21st April 1917

Musketry and squad drill.  The morning was spent on the ‘Pimple’ but this being Saturday we were unexpectedly granted a half day off.  Having made my will by completing the relevant page in the Pay Book I gave attention to lighter matters.

The camp abounded with canteens run by the YMCA, Church Army, Salvation Army and some other bodies.  Here we stocked up with the minor necessities of life.  A good briar pipe cost only 1.50 francs, a pouch, about 50f, was purchased solely to take advantage of the free army ration of tobacco which bore the romantic name of ‘Verbena mixture’.  In addition we also received a free issue of cigarettes variously named ‘Ruby Queen’, ‘Red Hussars’ and ‘Trumpeter Brand’.  I was fairly new to smoking and my requirements were small but the addicted were unsatisfied with the ration even with the ‘spares’ which were always passed round.  In harder times dried tea leaves were a revolting substitute.  Other purchases included a safety razor in place of the army issue cutthroat made of soft iron and the necessary tinder lighter that smouldered until extinguished by a little ball and chain.  The only gambling game permitted was ‘Housey-Housey’ (Bingo) and the compound was covered with little schools of devotees most of whom played out of sheer boredom.  In the darker corners of the camp the real gamblers indulged in ‘Crown and Anchor’ and more rewarding card games.  From them in later days I learnt to play ‘Slippery Sam’ and Brag – a necessary accomplishment for anyone who lived with the troops.

Original diary entry
Original journal notes