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by   MRS. A. ARDEN



IT was on an evening in the late summer of 1943 that a band of six women waited about in the Adjutant's room at 32nd Batt. Headquarters for they knew not quite what. They were presenting themselves as prospective Women Home Guard and were there to be vetted. With some experience of the Army routine, I had visions of "Medicals" and quantities of the tape coloured red. But no - a genial officer, Captain Crews, received us, more nervous of us than we were of him, I think. Names, addresses, and one or two simple particulars and we were passed over to a serious, pale-faced young sergeant, who stood by with quietly smiling eyes, and, I fancy, his tongue in his cheek. It was he who arranged with us our first parade, and we later knew him to be Sergt. Callow, an able and none-too-easy instructor.

A few days later we met again, and without much preamble had begun our careers as would-be signallers. The code letters for the alphabet was our first lesson and most of us picked this up fairly quickly. We had to, for Sergt. Callow was apt to drop on us suddenly. " A , Mrs. Arden?" " J, Miss Jackson?" It left no room for thoughts that wandered, and we who were older were determined that the younger ones should not outshine us, and I do not think they ever did. This spirit of friendly competition is the finest spur to learning. Mrs. Stephens caused us some amusement in this connection. Sergt. Callow dropped on her with "P, Mrs. Stephens?" "Percy," she came back unhesitatingly. Blushing furiously, she quickly amended it to "Peter". Percy, you see, is her husband's name.

There were evenings in the winter 1943-44 when we arrived for our practice like the proverbial drowned rat, but there were few absentees through bad weather. One by one we found new members, each one determined to make up lost ground as soon as could be. "Nominated Women" - I think that was our official title for some weeks. Then came an evening when Miss Morris, who became our Officer, presented each one of us with a copy of Orders, on which our names appeared with our regimental number, and we were given a plastic badge to wear. Much better this than being just "nominated women", protected by the Geneva Convention.

Meanwhile, we had been steadily progressing with our training as signallers, specialising for the moment in "phonogram                                                       (......continues.....)