1st May 1917

Squad and rifle drill were the order of the day concluding with numerous assaults on the bayonet course.  The latter was a hazardous undertaking.  In close formation, with swords fixed, we were bullied and coerced into climbing and vaulting high barricades with unexpected wide trenches and other obstacles on the farther side, completing the exercise with vicious jabs at swinging sacks and prone ‘bodies’ made of straw.  The target was always the solar plexus, the most vital spot in the human body.  The danger, we were told, was that if the bayonet was plunged in too deeply human strength would not be able to withdraw it.

The sudden crack of a rifle meant that someone had unconsciously left ‘one up the spout’ and in his exertions at the top of the barricade had triggered off.  The culprit was a tall, scholarly looking individual with bent knees and a pronounced stoop and elderly by our standards.  His persistent clumsiness made him the butt of the draft and the despair of the Canaries.  What penalty was meted out to him we never knew because from that day forward he disappeared from our ken.  I like to think he was found some nice quite job at the Base more in keeping with his talents and no longer a menace to himself or his comrades.

The evening was spent at the YMCA where the well-known historian, Holland-Rose (1), gave a talk on Russia.  The lecture was undoubtedly both interesting and instructive but the golden opportunity for a quiet nap with a modicum of comfort was irresistible.  It was here that I first met Stanley Victor Bradley.  On my way back to the billet a short tubby figure joined me.  The beaming smile was Bradley’s but the curious and shapeless jacket of greenish hue with no pleats to its bulging breast pockets could only be blamed on the quartermaster’s stores.  Bradley, I learnt in good time, was not one to be worried by the niceties of dress and I soon became aware that his main preoccupation was the enjoyment of life to the full under all conditions with goodwill to all men.

Time was short in 1917 and we soon became acquainted with each other’s relatively brief life histories.  At 25 he was five years my senior, a civil servant in the War Trades Department of the Board of Trade.  He had been at school with my cousin who had died at Loos, had a passion for tennis and was a fervent Wesleyan.  He was also a teetotaller and a non-smoker.  I never heard him utter the mildest of swear words except on one never to be forgotten occasion.  From that day forward Bradley, Forster and I were inseparables except on those occasions when the duties of the day broke up the trio.  In later years of peace I have sometimes pondered why in such close relationships the use of Christian names was rejected.  The answer I believe lay in some inner consciousness which refused to admit that friendships born and nurtured on the battlefield could be anything but transient and that by some curious quirk of the mind we were facing up to the inevitable.

The trio was now complete and though we enjoyed the company of many other good friends we were never content unless we three were together.

Original diary entry
Original journal notes

(1) Wikipedia entry for Professor Holland-Rose here.