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Jun. 15, 2019 | Saturday
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Writer's Circle: Corporal West’s Adventures - Warm Bodies
File photo.

SUBMITTED BY RICHARD WEST.
WRITER'S CIRCLE

After being called back to the regiment in September 1939, Dick spent his time training a new searchlight team. Most of the original team were transferred to other duties or to help train new troops as they joined the regiment. He was promoted to Lance Corporal.

They were based close to Sevenoaks in Kent and billeted in an old manor house that had seen better days. Fortunately the autumn weather was kind and they settled in well.

Early October was wet and chilly. Their training now involved coordinating their searchlight with antiaircraft guns under direction of the Observer Corps.

Today was destined to be a repeat of the past weeks activities.

“West.”

“Dick spun round, came to attention and saluted the Sergeant.

“Sir.”

“Pack up the kit and your own gear. We move out in three hours.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Dick thought, Darn. Sevenoaks is a short train ride back to Lewisham. I”ve been able to see Winn fairly regularly from here. I hope we aren”t being posted too far from London. Hope it’s not France.

Mind. I doubt that. If the Germans bomb anything it will be around London.

***

It took about two hours for their convoy of lorries to reach the village of Ashurst in Sussex. A farm to the south of the village was where the antiaircraft guns were to be set up. Dick’s troops were sent to the southernmost part of the farm where there were fewer buildings, a barn full of cows and some sheds.

“Sandy.”

“Yes, Corp.”

“That shed over there. See if you can arrange to use it as shelter for the lads and our gear.”

“Yes, Corp.”

“Now you lot, set up the searchlight here. Stinky, find the telephone cable and see how we can run it around this field back to control.”

“Yes, Corp.”

Three hours later the searchlight was in place, they had a telephone link to control and the lads were settling into the shed.

It began to rain and Dick found there was no room left in the shed. He stood under a tree and wondered where he could bed down for the night.

“Corp.”

“Yes, Jonesy.”

“It looks like you and me are going to have to rough it.”

“It does Jonesy. We had better find one of the tents.”

“OK Corp. But let”s just use it for our kit.”

“Why?”

“I’ve got a better place to kip down in.”

“You have?”

“Yes, Corp.”

They erected the tent and sorted out their gear.

“It’s late Jonesy. I’ll make sure the lads get some rest.”

Dick walked to the shed and ordered his men to turn in. As he walked back towards the tent he shivered.

It’s damn chilly.

“This way Corp.”

“Jonesy. Where are we going?”

“Somewhere warm, Corp.”

Jonesy took Dick to the barn but did not go in. Instead he squirted the east end and turned left. There was a low wall around a pen with a shaky tin roof over it.

Before Dick could say anything Jonesy hopped over the wall and disappeared.

Dick peeked over the wall to see Jonesy lying on his back on some straw leaning on a massive sow, surrounded by piglets.

“Jonesy, you’ll be killed.”

“Oh no Corp. She likes the company, all passive with the mothering instinct. Nice and warm in “ere. But don’t tread on the piglets. She may object.”

“Are you mad?”

“No Corp. I grew up on farms like this one. You learned how to keep warm when you’ve been down the pub too late and your Ma has locked you out.”

Dick stared at the pigsty, shivered, then climbed over the wall. Very tentatively he shuffled up to the sow and touched her belly. She grunted with what he took to be pleasure.

After ten minutes Dick and Jonesy were warm and fast asleep.

Next morning Dick poked Jonesy.

“Rise and shine, Private.”

“Yes, Corp.”

“Jonesy.”

“Yes, Corp.”

“Don't you breathe a word about this.”

“No Corp, who’d believe we spent the night on the belly of a pig anyway?”

____________________________________

Authors Note: Corporal Dick West served in the British Army, Royal Artillery during the Second World War, while his wife Winnifred (Winn) struggled with the war in London, England. They were my parents. These short stories are derived from them telling me what it was like in those times. All the characters except for Corporal West and his wife Winn, are fictitious.

Dick was first called up in 1938 during the Munich crisis. He returned to civilian life in 1939 only to be called up again in late summer as the Second World War broke out. He was finally demobbed early in 1946. These stories are in chronological order.

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