Chapter VII (Grandfather’s Journal continued 1916- age 16)

Col Bedell 001It was not half term but I secured the permission to go home for a week-end and Dick accepted my invitation to come along. Dad was now at Witley Camp and mother and Mrs. Wilkinson had a cottage in Milford, near the camp. Dick  and I started off after school Friday and got into Milford about 6:30 Mother had sent a taxi to meet us and soon we were sitting down to supper at Meadow Cottage. Suddenly smoke began  to drift in the door. Dick and I dashed through and found it was coming from upstairs. We hurried up and found that the smoke was coming from an oil-stove that had caught on fire in the oil.  We picked the thing up and hurried it out to the lawn.  When we came in, everyone began to laugh at us and on examining ourselves in the mirror we saw we were covered in black smoke. Very wicked looking men indeed!  Dick’s sweater was ruined but we decided it might have been a lot worse and treated it all as a joke.

Next morning Dick and I were up before sunrise and walked out to the camp to see the rising sun from a small hill nearby.  “The darkest hour is just before the dawn!” Nothing was to be seen except the top branches of a big elm-tree, outlined against the sky.  Slowly the darkness gave way reluctant to leave, but not daring to face the sun that would soon be here.  Already the clouds are tinged with a faint, delicate pink, and at the sight of this herald of the rising sun, the darkness gives way completely.

The mist lies softly, level and white in the valley, so opaque that only the tops of the trees can be seen and yet so thin and frail, that in a few moments more it will melt away in the splendour of the morning.

The clouds turn a pure rose colour and suddenly the eastern sky becomes one molten mass; the pure, intense blue of the upper sky forming a perfect background for the riot of golden, crimson, purple and scarlet colour.  The mist is disappearing already, eddying among the trees, swaying, dipping, in a perfect poetry of motion. Now we got a glimpse of the little lake, a perfect gem in a setting of majestic pines.

All the colouring of the sunrise is there in the water but the tints are mingled and the colours more delicate.  The opalescent fires of that unlucky gem are there, the flash of the diamond and the blue of the turquoise.  Fading into the distance the purple hills of Surrey form the background of the scene (perhaps one day I will see it as he writes it…100 years later xx) Such a perfect picture cannot last; the sun rises higher and higher,the colouring fades away, and a new day has been born.

After breakfast we went for another walk, ending up at noon, at the Officer’s Mess, Witley Camp, where Dad had invited us for dinner.  The time passed all to quickly and soon another day was gone.

We had to go back to Barnet on Sunday evening.  The train was a fast one and we pulled into Waterloo in good time.  The underground railway soon deposited us at Golder’s Green and we found ourselves waiting in the pouring rain for a bus.

The bus was crowded and I gazed around and wondered what they were all thinking about.  Where were they going? How did they live? Where they thinking of their sons in France?

An old man, stooped and crushed by sorrow, was sitting across the aisle.  Beside him was a woman, probably his wife.  She was smiling, but there were tears in her eyes.  What an effort that smile has cost!

A young girl, with a long letter in her hand, was sitting beside me.  She looked very sad and lonely but was tightly clinging to the treasured letter.  Was it from her lover in France?  Again I wondered.

In the corner I noticed a little mite of a girl.  Her eyes were red with weeping and I felt sure her father had been one of the many killed in our last drive against the Germans, fighting bravely for home and country.  An uncomfortable lump rose in my throat and I turned to the farther corner.  Once more I was reminded of the war. A soldier- boy in blue was sitting there.  He had one arm in a sling.and one leg missing, but nevertheless he was the merriest face  I had seen for many a day.  Beneath his merriment however, determination showed.  It could be seen on all their faces.  No matter what it cost, they would go through to the bitter end.

Suddenly I noticed that we were passing our destination and , rousing Dick, I made a frantic grab for the cord, but only succeeded in hitting the hat of a very dignified old lady sitting beside me.  The hat went sidewise and her dignity followed.  A moment later and we were walking through Barnet church passage in the rain; ten minutes later and I was sound asleep in bed.

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