all that far away. One night, out on rest, I was awakened by the itching of the lice and I got up and wandered down to the quartermaster's place hoping to find something to put between the legs to ease the itch. It was the middle of the night and I was the only wakened thing. I found a tin of crude carbolic that they use for putting around drains, and stripping I started to pour the contents upon my testicles. Oh! The exquisite agony I suffered. I thought that I had burned off the things. I danced round the camp. I saw the dixies of water laying ready for the cook in the morning for the day's tea and picking up one and holding it aloft I poured the water down the belly and over the testicles until I found some assuagement of the agony. And then I crept back to the tent and waited for daylight, with the fires of hell burning between my legs. How to get away from those tunnels? I used to knock about with a tall mate who in civvie life was a jeweller's engraver and I used to get him to play up to me in all the artifices that I could think up to get a brief respite from the rat life. During the day there was not much doing. And I decided that we could ask the Sergeant in charge for permission to go down to the beach and purchase some canteen things for the rest of the company. This permission was granted and we went from look out post to funk hole and all the other places where they were standing by and took the orders and the money and then set out for the beach. It had been quiet previously to this but when we got into the open the guns started to open up. We ran from one place of cover to another but it seemed that the gunners were watching us - although they couldn't have been - and I soon got the funks although my mate was all for going on, but I finally prevailed and back we went and as we handed back the cash we had to put up with the jibes about cold feeted bastards, that were kindly meant but crudely put. On another occasion the daily orders that were read out asked for two miners to do some work at headquarters, so I nudged my mate and out I stepped, having whispered that the job would be better than being in the tunnels. He followed me after a bit of hesitation and the Sergeant said, "you again West, is there anything you haven't been in your long life"? We marched to headquarters and saw the Brigadier, an old man, too old for war, but he had a kindly face and I have no doubt that he summed me up for what I was, an impostor of the first order. But he took us to the side of the hill outside the mess and told us to build a funk hole in the earth, to go in and down about eight feet and then to be enlarged into a square hole about eight by eight feet. We knew nothing at all about mining and I wonder to this day why we did not bury ourselves alive. We got miners' picks from the quartermaster's store and commenced to excavate. Soon we found the earth continually falling down from the roof. There was no timber for shoring and if there had been we wouldn't have used it. Every morning we spent about two hours chucking out the earth that had fallen down during the night. Finally, we decided that we had finished and the Brigadier was invited to inspect. As he went in the dirt was falling in little dollops and he spent little time admiring our handiwork. But we lived like the Brigadier for a week and were sorry to be sent back from working for such a nice old gentleman. It was not nice to go on to the water fatigue. This job entailed staggering up the heights to the front line with two, two gallon petrol cans of water and it was pretty exhausting for the heights were mountainous in places and one can imagine the long time it would take to get enough water up to the soldiers this way. We went down to the beach one day to help shift some stores and Beachy Bill, a battery of guns, hurled shells at us all the time and when we came from cover, which consisted of lying down in the open with two ground sheets over our heads. There were dead men and soldiers all around us and as the shooting ended, the Indian troops that operated a herd of mules were busy for a long time shooting the poor old mules, too wounded for recovery. And then ---------------
But lets get to hell out of it and start the evacuation. Fixed rifles with string on the triggers and a tincan on the other end were being fixed up all along the line, as were also worn out machine guns fixed the same way and the idea was, that as the troops moved out, the water trickling into the tins would fill them and long after we had left there would be rifle and machine gun fire going off so that the Turk would think that everything was normal. It worked perfectly and as we went from the line there was no enemy firing or activity. Slowly the troops in a long thin black line silently went down the cliffs in the dead of night to the lighters that would ferry them to the waiting ships. Everyone was waiting for the guns to start sweeping the beach, but all was still, but for the troops waiting the long wait for their turn to embark on the lighters.
At last it was all over and soon we were back in Egypt; but not so many as went. There was a short time of making up the losses with reinforcements and the forming of other units. How to escape it all was my problem. Something told me that the infantry would spell my doom and like a rat in a trap I ceaselessly looked for escape. At last it came. There was an order of the day inviting fitters to apply for transfer to the artillery, to act as gun fitters. I applied, although I hardly knew what the name implied and when interviewed by a Staff Sergeant I lied my way into the job. To qualify one had to pull an 18 pounder to pieces after seeing the job demonstrated by another. So, after seeing how, I pulled my gun to pieces and stuck it together again and received the qualification of Corporal fitter, but before I got the money for the job it was made redundant, so I never put up the stripes or got the money, but had to take the rank of fitter. I was assigned to the 60th Battery and was senior fitter out of two and had under my orders a man old enough to be my father who knew more about fitting than I ever would. He didn't like it a bit and we were hostile from the start. But when we got to France, on the first engagement he went to borrow a tool from an adjacent battery and received a wound and I never saw him again. We raced over the desert with the worn out old scrap they called guns and soon we could load and fire them and get them into action well enough, so that we were passed out as a unit, all too soon for my liking, for I had long ceased to want to get near any more fighting and the noise and stink of war and death!
Just reading this thing over it seems to me that the reader could think that so far I had been having a good time at the war, but I don't think so myself and it could be that I am alive today because of a funny thing that happened one morning on the peninsular. I was gazing out from a funk hole when I saw very distinctly a young Turk soldier standing up in full view exposed to myself and anyone in the vicinity. He stood there totally unaware of his extreme danger. I had my rifle but I did not shoot. He stood there for a time. Long enough to have got killed twenty times; nothing happened, not a rifle was fired. Although I did not fire, why did not others? Could I have been the only observer? Or, was I the only observer and was it a psychic test piece arranged for me only. Many times this scene has come to my mind. I don't know. Still at Gallipoli. One night there was much shelling going on to the left flank of the position I was occupying and in the morning the sappers were very busy digging out the tunnels there and soon we were able to see the result of their digging as we viewed the long line of asphyxiated corpses exposed. Still swathed in their great coats and their hands covered with socks and their heads in Balaclava's, for we had been visited with a blizzard and everything was frozen, they lay as if peacefully sleeping, but it was the long sleep, and they had been granted peace at last. For them the great confidence trick that had been played upon them was to be finished, for the time, at last. No more, the lying platitudes of the "World's great leaders", the murdering of their brothers, the enemy; the bestial life of the soldier, the dysentery, the thirst, - one cup of tea a day was the liquid ration at the time -. The grief of seeing their friends laid low, one after the other. The fear of knowing that their life was in the hands of imbeciles and sometimes drunkards, of officers whose greatest crime in the army is that of thinking, who, under the heading of discipline covered their stupidity and whose whole line of conduct was set out in the army manual, from which a good officer was afraid to stray. Trained on the traditions of 'The charge of the Light Brigade' and such blundering disasters that were so incomprehensibly stupid, they would make a logician shudder to his death, they stand in my mind for ever as an object of abhorrence. But there are other officers I could have loved for men, could I but love?
Old Captain Binns and Parker, where are you now? Of course you never saw it through. You must have gone before it ended, for soldiers who don't know fear, last but for a little while, in days of war. But I must beware of revealing myself, so let's mention, before we finally leave the Peninsular, for good, this time, the blizzard that struck one day and lasted for about four days I think. After the tropical heat, the sudden drop in temperature created tremendous havoc. All the water pipes that went to tanks that carried spare emergency water rations were frozen solid and when the thaw set in all this water was lost, so that many of the troops practically died of thirst. We were out resting at the time and as the weather got colder and colder my mate and I, finding that we were freezing to death, looked around before it was too late. We found a tunnel that had been run under the line by the sappers, presumably to blast the Turks in that section, to hell. It had been abandoned for some reason. It was fuggy, but much warmer than being in the open and as it got colder and colder we went in further and further and then we slept for a long time. When we awakened we staggered to the entrance, more dead than alive, and glory; the sun was shining and we felt like nothing on earth. Starving and nearly asphyxiated we foraged for food and when we had recovered we slunk into the lines expecting to be shot for desertion. Everyone was so concerned looking after themselves that they could spare no thought for others, which was a good job for us. I can't regale the reader with tales of what happened to some of those who died with dysentery and how they died, it would be disgusting to read about human beings being in such a plight. But I think that had ordinary precautions been taken, such as covering the excreta with dirt fairly regularly, the flies which were in stupendous numbers could not have been quite so numerous and as deadly. One could not eat a slice of bread spread with the profiteers' jam without swallowing a few of them occasionally, however careful one was. Dear reader, if you wanted pleasant reading, you should have bought a fairy tale with the money! However, let's go somewhere else and go to war, perhaps this was worse than the other places.
When we landed at Marseilles in the South of France after an uneventful trip, we got in the cattle trucks and started off to the European seat of war. I can't say that I was impressed with the mode of travel provided for us. There were about forty soldiers in one cattle truck and we meandered along at an average of ten miles an hour stopping every little while to let faster trains pass us, probably containing in the main, booze for the officers and Generals that seem to infest most wars. Whether they contained young boys and whores - I never found out; but there must have been a lot of pox medicine, although one couldn't complain of that, for one couldn't expect the high ranking officer to be deprived of his source of life and the loving female companionship that these people associated with love, or interpret as love, in their ignorance of the meaning of the word. But all things come to an end and we got out of the trucks about four days later and started to march, for ever, it seemed, until we reached a base or something, where the business of getting fitted out as an 18 pounder battery was accomplished. We were equipped with guns that were worn out and couldn't hit a piss hole at twenty yards, as they used to say, although I think this is rather an exaggeration for guns that have a range of miles, inaccurate though they were.
We first went into action near a place called Fleur Baix. The gun pits were there already and the gun crews set to work building roofs and flash protection over them and a few days later they were busily engaged firing on reference points and targets to get the range and angles that are necessary when laying indirectly on targets. Time went along peacefully enough for a few months and there were only short periods of anxiety when the occasional shell landed too near for our peace of mind. But I think the Germans had ranged on this position before and had the data filed, because when the shells did come near to us there was no preliminary ranging; there would be three or four shells and then finish.
I had chummed up with the medical orderly that was attached to the battery and we thought that it would be wise to get a bit away from the battery position for sleeping purposes as it seemed likely that if we happened to make a nuisance of ourselves the Germans might decide to eliminate the position. Accordingly we dug out a funk hole in the side of a small stream that was nearby, and covered the top with some corrugated iron and many sand bags. It was a very damp position but we thought it better to be damp than dead. One night the enemy really went to work and sent over a lot of stuff, one shell of which nearly blew me out of my bunk; being awakened in this way is bad for the nerves and we went hay wire as we got into our uniforms, tumbling over each other in our haste to leave the place whilst we were able. Then the American ammunition started to be sent to the battery and it was not long before we had a premature burst in one of the guns which resulted in the whole gun crew being blown to little fragments, due to the fact that these premature bursts are caused by a defective shell that has been equipped with a dud nose cap that instantly explodes the shell, in the gun barrel upon firing; so that with the propellant pressure and the exploding shell, the barrel blows to pieces. The concussion of the explosion would kill anyone in the vicinity and although messy I suppose the crew would not know anything at all. Everyone gets very quiet on these occasions and the officers and crews are on the horns of a dilemma. It's almost as if they are now condemned to playing a new version of "Russian Roulette". There are now two enemies, the Germans, and your own people. The Germans are firing from the front and your own people are firing to kill from right inside, and where a German shell might kill two or three, one dud from our own people kills the whole crew.
Later, another gun, was damaged by enemy fire and I was sent down to the repair depot with it and helped by the artificers of the depot, I executed the necessary repairs to make the worn out instrument serviceable and was able to obtain a respite from the noise and death that was appreciated. One morning when I was shortly due to take the gun back to the battery, I noticed that some of the depot workers were on top of a workshop wagon viewing a lot of shelling that was going on and jokingly I said, "you had better keep a bay open for me. That's our position they are shelling". A day later I was on my way and upon our return to the battery, an officer said, "Don't get your things off the limber, West, there's another gun been hit and you will be going back with it, to the depot". When I returned from the second job, I found that the problem of the premature bursts had been solved. The ammunition was brought up during the night and instead of putting the ammunition in the gun pits, anything that had U.S. markings on it was dumped into the ditch by the side of the road. It appeared that there was also English ammunition with the other stuff and the trick was to order enough ammunition so that the U.S. stuff could be jettisoned.
The English had decided to have a big push on the Somme and the wiley strategists had decided to divert the Germans by making an attack on our front, so that the enemy would think that we were going to make our break through at our position instead of on the Somme. We went up to a very advanced position with no cover other than an old orchard with all the leaves long since removed from the trees. The only cover was a slit trench that was dug by the side of the guns, where the personnel could retreat if things got too hot. It was a hell of a place, but by a miracle, there were very few casualties amongst us. The guns were seizing up in the recoil mechanisms and of course the battery fitter - me - was in great request, just at the time when I would have liked to be lying in the bottom of the slit trench with a lot of earth on top of me. "No. 1 gun out of action. Battery fitter forward"! And out I would rush and let out the boiling oil from the mechanism and scuttle back to the cover as quickly as possible. I was doing the lightning repair trick on one occasion and was near to the gun, when I froze in my tracks and stood immobile as if paralysed for a moment. At that moment, the ground was shaken and I went to the gun and released the surplus oil that was caused by heat expansion. Later on I was told that the shell went right under the gun - but it was a dud -, at the moment of my experience. We got a cartridge case jammed in the breech of the gun at this time and my assistant went to obtain a cartridge extractor from a near by battery as we had not got this tool and apparently he got wounded for he never returned. And then the Germans started to fire directly on us and we were ordered to abandon the guns. We rushed from them to the place where the cook house had been set up. Three walls forming a triangle with no roof, by the side of the road, that went to the firing line. In the corner, formed by the walls, we were laying on top of each other expecting a speedy end to all our problems. There was a soldier of Swedish extraction who kept saying after every near one, "De next, he vill hit us". Some of the shells knocked bricks down upon us and a shell went through the wall just above us, but burst over the other side of the road. Things quietened down and there were no casualties but most of us had died in our minds during this period of trial. But we went back to the battery and through necessity and not desire, we eventually saw the abortive attempt of fools trying to hoodwink their superiors come to a standstill, with thousands of lives sacrificed for the whims of people who would be classed as feeble minded in a sensible state of society, but who were loaded with medals and rank in the war.
