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Jun. 15, 2019 | Saturday
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Writer's Circle: Corporal West’s Adventures - Wednesday Store Run
File photo.

SUBMITTED BY RICHARD WEST.
WRITER'S CIRCLE

“Corporal West.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“From  now on we have to collect our stores from a depot in Croydon. You are licenced to drive a three tonner. Am I correct?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Fine. Then sign out a lorry and take a squaddie with you. Find this place in Croydon and collect our stores. Check them against this list and make sure you get back here in one piece.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Dismissed, West.”

This is a welcome break from the endless drills preparing for when the Luftwaffe decide to bomb us in earnest.

A nice drive in the country. If I play my cards right we might even be able to stop in Downham and see Mum on the way back.

Getting to Greenwich to see Winn is too far to go. We’d be really late and they would realize I’d used a lot of extra fuel.

They set off and collected the stores in Croydon. It was a pleasant 45 mile drive through English country lanes. Visiting Downham would add about three quarters of an hour to the trip.

By the time the lorry was loaded and they were on the way back to camp it started to get dark. They had to stop regularly to pass the security checks at most crossroads as they wound through the lanes of Sussex. Driving in a blackout is not easy. The headlights are painted black with just a slit to let out narrow beams of light. The dark country lanes meant Dick had to drive slowly to avoid hitting anything.

The trip went well though they did not get back to camp until gone 10 p.m.

“OK, West. Now you know the drill, collect the stores list each Wednesday from Sergeant Humble, and get what we need.”

“Yes, Sir.”

This welcome diversion from the normal camp routine went on for three weeks.

On the fourth trip he had Jonesy with him as they crawled back through the last few miles of country lanes. It was raining and so darker than usual. It was not a comfortable ride. The three tonner had an open cab with a small collapsible windscreen. They were both soaked and getting tired.

Suddenly the lorry bumped to a stop as a massive head knocked the windscreen flat.

Jonesy ducked down and yelled. Dick sat wondering what on earth had happened. That terrifying head disappeared but they were still left shaking.

“God. That was a bloody horse, Corp.”

“A horse? It was huge.”

“Some horses are very big, Corp.”

They got down from the lorry. A large horse lay across the lane in front of the vehicle.

“Have I killed it?” Dick asked. Jonesy came from a farming community in South Wales and when it came to animals Dick deferred to his superior knowledge.

Jonesy knelt down and stroked the huge animal. It twitched, neighed and clattered to its hooves. The horse swung its head away from them and trotted off down the lane, leaving two wet soldiers standing in front of the dented three tonner.

Later, back at camp, “So you drove into a horse?”

“Yes, Sarge.”

“Didn’t know you were blind, West.”

“Couldn’t see it until we were right on top of it, Sarge.”

“OK. How much had you had to drink?”

“Nothing, Sarge.”

“That’s right, Sarge,” piped in Jonesy.

“Hold your tongue, Private.”

“Yes, Sarge.”

The sergeant eyed them both for a few more seconds then said, “OK. I’ll deal with the Captain. Report back here next Wednesday to get the stores list.”

“Yes, Sarge.”

“And no messing about next time.”

“Yes, Sarge,” as he lowered his head, so not noticing the grin on the Sergeant’s face.

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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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About Richard West:

Richard grew up in London, England. He trained as an engineer then emigrated to Canada. His career involved travel to many parts of our wonderful planet. Richard is blessed with two wonderful children, and  four super  grandchildren.

West has lived in NOTL since 1979. He has always loved to read. Exposed to Welsh poetry and verse by his wife, he has a soft spot for Dylan Thomas.

He started writing stories in the early 1990s, to see how it was done. Over the intervening years, he has written about family memories and science fiction stories. His journey of learning about this craft has been rewarding.

Richard has written a number of short stories and newspaper articles, as well as two novels.

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