Saturday, February 24, 2018

How did we win the war?

Arnold Bennett's war diary - Sunday, December 23rd  1917 Comarques. – Captain Hill and wife came last night. He related how after a long period (several weeks) of ‘special vigilance’ he was sleeping in a blanket on the floor of the gardener’s cottage at Thorpe Hall when a dispatch rider burst in just like a stage dispatch rider, at 3 a.m. The dispatch contained one word, which for Hill had no meaning. The rider couldn’t tell him anything  and only insisted on a signature in receipt, which of course Hill gave. Hill then got up and went to see another C.O. near. This C.O. had received the same message and also had not the least idea what it meant. Other C.O.s were found to be in the same case.
   Hill asked another C.O to ring up the staff. C.O. said he daren’t. So Hill did himself. He asked the telephone clerk what the message meant. The clerk replied that he knew but he daren’t tell. Hill then told him to summon the brigade major. Clark said he positively dare not. Hill insisted and took responsibility on himself. Brigade major came to telephone, using terrible language. It then appeared that the incomprehensible word was a code word signifying that the period of vigilance was over. Only no C.O. of unit had been previously informed of the significance of the word. The whole episode, with its middle-of-the-night business, absurd secrecy, etc., was thoroughly characteristic.

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