We returned to our old position outside Fleur Baix, as, in spite of the casualties, no ground had been won and at the first occasion the gunners went into the village to get drunk and try to recover from their shocking experiences. Later they returned, more wounded, some of them, than they were when in the action. There were some of the infantry in the Estaminet where they went to have their booze up and when these infantry saw the badges of the gunners they set about them and tried to murder them, saying, "you're the bastards that killed our mates with your bloody shells and your rotten shooting".
Well, you see, firing barrages, when at a certain time your guns are elevated perhaps a hundred yards and at this precise time the troops are supposed to advance this hundred yards is a precise thing. Suppose when a gunner works the range dial there is so much slop that the dial moves but the barrel doesn't. Well, the poor old infantry man walks into his own gun fire. Or, suppose, the shells are not accurate on the nose caps, that determine when the shells shall burst when set on time. Or, suppose that the humidity of the day that determines how long the fuse in the nose cap burns per second should vary, - perhaps due to the moisture rising from the blood of your wantonly slain soldiers - then the fuse burns later or earlier and the shell bursts earlier or later in proportion. If it bursts earlier then it bursts amongst you own soldiers. But, our gunners certainly had not the training or experience to be accurate gunners in spite of all the other things that I have mentioned. And so, the poor old infantry that had seen their mates mown down by our own gun fire, took it out on their own, who were as responsible for the tragedy as new born babies. And heart broken, some of them. As a gun fitter, I was conscious of the fact, that a scrap iron merchant wouldn't have bought the guns in peace time to grace his yard. Yet these guns held a thousand lives in their breeches. And probably took them; some of them. And then there arose a problem that was peculiarly my own. The battery was in action when a shell jammed in the breech and when they tried to extract it the shell case came away and left the shell jammed in the breech and as there was no tool to deal with this happening, I was forced to conclude that the only way to get this thing out, which was set to fire on concussion, was to knock it out from the front with a piece of wood. Accordingly, in fear and trepidation armed with a long piece of wood, which I inserted down the barrel and carrying a ten pound hammer, I strode up to the wood and gave it a clout with all my might saying to myself. "If this is the end let it be quick", instead of picking at it and to keep on dying every time I fail. As the shell fell on the hollow steel trail piece of the gun that supported it in the ground, there was a loud bell like sound and I thought, "this is heaven". "These bells are to welcome me here". But of course it was only the result of my torn nerves. The next time I had to perform this operation was not so bad. Perhaps it was all right to go about knocking live shells on the nose with a ten pound hammer. I never found out.
In the army, if your officer said, "crawl down that barrel and push that shell out with your chin"; one has to obey, even though the hole is only about three inches big. But I would have to write another book to convey my thoughts about the army and the permanent high officers that grace it and so much vitriol would be made that the paper would be consumed before my eyes. I know that we are all to blame for the state of existence we live in, but certain types seem to take more than their share in the manufacture of the horrors that surround us. And in the army are to be found many of them; so we will relegate the army and the brown nosed permanent officers to the other vice shops of the world. Brothels, drug shops, pubs, and, I am sorry to say, some of the religious cults, with the man made Gods that are at the head of them.
After this I had a flirtation with death. I became very ill and I crawled into my dugout and for an immeasurable time I went through the tortures of hell. My back became a red hot bar of iron and I writhed and whipped my back to try and gain easement of the heat and pain. I sweated with the heat and then I would start to get colder and colder so that I shivered. These cycles went on forever and I became unconscious. I woke up to find that I was on a stretcher being carried to an ambulance, which eventually carried me to a clearing station, from where I was despatched per hospital train to Wimereux, on the French coast and lodged in the army hospital. I found myself in a ward with beds on either side and I felt that I had recovered although I was as weak as it was possible to be and my body seemed as if it had left me. But not for long; there comes striding down the centre of the ward accompanied by a nurse, an old die hard of a regular army medico; a fine old type of fruity bastard, who although imposed on by the cunning malingerers who would be more than a match for such a dolt, took it out on the really ill soldiers that could not protect themselves. Among the dying, this monster was a king in his own right and making. Amongst them, he could punish and revenge his hatred for those who were his masters - the malingerers. He was examining the new arrivals and he stopped at a poor old labour battalion private who, I found, had been sent to the place with crippling rheumatism. I was amazed at the bullying attitude that he adopted to this old man and worked myself up into a hysterical rage so that when he arrived at my bed, weak though I was, I felt that I should show resentment. He pulled the clothes off me and said, "what's the matter with you"? "How the hell should I know", I replied and because I was unused to revealing my body to young women I snatched the clothes over my body, and glared at him. This was repeated and then he pulled my eye lid down and said, "he seems to be yellow". He scribbled on a card that was on the bed and I was able to go to sleep while nature effected the cure. I was in hospital for about a week or so and was still as weak as a rat when I was discharged, but my temperature had stayed down for about three days so I reckon the trouble had disappeared. While I was in the ward I had a demonstration of how to malinger by two buddies that were in beds adjacent to each other. Until visiting rounds were due they were the life of the ward, getting up and trying to cheer up the patients and fooling with each other, singing bits of the music hall songs and so on. In the mean time my poor old labour battalion soldier had died. He died about two days after his entry; rheumatic fever, I suppose. The nurses took blood tests from the two comedians and the doctor was very diligent with them, subjecting them to all sorts of tests, but they fooled him all the time. They were the brightest things in the other patients' lives. Someone would open the door and where they had been acting the fool, they would dash to their beds and lie there giving out the most heart breaking groans and asking the nurse how long they had to live. When the result of their blood tests came through, these and the finding of the medical board was posted up on the board over their head together with the clearance for a hospital in England. When the orderly had left the ward they immediately jumped out of bed and when they saw that they were due to go to "Blighty" they rushed up and down the ward like madmen and in the excitement one of them jumped over quite a large table that was in the middle of the ward. Whatever was wrong with their blood, didn't seem to cause them much discomfort. So I left this place and went to a convalescent camp near by for a brief period. I was as weak as a rat. One day when out for a stroll with a few friends that I had palled up with, we came to a monument on the coast. It could have been that of Napoleon looking across the sea to England. It was quite high and could be climbed to the top by an inside stairway. Against my good judgement I was inveigled to climb this thing with my mates and the effort nearly killed me and when we reached the top I looked over the rails to the bottom and nearly went out to it. Since then I have been very afraid of heights, although before this episode heights never had much effect on me. At this time the Fronts of the allies had been severely dislocated by the efforts of the Germans and no one knew where the different units were exactly, so when I was despatched to find my unit armed with a pass and a railway warrant, I had a difficult job in front of me. I was reluctant to go back to the death trap that I now considered my unit to be and I soon found that if one pitched up at a rail head and told a sorry story to the soldiers there, a bed and rations were easily forthcoming. I stopped trying to find my unit and just used to report to a rail head wherever I found myself at the end of the day. Finally I paraded in front of an R.T.O - Railway Transport Officer -, and explained that I had been unable to find my unit and could he do something about it and he finally, after a lot of enquiries had been made, directed me to a divisional supply unit, which I was attached to temporarily as in charge of the artillery stores, (a lot of spares for the guns, that were kept in reserve for the batteries). The snag of the job was that there was already a soldier in charge of these parts, so I was really redundant and it irked the officers of the unit to see us two loafers hanging about all the day doing nothing, whilst the rest of the unit were working like hell cleaning down the mules and wagons and every night going to the railhead and loading and delivering supplies up the line to their division. I was racing against time, trying to get transferred into the Mechanical Transport before I was shunted back to my old unit and every night I composed an application for transfer to the Mechanical Transport. The lies I told would have made Ananias jealous and made him look an amateur. If my experience had been totted up as time I would have to be a hundred years old and must have been repairing motors before there were any on the roads. To my surprise, long after I had given up hope I was told to apply to Divisional Transport section and armed with the necessary papers I finally achieved my desire and was posted as a mechanic to the workshops. As soon as I had bluffed my way into the workshops, I began to make myself, as I see now, an intolerable nuisance, with my constant chatter about things I knew nothing of. One day my right hand started to swell up and I retreated to a hut for a rest as I could not carry on because I had contracted a dose of blood poisoning. The Sergeant Major came along and started to bully me saying that if I was sick I should report sick. This I did and at the casualty clearing station, the doctor put a probe under the skin of the right palm and lifted the tissue up right across the palm to let the muck out and I was sent back with excused duty for a few days which gave me the necessary time to plot revenge and build up hate for the Serg't Major and the unit. And I got over this bout and really 'went to town', so that I was placed under arrest for throwing things across the workshop and making a Sergeant cry with temper because of the rude things I said to him. But before this we shifted the workshop one time and we were told to park by a railway dump, the other side of the road to the railway station on a nice clear patch under direct observation by a German Sausage balloon that was used for artillery spotting. About half of the roof of the canvas top of the workshop was erected when a shell came over the roof and exploded over the other side of the road and being an ex artillery Walla', I concluded that we were going to go to kingdom come if we stayed in that joint, for I inferred that the first shell was the beginning of an artillery bracket, which is what they fire before really starting on a new target. They get the range and then fire one over the range, one under the range and then estimate the difference to hit the target, correcting the angle at the same time. Never being a reticent bloke and thinking that the truth was all that mattered I started a lightning propaganda telling the people that were working, to get like hell out of it quickly, for if they didn't they would all be casualties. But a prophet is without honour in his own unit, least of all a windbag like me and no one heeded me. I did get one companion to accompany me as I bid a hasty retreat and to hell with what they thought of my cowardice and no sooner were we out of range than the second shell fell in front of the lot and later on a direct hit was scored on the workshop. There were some casualties and then they pulled the workshop down and squatted on a place that had more cover from the enemies artillery spotters which is what they could have done firstly and saved themselves a nasty time. But the unit could not choose their own site, they have to heed the instructions of Head Quarters of the area, wherein one would find what in peace time is found in homes for the senile and the aged or a home for inebriates. Oh, the gold braid on the caps and the scarlet ribbon on the lapels, the red noses with the thin veins running criss cross across the skin, a record of the brandy that had coursed down their throats as they discussed the next act of suicide for their troops to commit; inside like frightened children, but outside blustering their way through it all, secure that no one could read their little minds, yet, if they could, would never dare to call out the truth knowing that authority would brand them traitors and liars. So stupid are all these people, herding together to protect the edifice they have erected around themselves. See the posters of the war begging for recruits. A staff officer, grim of jaw, a perfect specimen of Man, - to popular conventions, of course - long whiskers that one could tie together and steely eyes; he says, "your country needs you". And a long time afterwards people whisper, 'Homosexual'! Most people worship money, power and authority and suppose one attains it, although the urge is greed and the ways of attaining it are always vicious and wicked, there are few that would not use these measures supposing they would be rewarded by these things. The only thing that stops them is the lack of opportunity. And in times of war they are paid for their desires by the loss of the things that heaven has sent to give them happiness; their children, and the serenity of peace; but they never learn their lesson and they suppose that the people in authority will give them what they would not give, if they were transposed. "Oh, master guide me in the ways I should go, this thing is full of hate and yet I know I am just another one of the people I am writing of".
At this time, I was told to put another piston and bush and pin in a despatch rider's motor cycle and when I had finished, although this was not permitted, I decided that I would test the machine although I had not ridden a motor cycle before. So I snaked it out side ways from the road and off I went. I soon got the hang of the machine and I was returning when I was passed by another rider and thinking that because he looked at me that he was challenging me, I passed him and when we passed the workshops which were on a bend, there were plenty of spectators of my unit to view the race in progress. I would not close the throttle and could not lean over enough to get round and I nearly came a cropper. At last I gave the game up and my sanity returned, so I turned round, wondering what would happen. It is surprising how lucky I have been with the people I am so fond of condemning. The workshop Staff Sergeant told me off and that was the end of it. If I had been in the British Army I would have been for it in a big way. Perhaps it was my youth and sometimes they saw in my talk and actions things they would have liked to do and say had they not had the time to be more cautious. One time I was put on the first aid wagon; a vehicle that was used to salvage the trucks or bring them in after they had gone in the ditch, which was pretty often. I think that some officer was after a medal but didn't want to earn it himself, so we were ordered to proceed up the Menin Road, a very hot place indeed, and await any vehicle that got into difficulties, so that it could be attended to on the spot. Steve Gibson had just been appointed Sergeant and he was in charge of the detail. We parked up on a wide corner just before Ypres. Immediately opposite us was a 60 Pounder battery that we soon found out was being fired upon by the enemy. Big calibre shells were being spread all over the place and everyone had the breeze right up. We soon took cover, all but Steve, who lately being non-commissioned must have thought that three stripes in the army conferred immortality upon him. There he was walking up and down the road stiff legged and full of fear, with the new stripes shining brightly and we in the ditch, particularly me, as I was his friend, extorting him not to be a bloody fool and get the lorry and us out of this very poor spot. He finally got the wind up and rushed to the lorry, started her up and flew down the road.
Oh, the joy of digging a bogged vehicle laying on it's side, with 40 boxes of 18 Pounder ammunition inside the body, from a frozen ditch. With the hands frozen, off loading the ammunition, slowly jacking and packing the rear wheels and front with baulks of timber, until after hours of work we instructed the driver to very carefully let his clutch into first gear when signalled to do so, which was when the breakdown vehicle had taken the slack in the tow line. Slowly the vehicles start to move and the signaller drops his hand to the driver on the towed vehicle. He lets the clutch in with a jerk on a racing engine, the blocks are spewed away from the rear wheels and the vehicle subsides again on its side. For a little while we hate the driver more than we do the German army.
