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Humour from The Second World War

These 4 postcards were collected by the late WX1844 Gunner GE Sheen 2/3rd Field Regiment and the images were donated by his son Stephen Sheen.


Webmasters note: humour is generation relative. My son saw this and asked "What's he doing?" My son, who is 25, has never seen green peas in the pod. When he was a kid the shelling was done by the time he came home from school and frozen peas then took over.


Spitfire Beer: The Bottle of Britain

On some air bases the Air Force is on one side of the field and civilian aircraft use the other side of the field, with the control tower in the middle. One day the tower received a call from an aircraft asking, "What time is it?"

The tower responded, "Who is calling?" 
The aircraft replied, "What difference does it make?"

The tower replied "It makes a lot of difference.
If it is an QANTAS flight, it is 3 o'clock.
If it is an RAAF plane, it is 1500 hours.
If it is a Navy aircraft, it is 6 bells.
If it is an Army aircraft, the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 3.
If it is a Royal New Zealand Air Force aircraft, it's Thursday afternoon."

 "Do Me a Favour?" WW2, Middle East

About eight o'clock one night when we were in the Middle East I am spine-bashing when the company sergeant-major comes into my tent, and in a man-to-man kind of tone asks me would I like to do him a favour. Well, when you are doing favours in the Army it is not a bad thing to be doing them for sergeant-majors and this one in particular; not so much because he remembers when you do him a good turn but because he doesn't forget when you knock him back and it is on such things as this that a leave-pass or even an extra stripe may sometimes depend.

So I say in a man-to-man tone: "Sure, Charlie, what's the drill?"

"Well, Alec, you know the bunch of reinforcements that came in yesterday? They came and asked me would I just give them leave for the evening, said they wanted to go to the movies. They've only landed from Aussie about a week ago. I suppose you know that no reinforcements are to be given leave until they've been on the strength of the unit for at least one month? I didn't want to let them go but they made such a moan that in the end I wrote out the passes. Well, just now head-quarters rings up and instructs us to send 'em out tonight with their gear to Ack Section.

"You know what these wallahs at HQ are like when they decide they want something done they always want it done in a hurry."

"They just don't understand," I say sympathetically.

You said it! Well, would you get out the thirty-hundredweight and see if you can pick them up? I know it's a bit rough asking a man to go chasing after them at this time of night, but you see what a spot I'm in just through being big-hearted.

"That's the trouble, Charlie, if you don't mind me saying so you're inclined to be too easygoing at times and it's not everyone around here appreciates what you do for them. How will I know these 'reos' [new reinforcements]?"

"Well, there's only nine of them and they're in charge of a corporal who stutters, by the name of Haggerty."

"That's a big help!" I murmur, with a man-to-man grin.

"I know, Alec, but I thought if anyone would help me out it would be you. I might be able to do you a favour one of these days The Old Man would raise hell if it came out that I'd let these 'reos' have leave contrary to Standing Orders, and it's not everyone I could trust to keep their mouth shut."

"That's O.K. You can trust me, Chicka. I'll take my mate Robbo with me. He's discreet."

"O.K. I didn't think you'd let me down."

"By the way, Chicka," I say, pulling on the beetle-crushers, "I should nearly be due for my third 'dog's leg'."

"Funny thing, Al, I was only talking to the Skipper about you the other day."

"Well," says my mate Robbo as we scorch along towards the town, "if this is the first time since leaving Aussie that these 'reos' have been off the chain it's a moral we won't find them sitting nice and quiet in the picture show. They're more likely to be up to their gills in steak and eggs down at Joe-The-Greek's, or round at the Boomerang Bar."

"You've got something there, Robbo," I say, "I know I wouldn't be watching Donald-ruddy-Duck if I was in their shoes. Anyway, I'll turn left here and we'll look in and see if they're at Joe's."

Joe's joint is packed with representatives of the United Nations all arguing the toss about who's been in the war the longest and who's done the most stoush. We look the place over but no sign of our "reos" and then, when some of the United Nations turn on a "blue" over the question of who has the best artillery and start heaving bottles at one another to back up their arguments, Robbo and I decide to continue our search somewhere else.

We go to a joint called the AIhambra where they run a nice dance, with real high-class hostesses. As far as the "reos" are concerned we do not have any luck here either, but seeing we are Australians, and not being quite sure of the nature of our business, the proprietor decides to play safe and pours us a snort each of cognac out of a bottle he's got under the counter for emergencies of this kind, and tells us that he has a cousin who owns a barber shop in Melbourne. He is very pleased when it turns out that I know his cousin so well, in fact, I tell him, I get my hair cut at his cousin's shop twice a week and, on the strength of that, he invites us to have a dance, on the house.

Robbo nearly overdoes it by trying to make out he went to school with this cousin, which is ridiculous on account of the cousin went to school in Armenia, and I am not sure that Robbo ever went to school anyway. I look coldly at my mate, and he says hurriedly that it must have been some other bloke.

As it is, we are just about old friends of the family when suddenly the proprietor has to go and ring up the provosts [military police] because there's a bit of a blue looks like developing shortly, over in one corner, and it seems he does not like these disturbances in his place it is hard to concentrate when people are throwing chairs about recklessly.

Robbo and I do not like provosts even when we are in town on official business, so we clear out before they arrive.

Well, by the time a couple of hours have passed, Robbo and I have visited just about all the joints in town without finding the "reos", but we've met a lot of our mates, got stuck into a game of swy [two-up] somehow for an hour or so, and, on the whole, had a highly enjoyable and profitable evening.

The nearest we have come to finding our men is a stuttering corporal in the Paris Bar, but unfortunately this corporal does his stuttering in Free French; anyway his name is not Haggerty but Dubois.

There are still one or two places that we haven't looked in but, as Robbo points out, we are a bit overdue and Chicka might be worrying about us, and I just have not got the heart to go on with the search under such conditions. The only thing to do is admit failure, get in the thirty-hundredweight, and go back to camp, though I am sorry that I have not succeeded in doing this favour for the C.S.M. But no one can say that I have not tried.

It just goes to show that some people do not know the meaning of the word gratitude, and do not appreciate it when a man tries to do them a favour. How was I to know that just after Robbo and I left the camp to go and search for his reinforcements, the CSM should get stricken with a bright idea and ring up the picture-show and ask the manager to flash a slide on the screen telling Corporal Haggerty and the others to report back to camp at once? And who would have guessed that this Haggerty and the others would actually be sitting there in the Bijou watching the show after all?

"It just goes to show," says my mate Robbo, as we're cleaning up our gear to go on guard duty the following evening, "it just goes to, show the kind of people they're letting into the Army these days."

I do not answer. I am thinking about that third stripe. I am thinking that the Sergeants' Mess seems a long way off. It was too bad of Robbo to run the thirty-hundredweight into a ditch on the way back.

Max Coolahan, 2nd AIF from "AS YOU WERE !" by the AWM


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