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CAPTAIN G. E. KIRBY and SERGEANT W. E. JEFFREY, Royal Tank Corps. Capt. Kirby: Born 1888, enlisted in infantry, 1906; R.T.C., 1917;now Quartermaster; first met T.E.L. in I923. Sergeant Jeffrey: Born 1906, enlisted in R.T.C., 1922; now Sergeant-Clerk in Orderly Room; first met T.E.L. in I924.


IN MARCH 1923, a recruit named 'T. E. Shaw' arrived at the Royal Tank Corps Depot, Bovington Camp. It was glaringly evident that he was no ordinary recruit, for he was both over the maximum age and under the minimum height for enlistment. It was rumoured that he had been attested for service under special authority given by the War Office; this proved to be true.
     He was treated in the usual manner, undergoing medical and dental examinations for physical fitness, and taking the educational test. One of the subjects of this was a short essay on 'Your first impression of Bovington Camp.' Shaw had arrived at Bovington after dusk on the evening prior to the day on which the test was held. His effort to write a short essay resulted in: 'I arrived in the darkness, and have not yet had time to look round.'
     From the day of his arrival he earned respect due principally to his quiet and reserved manner. It could be seen at a glance that he was older and far more experienced than the average recruit, yet he did not, at that time, speak to anyone of his former life. Thjs silence in the recruit stage of service was so unusual as to arouse interest. He carried out his sixteen weeks of drill on the square with enthusiasm and appeared to enjoy the varied efforts of his squad companions to master the drill.
     Many of his squad companions were taken by him in turn, on his motor cycle combination, to a seaside resort some seven miles distant to bathe. An incident serves to indicate his thoughtfulness for others. A very smart soldier, six feet in height and of a splendid carriage, was losing some of his soldierly bearing and was inclined to walk with a limp. Shaw made discreet inquiries and discovered that this was due to a crack on the ankle during a game of hockey, and asked if he would care to have his ankle correctly set by a well-known London specialist, and received the reply that this was out of the question, since he could not afford such treatment. Shaw then asked if he would undergo the treatment if it could be given free of cost, and after a few weeks of treatment the man regained the full use of his ankle. Many other acts of kindness Shaw took care to perform surreptitiously, so that the beneficiary was unaware of the donor.
     On completion of his recruit training, Shaw was available for general duty. It had been decided'to reorganize the Quartermaster's Stores into which department he was drafted, with several others, to assist in moving the bales of clothing, etc. It was soon evident that he was the driving force behind the work. From this time until he transferred to the Royal Air Force on August 18th, 1925, he was employed on the Quartermaster's Staff as a storeman, and was 'highly delighted to have been chosen to carry out duties which entailed so little responsibility'. Nevertheless, he was most zealous and exacting in the performance of his several tasks. Here, his lightheartedness and readiness for fun was at its peak. When, for example, he had occasion to issue a beret (in his capacity of storeman) to a rather starchy warrant officer, whose size happened to be 7 3/8, he sent up a 7 1/4 — the largest size in store at the time. This was returned with the message that it was too small, and a 7 3/8 was required. So slight an obstacle was overcome by altering the marking to 7 3/8 and stretching the cap band. Later he was informed that the second cap was a perfect fit.
     Some weeks after his arrival, for some slight contravention of military regulations, he was ordered to be confined to barracks for a short time. (During this confinement, a pass to leave barracks is only permissible under very exceptional circumstances.) To Shaw's extreme pleasure he received a communication from the Air Ministry requesting him to report there on a certain dav. Without hesitation or referring the matter to higher authoritv, he telegraphed the reply; 'Unable to comply with request, as am a defaulter'. The military authorities were instructed to arrange for him to be sent on leave without delay.
     On another visit to the Air Ministry, dressed in the uniform of the Royal Tank Corps and a beret which had just been issued to him, he overheard: 'We always thought the Chief was in favour of berets being worn by us, and now we're sure — this bloke's come up to give him a demonstration.'