When I was brought before the commanding officer after making the Sergeant cry, he said that I had better be sent into the column as a driver as it seemed that I would not be able to get on in the workshop after the fracas that I had caused and so I became a spare driver. I soon got the sack from the first two drivers that I was put with. The second put me in great danger, because the previous night I had quarrelled with him and that morning following, he told me to take the wheel and when I got near to Amiens it was being shelled, so I drove very slowly through the town, with the other driver cursing me for not going as fast as possible. I must say that he was very white when, at his command, I stopped outside the town and I forgave him the rude words that he called me although some of them were awful. But going fast didn't save you, you had to be lucky; but no one knows when that is running out. When the company decided to put on a variety show, we went into Amiens and pinched a piano and a lot more things, such as young women's clothes, particularly the underwear, for all soldiers find these things most irresistible when worn by the noble sex, particularly when the wearer has a hairy chest and a lot of face hair that shows up however much he has shaved. The very sight of a woman dressed man coming on the stage brings down the house. And although somewhat crude, the buffoonery splits one's sides, so avid are soldiers for the things they mostly miss. They put on an opera, all the words chosen by the army composers, and I can see in my mind now, the big fat heroine bawling out that she wanted to be saved as she lay on the floor with a big red "C" propped up by her; and a man dressed as an Arab or something bawling away that he had to save his darling from the Red sea or she would surely drown and then he would have to find someone else to have his amours with. There is always plenty of talent to be found and good singers of sentimental songs are ten a penny anywhere in an army. At least they were wherever I found myself.
I digress again to state the fact that sex is ever present as a conversational gambit in an army and the more killing that soldiers indulge in the more sex is discussed, for the reason that those who kill have an unconscious urge to perpetuate the birth of the race. And although frequenting whore shops does not raise the birth rate, this is the way that the urge is implemented. It is a callous thing to say that the old ways of fighting, when there was not mass extermination of the bodies that modern war demands, the raping of the women by conquering soldiers of an alien country probably resulted in the production sometimes of a human being far superior in every way than would have resulted from a normal conception as a result of a physical union of, say, a man of the village. The complete removal of any suggestion of interbreeding that followed these things had it's benefit, although the total lack of humanity, the lack of love, the brute beast that lay at the back of the act had nothing to commend this thing. Many a young woman would sigh to be raped at these times, but to know who they would be was a problem the soldier could not solve. So he raped where he could and wrecked the life of the good being, who thought more of her soul and eternity than the bloody eugenicists thought of the material guts that we live in. No, life was not all concert parties for us benzene wallas. Four of us drivers with our trucks were detailed off for a particularly noxious job one day. We had to proceed to a place that the French had taken over from the British and pick up some gas cylinders that they intended to use on an assault that had been planned. These cylinders had been stored in a large dugout and when we got there we found outside a French battery of 75mm. Apparently they were in the midst of a battle for survival with their German rivals in the quick firing shell business, for the gunners were stripped to the waist and the shells were going out from the barrels as fast as they could be loaded; and equally fast, if not faster, the German shells were closing round them. As we looked at this thing we had to brave to obtain our cargo, there were often seen the gunners dropping from wounds as they necessarily had to expose themselves to the bombardment. These gas cylinders were about three foot long or so and there were a lot of them, which meant that very many trips would be required to get the lot away. We were, in a way in a worse position than the gunners, for most of them could get the cover from the guns themselves whilst we would be working in the open. At these times the blood runs cold. We waited, but there seemed to be no ending and we knew that the French would think that we had the windup and that their surmise was true, would be proved if we didn't get a move on. We nearly busted our hearts and lungs loading this cargo and we were rewarded by getting away without a scratch. Its what they call, for the want of a better knowledge - luck; but the soldier used to say, "If the bullet's got your name on it, you've got it coming". Kismet. Allah. Or what have you. Supplied with these gas shells were mortars of a primitive kind, consisting of a sort of college cap; mortarboards. There was a little propellant put in the base of the cap and then followed the gas cylinder. The whole affairs were placed in a trench facing the enemy lines and when the wind was right they were fired off and with a bit of luck, for you, but not for the enemy, they lobbed in the German front lines and wrecked forever the lungs and sight of countless poor sods caught up in the war game of the profiteers and the scheming politicians, who had been told that they were fighting for God, or for justice, or for, whatever the publicists had been told to make the password for this war we are talking of. Sometimes when on the road, a lorry passing us would make the gas sign to us as he scuttled on urgently and then we knew that gas shells were bursting in front of us and when we got the first whiff we gave the old hearse all she could take and generally drove out of the gas before it got us. There were no casualties with our unit, but we had all seen the result of it. Not a pretty sight! We were on a long nightly shift, one time, delivering army supplies from the nearest railhead to the line, averaging fifty miles or so, which meant a 100 mile jag and this mileage, taking into account loading time, occupied most of the night. Some of the roads were not very good and one must remember that in those days solid tyres were the shoes for the wheels of the chariots that we drove. A chap came up to me and asked me to buy a carburettor that he had pinched from somewhere and said that it was right for the lorries that we drove; so I bought it off him hoping that I could hot the engine up and get some more revs out of the poor old cow that I drove. I had no spare driver at the time and what with the driving and the loading, the extra speed could have been an asset. The petrol pipe that fitted the normal carburettor was too short so I got round to Steve Gibson, my erstwhile pal of the workshops to solder a bend into the end and then I fitted it to the machine with the new carburettor. By then the shades of night were falling fast and it was time to wind up the truck and go to the railhead and get loaded up for the night and go punching through the wilderness and dark on another adventure; but this time I hoped to be travelling faster. I wound up the engine and she started easily and went into the routine tick over, but when she had warmed and I tried to move off she wouldn't accelerate. But now I was late for my detail and I had to line the truck up and get loaded. Eventually I got away and I knew I was going to have a hard time. It was raining and the engine was spitting and spluttering and would not get into the collar at all. But eventually I got rid of my load and although I had the old carburettor and a spare pipe in the back I thought I would get back on the set up that I had fitted, as I should be returning empty. I had got about 25 miles home when, going through a village, at the side of the road of which was parked a British lorry column, the engine gave some more spitting and then a sheet of flame bellowed up in front of me and I knew the petrol pipe had broken and the lot was on fire. I should mention that the petrol was gravity fed from a tank under the drivers seat and the stop cock was on the outside of the truck. I clapped on the hand brake and slapped her in neutral, grabbed the pyrene from it's clamp on the side of the cab and before she had stopped, I was round the front on the other side and had turned off the petrol. I was shouting the fire warning of our unit, "Pyrene, you bastards. Pyrene, you bastards". It was an involuntary cry, but it aroused some of the drivers of the parked vehicles, who seeing the glare responded gallantly, and, keeping the bonnet closed I directed them to squirt the Pyrene under the bonnet from the ground level and soon the fire was smothered. So I got the old carburettor and the other pipe out of the back and, in the pouring rain I lay on the ground and fitted the standard equipment back. The smooth response of the engine and the improved pulling was to me like a respite from the tortures of hell and I was reminded of the saying that, "how pleased one would be, if all they had was taken from them and then, after a period it was returned". I found out from Steve, that he had not been able to get a piece of thick gauge pipe and had stuck a piece of radiator tubing on the end of the pipe; which is very thin tubing indeed. It was a silly thing to do, for the engines used to vibrate very much at the speed we used to drive them; which wasn't very fast judged by modern standards, but too fast for the things they made at that era in the development of the motor vehicle. I stuck some new H.T. Cable on the magneto, to wrap with rag, to hold it off from the metal to get home and later on I scrounged a new distributor which had become a bit charred but still worked and with a lick of paint in places the old chariot was as good as new.
These old trucks, at their best were rather slow and when we were in a hurry it was the custom to put the gears in neutral and coast down the hills. The brakes were also a poor feature on the vehicles of this era and there was the trouble of coasting down an unknown hill, for sometimes there would be railway lines at the bottom which were well above the ground and hitting these lines at a speed, often resulted in the breaking of the road springs. One driver broke the lot of his road springs. When it became an order that the driver had to replace his broken road springs before he could go to his rest, the incidence in this occurrence sharply declined and coasting down uncharted hills went out of practice.
The war had ended and we found ourselves camped in the square of a place called Chatelet near Charleroi in Belgium. There was plenty of work to be done and the clearing up of stores kept the company busy. One night I was lying in wait for a gang that was stealing tins of petrol from the under body tray on the vehicle that was used for carrying this fuel. I heard a rattling and jumped over the side of the truck and was engaged in a bout of fisticuffs with two young Belgian youths that I had caught red handed, when along poodles an officer temporarily attached to the unit, who starts to upbraid me. He called me a cur and said that I was a disgrace to the Australian army. When he was finished I told him that if I was a cur he was a Fucking Bastard and he had better get away from me before I started on him. I should say these louts were bigger than myself. They had to form a guard because at this time the unit was so lax that they never used to keep one and some of the drivers saw the advantage of volunteering and after it was sorted out the guard came to arrest me. I was getting my tea in the lorry at the time when the Sergt' Major came to the tail board and yelled, "West, you are under arrest". I yelled back, "when I have finished my tea". And then he became angry and jumped into the lorry and said that if I didn't come out he would throw me out. And I said you had better not try. We finished up in a very unsoldier like manner abusing each other, he standing in the truck waiting for me to finish my tea. But I got out and then he shouted to the guard, "arrest this man". And the Corporal said, "come on Bill, the guard room's over the cook house and we shall be able to pinch out of the unit and have a good old time in Charleroi". This we did and used to go all over the place after the inspection was over. We visited the wax works devoted to the exhibition of models in wax of all the filthiest diseases caused by venereal disease. The models were so life like that one had a hard job to refrain from vomiting. There were jars and jars of parts of diseased organs that had been cut from persons of both sexes and the sight of the private parts floating in spirit proved that there seemed just as much skill used in destroying matter as was used in the creation of it. This experience put me off eating meat for a week. But when the O.C. had brushed up his knowledge in the trying of crimes and the punishing of the same, the stage was set for the farce to begin. I had been advised by my brother soldiers of the punishment that I would receive and this ranged from reduction to the ranks, which would mean that I would be deprived of the stripe that had been bestowed upon me some time ago (called a dog's leg), to being shot at dawn; some frivolous friend said, "in the balls". I had formed the idea myself that they couldn't do much about it because I thought that the language that the officer had used to me, "would be deemed unseemly for that of an officer and a gentleman". And so it turned out to be, I think. One morning, I was marched to the orderly room. Everyone had studied their manual and there were to be no mistakes this time. Outside the orderly room the guard and the prisoner were halted by the stentorian command of the Sergt' Major, and then the command quick march was given, "Right turn. Halt!" And we were before the figure of justice. Poor old fool, he was worn out with study over the last week. At last, after all the hours of worry and care, the crucial moment had arrived and the solemn charge was read out followed by the question, "Do you elect to be tried by me or court martial"? "By you sir", I said, "as I don't think you can do other than to reduce me to the ranks, due to the great provocation I received from the officer. I did not want this stripe bestowed upon me anyway". "Very well West, you are reduced to the ranks". When I left the orderly room there was a lot of grinning going on, so I suppose they had looked lightly upon the matter after due consideration of the facts. When I took over my lorry, I found that there was a strike being formed by the more ruthless members of the unit. These were the old originals who's attestation papers had the clause, "for four years or the duration of the war", and they contended that as the war was now over, they were entitled to immediate repatriation to Australia and I suppose we were. They were making representations to the O.C. for repatriation but he could not give them any satisfaction and so they decided to strike. All of us old soldiers banded together and decided we would not take the lorries out and would prevent the other vehicles being sent out on detail. The provost marshal held a meeting with us in the town hall and said that we were heading for a sort of civil war; his men against us, and one old die hard of ours said, "let's have a civil war then and then we can kill some of your bloody policemen. The dirty pimping bastards. They would shoot their bloody mothers". I am sure the P.M. thought that he was dealing with a lot of common soldiers indeed, but he was wise not to go as far as he threatened. The matter was finally settled by all the trouble makers being sent to an English camp at Warminster, where we languished in practically solitary confinement and we would have been far happier working in France, driving the trucks. The fact was that their was not sufficient sea transport available to repatriate the Australians at the time.
Towards the end of the war when things were chaotic, I was driving my truck somewhere near Albert when I saw a short stumpy figure trudging along with his knap sack full, and I stopped because I thought that he resembled Major Parker, my old battery commander. It was, and I drew attention to myself and he immediately recognised me. "Ah, my fitter, West". I asked him if he could drink a cup of tea and stopped the lorry by the side of the road, lit the primus and soon we were munching tea and toast, which seemed to be just what he was needing. He said that he couldn't get a good gun fitter and if I would transfer back to him he could easily get me a commission. "Why", I said, "My officers keep on getting themselves killed", he said. I thought; how wrongly you have weighed me up that you think I should take advantage of such a preposterous idea. But he was most gallant and fearless gentleman and I have often used him as a yard stick to estimate the value of other gentlemen I have met. "A real good brave guy", I say, "just like Major Parker". But I use him as a yard stick only. I could not emulate him. I have never had the desire. It's like the appreciation of a sweet scented flower. One loves them, but knows that one could never smell like them, however one tried. And so we parted, never to meet again, and he never knew his gun fitter honoured him so; such as it was worth!
