31412 days since November 11 1918


I had a walk round and eventually sat on a seat on the Embankment. I must have dozed off because it was dark as I woke up, so I decided to stay put till morning. I woke as the dawn was breaking and what a sight it was. All the seats were full of old soldiers in all sorts of dress - mostly khaki - and a lot more were lying on the steps, some wrapped up in old newspapers. Men who had fought in the trenches, now unwanted and left to starve were all huddled together. I was on the end of a seat so I eased my fingers into my pocket to get a cigarette.

"That smells good," said the voice of the man next to me.

I recognised him at once, and handed him a cigarette. "Would you like a light, Major?"

"Good lord, Corporal..."

We stood up and looked at each other. "What about a spot of tea?" I asked.

He spread his hands and said "I'm flat broke."

So I took him to a coffee stall and we had a mug of tea and two slices of bread and dripping each. The Major told me he had been caught out by one of the many crooks who were battening onto old soldiers.

These offered shares in a business, producing false books, and when the money had been paid over they just disappeared.

Later I met a man crying in a doorway. He had on an army greatcoat and a turban and a tray round his neck with lucky charms on it. Another, unwanted after 3 years in the trenches. He and his wife were penniless when some crook offered a chance to earn easy money for five shillings He pawned his wife's wedding ring to get it, and in return he got a tray, a turban and a dozen or so lucky charms to sell at 6d each. Now after a day without anything to eat or drink he was broken-hearted at the thought of going home to his wife without a penny. He was an ex-CSM [company sergeant major].