This was to be our second, but far from last, Christmas away from home.
Christmas 1940 half of us went home for Christmas the other half stayed in camp at Petawawa. So 1941 for all was the first when we were in a distant land all away from home. I think we received mail just before Christmas from home. I had already heard from my Grandmother in Scotland welcoming me to the British Isles, and my grandmother wrote my mother on my safe arrival, thankful that it was to Britain and not HongKong. I have that letter, also a news clipping stating more troops arrive safely.
Our Christmas dinner in the sergeants' mess was pretty good for all the shortages. One thing I remember was the amount of Brussels sprouts. They were the green staple served almost on a regular basis, least it seemed so. Being young I ate everything. At our Christmas dinner Roy Murphy brought a friend, an ATS girl who was in uniform. I do not remember her maiden name but Roy married Ethel. Both are living near Edmonton . Ethel has not been well for years.
The wash room facilities for all the Wos and sergeants was near the entrance to our mess, and had, if memory is correct, only three wash basins and cold water only. Now Scotty Hunter and I, along with many of the others, shaved, and did our teeth in a matter of seconds. Others, I guess should be nameless but again so what, one L/sgt Jack Michaels took seemingly the greatest time, usually in the 20 minute range while he preened and trimmed and plucked to the exasperation of all waiting, and Jack never did improve on speed regardless of the barbs cast his way. Jack had borrowed Scotty Hunter's first war issue mirror [a treasure ]. Well Jack broke it accidentally. I think at that moment that Scotty Hunter was starting to think that some one his age should be home doing veteran's guard or something. That was the definite down spiral in Scotty's career. I will dwell on that later.
Aldershot was a place that here that regiment had to get all together, and in a hurry. I remember Col Landers getting all the sgts and wos together and telling us what a nice look we had just like a shiny apple. Then he added the insult to us that were rotten to the core, and the upshot was the RSM was replaced by Jim Murray, a much younger man, and he looked the part of a fine figure to be the RSM. Now the original RSM McLeod had his faults but on the other side he always maintained to have a good regiment you had to have a great sergeants group, and we did. So the new Colonel had a nucleus that he knew he had to work with so changes were made. Older sergeants and sergeant Majors were either demoted or sent to holding units as too old or unfit to be in an active service unit.
Before I get into the New Year, seeing I had all my relations in Scotland I was given leave. This was before Christmas. Was I excited! I was on my way to Scotland, the birthplace of my parents. Train to London, then using the Underground system to get across London, then a train to Aberdeen, arriving in the mid morning after a night's travel. I checked at the Criterion Bar across from the station and found out that I would have to take a #14 bus down to the foot of Dee to my Uncle Jack's Pub called the Neptune. Walking into the bar, a Royal Navy Commander asked me to join him and his aide a Lt ,,, . I did so and he remarked was I a kin to the publican? I said yes he is my uncle, I then said how do you know? He replied your hair line. ' Well Uncle Jack came over and greeted me warmly and said have you been to see your aunt Cis yet? [his wife]. No, I have just arrived. Well away you go and see her right off. I received the proper street cars to take me to Ashley Park N Aberdeen, there to be given a great hug and kiss from my aunt Cis. The only child at home with Aunt Cis was Norman [ now called John ]. Norman was about four and we hit it off right away and he earned the nickname ot the Tough guy. Drew about 14, and Shelia about ten or so. Here was my first contact with real relatives. Others soon followed as I went further north to New Pitsligo, dad's birthplace, Fraserborough, Strichen, and the crofts and farms. Upper Craidmaud was the farm that in that parlour Mum and Dad were married, 17 December 1917.
This is yet to come