Again I had company for the trip, a chap on the Official Photographer's staff. As we found out that our train did not leave till 1 a.m. we had to hang around the town for the night. As we had plenty of money then we went to one or two shows to pass the time and at last went down to the station with about 12 francs left between us.
We got into the train with a few young RNAS officers and a Tommy officer who seemed very decent. En route we discovered that we were in the Paris express. We had a good trip, at least comfortable, in a 1st class carriage and good company.
When we reached Abancourt, the place we were to change at for Rouen, we found that we were only 5 hours journey from Paris. As I had been done out of Paris leave by Fritz pushing I thought it a good idea to go there and have a look at it at least. I knew that it was necessary to go through part of the town to go to the other station; my mate though did not favour the idea as we had no money or rather very little. However I managed to persuade him as it would save three days travelling without rations, and we carried on.
I said 5 hours just now, but it took us every bit of ten, and we got there late in the afternoon. The M.P. on the station was very genial, a most uncommon thing for that tribe, and he told us where to get a meal and where to get our train to Havre.
We had a very good meal and a wash at a buffet on the station which took up four of our few francs. We then started out to have a look around. It was a good time too, as the big shops were just closing and all of the people coming out for their evening walk. We tried very hard to find the pay office but came a 'gutzer'. However we managed to get a bed for the night at the Leave Club and had enough to get two meals the next day, leaving about 11 p.m.
During our stay, short though it was we saw quite a good deal of the place. The people in many cases took us for Americans and when we told them Australians, they shook hands and wanted to embrace and kiss us in some cases. On many occasions I have 'done as Rome does' but thought it time to draw the line in there. Many insisted on us having drinks and after I had had about forty aerated cordials – well it might have been better to get 'blotto' on something else.
We had a look at the Place du Concorde by night and it was indeed a grand sight. It was raining heavily and the lights all extinguished on account of air raids, and when we got out of the tube station, we turned around and could not find our way in again. By day though it was a fine place.. Most of the big monuments were sandbagged over & so we could not see much of them. Well eventually the time came around for us to go and off we went.
The two of us got into a 1st class carriage again and made ourselves quite comfortable, one on each seat; with a blanket and a magazine to read we 'were set'. At Rouen a Tommy officer came along and asked if there was 'roam in hyah'. We invited him in and told himself to make himself as cosy as possible. The other chap then asked him to buy his watch. In spite of his surprise he was a sport and gave him some cash for it so we got out and had a look round Rouen again.
When we got to the Base I tried to get to the Infantry Base but when I was told to go to the General base I did not mind so much as Mr Purves was there as Adjutant and would fix me up. A few days later I got to the other camp and got fixed up for a draft. Old 'Daddy White' the O.C. though got on to me and wanted me to stay in my old job. And as my time was not yet up and my enthusiasm had begun to wane I was about to accept when a couple of my old pals arrived. As they were going back I got away with them.
Perhaps it was hardly the right thing for me to do as I still had a month or more to go, and I knew that all was not well with those at home. However I had always done the job I came away to do to the best of my ability & the more I saw of the crowd of rotters at the Base the more I wished to get back to my mates. There were not many of them left though, and although I had kept in touch with many of them I would be almost a stranger. That did not make much difference though as I had always managed to get along O.K.
I left Havre with Tommy Robson and a few others with whom I had been through the various phases of life over here. We had the usual tiresome train journey up. The usual attempts to make tea, though by this time we had all become experts at it more or less.
On arrival at Pernois we were put into the Reinforcement Camp where one could have a very unpleasant time. I made for my old friend there and she got me a feed of steak and chips. After a few days there during which time I did as little parade as possible we left for the Bn. It was a long march of about 20 kms. but we stayed for one night at a staging camp near Flesselles. On our way through there, the people who a year or more before had locked their wells up could not do enough for us.
When we reached the battalion they were camped just outside a village named Querrieu on the Albert-Amiens road. I found that I knew a lot more fellows than I had expected. Amongst those gone was Hill who I had kept at the base as long as possible because he had always felt that the next trip in the line would be his last.
It was good weather and we were camped in a copse. I got in a shelter with a few old pals who had got through O.K. There was plenty of swimming done in the river close by and we had a very good time.