11th April 1917

Our allotted ‘six weeks’ were up and at the first parade came the anticipated preliminary warning.

Those who fell out for the overseas draft were in theory highly trained men, physically fit and in all respects qualified to do battle with the foe.  We ourselves had no doubt on the question of health and strength (that much at least was owed to the army) and it may be assumed that our youthful exuberance refused to admit any deficiency in the military sphere.  On dismissal little groups of excited men foregathered to discuss the one overriding question – not when but where?  The scheduled night hops were cancelled for the overseas men and apart from the issue of another new rifle we were free to ponder upon the future and to stock up on the minor necessities for travel that were not provided by army issue.

I took the opportunity to clear up a little matter that had bothered me for several weeks past.  Before joining up I had purchased a wristwatch – “one which would stand up to really rough treatment”.  Unfortunately the glass was soon broken in the course of training.  Behind the counter of a small watch repairer shop a very old man with a long grey beard made several attempts to fit a new glass but regretted he had not one in stock.  If I would return next week he would “contact the wholesalers for the correct size”.  The watch was returned to the makers to be delivered next week.  By the time I was free to visit the old man again we had been warned for overseas draft on the following day but the watch “had not been returned from the makers, the war you know”.  I had been slow on the uptake but at last the penny dropped.  My immature appearance was perhaps mistaken and I had been subjected to gross trickery.  The little bit of Irish came to the fore and I demanded my watch immediately or I would “fetch the Gang”.  Without a word the old man opened a drawer and handed over my watch complete with fitted glass for which, incidentally, I refused to pay.  I wonder how many Queen’s Westminster’s at Redhill went overseas never to return - with their watches still in the possession of that old man.  I might perhaps add that my ‘Cyma’ with its solid steel case, now pitted with rust, gave sterling service and survived the mud of Flanders.

Warned for Draft. France or Mesopotamia? (1)
Gas drill all day.
New rifle D.P.
No night hops.

Original diary entry
(1) Wikipedia entry for Mesopotamia here