The bravery of the people I met in the army often astonished me. I used to think, why do you value your life so little that you would lose it for this thing you have got into? Surely you think for yourself and reason and now you have had the time to think, you know that you have been led up the garden. Why do you think the shooting of the enemy to be the right thing to do? Surely you must know that they were inveigled into this like you; that they are fighting some one else's battle. But always people say, "let's get this thing done with and we won't make the same mistake again". No! We won't make the same mistake again; all the soldiers of the world have been saying it for a thousand years. It proves that everyone has to buy their own experience; that memory is short; that people are in the main, often more stupid than animals. We don't really know the purpose of our birth and when killed in war we certainly don't know why either. And if we are confided in so little in these essential things, our masters must think little of us. Perhaps we would be more cherished and confided in if we made of ourselves what we are capable of being. Like a dog that is loved by his master because he is noble and kind and another dog is hated because he is always fighting and snarling and hating. But observe, how many masters there are that have affection for the hating, snarling dog; for in it they see the reflection of themselves. We must include the moaning, snivelling type too, I suppose, in which category I seem to fall, and I don't suppose the Gods like this type either for they have mad no revelation to me. But, we will now leave the sickly sweet smell of death and smell of putrefying human corruption, and help build the brave new world that we have fought for. Make up time smelling the roses and reaping the benefits of the prize we have won. Find the time for contemplation and have leisure to laze for awhile in the sun, so to speak. See how those whom we left behind have profited by our sacrifices; have been purified by the blood sacrifice of their first born. We will reap the benefit of their gratitude for what we have done for them.
Oh! For heavens sake, come off it. Don't rub it in so! You know what hypocrites we all are. Bugger you Jack, we are all right. "A journalist type once went to the editor of a daily paper for a job and the editor asked him what he specialised in and the type said, "destructive criticism". "But what of", said the editor. "Everything", said the journalist". I think I could have got a job like that if only I could bloody well spell and use this typewriter properly; for it seems that I have been working on the theme. It could be that I have not touched this thing for a week and have just arisen from a most refreshing sleep and this has made me soliloquise and think tenderly, but I am afraid not truthfully, upon the human race. How the destiny of millions of the human race are governed by the gastric and mental condition of their rulers! Consider Napoleon, that filthy scourge of the human race. Here we had a man that had an eternal belly ache and revenged himself for it on the manhood of his adopted land. The greedy politicians of France, seeing what a tool had been forged for them to spread throughout the world some of their inherent vice and wickedness and misery, used him for this purpose and he was let loose upon the world; financed by the souse of the poor in the form of ruinous taxation, he pranced along at the head of his army, under a form of hypnosis, saying to himself, "if only I can win the next battle, perhaps my stomach ache will ease off a lot". If only this sod of a man had not abused his sexual organs in puberty and later on left the women alone for a few minutes of time, his miserable constitution would not have been so debilitated and then his belly would have left him in peace so that he could have become a useful citizen and raised a few sheep or grown an acre or two of corn for the starving poor. And the fate of millions would have been so different. But we do not know enough to judge, although; if we cannot observe a barn door when in front of it, we must indeed be very blind. In the same line of reasoning; if we can't see the cloven hooves and the horns of our rulers perhaps we would find difficulty in observing barn doors.
Perhaps my sleep made me unkind after all! Perhaps, the bravery I mentioned previously, that I found in the army, also the comradeship and what have you, that is the reed that man pins his faith in the human race to, is an indication that we are indeed fallen angels, that in spite of the sins that have put us in this world, there is still hope that in some other clime and some other world we may again find the home from which we were ejected and, "How happy will we be to have the things returned, that we forfeited for a while". I hope so! To love and not be blind. To know and see all and yet love. Then begins the souls awakening and the commencement of the long homeward journey, with the master and all the helpers at the end smiling and waiting for us. "There you are, Bill", they seem to say. "You made it". "We knew you would". And as one shiveringly looks back and says, "I wouldn't like to have that experience again", there comes the reassuring thought that this lesson is ineradicable from the mind and that the spirit has been so inoculated from evil, that it just can't happen any more.
Let's revert to the Napoleonic theme again. Suppose the fate of the world is being discussed around a table and all the humbugs of national representation are there, the prelates, the war generals, the premiers and even a few fops wearing crowns. The crucial moment arrives when the fate of many are in one man's hand. At this moment he feels the tickle in the bladder that warns him he must void his water or piss in his pants. He knows that if he leaves the table now his opponents will win; but time becomes pressing to him. He starts to tremble. "The hon. member was trembling with rage", some reporter writes to his editor. He was trembling to piddle really! At last the call of nature is the imperative moment to him and he agrees, where if he hadn't wanted to piddle he would have fought like a Lion to have his will. It's the old story that goes on for ever and ever.
There's an old story I read long ago. I can't remember the names of the characters, but briefly it goes something like this. There's a bloke in 'quod' who has been making himself a nuisance to the government for a log time because he has been telling the people the truth about their rulers and the people seem to be in danger of waking up and interfering with the perks of these rulers. Now, the rulers know that this bloke will start all over again if they let him out, although they know that there is no evil in him really. The Prime Minister of this set up has a beautiful looking daughter who has served her time at the art of harlotry and what she doesn't know about the game is no man's business. She is as good at debasing a man's body as her father is at debasing a man's mind. And the father says to his daughter, "you must get your latest sugar daddy, the king, to get John the Baptist's head removed from the torso, so that the lips can't work again. Observe the diplomatic language; no mention of murder. If you don't, we shall have to move to a smaller house and the class of your admirers will go down a peg or two". The cunning fellow really means that he will be in the soup himself. So the daughter leads the dotaged and sexual wreck called the king right up the garden path. When she sees him drooling and shaking, as with the palsy, as he views her thighs that have been exposed because she has wantonly let her girdle loose, she knows that she will have him in the hollow of her hand. Sorry, I meant in the hollow of her bosom. So she rouses his sex desire - what's left of it - and when he is near to fainting from the ardour of his passions she whispers, "Next week", you may take my virginity. Whatever that is - and then she leaves him to go back to his loving wife, so that she may feed him up with goats' broth and other things, her thinking that his poorly condition is due to anaemia or something like that. During the following week the harlot is being groomed for the seduction of the king. All the spices and perfumes of Arabia are being used on her body by her groomers and she begins to smell more like a Pharaonic mummy than a human being. But they say, "that's how the king likes it", and who's to say what a thing like a king, that is so far removed from actuality as a pearl from swine, likes. They shave the little hair from her thighs and give her an enema, so that if she would make wind it would not debase the king's mind, for the enema has scented water. During this time the king's wife has made a good job on her husband and now the king can walk to the toilet without his stick and he feels like a two year old. While he is lying on his back in his bed, that is - so gallant looking, under his wife's care does he begin to look, that she remembers how, he aroused her amour so much that she went out with her page boy and so the heir to the throne was born forty years previously. Comes the night, and to the music of muted lyres, Salome's palanquin comes to the royal palace and the queen's servant gives his mistress the scented drug that will save her the disgrace of observing the infidelity of the king, she is always taking this scented drug for she has had to take so much of it that she has developed a craving for the muck. The king is in his throne room, but a golden bed is now occupying the place that the Prime Minister's seat normally occupies. He is a royal sight, dressed in cloth of spun gold, with zippers down the trousers and a golden crown that only his ears keep from obscuring his noble visage. Incense is burning profusely, for the king has been told that it has sex stimulating properties, which assistance intuition tells him he will need. To the sound of the muted lyres and the lutes is joined the soft footfalls of Salome, the Prime Minister's daughter come whore, and then the door opens and a vision of surprising but unnatural loveliness is wafted into the room. She goes on her knees and hobbles towards the decrepit king and as the door is drawn softly to its close, so that the servants can look through the key hole, she clasps his legs and croons, "My lord, my love, my lover, my loved one". At the same time squeezing an atomiser of special dope that she has been assured would make a eunuch run amok in a brothel. As they lie in each other's arms, the king alternately growing hot and then cold before the consummation can begin, Salome whispers, "do you love me my lord"? "Of course I do", murmurs the king, "and if I could eat my way through the sticky muck and powder that you have smeared your pomegranates with, I swear I could eat one". "You would have to eat your way through two pounds of paraffin wax as well", muses Salome as she tickles the back of his ears. "Would you give me my heart's desire"? "Yes, as long as you don't want my prize camel", says the king. "Then give me the head of John the Baptist", says Salome. The king goes to the door and says to the chamberlain, "Bring me the head of that evangelist in dungeon no. 1, and don't let the gravy run all over the carpet". And to Salome he says, "go home now and don't tell anyone that I could not sow my wild oats with you. If you fail to keep silence on this, I'll have your head as you have had the evangelist's". And the lecherous king crawls back to the queen's chamber, more dead than alive and crawls into her bed because he feels so damned cold that he knows he will die if he doesn't warm up. "And what has my little boy been doing now"? Says the queen; although she knows perfectly well what has been going on as her spies have been giving her a five minute schedule of the whole episode". "Another one of those boring cabinet meetings dear", he says drowsily as her warmth begins to permeate his lecherous rotten body. "Well, go to sleep darling boy" she says, thinking, "you rotten bastard". Salome, so cursorily dismissed, crams the bleeding head into her handbag, dresses herself and creeps out the back door, watched by many pairs of hidden eyes. As she flees down the street there is a thin trail of blood left by the dripping handbag, and at last, she arrives breathless at her home and immediately goes to the study of her father, who is busy punishing the brandy bottle, full of anxiety as to the outcome of the plot. He sways a bit as he walks to his chair and demands, "what have you brought home for daddy, this time, my little dear". "Guess what?" Says his daughter. "A big haggis", says her father, eyeing the bag. "No", says Salome, "It's the head you asked me to get, and I wish you would have it sent to the kitchen, it's still bleeding. And I don't think I shall be able to eat any of it, I'll have toast and marmalade for my breakfast, please". "Oh, you rotten sod", says her father. "You senseless fool, now they will know who's behind this, I expected you to get into the cart over this affair and I hoped they would clap you in jail for ever, for I am disgusted with your immortality, and I hoped to kill two birds with one stone as it were, and get rid of two of my enemies on this dark and stormy night". "Traitorous cur", replies Salome. "No, diplomat", says her father.
I think the story was something like the one related, but my memory gets weaker as I age. But this story serves to drive home the fact that most people are the same under the skin. Some don't trouble to learn like a parrot all the affectations in speech, or clothe themselves for the part. Some don't trouble to be more wicked than they are naturally, because they have found out that the practice of imposing upon others carries a high price tag, so they are content to hit back only under provocation. The fools think that there is no connection with their duodenal ulcer and their wickedness, so they lie and rob and spread disaster wherever they are found. In their greed for fame and so called success they fight most unscrupulously for power and position and they quiet their conscience by quoting Robert Service's poems and such like to themselves. "Such muck as the weak going to the wall, only the strong should survive etc, etc". They do not realise that they make a travesty of this talk for their own minds; and because a person is quiet and loves not power or wealth, and is not avaricious, nor covetous etc. It is not an indication that they are unintelligent or in any way inferior to those in high places. The poem "slowly tolls the bell at even tide", with a little transposing would make my idea plain.
It has at last permeated my thick head that I am supposed to be writing my autobiography, so I think that I had better stop this digressing, at least for a while. Now, where were we?
I had applied for my discharge from the army to be given me in England, but this was not to be and I loafed about in England for months waiting for my return to Australia. It was during this time that I became married. I can say nothing about this that would not fail to disgust the reader, for I do not think that at this period I was fit to take a wife, for I was not far removed in my instincts from that of an animal. It is easy to be so critical of one's self when time has modified the chemistry of the body so that the fires are now banked and there is, so to speak only a whisper coming from the safety valve and the body engine is turning steadily and easily. Not the way as in my youth, with my heart trying to bust its way out of my body and my mind beating with fury and frustration and my luck seemingly down to zero. How can one reveal one's inner self to the censure, ridicule and derision of another. In all my crudity, I know that there is a material mind and a psychic mind and with the material mind we reveal our thoughts that sometimes are actuated by the psychic; but we are careful to hide the real thought and feeling that lies in the words we use at these times. It is the part of mystery that man has used from the beginning. It is found in the ritual of secret societies and that of the church. It is expressed in the decorative architecture of the churches and without the code book and initiation, the thing or the individual personality is safe from prying eyes. And this is my justification, also an excuse for not revealing myself as a very ordinary thing indeed.
Came the time when my wife and I found ourselves on a ship bound for that land of opportunity, Australia. After a boring and uneventful voyage we found ourselves put ashore in Sydney, New South Wales. There was a very bad epidemic of Spanish 'flu raging and people were dying in large numbers and very soon we were both down with this disease, which was very debilitating and left one very weak with the ravages it made upon the system. All soldiers had to register at the labour exchange and sustenance pay was made until a job had been found or one was found for one. Until employment was found it was necessary to report twice a week and if one failed to do this one was struck off the list and the sustenance pay was stopped. When we went down with the 'flu, I was unable to report and the pay ceased which was a very serious thing indeed, for jobs were impossible to obtain. We didn't have a doctor to attend us or I suppose I could have proved by a certificate that I was unable to attend. My wife seemed to make a complete recovery, but the disease must have injured my heart, because for years afterwards I enjoyed a knife like pain and my heart seemed likely to slip it's moorings, so hard did it beat. To prove this organ was defective, I will relate what happened when I eventually cashed my war gratuity worth about four hundred pounds. These gratuities could not be cashed by the government because they were insolvent at the time; but I learnt that an insurance coy. were cashing a limited number to approved applicants who had to pay in advance for four years of life assurance, when the applicant was given the change from his gratuity in cash. There was a long queue when I got to the offices and the word went round that this was to be the last day. As time passed there was little movement in the queue and I was about the last applicant admitted. The doctor who examined me looked seriously at me after sounding my heart and said, "I'm sorry, but I can't accept you". "What's wrong?" I said. "This means a lot to me. I have no money and I was relying on this money from the gratuity to carry on with. I have just got up from the 'flu and I suppose that the disease has knocked my heart up a bit". "Your heart is very flabby", he said, "but I will give you a third class insurance as I want to help you". It could be that he said this to all the applicants; but the heart was wrong somewhere; that I knew. As jobs were unobtainable, we eventually decided to try the electrical wiring game and so we rented a place of business on the main road going from Sydney to Bondi beach, at Oxford Street, Paddington. But before this, whilst trying to get a job we lived in residential flats for a while and there were some queer characters to be met in these places. At one place our flat was graced with a piano and this collapsed into component parts, when we tried to change it's position. We should have known why it was propped up against a corner. It hadn't got much tune but it had prestige, for meeting another tenant on the stairs, after the usual courtesies had been exchanged and we had been asked what part of the house we lived in, the other person would say, "Ah, the rooms with the piano". The landlady was very deaf and there came to stay at the house a very quack doctor, who to prove his knowledge of the arts was soon making soap in the landlady's kitchen and then he took her deafness in hand and one day we were edified by the sight and smell of her wearing a garland of garlic; so I suppose he was a sort of witch doctor and thought that he could frighten the deafness away by the stink of the garlic. We spent many entertaining evenings listening to the pair in the room underneath who used to row most of the time. The lady was not virtuous, but had a happy, rough and ready disposition and mother asked her one day if she would care to come up that evening. The floor boards were widely gapped in places so that it was easy to hear the conversation in their room and when the time drew near for their visit we heard them discussing their attire they would be wearing. "Oh, don't worry to put your socks and boots on. That shirt will do". And so one. So we crept out of the house and the lady was very annoyed when next we saw her.
