After a visit to the Labour Exchange I was directed to the Huntingdon War Agricultural Committee and cycled down to Huntingdon to start work in September 1940.
I was first sent to a group of men who were occupying an isolated and derelict old farmhouse at Yaxley Fen, and who were collecting and burning twitch grass that had overgrown the whole of the farm area during the period between the wars. The grassand roots had to be raked out of the fine black earth andthere was so much dust and smoke involved that everybodyworked with cloths round their heads to filter off the muck.There were about twelve of us and we slept on straw palliasses on the upper floor of the empty farm house.
There was no running water or electricity, only earth closets - in short, it was very primitive. One very scruffy old man was delegated to cook for us, and I recall that he kept an old pickle jar for his convenience during the night when we all slept in the same room. He threw his nightly efforts out of the window in the morning. We washed in water from rain butts and had to wait to strain off the mosquito larvae after they had been killed off with soap, before we could make our ablutions.
After a few days of this very primitive living, I was taken from the gang and sent to Elton Hall Stables with five other conscientious objectors. This place was much more comfortable, with electricity and running water, and you could shop in the village. The company was also more congenial as we had all objected tomilitary service, although it seems on very different grounds. Therewere religious objectors, a vegetarian who wouldn't kill anything,including insects or bacteria and a communist who tookthe fact that Russia was not involved to prove that the war was therefore a capitalist war.
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