Railway Tales

by Harold Smith Deeply I sleep, or do I—I wonder— Make noises strange, and loud as thunder. However, I then have a dream That's oft repeated and it would seem The cause is not so hard to find. It's the orderly sergeant's 'Do you mind, Please getting up. It's seven, I think. FEET OUT, OR ELSE YOU'LL BE IN CLINK.' We put our feet out of the bed, As the OS looks and shakes his head But when he's safely through the door We dive back in for five minutes more. Then if the OS should return By devious ways we've come to learn His presence with a minute to spare, So we all put on an innocent air. But now get up we really must, Set up our beds and sweep and dust. Our beds in which we take great pride, All look so neat as side by side They're levelled up and then dressed off, And all looks perfect till a cough From I/C room warns something's wrong, In language perhaps a little strong. At last the room is all put straight, But breakfast for us will not wait. First wash and shave before we eat So with the rush of many feet Into the wash house we all pour Nearly smashing down the door. Two wash bowls do us, forty blokes. The cause of scraps as well as jokes. At last we're clean. Ablutions done, We go to breakfast one by one, The porridge burnt, the bacon raw. And stewed tea! No one asks for more. However, no one blames the cooks, Except by casting dirty looks. When orderly officer asks 'All right?' We answer 'Yes Sir,' so polite. Breakfast over, we sit awhile, Discussing things that make us smile. Officers and NCOs The MG* and all that with it goes. And having, too, a quiet sly smoke— To be caught at this is not a joke. Well, time to leave dining hall, and Walk out with fag cupped in one's hand. Next we come to muster parade, For which sergeant-majors are specially made. We shuffle about and line up in threes We come to attention, then stand at ease. The OC appears, then attention once more, As with sergeant-major he starts on his tour. To sort out good from bad in ranks. Though he's never yet been known to say thanks. He stumbles up one row then down the next. Checks haircuts, loose buttons, but only he's vexed. At last with a sigh we realise he's through Even so, for him, we never seem to do. Sergeant-major takes over, looking frightfully stern, Raps out an order that makes our ears burn, 'Shun' salutes OC, then turns round to us And details us off, without any fuss. 'You, you and you, on grenades for today, And you lot there on MG'—that's the way That we are told our jobs, some better than others, By the bloke they say takes the place of our mothers. Away we all go in little squads, With NCOs feeling like little tin gods. It's as well they do, and don't realise They're really inferior to us other guys. Of training itself I needn't say more, For it wouldn't interest you, I'm sure. That it bores some of us you need not doubt Though we often catch the instructor out. On such like occasions he resorts to his book, And attempts to give us a knowing look, Until the book has proved him wrong, When he skips the subject that proved too strong. Now after a while we get a short break For five or ten minutes when we may take A smoke—that is, if we have any fags Or can borrow some from the bloke who has bags. Just when we've lit up—one match does us all— Instructor disturbs us as he starts to bawl: 'Time's up, smokes out' in a way meant to irk, Just fancy him thinking we'd try to shirk. Somehow we manage until the big break, Half an hour in Naffi now we may take. With warning from corporal 'Be back on the dot, Or a charge you'll be on, the whole bloody lot' We race to the Naffi to be first in the queue, Though cakes not much good and tea's a poor brew. And when we are served we sit round and talk, Till times up, then back to instructor we walk. From big break to dinner we seldom do much: The break it appears has made us lose touch, Excepting for musketry—bane of us all— Another fine chance for instructors to bawl' 'Port arms, examine arms, ease springs, order arms.' How well they demonstrate their vocal charms. Still we're not affected, our minds think as one Of getting our dinner, getting rid of our gun. At last we're dismissed, away we all go, To put up our rifles in row after row. Next to the billet, for knife, fork and spoon To the dining hall then—not a moment too soon. The queue is already a considerable size You'd think it a meal the fellows all prize. But that's a mistake I can soon rectify, Come, look in the swill bin that goes to our sty. Of the menu today the cooks perhaps boast Potatoes and cabbage and gravy and roast. And, of course, a sweet— the eternal rice— But if you're thinking that all this is nice I'll tell you the truth without more ado: Spuds and cabbage both underdone— nothing new— With gravy like water, rice lumpy, beef tough Perhaps to convince you, I've said quite enough. Of course, orderly officer comes round to see If there's any complaint, but the answer that we Always give is the same 'No complaints sir', Why? The effect's just the same so no harm's in the lie, So once more to Naffi all of us go For more tea and fags and general pow-wow Till at one forty-five we parade yet once more, Though the turn-out now looks very poor. There are less on parade than at nine today, But that is expected, for some have a way Of dodging parade with excuse watertight— After two years of service, they're past masters, quite. This time no inspection, we're soon marched away. Again we're in squads so no one can stray, But instructor may yet lead to some grassy slope Where, secluded, we'll scrounge till teatime—we hope. However, the training goes on as before Although we're browned off and it's all such a bore, With occasional breaks for a smoke now and then. We wish time away until four fifteen, when We're sent off to billets and all told to strip Get PT kit on—now we've all got the pip, The reason? Well, everyone dislikes PT, And to get off it we use any old plea. Some hide in one place and some in another Excepting the privileged who don't need to bother. If you'd like to know I'll describe what it's like And without exaggerating or taking the Mike. Parade company lines, first we are told. So we make our way there shivering with cold, And stand there in threes with ten minutes to spare, Till someone decides we should be on the square. We march on to markers, dress off from the right Five companies are there, what a perishing sight. Bare legs and arms, all blue with the cold, While OS reports to RSM—so bold, He's never been seen in PT kit yet And never will be, that's a good bet. Eventually the RSM starts the fun, With 'Right turn', 'Double', away we run. Sometimes we do exercises. To me they're just rot. They're seldom done properly, so most prefer a trot Which at least helps us to get warm once again, And that way we finish before time—quite a gain. When the period's over we rush off to change Showing energy both amazing and strange. In no time we're washed and dressed in BD Queued up in dining hall and waiting for tea. Tea's not too bad with fish, bread and marge, Though the portions allowed are not very large, The tea's not much good, while the bread's rather stale, The fish so much off, one dare not inhale. Well, so much for tea with all its distractions We'll soon be away seeking different attractions For most of us have the same object in view: To get out with all speed seeking pleasures anew. Of course, there's the flicks where all of us go, But we can't go there six nights in a row. Our pay's insufficient though some say we're well paid, They're the ones when we're broke don't come to our aid. The girls attract some blokes to such an extent Their intentions one might say are hardly well meant. But, perhaps that's enough of what fills our spare time. Discretion, in that respect, must temper my rhyme.
The end