Figure 3: A sketch of the author by Trooper Arthur Harratt (Dated 18th August 1943).
Early next morning, we set off for Patterdale, on the shore of Lake Windermere. Here, we were lucky again because we were allowed to sleep on the floor of the village hall and use the kitchen range, on which Jack again performed cooking miracles. The third day was the longest march of all consisting of some fifteen miles from Patterdale to Ladgill over rough, open moorland. On this journey we had the remarkable experience of walking into the clouds at two thousand four hundred feet for three miles. It was a remarkable sensation, not being able to see more than five yards ahead and being blanketed by a thick damp, clammy mist. Rounding one corner, we met a gale head-on and it actually blew one fellow off his feet. When we eventually arrived at Ladgill, tired and hungry, we found that the rations and blankets hadn’t arrived, so we slept in a barn, covering ourselves with sacks. In the morning, the farmer’s wife provided us with porridge, sandwiches and tea for breakfast. Thus sustained, we walked on. Sergeant Morgan commandeered some Home Guard rations and we wrapped ourselves round them before returning to camp.On August 24th, we returned to Crowborough on a special troop train. After two days stowing the tanks and generally striking camp, once again, we moved to Shakers Wood Camp, Brandon in Norfolk. This seemed to be our month for moves, as after only two days in Shakers Wood, we moved to troop camps. The most enjoyable thing about troop camps was that we were away from regimental discipline. Our particular camp was situated in a wood, not far from Swaffham, near the main road. Training consisted entirely of troop manoeuvres and troops were open to attack by other troops. Each morning at 8.00am, orders were received over the A-set (the wireless) from the Squadron Leader at Forward Headquarters (FHQ) camp about three miles away. One day, Corporal Wheatley and I constructed a sand table to demonstrate troop tactics.  We got quite settled down to the troop camp and in a way we were quite sorry to leave after three weeks.
After one night back in Shakers Wood, we moved again. This time it was to Squadron camp, near Thetford. Once again, this meant living under canvas, but the weather was good to us and it was quite enjoyable. There we did a week’s gunnery revision course under Sergeant Lara, before taking our trade test back at camp. I gained a Class I pass and was appointed as a Class II wireless operator with nine pence a day increase in pay. This gave me one pound, eleven shillings and six pence per week clear. Of this, I drew one pound a week for myself, sent seven shillings home with four shillings and six pence remaining in credit. One night, Mossford and I visited an American Army canteen just down the road and we were amazed at the excellent food on sale. It was far superior to ours. In fact, living conditions in general in the American Army are superior to ours. Perhaps that is why quite a few British Tommies have a dislike for the Yanks.
On September 18th we went on the Squadron’s passion wagon to the St Ledger at Newmarket. The town of Thetford was only twenty minutes walk from the camp and we also spent several pleasant evenings there. On September 29th we struck camp and returned to Shakers Wood. October was occupied mainly by assisting the local farmers with the sugar beet harvest. Parties went out daily from the camp to the neighbouring farms and working hours were from 9.00am to 4.00pm. The sugar beet is picked two rows at a time. These are then placed in one row. Each alternate row faces the opposite way to facilitate chopping. The farmer pays the Government one shilling per hour per man and he usually gives us a little bonus as an incentive. This is generally about five shillings a day. Sugar beet picking was supposed to be a rest from training. It was a break all right, but there wasn’t much rest attached to it.
Exercise Bridoon, a five-day scheme, started on October 31st. This was the biggest scheme since Exercise Spartan.  The whole of our Division was fighting the Canadian Armoured Division and we had to paint yellow crosses on all the tanks. We beat the Canadians easily and on November 4th, there came over the air those magic words ‘Cease fire Bridoon’.
