My pal Charlie’s in a spot of bother. It’s not just the blackout, which is causing plenty of people problems. No, there’s a bit more to it than that. It’s what the Chief Constable’s seen fit to refer to in court as his “unfortunate attitude”.
Today, we had to sit there in court and listen to the police report. There were Charlie’s very words to PC Toms, all noted carefully. “What do you want? Are you trying to tell me what to do? You, only 22 or 24 years old and my boys away fighting to keep the likes of you at home”. And not only that – Charlie had to bring up the question of pay, as well. Said the policeman was a “thief” on account of his £3 a week wage, while the soldier has to make do with half a crown a day; said he was a coward.
It’s sad that things have come to this pass. Before the war, as Charlie said in court, PC Toms was once a regular guest in the back of his little shop: “there was a time when you came into my place for supper and a smoke….. you always called me Charlie, and I am the same Charlie now as when you came and sat down by my fireplace”.
Charlie denies any swearing. He’s a chapel man and, as he pointed out, he’d once been proud to call himself King’s Bugler. Although as it turned out, that didn’t help his case because it brought up the subject of his letter to the press back in May, above that very signature. And fair’s fair, Charlie got a bit of support – from “Docker, late DCLI”, making much the same point – five years’ service back in the Great War, three of his own lads serving now, calling on Mr Bevin not to stop at the police, but to have a “comb out” of “teachers, music teachers, farmers’ sons”; in other words, all these slackers who’ve wormed their way out.
The Chief Constable said Charlie’d had enough warnings about this sort of talk, and about the light as well, and they’ve fined him five shillings. Five shillings. That’s two days’ pay for a soldier; but for a policeman? He can earn it in a few hours. A few safe hours, prowling around the streets looking for dim lights, barely visible through brown paper at the backs of little shops.
Charlie asked for time to pay – in fact, time “until the war is over and my sons are back”. Of course, there was no chance of that. “I was told I was not going to get justice before I came here”, he said as he left. A parting shot, if you like; a coda from the King’s Bugler.
Cornishman September 12th 1940 page 3
Charlie’s “King’s Bugler” letter was probably published in the Evening Tidings between 24th and 29th May 1940, but it has not proved possible to see these editions, which are not in the Morrab Library and not yet (19 8 2017) available on line. For the supportive reply, which is undated but refers to the appearance of the original the previous day, see Cornishman 30th May 1940 page 7
The photograph of the bugle is provided with the kind permission of Cornwall's Regimental Museum, Bodmin. On the bell are the battle honours of the regiment including, from World War One: Mons, Ypres, Arras, Cambrai and Doiran. For more on the history of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry visit the Museum's website.
The bugle has an interesting story: it in fact the Commanding Officer's bugle and was at one time played by Bugler Joe Kendall, the C.O.'s bugler. Joe died in 2008 and enjoyed the probably unique honour of playing the "Last Post" at his own funeral courtesy of a recording he'd made of himself. Joe was also a long-time attendant at the Regimental Museum and was presented with the bugle on his retirement. Following his death the bugle was presented back to the museum by his wife. (Thanks to Mary Godwin at the Museum for the information on the history of the bugle.)