Topic: British Army
Inspection at Poona 1942
Troop Sergeant Clive Branson, Royal Armoured Corps RAC, quoted inThe Mammoth Book of War Diaries and Letters; Life on the battlefield in the words of the ordinary soldier, 1775-1991, Jon E. Lewis, 1998
Today a General paid us a visit. In one squadron they had many men change into PT kit, some ready to box, some to do PT, some to form two basket-ball teams, etc. They were kept sitting about doing nothing for ages until a scout saw the General's car. The scout signalled, and immediately everyone began boxing and playing basket-ball.
Nr Poona [Indial
20 June 1942
You have little idea how badly we need the news of the second front—it is the difference between a body of good, stolid-humoured Britishers and an inspired army of warriors. This morning we went out on a scheme on foot in units representing tanks. We covered ten or twelve miles or more over ploughed fields. It was magnificent exercise and although I felt pretty tired I enjoyed it no end. That sort of thing will make real soldiers of us.
But tonight I had a terrible set-back. On parade this morning we were asked who had seen active service. I said I had. When we came back from the scheme I was told that I was to go on an inspection by the Duke of Gloucester in a few days' time. This parade is purely bullshit. It will take several days to polish boots, brasses, etc. It will take days and nights for some eight Indian tailors to alter, clean, press, etc. clothes for the white sahibs to wear like bloody waxworks. The Indians, of course, will not be on parade, the lucky fools. I have often been asked, "Have we got a fifth column here?" Yes, we have! For nothing could help the enemy more by undermining morale, destroying enthusiasm and making us incompetent fighters than this kind of tomfoolery. The farce develops. This morning we had an inspection. The Duke's show is in five days' time. On the day we get up at 5 a.m. Our clothes will be packed in boxes and taken by lorry to the scene of battle, where we will get into them. Sebastopol is falling and our CO is disappointed at the lack of polish on the topee chin straps.
Well, the Duke's show is over, at immense expenditure of precious petrol, wear and tear of vehicles, deadening bullshit. The Duke merely shook hands with unit commanders and squadron leaders—the men just didn't exist. Today a General paid us a visit. In one squadron they had many men change into PT kit, some ready to box, some to do PT, some to form two basket-ball teams, etc. They were kept sitting about doing nothing for ages until a scout saw the General's car. The scout signalled, and immediately everyone began boxing and playing basket-ball. As soon as the General disappeared the men were marched back to their tents. This is how things are going on here.