I had met a fellow member of the M.T. Column, Dave Cook. He was as bald as a badger although not old and he had started house keeping with a real 'floozy'. They were living in a house by Bronte beach and the living room was done out entirely in a butcher's red. Even the light was supplied by a red bulb. I met him one day and he said that he had complementary tickets for a musical evening at the demonstration room of a firm that sold pianola pianos in George Street, the Oxford Street and West end section of Sydney. "Don't worry, I will come pick you up in my car; but spruce yourself up because the nobs will be there". We put on all our glad rags and awaited his coming. Presently there's a rattling sound and a couple of backfires and then the knocker goes; so we answer the door and there is Dave beaming complete with greased up toupee. We look at the conveyance and David's glance proudly follows ours. It was a model 'T' Ford tourer in the twilight of it's life. Smoke was coming from the back and steam from the front. What there was of the paint was gleaming redly in the setting sun and where the paint had fallen off, in the twilight, it gave a pleasing effect of a sort of camouflaged bedstead. But the brass headlamps were somewhat marred by the careless soldering that had been slopped all over them to hold them together. Sitting in the back with a proud simper spread across her face, his 'floozy' was wriggling away trying to dodge the protruding springs that had come adrift a few year back and were now sprouting from the seat covers, reminding one of spring, with the young shoots finding their way to the sun. "Come on. You get in the back, Mrs. West and Bill can come with me in the front. But you will have to give her a push to start her first". The car was on a bit of a down grade, so with all of us pushing and Dave at the wheel she soon roars into life and we clamber into the thing and off we clatter to the musical evening. There was a most resplendent commissionaire outside the shop waiting to show the visitors up the stairs and under his lordly direction we poodled up the stairs and thence to the large sort of miniature auditorium over the shop. We were certainly the worst dressed people in the place. There were ladies in evening dresses that allowed the evening air to cool their fevered breasts and men in tuxedo's and evening dress, smoking cigars. They gazed at our cavalcade with hardly hidden scorn seeming to mock us as we put on what 'jam' we could muster, to bluff our way into this select company. At last the tittering and talking subsides and the master of ceremonies takes the stage and announces that a famous soprano is going to sing for us and that she will be accompanied by Mr. So and So on the Pianola. At the mention of the lady's name there is a great burst of hand clapping so we suppose she is a big cheese; but what strikes us as very funny is the accompanist who now comes forward with his roll of mechanical music to feed it into the Pianola. He is done up better than a professional pianist; his hair is long and Marcelled; he wears evening dress with tails that almost sweep the ground. Superficial observation indicates that he is a very big mountebank indeed and that his love of self is exceedingly great; much too great a man to pedal a Pianola. He bows with a condescending air to the company and then sits on the music stool and fiddles with the roll of punched paper that is going to play the notes that he certainly couldn't, and when this has been done he signals the master of ceremonies who comes to the stage leading by the hand a very full bosomed and fat female. A crescendo of clapping greets her and when this has died down the piano pedaller starts to pedal, while the singer poses herself and takes a deep breath regaling the audience with a greasy smile. The notes come tinkling from the piano and then the singer starts to squawk. The singer stops and glares at the player. They both start again and then they again stop. It appears that the music from the piano is arranged as an orchestral piece on the song that the singer was to sing and that it isn't an accompaniment at all. The soprano, with heaving bosom and tearful eyes flounces to a small room at the side of the stage through which we can see very nicely as we are on a flank to the audience. The piano pedaller, in great pique snatches the offending roll of music from the piano, rushes off stage to the dressing room and dashes the roll of music to the floor and then rushes to the wall and gives way to his grief resting his bowed head in his arms. All this is too much for us and we are crying with joy and most of the audience are staring angrily at us. Along comes the commissionaire and tells us that we must leave if we can't behave, and as by now we can't, we get out of the place, with Dave's little 'floozy' thinking that she has been done out of something.
This place we rented to take on the job of wiring and electrical contractor, as the painted sign on the front window so elegantly set forth, was a pretty, rat ridden, rough sort of a place, but with the lovely sign painted on the window we thought that business would soon be booming. I purchased a lot of electrical cable and conduit and fittings, with lots of lamps and electrical domestic appliances; the latter of which were tastefully set out in the window. Alas and alack! From day to day the people passed the window not sparing a glance for the electric iron and the grill and a few more bit's and pieces I had purchased. If anyone entered it was to ask for free blotters which I had obtained from the G.E.C. or, if we were lucky, to buy threepenny worth of fuse wire. That 4oz. bobbin of fuse wire was the only thing we made profit on. And I remember the time when there was nothing to eat for breakfast until the sun shone on us and a customer bought from us some fuse wire and we were able to buy some cheese with it. We were not unhappy, largely because there is a fellow feeling that makes one glad and so many people were without jobs and on their beam ends that we thought that we were in good company.
When I recovered from the 'flu, I was cursed with an aching back molar, so I went to the dentist to have the tooth extracted, but he persuaded me to have the thing gold capped, offering to do this at cost price. I had managed to get a job to overhaul a Buick car engine completely. In the middle of doing this job, - so inefficiently, I fear, that if I could see this customer after all these years I would give him his money back - this capped tooth developed an ulcer at it's roots and I was suffering the tortures of the damned. So, I went along to the nearest dentist and said that I wanted the tooth extracted. The person in charge of the establishment said that he was only the assistant, so I said, "well can't you pull the thing out"? And although he didn't want to this job I kept on at him until he said, "get into the chair, I'll see what I can do".
It is peculiar that on the eve of happenings that are going to blast one's life and leave memories that one cannot forget, that there are no warnings. The clock idly continues to tick, the flies fly against the window pane and the cat continues to lick it's fur. In a few moments nothing will be the same again. The butcher has you on the block and is rubbing his thumb along the edge of the chopper, but there is oblivion to all these things. You have come to have your tooth pulled out; just a simple thing like that is not cause for a fanfare of trumpets surely. I take my seat in the chair and the assistant fills the syringe, I start to get a little apprehensive as I feel the needle scraping along the bone of the jaw and think that he is trying to poke the needle from one side of the jaw through to the other side. We wait awhile for the potion to take effect and after that he selects a pair of forceps and with the first grip he crushes the side of the jaw and the roots of the offending tooth at the same time. By golly! That young chap had a strong a wrist as I ever did see. We writhed and floundered for eternity until at last he gave up the massacre and admitted defeat and I fell out of my chair bleeding my life's blood into my stomach. With my tongue I kept pushing up the flap of skin at the side of the butchered jaw, but it kept falling back and very often I would swallow some more clotted blood which after a while became sickening and I though, if I get out of this jam, I'll never drink raw blood again. I gave him his 4/6 and as I went from the place the last thing I saw was the sign on the window, "Specialist in Difficult Extractions". In my delirium I thought to myself, "Ah! That was the trouble, my tooth was not difficult, otherwise he could have removed it with little trouble. It was too easy for him. I must go to a Chinese torturer the next time I want a tooth extracted.
I returned to the shed where the job was and I lay under the vehicle and tried to do my work. After a short while, all around the car was clotted blood that I had to continually spit out to prevent myself from choking. And then the fellows who owned the place told me to go home and not die on their premises, so I went home, but only part of me seemed to be there as I staggered down the road. I neither felt the pavement or the weight of my body; I must have been very anaemic at the time. We finally decided very late in the night that I had better see a doctor for I felt very weak indeed, but continued to bleed but in diminishing quantities. I suppose the supply was running out. The doctor gave me one look and said, "this is beyond me, I will phone a dental surgeon", and when he had given us the address we went round to her place and she bound up the jaw and doped the wound with some dope that stopped the bleeding although I don't think there was much blood left by now. She said to Elsie, "You must keep him propped up in bed or he might bleed to death". I got into bed and was filled with a growing lassitude and I slipped lower and lower to a laying position, whereupon I was lifted again to the sitting position. I could not talk so I indicated that I required pencil and paper to be brought and I wrote. "don't care if I do die, going to lie down", and I did this and had a good sleep after a hard day's work. I should call this, 'the tale of the tooth'. It could be that providence was working in a strange way, for the complete evacuation of my blood at this time may have had the effect of clearing up the residual effects of the 'flu and the poison left in the blood stream. I like to think these ways sometimes, for it is not nice to think that a perfect stranger should try to murder one just for the hell of it.
The automatic telephone was installed in Sydney all those years ago and a well known firm of shipping agents who had offices there wanted the telephone authority to shift two of their phones to new offices that they had taken over, but they were so long winded over doing this job that the boss got on me and asked me to do the work for him. I said that the authority would not like an outsider to interfere with their phones, but he said, "get on with the job and if there is any trouble I will attend to them". I would say now, that there was graft everywhere in Sydney and if one wanted anything done the thing to do was to tip the official concerned to obtain service. I went there one morning and commenced to run the wire along the passage way to the new offices and got one phone connected up and I was in the middle of getting the other one connected when a flash, cocky type of person came up to me and started to look at the job and then walked to the office where the phone was and then came back and said, "what are you working on"? I said, "I am shifting some phones". "Are you working for the dept."? He asked"; knowing that it was no good bluffing the fellow, I said, "no, I am working on my own". "You are in for it now", he said. "We'll teach you not to interfere with government property". "All right", I said, "but first go into this office and see the boss who asked me to do the job and tell him what's on your mind". He went in and later came out smoking a cigar. "All right cobber", he said, "you can shift all the bloody phones in the building if you like". Shows one what a little 'dropsy' can do.
At Darlinghurst junction, there was a Sacred Heart Cathedral, and one morning when I opened the door of the shop I picked up an envelope in which was a note asking me to go to this place and attend to the wiring going to the motor that blew the air for the organ. I attended this place and upon examination I found that there where the conduit went under the steps that led to the entrance of the Cathedral, the constant dripping of rain water had corroded the pipe away, rotted the cable insulation and caused a short circuit. As this job would cost quite a sum of money to rectify, I went to find someone in authority who could reassure me that payment would be forthcoming. Although there were people working round the place, I could not find anyone who could give me any advice as to whom to see, whom I could talk business with. At last, fed up with the evasive looks and obvious secrecy, I found the house of the bishop and bashed the door and waited for a while and then bashed the knocker again but harder this time. The door was eventually opened by the housekeeper who stood there solemnly saying nothing. I bawled out, "I have come about the organ". "Someone put a note under my door this morning asking me to fix the organ motor. Well, I have looked at the job and now I want someone to tell me who's going to pay for the job when it is finished. I found plenty of people to tell me what wanted doing, but no one who could tell me who would pay for the job, so I have come along to you people". I had plenty of time to study the appointments of the waiting room. It was all dished up to impress the simple souls that became mentally paralysed by statuettes depicting different religious paraphernalia, that were plastered with gilt and it was so garish that it would have been more in keeping in the entrance hall of a flash brothel than in the place it was. Time passed, but then there booms solemnly the muffled sound of a gong; the door slowly opens and there stands the bishop attired in all the ridiculous vestments of a Roman Catholic Bishop, complete with a mitred hat; all brocade and gold and silver thread. Young and simple though I was, I saw through the whole paraphernalia. There he stood with his hands clasped, saying nothing. I thought, "They don't intend to pay for this bloody job. Someone has sold them a bum steer about me and told them I was a sucker and that if they played their cards properly I would do this for the honour of the great Romish church, or because this show of pomp would impress me". Well, they were right in one way. I was impressed, but in the wrong way for them and their ideas. I bawled out to him the whole business and told him to go to hell. He said nothing, and out I stalked, full of fury and mentally chalking up another one against the whole bloody corruption business that lies around the foundations of these ritualistic humbugs.
