Otherwise, post-war unrest proceeded in every way imaginable. Actual wars featured: the Khaibalikend Massacre (June 5-7) which saw 6-700 Armenian civilians killed by Azeri and Kurdish troops and “irregulars”, the attack organised by a Nagorno-Karabakh governor-general the British military had installed earlier in the year; Finland declaring war on Bolshevik Russia (June 6), over the ownership of border territory Karelia, making official the Aunus Expedition by “volunteers” who had begun a sort of invasion on April 21; Ukraine launching the Chortkiv Offensive against Poland in an attempt to annex Eastern Galicia (June 8-28); General Denikin’s Southern White Russian force advancing against the Bolshevik Army (8). Tenuously related perhaps, US Marines landed in Costa Rica and in due course helped overthrow the dictator – who happened to threaten US control of neighbouring Nicaragua.
During this interlude he suffered various illnesses while recovering from trench warfare’s privations. In December, probably, solo, he returned to France – reverting to Private on arrival, I don’t know why – and dogsbodied around Arras until mid-March when he ran into his own Essex 2/7th Battalion. They moved into the trenches near Fampoux just in time for the German Spring Offensive. A last stand by the Battalion on March 28, 1918, left 80 alive and “fit” out of the 520 who started the day – the 440 in between being dead, wounded or, like Sam, “missing” and, in his case, a POW (Blog March 25, 2018). For several months he wandered occupied France in randomly-assembled half-starved POW groups doing hard labour, before spending the summer in southern Germany and finally moving westwards to Lorraine – whence, the day after Armistice, his long trek towards the French Front began. He reached safety after tiptoeing through a German minefield (November 15 probably). Then began his recovery from chronic near-starvation – and a brief emotional breakdown – until, finally, on December 10, 1918, he returned to England and another few days in hospital before reuniting with parents and siblings, especially brother Ted, home on a week’s leave but suffering badly from gas damage.
Civilian life offered Sam a warm welcome… until, in February 1919, the Army called him back - though only to a “Dad’s Army” unit. Meaning, at first, a few weeks de facto holiday in Brighton. But then, something completely different… through the spring, Sam and others ex-POWs guard German POWs at a camp in Sussex, while making various attempts to get back to “normal” life… At which point, for the time being, the story breaks off as explained below…]
Last week, The Making Of 3 covered his schooldays, including a gradual discovery of his own talents, despite relentlessly daunting comparisons with his older brother Ted’s sparky brilliance, and the frustration of both boys when they had to leave education at 14 for lack of money to pay for more.
The tin church had a small hall attached with, at one end, a platform bearing a small organ, its pipes brightly painted, and a couple of tables at which sat the people who were going to conduct the service. To the side of the platform stood two tall, anthracite stoves of roughcast metal, their chimneys poking out through the roof. With them alight, the place warmed up comfortably. The stoker was a Mrs Pavitt – small, thin, wispy grey hair, toothless, pale blue eyes, a sort of smile from time to time. She seldom spoke but worked very hard to keep this place warm and clean even though the odd shilling or two would be all that this poor community could afford to pay her.
Two men took charge of the service for the whole congregation. Two very different types. Mr Reardon, rather flat of foot, average height, a good head of hair and a droopy moustache, much given to smiling. When he preached a sermon or composed a prayer there was gaiety to it, happiness, and he played a very sweet euphonium when they went out to sing their hymns in the street. Mr Reardon worked as an insurance agent, collecting local people’s pennies and halfpennies door to door.
One sunny Sunday evening, the smiling and happy Reardon stood on the platform, euphonium under arm, and called upon the brothers to sally forth into the streets and take the message to the people. With Cyril and Marjorie carrying a small harmonium between them, the whole congregation set off. In a side street, they formed a circle, the harmonium in the middle. All had their hymn books with them and, led by the two instruments, they sang heartily. “Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away/He taught me how to watch and pray.” If the little bag passed around at one of these street meetings realised two or three shillings, that would be a very good evening.
Tommy and his brother were to take their turn selling ice cream – made by a local shopkeeper – in cornets and wafers. With no bulk manufacturer then, each trader made his own in a small machine and supplied it in cylinders… They set them up on a stand constructed by a carpenter member of the congregation.
The price of admission included the purchase of a dance card for each lady, a booklet really, printed on stiff board with a pencil attached on a silky cord. When approached for a dance, the lady would note the name of the applicant against the numbered dance of her choice.
In a sensible way, he described the feelings contact between the sexes could arouse, the actions and the results that would follow: the girls in trouble, the unwanted babies; the worry, regret, fear; the difficulties which beset a young man who has fathered a bastard. He drew this picture so impressively the lads were never likely to forget. In fact, he constantly impressed upon them that sexual intercourse before marriage was wrong, a crime, it must never even be considered, let alone indulged in.
Coupled with lessons in physiology and home nursing, both part of advanced training for all Boy Scouts, this early debunking of the sham romanticism so prevalent in those days did help the boys. Furthermore, the Scout Code they had sworn to included the words “To be pure in thought and word and deed”******; sticking to it became a settled part of their life and conduct. Tommy remembered all these things in the company of the girls with whom he occasionally formed friendships. Some may have thought him reticent or slow, but all realised that, at any rate, he was safe… ’