While waiting for the Board, I was sent to the German Prison Camp at Winnal Downs as corporal of the permanent guard. I began to fear that at last they had found something that I could do without damaging anything, and my visions of the U.S.A. went a-glimmering. I was with the Fritzies for over a week, and they certainly have it soft and cushy.
They have as good food as the Tommies. They are paid ninepence a day, and the work they do is a joke. They are well housed and kept clean and have their own canteens, where they can buy almost anything in the way of delicacies. They are decently treated by the English soldiers, who even buy them fags out of their own money. The nearest thing I ever saw to humiliation of a German was a few good-natured jokes at their expense by some of the wits in the guard. The English know how to play fair with an enemy when they have him down.
I had about given up hope of ever getting out of the army when I was summoned to appear before the Travelling Medical Board. You can wager I lost no time in appearing.
The board looked me over with a discouraging and cynical suspicion. I certainly did look as rugged as a navvy. When they gave me a going over, they found that my heart was out of place and that my left hand might never limber up again. They voted for a discharge in jig time. I had all I could do to keep from howling with joy.
It was some weeks before the final formalities were closed up. The pension board passed on my case, and I was given the magnificent sum of sixteen shillings and sixpence a week, or $3.75. I spent the next few weeks in visiting my friends and, eventually, at the 22nd Headquarters at Bermondsey, London, S.C., received the papers that once more made me a free man.
The papers read in part, “He is discharged in consequence of paragraph 392, King’s Rules and Regulations. No longer fit for service.” In another part of the book you will find a reproduction of the character discharge also given. The discharged man also receives a little silver badge bearing the inscription, “For King and Empire, Services Rendered.” I think that I value this badge more than any other possession.
Once free, I lost no time in getting my passport into shape and engaged a passage on the St. Paul, to sail on the second of June. Since my discharge is dated the twenty-eighth of May, you can see that I didn’t waste any time. My friends at Southall thought I was doing things in a good deal of a hurry. The fact is, I was fed up on war. I had had a plenty. And I was going to make my get-away before the British War Office changed its mind and got me back in uniform. Mrs. Puttee and her eldest son saw me off at Euston Station. Leaving them was the one wrench, as they had become very dear to me. But I had to go. If Blighty had looked good, the thought of the U.S.A. was better.