That evening, old Fat Johnson who kept the garage next door came in for the usual chat and I told him about the days adventure with plenty of embroidery to get a laugh out of the miserable thing. After I had finished the recital he said, "you were a silly fool not to go with them. Of course they wouldn't have paid you, but they would have recommended you to some of their parishioners and they would have felt impelled to give you some work when they had it, so that they could go to the priest and crawl to him, telling him that they had helped you". Of course many times this sort of thing has come to my notice and I suppose one is a fool not to fall in with this way of living that is so very common, but I can't play these games with people and I still do not like it. I think that the church would have been able to make a practical exhibition of charity in this case and help along a young married couple with a child, who had no assets or food, by paying for the material and labour that they wanted. There is no self pity here. I have merely recorded this thing to indicate what people are in the main. Time went on, and the money dwindled to nothing and we began to owe the Jew that was the landlord, rent for the shop. I will record that he proved very tolerant and not like people like to represent this race. There was only the stock left to capitalise on and I got a few jobs wiring houses for light and power that showed no profit at all but enabled me to get rid of the stock. It was a good insight into human nature for without exception, although the customers knew that they were getting a job that was at cost price for the material, with no profit for myself, they had the same intolerance that they would have shown for a custom built job that carried the highest price tag. There was one grocer's shop job and as I worked in the shop I had to listen to the pimply, slack jawed, slimy, grocer making comments about my slow workmanship and poor work. And me working and sweating away up with the flies on the ceiling, being poisoned by the stinking miasma that was rising from the decaying, rotten cheese and dried kippers and acid he called vinegar, (as I told him when I had got the money from the lousy job).
At another job, the woman tried to get me to alter the position of lights and switches after the wiring was partly established in the floor. I refused to make the alterations explaining that I was making no profit on the job as it was and I certainly was not going to lose more money. She riposted by saying that she was the dress maker for the Sydney Electrical Engineer's wife and that if I didn't do as she required she would get the department; through this woman to turn the job down. This she did and I had to rectify a childish fault that they had found, although there were plenty of legitimate faults they could have found had they known where they were, such as dry joints wrapped with paper jammed into the conduit, for I never was as meek and mild as people thought and always had the idea to pay back with compound interest, people who provoked me for no known reason.
I had contracted to fit the light points with 60 watt, metal filament lamps at about 4/6 each and there were about a dozen of these. The retest cost me 10/- and I fitted Japanese fuse blowers, which we called the lamps, at about 1/3 each to recoup the loss. Having had her revenge she was all sweetness, although I stood waiting for my money in a very belligerent manner, for the arrangement was 'pay when connected'. Two nights after this her maid knocked at the door and said, "could I come to the madam's house as they were in darkness", I said, "tell your mistress to go to the wife of the Sydney Electrical Engineer and ask him to come and fix it". These Japanese lamps used to break the internal glass stem that supported the filament and that used to short the lead in wires. I think they were originally made for the Chinese burial rituals and they symbolised celestial light when placed on the tomb - like the fireworks they used, so of course, it didn't matter whether they lit or not, when used for their original purpose. Well, we used up the fittings and things and when we had exhausted the patience of the landlord and feared that we would be pushed out in the street, we sold the business for about P25 to a 'fly boy' who pinched my fountain pen when he borrowed it to sign the receipt, or something like that. We went out with a fanfare of trumpets, for we had smeared green paint over the shop front to make it look more enticing.
Now, I used to do a bit of motor botching and one of my customers was a taxi driver who had a brother called 'Organ Arse' who was a bit of a cripple with all the traditional ways of some cripples. He became annoyed at this time because I refused to do a job for him and came round, in the night and started to row and shout outside the shop and at last, very exhausted, I opened the door and gripped his throat until I nearly shut off the wind for good. He didn't appreciate this at all and the row that followed brought all the passers by to the vicinity. They milled around the shop and blocked the traffic for they spread from one side of the street to the other side. And in the morning light it was seen that the shop front had resumed the original brown colour and the passers by had carried the beautiful green home on their clothes. To indicate that I didn't specialise in assaulting cripples I had better tell you of the six foot customer that came to buy about two feet of 3/4" conduit screwed both ends, "here you are", I said, "that will be 1/3.", he flung a 1/- down on the counter saying, "that's enough for that". I looked at the 1/- and went hot all over, then I jumped over the counter and charged him with my head in his back so that he pivoted backwards and I carried him into the shop on my head. This explosion calmed me and I thought what the hell am I going to do with him. But my wife saved me. She came down the stairs with the child in her arms for all the world like Florence Nightingale. "Go away", she said, "or he will kill you". We stood there sizing each other up. Him licking his lips and me trying to look ferocious, holding the brick that kept the door open in my hand ready to defend myself, and then he departed, leaving his purchase on the floor, so I was a shilling to the good.
At one time when we were starving, a big lout came into the shop with a walloping big fish weighing about twenty pounds. "There y'are, a king fish from the Murray river. Give me two bob and he's yours". We looked at all this food and coveted it greatly, but we hadn't got 2/- to our names, so at last he sold it to us for 1/-. We could hardly wait for him to leave and my hands were trembling with anticipation as I speedily cut off two generous steaks of this 'Manna from heaven'. When the fat was steaming, Elsie plunged the fish in the pan and when the enticing odour arose we nearly started to fight as to who should have the first bite. But we controlled our greed and sat down at last to have the first real feed we had had for quite a while. We chewed and chewed and got nowhere, it was the most elastic of all elastics. It would, - like the thin red line of the British troops - give but not break and exhausted at last we admitted defeat. All the original fish on the plates and two diners nursing their tired jaws. "A picture by Holbein".
And now I must come to the biggest thing that so far has received no mention. The birth of our first born. This happened in the middle period of the shop recital. Elsie, my wife grew big with child. Well, not so very big, she was always undemonstrative, and as her time drew near we arranged with a doctor to attend her and also with the madam of a nursing home to receive her. There were certain payments made by the government that would help cover these expenses so we didn't worry overmuch about this. As the crucial time drew near, I also arranged with a car hire firm for her transportation to the nursing home. One morning when I arrived back from a lousy job on a taxi cab, Elsie said, "I don't feel too good, I think you had better tell the doctor". He came along and said. "You had better get the car and get her to the home". It was a Saturday afternoon; a busy time for the car hire service, for they took people to the races on this day. I went to the garage and told them I wanted the car as arranged for my wife. He said that he was sorry, all the cars were booked. But I persuaded him that he had better do this job or perhaps he would never do another job again. So that was that and the patient is safely delivered to the home and that afternoon the infant is delivered by the most incompetent lot of sods that we could have found. We suspect that the doctor hastened the delivery as he too wanted to go to the races or cricket or some other idiotic place that the human race is so addicted to, in it's leisure hours. The patient was plagued with mosquitoes although for the sake of appearances there was a net that, upon examination, was found to be full of holes that would have let an elephant through if it had come on a blood sucking expedition. When she was washed, the mother was undried so that she had an uncomfortable time and, although we lived under such rough conditions she could not wait to get "home". And when we got home I tenderly lifted my first born in my arms blushing with love and pride and the infant gave me one look, and seeing me in my black shirt and my soppy face, she kicked and screamed and screamed until I thought she would bust herself. I looked at the window which I was standing by and thought. "Oh no! I can't chuck her out there". But she kept it up, screaming and kicking; and she, only a few days old. What energy! What lungs! I put her down and all was still. It was like coming to the middle of a cyclone. If, when lying on the bed she became restless, her mother laid a piece of paper over her and she would kick it until it was torn to pieces or the disturbance caused it to shift from the seat of operations. She had the appetite of a horse and was incessant in her demands for "Ging", as she soon learnt to call her mother's milk. Had she been born with teeth, she would have eaten her mother bones and all. Wherever we were, when the cry was raised, "Ging"! Her demands had to be met immediately, or she would have torn her mother to pieces. Perambulating the streets of Sydney one night, the cry went out for "Ging", so we hastened up a side street and some louts hearing the cries followed us, thinking they had come to the seat of murder, but when they came up to us, there was only a sucking sound for them to hear and they thought they must have come to a mine pump at work Suck! Suck! "Ah, come away", one of them said; "it's only one of them pumping things they use for sucking up water from a well, or 'som 'pin". And the cause of it all, rosy and pretty, with curly hair lying in her mother's arms making these weird noises that are rending the soft summer night air, blissful, filled with unworried contentment. What voracity!
We went to live at a Mrs. Hedges; a plain faced but kindly work horse that used to do all the work entailed in running a large apartment house, whilst her husband went round the streets poking his nose in his tenant's businesses and trying to discover their secrets. A devious, crafty person, not fit to tie his wife's shoe strings. He got told off very nicely by one of his tenants that had noticed him doing his sleuthing upon him and whether he took the hint I do not know.
There was still no work, but at last Elsie's parents sent us tickets for our return to England and our salvation was complete. It was nearly time too, for I reckon that we would have been shown the door any time. This is a pretty bold statement of our time in Australia. It was a pretty low sort of place when we were there and it was no uncommon sight to see a person coming out of a pub and void his bladder on the first plate glass window that was available. It is odd how the masculine of the human race likes to make something his target when doing this thing. Perhaps he doesn't want to waste this water which is no good to him any more. It's a better proof that Darwin was right, that man is descended from animals, than Darwin's exposition itself, for it is so simple and conclusive. The dog must be in the next line of succession for he has already come half way in, that he cannot resist finding a target; but of course he does not manually direct the stream, that only comes when the human incarnation is completed, and I think the way the world is going; that seems to be the only thing that the dog will get out of the deal when his next advancement is made. Perhaps when the full tale is told of man's evolution, this habit will go down as one of his finest achievements. For, after all, this habit was an original thought and everything else that man has done or discovered and done was the thought of others that was passed to him by psychic entities for him to mould into material form. He, acting all the time as the puppet or robot for the superior mind, if one can call the thing that man has, such an exalted name as that of mind; it being composed of memory cells in the main, that, given the opportunity to collect the discoveries and knowledge of what ten million trillion trillion beings have found out through intuition that has been vouchsafed them by the super souls that have existed at the time, throughout a million years or so, causes him through access to this garnered knowledge of others to give him the "brief authority and egotism, that would make the angels weep". 'This low, murdering, greedy, vicious monster, called man'. So stupid in his egotism that when he postulates that there might be life on other planets, always supposes that it must be inferior to him. How can this be so, for surely there must be an all low to which abuse and stupidity can bring a thing, so that no further descent is possible? Away from the place where the police patrol wagons used to go round the parks and open spaces, driving the homeless soldiers and vagrants, that now were their only friends, from their nice beds in the open, with the blue night sky as their only blankets and mother earth their only pillows. If, when they were kicked awake they complained, there was always a ride to be taken in the patrol wagon, when, in the seclusion of the station house they could be kicked some more by their superiors, i.e., those fortunates that had found a job. These police, were not out of the 'top drawer'; alone on their beat, a man rushes up to one of them and says, "come quickly there's a man kicking his wife to pieces. This way quickly or it will be too late. Turn to the right and hasten". "Thanks mate", says the policeman and turns to the left, hastening unnoticeably to safety.
My best customer was a Chinese that had married a white woman and she was forever extolling his virtues to the detriment of the white Australian man. She adored him and I found him a most agreeable person who fetched and carried for her as if she were the queen; polishing the floors of their rooms over the shop and cleaning the windows for her.
Now I left this country for the second time. The first through ignorance and the second time through necessity. I still had not the ability to earn keep for my wife and child, being only equipped for this thing with a cunning that was my only weapon to combat my other deficiencies. I was 'Jack' of a few trades, but master of none. After a very uneventful voyage we docked at Tilbury and so low were our finances, that if it hadn't been through the charity of a young fellow, we would have had to walk from Tilbury to London, a distance of about ten miles, which would have made our child tired. I am sure. Once again we subsist on charity from my wife's people. But at last I get a job in an East End sweat shop where they are reconditioning army vehicles. I am reconditioning the engines and wrecking my health working in a place that was unfit for a pig to live in. It is winter and there is no heating. There was no factory act then, that forced the bosses to maintain a certain minimum temperature. I have been used to a country that has a much higher temperature and I chilled through with the wind that constantly blew through the two ever open doors. I received the magnificent wages of 1/3 per hour and was expected to do what would have killed a horse and I thought sometimes that if I were single I would have preferred to die of starvation in Australia than undergo the misery of the working conditions I was forced to undergo in this hell hole, where there was a watchman posted at the lavatory that kept a book wherein was entered the time of entry and leaving of anyone who was forced to use the urinal. If one came to this place more than once a day the stupid fool would put one to an inquisition and start to make personal remarks about one's physical deficiencies. The inevitable happened and I developed abscesses in my ears through the constant draughts that raged through the building and I suffered the tortures of hell working in this condition. When at last the abscesses broke and the pressure on my ears was thereby relieved I felt I was in heaven; although I must add that I think this thing was the cause of the deafness that I now suffer from. Or, I should add, occasionally enjoy, for when I am alone its nice to be shut off from the roar of the traffic, the whirr of the machines and not to be included in the silly verbosity that a non deaf person takes so much pleasure in engaging in. It's an excuse to not have heard the question that if you answered truthfully, would cause the questioner to hate you more than he does, saying to himself, "this fellow always engages in controversy". Perhaps I create a virtue out of necessity. I know that being deaf causes people to think that one is a fool. But aren't we all! But I would rather be deaf than go through the period that presaged the coming of it, the incessant head noises that went on night and day; the hearing the pumping of my heart, now fast as I used energy, now slow as I rested. Speeding up to a crescendo if I were made angry. Not a quiet sound; all the time, this ringing and pumping. Going on, not for a few days, but for years; until I became deaf and with it the relief, and a jolly good job, I think, for now I am quiet and too much noise is not a good thing for a highly strung up thing as I was. I only mention these things as they come to me. I want no pity, for I look around me at the hale and hearty fat numb skulls that have never experienced anything, and full well I know that I have compensations that they have missed, together with the things that I experienced. I have learned not to love this troublesome body and perhaps that has taught me appreciation of something more valuable when one considers eternity and the lots of bodies to come and go constantly, decaying and only the spiritual part to survive and that is the appreciation I mention; and that's a part of eternity; permanent and uninjured by the lousy bodies it's forced into from time to time. How I ramble on! I am not loquacious to the ordinary people I meet. In this saga I have loosed the flood gates of my mind, for I have written it to my daughter, who full well knows the type who writes and heaven only knows how much salt she will have consumed, were she to take the proverbial pinch that the Latin's quote.
