SOMETIME between now and
Christmas, according to recent pronouncements, I shall be permanently exchanging my uniform tor a civilian Wit It 1$ CilliCILIN klUIV uiit iCa4.1.5 iii this elm nearly five yeate lit the Stevice, over three of which have been spent overseas. Getting back Lu Civvy Strebt, if anyone asked, es what all of us have been continually longing for. Yet, now that one is faced with the transition as a reality within measurable distance, it has to be admitted that in some ways the prospect occasloes disquiet, just as the reverse process did back in 1440 when the buff envelope came containing the callingup notice.
At the moment of writing I am just home from the Middle East on a month's leaye. having been fortunate in the draw which awards such to all envied few after three years' unbroken overseas serviee.
And what ol England ? Attired temporarily in the civvies I shall soon be assuming for good, I find my native country a little disturbing. There seems. as many, it not mote. irritating regulations and restrictions to irk me when wearing my Homburg hat than there are when I am in khaki. Perhaps it is of course that a soldier soon tends to become adept at evading those which govern his life. Nevertheless civilian life does apswar to be very complex: As a prospective bridegroom. a few days ago I went in search of some chairs: To gct Utility products (an innovation sinte my departure from the U.K.). I wandered for an hour around tho labyrinths of Millbank until a kindly workman directed me to the Board of Trade department, where one obtained the necessary permit. Here 1 followed another ex-M.E.F. soldier in to see a pleasant and business-like young lady who shook her head sadly, handed me some forms. and told rise the permit would take five weeks to come through. I pointed out gently that I had every reason to suppose that HAI. Government would require me to be hall-way back to Egypt before then, whereupon she was velar rice and apologetic. but regretted that nothing cisuld be done.
Another thing which was impressed on me. especially in London. was the tiredness and general irritability ot everyone. bus condlactresses. ticket collectors and shop aesistants, all of whom seemed to want to snap at me at the slightest provocation. Also I observed, and this with much regret, that ladies of all ages, even carryiog babies, were standing inside buses while male occupants stolidly remained seated. It will he a sorry victory it' chivalry has become a casualty.
All the foregoing changes arc noticeable to me for two reasons. Firstly, I have been away lot a long time, and secondly, I am one or the large num
ber of the five million
ber of the five million as Mr. Boils stated recently quite truthfully. have not been exposed to any danger during the war. In point of fact, categorically excluding periods Spent on troopships, we who have been engaged on static duties in the Middle East have in many ways fared 'much better than We should have done had we remained in England. this being particularly so during the last two years.
Out there our food has lieen good, work is not onerous, and there is plenty of native.labour alwayi on hand It) de the fetching and carrying. The climate is pleasant, leave frequent if desired (and one is encouraged to take it), while the pay, if not over-generous, was assured, and unlike civilian emoluments was subject to no deductions other than income tax. And uncon-,