     It was not long before newspaper reporters discovered him at Bovington Camp, but his friends usually asked reporters to wait a few minutes whilst they tried to find him, went and warned him, then returned to inform the newspaper representative that he had just left camp. He did go straight to his garage and leave the camp on his motor cycle, returning a few hours later, when he thought that the reporters had departed.
     Shaw never expected privileges other than those accorded to soldiers similarly placed to himself; thus it was his custom to visit many of his in6uential friends dressed in the uniform of a private soldier. During one of these visits (he was dining with a well-known General, he said) he was asked how he managed to obtain such a well-fitting suit of khaki. He was very pleased to explain that it was due to the fact that he worked in the Quartermaster's stores.
     Shaw endowed all his personal friends at Bovington with applicable nick-names, and he was referred to by them as the 'Little Man'. One of his comrades wore blue pyjamas in the barrack room; some days later, Shaw staggered around the room in scarlet pyjamas, several sizes too large for him, tripping himself with the legs. He afterwards presented them to the owner of the blue ones, remarking that he deserved them for his courage in wearing pyjamas amongst 'us hairy-chested soldiers'.
     Once, when he accidentally tore his comrade's underpants in a barrack-room tussle, he insisted on giving the owner two new pairs.
     His cottage near the camp was open to his many friends, and he was hardly ever in possession of the key of the door— one or other having it in his possession. He was dhtermined that its surroundings should not be spoiled. The Post Ofice had occasion to extend the telephone beyond the cottage, and erected standards for the wires on the edge of his property. He was most indignant. Meeting him on his way to Poole to see the postal authorities on the matter, I attempted to soften his wrath by remarking that the standards did little harm where they had been placed. He said he had certain rights as a citizen and intended to use them. The next day the standards were removed, and the telephone wires placed underground.
     It was suggested by one of his friends that it would be a great convenience if he had a telephone in the cottage. He said that there was nothing he would like better, as letters took several days to reach it, and telegrams often longer, but until the Postmaster-General introduced 'one-way telephone traffic' he would not consider the installation. He wanted a phone he could use, but not one that would afford other people the opportunity of phoning him at any odd moment they felt inclined.
     He hated jazz in any form, and was most eccentric in many of his actions. For instance, he shaved without a brush— using only carbolic soap and a safety razor.
     After his recruit training, he ceased to have meals in the dining-hall, and had only an evening meal each day in a restaurant in camp. He was invariably accompanied by one or two of his comrades, and would never permit them to foot the bill. Food, for his comrades whom he allowed to spend their leisure hours in his cottage and for himself, he bought in 'bulk'. On one occasion he took an excursion on his motor cycle, and the next day asked a friend (with a twinkle in his eyes) to take a taxi to the railway station and collect 'the groceries', take them to the cottage and unpack them. Result — 100 1 lb. jars of jam (assorted), 2 lbs. each of several varieties of cheese, 50 bottles of fruit salad, 50 tins of 'Ideal' milk, etc.
     He had no desire for promotion, yet was delighted to see any of his friends 'climb the ladder'. Here is an extract from one of his letters: 'What about getting Corporal soon'? Lance Corporal is only a step towards that: vile in itself, and unfortunate for others. Up with you: hurry. I want to know a Sergeant.' Later, he remarked to another friend, 'The little beast's a Sergeant!'
     He hated letter-writing, yet his principle was that true friendship demanded a Christmas letter, and he endeavoured to maintain that code, even after his transfer to the Royal Air Force.
     Many a soldier's life was brightened by his cheerful companionship 'and unostentatious kindness during his stay in Bovington-Camp from March I923 to August 1925. He left behind friends whom he never failed to look up on his visits to his cottage.

T.E. Lawrence by his Friends, 1937, pp. 319-322.

@темы: отзывы о ТЭЛ, окружение ТЭЛ, Clouds Hill