I left the sweat shop, because I heard of a job going in a West End garage and I thought that I could now pose as a qualified mechanic, being able to tell the difference between an engine and a gearbox. But before I left the place, I went up to the office of the so called works manager and left him in no doubt as to what my feelings were with regard to him. I told him of the sentinel on the piss hole and said that I thought he was the result of the urinal being chucked out of a brothel window and the sun incubating the contents. I came to the place with a few tools that I carried in a small hand bag. He said, "I will check your tools out before you go", and I said, "as you didn't check me in, I don't see that you can check me out". When I had finished packing my tools, I left with a sack full of tools of all descriptions. He said, "did you bring all these tools", and I said; "well, as I told you, as you didn't check me in, you can't very well check me out, can you"? I humped this heavy load onto the tram and staggered up the stairs to the miserable hovel that we resided in.
When I went after the West End job, the boss said he would start me and asked me what wages I wanted and I said that I was getting 1/3d an hour at the job that I had left and he said that he would start me at the same rate. It was a very large garage with two buildings of four stories and five stories respectively, served with car lifts that were clanking all the time taking up cars and bringing them down to customers or for washing and polishing or such like. It was a fine place for gaining experience for it was in the heart of the West End of London where people that had money to burn, burnt a lot of it on all the best cars being then turned out by the makers of the world and I learnt more in a year than I would have learnt in a life time in a smaller place. It was a long time ago; but about ten years ago, I was talking to a customer in this place (Rhodesia) about cars and he mentioned that years ago he had owned a car, a Voisin, twelve cylinder. And I interrupted his recital to say, "yes, and you went one time to Smith's Garage in Duke Street, Piccadilly, with it and you saw and spoke to me, for I was the head mechanic there at the time". The long arm of coincidence! He was the Counte de Soissons, a scion of the old school, a perfect gentleman, of which there are indeed few. He said that he had frequented this garage in his young days and said that now he recognised me.
But it was a turbulent time for me. There was the senior partner, who had engaged me and two other partners, there was the junior partner , a brother of the senior partner, who had been a 'subaltern' in the war and had learnt to drink a bottle of whisky a day and more under provocation. He was a big, good natured, drunken waster that was entirely under the domination of the third partner, another drunken mongrel who had been spawned direct from hell, who saw good only in the bottom of a grog bottle. These two people were tipsy, generally by about 11 a.m., and they couldn't pass the time better than to worry about their stupid, drunken witticisms such as; "look at him. He calls himself a mechanic. I wouldn't let him mend my wife's mangle", and such like. I said, "you bloody well pay me though, to be a mechanic. Look what a pair of fools you must be to do that after venting your opinion of me like this". A sample, but it went on all the time and I knew that my days were numbered in this place, although I was sorry for the senior partner and I knew what a cross he had to bear - and don't we all have these crosses - by being yoked to these two people, one being his brother, whom he had saved from the gutter by giving him the job upon his discharge from the army. I told the senior that I could only take a certain Amount from these two and then I would attack them, but he tried to pacify me by saying that as he had taken me on, only he would sack me. But I knew this was not so and that eventually the blow would come and I would be out of a job and jobs were difficult to get.
It was a busy place and the car hire department carried all the people in high society, including the royal family on occasion and we always had the job of collecting the luggage from the railway stations and delivering it to the hotels when the Dutch royal family arrived on a visit. Lords and ladies were two a penny as were always homosexuals and other notabilities. There were the officers of the guard that were in residence also their whores and soldier servants and about one of these I will tell the tale of a good hiding I received that taught me to be careful. One of these guards officers had put his car in because it wouldn't start and as the battery was discharged I put it on charge, but left it connected on the car to save time. About two hours before the officer was due to take the vehicle away, his officer servant came round and sat in the car and to pass the time, I suppose, he kept on using the starter and then switching the engine off. I noticed this and said to him, "if you don't leave the car alone, when your officer comes to take it away you will find that the engine won't start because you have run down the battery again and I shall tell him why". This fellow was over six feet tall and he said, "I'd like to have a piece of you". I said, "well, come on and have a piece, you interfering sod". He stood by the car making no response to my insults, until at last. I went up to him and knocked off his bowler hat, quite sure that he would not want to fight me. As my hand came to his head, I received a blow on the nose and another in the face and the gore was running from my nose very copiously indeed. The shock to my pride was unbearable and I rushed to the water butt by the wash for the cars and immersed my head to wash out the blood and I went into the attack, but I couldn't reach this fellows face, for he had arms like an octopus and he was sparring like a professional, which I certainly was not. Old Jimmy Wolfe, my boss came along and separated us twice, telling me that the chap was not worth it; but to me, to save my pride, it certainly was worth it; but I had to bring this bloke down. The third time I went in, I suddenly dropped my attack and grasping him round the middle I pushed him forward so that he fell backwards with me on top of him, and both of us were whacked to the standstill - or wide -. There we laid as if we were boy and girl engaged in immoral relations. Then we got up and for the third time, he offered to shake hands, which I did, for he had had a nasty clout on the head from the cobble stones that the yard was paved with and although it did not look as spectacular as my bleeding nose, perhaps it could have been as painful. As I shook hands, I said, "well, I offered to fight and you wouldn't, but I think I managed to square the thing up, we were both dirty over the deal". He said that I had nothing to be ashamed of, for he was an amateur army boxer, and this was confirmed by his officer when he came round and the boss reported the matter to him. He seemed to be surprised to think that his champion had met such an inglorious end in the affair.
It was Saturday and I went down to Bond Street to catch the bus for home, keeping my head well down. But when I got on the bus the conductor must have seen me, for when I got on the top, far away from the next rider, he came to collect the fare and, leaning down he said, "what happened mate? Fall over a bit of orange peel, did yer?" When I arrived home I fled to the bed room and liberally smeared Zam-buc over the nose which was somewhat swollen and when my wife saw the effect she was curious about the affair, but made little comment. The garage was in a large sort of yard; it was called Masons yard and was just off Duke Street, Piccadilly. The rooms of Cavendish Hotel looked over the yard and on the other side there was a tea room, with a floor above where the diners sat and enjoyed their piece of cake or a kipper. This tea room was patronised by the staff and one day when Adolphus, the young drunken partner officer type, went there for a cup of tea, the sloppy waitress said that she was shocked because an old man in the hotel rooms opposite would dress in front of the window and this distressed her. Adolphus with drunken solemnity said that he would soon put a stop to that and he came to me and asked if I had some big ball bearings. I rummaged around and found some of about 1" in diameter and being curious I asked him what they were for. "Look out of the window", our workshop was on the fourth floor, "and you will soon find out". We waited until the lift had descended and then, looking out, we saw the foreshortened figure of Adolphus rush across the yard and aim a catapult at a window and there was the crash of broken glass as one of the 1" balls went through a window. Although the place was full of people, no one seemed to have noticed the antic and we never heard that anything accrued from this exploit. Such things as the two mentioned enlivened the long day; but things were getting more precarious and when my father in law was approached by the Borough Engineer, who said that he could give me a job looking after the council's fleet, I said that I would take the job on.
It was there that I saw a new aspect of human nature. I never thought that there were such a lot of backside licking bastards in the world and when I look back on this episode, I could vomit. Promotion was by favour only and favour was obtained only by servility to the one over one, and so on. It was more important to crawl on one's belly than to do one's job properly. This state of affairs was caused by the fact that the higher officials all crawled to the councillors that controlled their actions and commanded their services. If they hadn't been a servile lot they would not have been in their jobs in the first place, for in twenty years I never saw a man appointed by the council that was not of a servile disposition. The applicant comes before the selection committee and the one they think more likely to bend to their will, is chosen. The fawning, crawling 'Uriah Heep's'. At least, in the job I had vacated there were people who were more human. People who showed their feelings and to hell with one; laughing one day and full of venom the next, so to speak. For instance; I had to go up to Duke Street one Sunday to finish a job. It only took a couple of hours and as it was Sunday and summer; all the hire cars were taking the society butterflies for outings in the country. I had washed and doffed my filthy garage coat and went into the office to sign off, when Jimmy the boss came along, dry washing his hands and with a smirk that boded no good for myself. "Ah, West"; he said, "just the man I was looking for. I've got a nice little job for you. I want you to take my car to the Carlton Hotel and do a nice little run into the country to a hotel in Rotten Dene". "Where the hell's that?", said I. "Oh, over the Thames and about twenty five miles down the road, through the most beautiful scenery. There's an old Colonel and his daughter who want to take a trip to the Rotten Dene Hotel. They will only stay for a couple of hours and then they will want you to bring them back". "But I haven't got a clue as to where the place is", I said, "and I can't do a hire job in these clothes". "Come along, I'll fix all that". So he took me to another room and started to rummage in the uniform closet and finally raked out a white dust coat, the hem of which trailed the ground and a driver's hat that was two sizes too large. "There", he said, "all brand new". "But, hell they don't fit", I said. "But feel the texture", he said, twirling the coat material between his fingers, "real twill". "And here are some maps that will show you the way". Maps only confused me the more, but I knew that I would break the old mans heart if I refused, for I knew that he liked me and he thought that he was doing me a good turn, for there was always a good tip at the finish, and, as he said the day was beautiful and the run would do me good. So he thought!
I reached the Carlton Hotel with its hotel porter standing majestically at the entrance, his moustache twirled to a point, his breast covered with medal ribbons and his nose in the air, for he was a fine looking man and he knew it well. I parked the tourer on the centre island of the road and being careful not to trip over the hem of the coat I daintily and solemnly stood before him waiting for his highness to notice me. As his eyes slowly took in the apparition that stood before him, his face became creased in a smile and then he started to guffaw until I thought that he was never going to stop, tears began to crease down his face, as I solemnly waited to deliver my message. "What the hell is all this about? Who are you? Where have you come from? What's that bloody car doing on the island?" I waited while his exuberance simmered down and then gathering my coat at the back, like a lady crossing a muddy road, hoping to decrease the inordinate length of the coat and hoping to gain more dignity in this way, I addressed him. "I have been sent by my employer, to pick up two passengers, a Colonel Firewater and his daughter. The car is my employer's personal property, due to the fact that all the regular cars are out on service. The reason I am dressed like this is because I am not a driver but the head mechanic of the place and I am impressed into this service because, like the service cars, the drivers are out on service also". Fixing him with what I thought was a steely eye and full of dignity I said, "now I pray you; go to the people that I have indicated and inform them that I await their pleasure". "You are a card", he said, and away he goes laughing. I pull the car to the entrance and while waiting I feverishly gaze at the map to plot the course of the first leg of my journey and, as the Colonel and his daughter (?) appear, I put away the document and try to appear nonchalant as they walk round the tourer and start to make acid comments about it and myself. "But it hasn't got a top", said the girl. "They say that it's all they have", said the old Colonel, "we shall have to make the best of it. Come on, get in". And away we went. Off we went and soon I was hopelessly bogged down in the London streets and I was like a dog chasing his tail and going round in circles. But eventually I found the bridge that took us over the water. But it was no good, I kept getting lost and the personal air was becoming charged with acrimony and I had a pre-sentiment that soon war was to be declared. "Stop", said the soldier. So, I pulled up and said, "what's wrong now"? "Do you know where you are going" he said. "Well, I know the name of the place, but I don't know how to get there", I said. "I am not a professional driver as I intimated to the hall porter. "But you have a map". "All right", I said, "you take the map and I will follow your directions". And off we went, with the pilot in the back. Soon we were getting lost again and then I stopped of my own volition and said, "Look, you upbraided me some way back for not finding my way about. Now, I am a mechanic, cooped up most of the time in the garage, whilst you have been a soldier and must have had a course of map reading in the course of your career, yet you are as incompetent as I was". That was the declaration of war I mentioned earlier. His face went purple, but he kept silent for most of the outgoing journey and we got to the destination eventually. I don't think the lady was his daughter. I think it was the final flare of an old man; but she was very chic and fresh and he could have ruptured himself with this foolishness of senility. Perhaps I saved his life; who knows, for, spending so much energy in rage with me could have cooled his ardour for the other things and in such strange guises do angels appear in their too large hats and their too long coats.
Whilst the pair were doing in the hotel what they had set out to do, I sat in the car and studied the map until I thought that my eyeballs would fall out. I thought, I will astonish these people and get them back to their domicile in double quick time and then, when they showed their astonishment at my cleverness, I would say, "well, I had time to study the route. With all the minute decisions that were made on the outgoing journey, how could I have had the time to chart my route"? Something like that I would say and turn the occasion from hostility to sweet reasonableness, with all of us friends and the little whore smiling her good bye to me. This is how my thoughts went; but it was not to be; for they entered the car and I turned left instead of right as we left the entrance and the road petered out to a ploughed field. I heard the girl say to her squire, "I hope we do get back some time". Gone was my good intention and the journey back was as bad as the outgoing ride, for I had learned none of the topography of the route going there. But all things come to an end and eventual we drew up in style before the hotel, with the grinning hall porter hastening to open the door. I had to collect the fare and I was so pleased to be back and away from the thing, that, when the Colonel gave me six pounds instead of five for the trip and a pound for myself, so anxious was I to prove that I could count, if there was nothing else I could do, that I handed the surplus pound back to him; which proves how this episode had racked me and put me off poise, so to speak.
When I returned to the garage Jimmy met me smiling like a Cheshire cat and dry washing his hands. "There we are West, home again after a pleasant trip in the country. I knew everything would go fine". "Look, you read the speedometer before you go any further with your blandishments", I said. And when he had done so the smile vanished, for he then knew that there was not much profit when it's cut half by double mileage. For a little while I would greet him in the morning saying, "good day sir, a nice day for a trip in the country", to be answered by a sick sort of grin. He was a good old bloke, was Jimmy, no hard feelings at all. If only he had been the sole one in charge I would have stuck to him like glue; or - until the war came; then the "Luftwaffe" planes turned the whole place and the cars into a burnt out wreck, with only the walls left and I never knew what happened to him. But he was an old man when I worked at the place and maybe he had crossed the Styx long ere then.
