Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 156, January 29, 1919

by: Various

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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"If you belong to any of the following classes," said the Demobilisation advertisement, "do nothing." So Lieut. William Smith did nothing.

After doing nothing for some weeks he met a friend who said, "Hallo, aren't you out yet?"

"Not yet," said William, looking at his spurs.

"Well, you ought to do something."

So Lieut. William Smith decided to do something. He was a pivotal-man and a slip-man and a one-man-business and a twenty-eight-days-in-hospital man and a W.O. letter ZXY/999 man. Accordingly he wrote to the War Office and told them so.

It was, of course, a little confusing for the authorities. Just as they began to see their way to getting him out as a pivotal man, somebody would decide that it was quicker to demobilise him as a one-man-business; and when this was nearly done, then somebody else would point out that it was really much neater to reinstate him as a slip-man. Whereupon a sub-section, just getting to work at W.O. letter ZXY/999, would beg to be allowed a little practice on William while he was still available, to the great disgust of the medical authorities, who had been hoping to study the symptoms of self-demobilisation in Lieut. Smith as evidenced after twenty-eight days' in hospital.

Naturally, then, when another friend met William a month later and said, "Hallo, aren't you out yet?" William could only look at his spurs again and say, "Not yet."

"Better go to the War Office and have a talk with somebody," said his friend. "Much the quickest."

So William went to the War Office. First he had a talk with a policeman, and then he had a talk with a porter, and then he had a talk with an attendant, and then he had a talk with a messenger girl, and so finally he came to the end of a long queue of officers who were waiting to have a talk with somebody.

"Not so many here to-day as yesterday," said a friendly Captain in the Suffolks who was next to him.

"Oh!" said William. "And we've got an army on the Rhine too," he murmured to himself, realising for the first time the extent of England's effort.

At the end of an hour he calculated that he was within two or three hundred of the door. He had only lately come out of hospital and was beginning to feel rather weak.

"I shall have to give it up," he said.

The Captain tried to encourage him with tales of gallantry. There was a Lieutenant in the Manchesters who had worked his way up on three occasions to within fifty of the door, at which point he had collapsed each time from exhaustion; whereupon two kindly policemen had carried him to the end of the queue again for air.... He was still sticking to it.

"I suppose there's no chance of being carried to the front of the queue?" said William hopefully.

"No," said the Captain firmly; "we should see to that."

"Then I shall have to go," said William. "See you to-morrow." And as he left his place the queue behind him surged forward an inch and took new courage.

A week later William suddenly remembered Jones. Jones had been in the War Office a long time....