Was the war worth even one boy’s eyesight? No, I thought not.
Taking some wounded Germans to No. 14 hospital one afternoon we were stopped on the way by a road patrol, a new invention to prevent joy-riding. Two Tommies rushed out from the hedges, like highwaymen of old, waving little red flags (one of the lighter efforts of the War Office). Perforce we had to draw up while one of them went into the Estaminet (I noticed they always chose their quarters well) to bring out the officer. His job was to examine papers and passes, and sort the sheep from the goats, allowing the former to proceed and turning the latter away!
The man in question was evidently new to the work and was exceedingly fussy and officious. He scanned my pink pass for some time and then asked, “Where are you going?” “Wimereux,” I replied promptly. He looked at the pass again—“It’s got “Wimer_oo_,” here, and not what you said,” he answered suspiciously. “Some people pronounce it ‘Vimerer,’ nevertheless,” I could not refrain from replying, rather tartly.
Again he turned to the pass, and as it started to snow in stinging gusts (and I was so obviously one of the “sheep"), I began to chafe at the delay.
As if anyone would joy-ride in such weather without a wind screen, I thought disgustedly. (None of the cars had them.)
“Whom have you got in behind?” was the next query.
I leant forward as if imparting a secret of great importance, and said, in a stage whisper: “Germans!”
He jumped visibly, and the two flag-wagging Tommies grinned delightedly. After going to the back to find out if this was so, he at last very reluctantly returned my pass.
“Thinks we’re all bloomin’ spies,” said one of the guards, as at last we set off to face the blinding snow, that literally was blinding, it was so hard to see. The only method was to shut first one eye and then the other, so that they could rest in turns!
On the way back we passed a motor hearse stuck on the Wimereux hill with four coffins in behind, stretcher-wise.
The guard gave a grunt. “Humph,” said he, “They makes yer form fours right up to the ruddy grave, they do!”
We were not so far from civilization in our Convoy as one might have supposed, for among the men in the M.T. yard was a hairdresser from the Savoy Hotel!
He made a diffident call on Boss one day and said it would give him great pleasure to shampoo and do up the “young ladies’ hair” for them in his spare time “to keep his hand in.” He was afraid if the war lasted much longer he might forget the gentle art!
We rose to the occasion and were only too delighted, and from then onwards he became a regular institution up at the Convoy.