There was another incident that I thought funny, after it was all over. It was the holiday season and there was an American millionaire staying at one of the hotels, who suddenly decided to catch a boat and return home before he was due back originally. I think that he had met a friend in Southampton and the friend had made him make the decision, to return with him, for companionship on the trip. Anyway he phoned the hotel where he had been staying while in London and told them to send his manservant and his luggage down to Southampton to catch the ship that was leaving that evening for America. Our people used to use, for carting the luggage from the boat trains, an old Delauny Bellville saloon, that had been altered to make what they called a float; just a flat platform that was piled with the luggage and was only used to run around London, from the stations to the clients' hotels. This thing had recently been botched up in the transmission, because spare parts were no more available and now the universal joint was open, where originally it had been enclosed and received its lubrication from the spherical ball joint that closed it in. I had said at the time of the botch, "before this thing is used they will have to pour a tin of oil over the bare joint, otherwise it will seize up". This they did, oiling the joint in this way every time it was used; but that was only to run from a station and back. Now Jimmy comes rattling up on the lift and says, "West, I want you to leave everything and take the Bellville down to Southampton with a manservant, to catch the ship for America". "What", I said, "that lot of crap to Southampton, I told you at the time of the job that it was only good for short town trips. The bloody joint will catch on fire at the speed I will have to drive to catch the bloody ship". "Now! Now!", he says, "always balking at a fence before you know you can't jump it. Get cracking. We are looking for the spare rimmed tyres and we will sling the lot aboard, so you won't have any tyre trouble". This thing was pupped before the days of spare wheels and there were spare rims with tyres that were changed if one got a puncture. That is, if one could get the rotten bolts, about eight of them, off the wheel rim and these hadn't been off for a long time, at least some of them. After much virtupenation, off I set to the same hotel as my last experience; The Carlton. The luggage is speedily loaded. It is a high load tied with plenty of stout rope. And then there comes tripping to the vehicle a mincing pansy boy, the manservant. "Come on, get on board you silly sod", I yelled and off we went careering along the London streets bound for Southampton. I have got my oil for the joint and I plan to oil her up every twenty miles. This thing had a ball bearing crankshaft and was a six cylinder 40 h.p. job and although old it pulled very well and made the chassis do an easy 60 to 70 m.p.h. And then the half baked dago starts to air his knowledge of English upon me and he only knows, 'please' and 'thank you'. There is this interminable yapping in a foreign tongue and all I am thinking is; "will the tyres stand up? She's top heavy with this load; we'll go for a bonker if the front tyre busts. And then there's this bloody dago yapping something about; 'I ain't English, but I understand you', but when I talk English you don't understand me".
We are now out of London and on a main road so I think it's time to stop and feel the joint and anoint it with its first ration of oil. So we stop and to my surprise the joint is only warm. I pour the oil over the joint and then I say to the pest that is with me. "Look here, you stupid bastard. I am going to drive as fast as this bloody thing can go and if a tyre bursts we will probably get killed because it's as stable with this top heavy load as a drunken washerwoman on a Saturday night; so you keep hunched up in your corner and keep your fingers crossed. I can't listen to you and keep this death wagon rolling at the same time". Of course he didn't understand, but he knew I was not friendly with him and that is enough to make a sensible man quiet, but not this fool; he yaps and yaps in broken English and if I had been on the beach with nothing to do but sunbathe, I wouldn't have known what he was talking about. Now the engine sets herself in the collar; there's a reassuring rumble from the sloppy ball bearings supporting the crankshaft and by the tick, tick, that the speedometer shaft is making I think we are doing about sixty. I daren't look at the speedo head, I am busy waiting for the unknown to turn up. The Italiano is warbling on; he has started up again, but now its only a monotone in my mind as we sway from side to side and con the sloppy wheel with a feather touch to keep a straight course. Suddenly, the wheel gives a terrific jerk and the vehicle makes for the ditch, heeling over until it feels that I am riding a cycle. Over the ditch we go, but she doesn't turn over. I gently pull on the hand brake and turn the wheel a little bit to bring her on the road again; that is, if she is going to come to the road. Ah! That's good, she's making the road, I hope there's nothing on our heels, but I can't look, the wheel is tearing the muscles out of my arms. Across the road she goes and off on the other side, but there is no ditch there and back we come to the road and I put the foot brake down hard and bless the weather for it being dry. The Italiano is silent at last and looks as if he wants an immediate blood transfusion. I hear not another word from him. I jack up the front wheel which has a tyre in shreds and then begins the purgatory of removing the seized rim bolts; but after a long time, which seems ten times longer than it was, at last we have another bit of tripe, that Jimmy calls a tyre on the wheel and we set off again to go faster than we were, for now there is lost time to be made up.
Once again there is the swaying and the rumbling and the speedo clicking, but now everything is faster and we are going to get to the ship or bust. Another stop for a joint oiling and a little piddle against a tree and off we go with only a few miles to go; but it's very late, I remember that! Down we hurtle to the docks, easily seen by the masts and funnels. And I espy a ship with smoke streaming from the funnels and as I get through the gates the ropes have been cast off and there are a few feet between the ship's side and the dock. I get out as the thing rolls to a stop and howl with all my lungs, that I have some luggage for "Millionaire----- so and so, and his servant". I thought that might stop them if I howled out that the bloke had money, for I thought the sea men casting off would visualise a good tip, also, as in this world money is synonymous with greatness, the Captain would be pleased to do this nabob a favour, for you could bet your bottom dollar that he had been squealing all over the ship about the rotten bastards that had failed him in his hour of need. They slung a rope bag over the side and warped the ship in, so that the dago could tremblingly get up the gang way that they had lowered, while I stood there throwing kisses to the dago, so pleased was I to see the last of him. Twilight descends as I turn about and start back to London and out of Southampton. I stop to light the oil side and tail lights that were the standard equipment for relics of the past like the thing I was driving. With the vehicle now more stable through the lack of luggage, I clapped on speed and started to pass the lorries and trucks and even at this period infested the roads, and then the poor old engine would backfire and start to crawl, so that I had to stop and blow out the fuel pipe, as the vehicles that I had passed hooted at me as they in turn passed me. But at last I arrived back, but by then the boss had gone home and there was only the night hand to tell the tale to.
You can imagine the tale that I had concocted in the still hours of the night, ready for the delectation of the boss when he asked for the report of the journey. I itched with impatience waiting for the lift to bring him up and at last he arrived. They say a tale loses nothing in its telling and I can tell you that this tale complete with embroidery was a snorter, especially as it had a substratum of fact with the busted tyre to back it. He got away at last but sometimes he would call me in to a favoured customer and say. "West, tell Mr. so and so the yarn about the Southampton trip". "You know", he said to one listener, "Although I have heard this tale many times, I enjoy listening as much as ever, for each time it seems a new tale, so different from the last". And then I said after one peroration, "well how do you think the tyre was torn to shreds? Well there is this to consider. It was so rotten and I did see a dog piddle against it while I was pouring oil over the joint, so perhaps the piddle melted the rubber".
Look! I think I had better leave this job, for I could go on all the time giving this sort of anecdote. In this next job I spent the longest time I ever spent in one job and I reckon that it was twenty years of wasted life. I had become so 'windy' about losing my job and not being able to find another that when this job was offered I thought, well, at last here is security and that was the real reason that I took it. But everything has it's price and the tag on this thing was, I think, very high. I had no virtues to commend me, but that of a pig headed compulsion to do my work as well as I knew how; but that was a hindrance to progress as far as the bosses in this job were concerned. All the demanded was the same servile attitude to authority that they themselves possessed and as that was the last thing I had any time for, it was unfortunate that I made this decision that I did to take a job with these awful crawling hypocrites; the public service type. I don't know if they are like I found them in this job, everywhere, but if it be so, I think that this is enough to label them as the worst type of human extant. The experience warped the little bit of manhood that I had, and that was little enough, heaven only knows.
After interviewing the Borough Engineer, I am taken to the workshop by the head clerk to be shown the place and to be introduced to the mechanic's mate. After the clerk had gone I turned to the mate and said, "it doesn't seem a bad sort of joint, I hope we will be able to get on all right together". What a fatuous remark to make to this fellow. He said, "I am old enough to be your father", and intimated that he wanted no part of me. So that was that and I started to find a way to get rid of him. This is where a good deal of the bitter criticism comes from about the people in these sort of jobs; I mean the bosses. I went to the Engineer and told him that I wouldn't be able to work with the mate and that I wanted another man, but he was uncooperative and said that I would have to make the best of it, as this fellow was chosen by the Works Committee for the position and he would have to stay. In fact, he hadn't got the guts to go to the committee and tell them that this bloke had openly said to me that he wasn't going to work under me.
I hated the job from the beginning and I don't know to this day why I didn't clear out. But I stayed and took it out of every bloody official that I had anything to do with. The first thing I was asked to do was to examine a six month old Austin ambulance that had developed a loose front hub and upon examination I found that there was no grease in it. This vehicle was operated by the Fire Brigade and when I was asked to report on the defect and the cause of it, I simply stated the facts and then I found that within a week I had made every member of the Fire Brigade my enemy for life. For twenty years their fire engines were sent in for bad brakes and almost all of it caused by over greasing of the front hubs. I think that the original idea had been that if they did this thing, I would complain of the excess greasing and then they would say, "what can you do with a fellow like this? He says trouble is caused by us not doing a thing, and when we do this thing he complains again". But I never complained, for I had wisened myself to this society of imbeciles. I could write a book about the Fire Brigade, but I will desist from disclosing that chapter in the book of life that they taught me.
The drunken first officer never showed any animosity to me. He was an old sea officer and had the guts, but precious little else. Perhaps, like me, he had become wise to the rotten lot of sods that employed him. The best types I found to be the drivers of the dust wagons and to one of them I owe the fact that, when the council tried to kick me out of the job, he stuck to me like a brother and under the fire of the councillors he ever remained loyal to me, who had nothing but thanks to repay him with. Old Bill Fox, an ex. Sergeant of the First World War; defying his boss and sticking to me, because, well I don't really know why.
The job was worth twice the rate that I was paid for the job, but the Engineer would not ask for an increase for me because if he did, the fairy tale that he had woven around himself, "that he was the administrator of the workshop and the brains thereof", would have been proved false. In point of fact, I did all the work of the fleet maintenance even to the point of writing reports, that no doubt he submitted to the council under his department's heading. A noted author wrote a famous book called David Copperfield, and a character called Uriah Heep played a leading part in the novel. He was a perfect picture of extreme unction and servility; but the Engineer's Head Clerk started where this Uriah Heep left off. And so on, this miserable indictment could go on and I will desist from such a tale of sickly corruption. Would I not be a fool if I do not know the reader's mind after reading this? "Ah, this is one side of a story only". And such like criticism levelled at this yarn about these people. "He was prejudiced". But I do not care what any person thinks. I would indict these people before heaven itself. I am pleased to think that I often caused them heart searching's.
A junior clerk said to me at the town hall one day, "what do you say to the boss when you go in to see him? We have noticed that he doesn't stir from his office all the morning after you have had a session with him". Perhaps I was his moment of truth. But whatever I said to him could not debase this man to himself more than he had earned it. A "snake in the grass".
Wonderment must continue to grow in the mind of the reader as to why I did not remove myself from the situation that I found myself. I have given one reason. There is another one of course, but that is wrapped round beliefs that would be received with incredulity by the normal reader, who likes to think that he lives in a material world and in the words of the song, "I am the master of my fate. I am the Captain of my soul", thinks that he alone is the arbiter of his destiny. What silly childish rot masquerades as truth in this curious world? Is not Shakespeare nearer the truth with his quotation, "all the world's a stage". And are we not merely the puppets of the Gods or of those we know not; certainly not knowing God. What more practical hell is there to be thought of than getting all the transgressors of a type or grade together so that by contact with their own kind and in the perception of the sins they see and suffer through others of the same ilk, revulsion is created by the continual repetition and with the repulsion, the desire to loosen themselves of the sins they find in others and so make an end to that that binds themselves to this sorry planet. "Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile". Where would one find money in a more perfect world? Is it not like the fuel that feeds the fires of hell? That is if one believes in the depiction of hell as given by the ecclesiastical mystic; which, of course I don't.
Round about this time, my second child was born under the squalid conditions that we lived in at that time. No wise men came from the East and no angels were seen floating over the house blowing golden trumpets at the time of the occurrence. But, looking back to the dim past of this period and now living in the future of the opening of this soul flower it was surprising that no indication was there that this child was not usual to be born to such a parent as I was. I had hardly emerged from the primitive slime of bestiality when Patricia was born and I think that the powers that could be have at least have caused to be marked upon her forehead some unusual symbol that would have aroused my curiosity to the extent that I would have enquired more than usual into this child's personality and learnt to cultivate more assiduously than I did the mind of this offspring. But there were complications that cannot be mentioned. Say that I was between two stools and let a percipient only, find the answer. I was not a happy person and I therefore had little desire to bring happiness to others; I was negative in fact. I was returning what I had received as a child, to my own child. Not consciously. It was quite unconscious. But it was there all the same, as I now realise. "So much is the inclined twig bent all the days of its life. I always have been quite a one for excusing myself; something else due to the twig bending I suppose.
And now I think I come to the end of this autobiography. I am sure the person to whom I send this tale can piece the rest together and add the necessary continuation, to date if she so wished. It has been a dreary tale, that could have been told by a billion other nonentities. But the writer sincerely hopes for the good of his soul that something was gained that could save a repetition of this experience and that the assessors will decide that there was a movement upwards instead of downwards and grade the soul for uplift.
- The End -

William married Elsie.

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