As the scheme finished before schedule, we went on home leave two days in advance and this is where my diary proper starts. But first of all, a few words about the lads in the Troop. At present, the Troop roll is as follows: Banfield, Baillie, Brown, Carrington, Dawson, Dewar, Harratt, Hide, Imeson, Jackson, Lowe, Slack, Symes, Taylor, Thomas, Tongrak and Watson and Lance-Corporals Probin and Sutcliffe. Banfield is a tall chap, an ex-lorry driver about eighteen, a volunteer and only a recent addition to the Troop. Jock Baillie is my greatest friend, a fellow of marvellous temperament who will do anyone a good turn. A more good-hearted person would be hard to find. An ex-butcher, he is about two months older than me and lives at 32 Elm Row, Leith Walk in Edinburgh. I first met him in Helmsley and we have been firm friends ever since. We were both in the Troop officer’s tank. He was the gunner. Quiet and deliberate by nature, he does things in a slow, definitely Scottish manner and is very conscientious. Gunners of his calibre and efficiency are very rare. If there were more Jock Baillies, the world would be a far more pleasant place. Brown is a nineteen-year-old, ex-National Fire Service (NFS) despatch rider. He is rather boyish, but quite a witty and decent sort. Carrington is another volunteer and came to the Troop recently with Banfield. Dawson, an ex-engineering student, is yet another volunteer whose father was a captain in the last war. Dave Dewar is another good one, a very sociable chap with a sensible outlook. Arthur Harratt was a commercial artist in civvy-street and, consequently, he does all the painting in the Troop. One of his pastimes is colouring photos which he does expertly. Hide is a good-looking fellow and, on the whole, he is a sensible, well-meaning sort. His Christian name is Garnet, but he always goes by the nickname ‘Tropper’. This originated from the time he miss-spelt ‘trooper’ on his locker. The oldest member of the Troop is Imeson. He is twenty-nine, married and a father to be. A native of Bradford, Yorkshire, he was conscripted in 1940 and served with the Duke of Wellington’s Infantry Regiment before being transferred here. He was one of the original troop tank drivers. In spite of his superior years, he is ‘one of the lads’. Frank Jackson, ex-clerk, is another driver. His ambition seems always to be the last to be on parade, but he is not slow intellectually. Lowe is a fairly tall, moderately good-looking chap who is noted for his laziness and supposedly superior manner. He was the original wireless operator in the Troop and was rather annoyed when I became Troop officer’s operator. He is now the Sergeant Major’s operator and Hide is Corporal Wheatley’s. Lance-Corporal Probin is the Troop officer’s driver. He’s aged about twenty-seven. A very likeable fellow in the Troop is jive fan, Ken Slack, of Warrington. Ken, ‘Boogie’ Watson and myself form the ‘Jive Trio’ of the 5th Troop. Every weekend we buy jive records between us and play them on Boogie’s gramophone. He is very sociable and obliging and as good as they come. The other Lance-Corporal in the Troop is John Sutcliffe of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire. He has kept a daily diary throughout his two and a half years army service. Single, aged twenty-eight, he is very methodical and works everything out logically and conscientiously. His unique characteristic is that he never says anything critical about the Army. As Scottish as they make them is Andy Taylor. He still delights in the Wizard and Rover (comics). His trade is gunner mechanic. Taffy Thomas, needless to say, is a Welshman. Normally quiet, he gets really annoyed when he is roused, but that isn’t often. He enjoys his pints, but very seldom gets really drunk and is comical at all times.  A fellow Yorkshire man in the Troop is Tom Tongrak of Hull who enlisted at Beverley. Boogie Watson is so-called because of his liking of jazz and ‘boogie woogie’. An ex-milk man of 49 Arnott Road, Blackpool, he is a humorous fellow of twenty who is at present engrossed in the intricacies of swing. We have had some good times in record shops together.
That completes the troopers so let’s have a go at the non-commissioned officers (NCOs). They number three: Sergeant Morgan, Corporal Wheatley and Corporal Hancock. Sergeant Morgan, aged about thirty, ex-sales accounts manager, is a very aristocratic looking fellow, very efficient and well mannered. Bill Wheatley, who had previously been a clerk in a Japanese bank, is a hefty piece of goods and at present he is after his third stripe. Corporal Hancock is a recent addition to the Troop and I daresay I shall have more to say about him later. Our Troop officer is Lieutenant Terence Goldsmith. He is twenty-one years old and joined us at Sledmere. A Canadian, educated at Cambridge, he is the very essence of conscientiousness. His eagerness is sometimes carried to the point of ridiculousness, but that is his only great fault. As his wireless operator, we get on well together and, although he is often called by the Troop, I think he is liked on the whole. His excessive use of smoke screens earned him the name of ‘Smokey Joe’. He is rather scared of the Squadron Leader, but is efficient all the same. And, so you see, on the whole, we have got a very good Troop and are quite happy and contented together. Perhaps we shall go into action together. This diary will tell. For a photograph of A Squadron, 5th Troop some four months earlier, see Figure 4.
. Iron rations are basic survival rations.
. A sand table is a device used to demonstrate theatres of war, both historical and theoretical battles.
. Exercise Spartan was the name given to the earlier exercise in the Lake District.
. The author later helps John Sutcliffe out of a tank when he is badly burnt. He also met up with him after the war.
. Taffy Thomas later inadvertently saves the author’s life at the cost of his own leg.