This is an entry in a year-long project to post-blog the demobilisation experience for British servicemen at the end of the Second World War. See here for an introduction to the project and here for a brief overview of the demobilisation process.
"Now that I have actually received RAF Form 2781(A) telling me quite definitely that I am about to have my war gratuity on or about the fifty-seventh day after leaving the dispersal centre, I must really consider how I am going to spend the money," writes 'J.B.B.' in Punch this week:
During the last year or so I have been given plenty of warning against any brash, rash, thriftless or unprofitable disposal of my gratuity. The national newspapers, the interests of the ex-serviceman close to their great motherly hearts as always, have advised me not to plunge into the purchase of a business ... the BBC have brought to their avuncular microphones a galaxy of professional criminologists, honest fellows who have taken me by the ear and bumbled gravely about the confidence tricksters who will be lying in wait for my gratuity in every tea shop, train, bus and art gallery; the squadron-leader who bade me goodbye on behalf of the Air Council rather hurriedly, for it was nearly lunch time, asked me whether I was 'all fixed up' for civilian life, and although he made no direct inquiry about how I planned to spend my gratuity he did urge me as we shook hands not to do anything he wouldn't do, and I think that is what he was getting at ...
Money is the key to so many gates hitherto closed to me. I have only to glance at the front page of the Times: 'laundry, £3,000; old, established; net profits exceed £1,000 per annum.' Exceed, mark you! But then should I succeed as a laundry owner? Should I be tempted to insist overmuch on the quality of my personal washing at the expense of that of my clients, for example? I don't know. Let me turn to a humbler publication, specializing in the disposal of more homely enterprises. How should I like to own a 'very prsprs. News., Conf., Tob., Staty.'? Mine for a mere £1,200 with handsome weekly takings.
I rather like the idea of that. I can see myself moving unhurriedly about behind a neat counter, rearranging a showcard here, flicking away a dead wasp there; I can see the cosy, shabby little room behind the shop, of which the waiting customer is vouchsafed, only the most mysterious and tantalizing glimpse. I can see myself emerging from it in my slippers, looking over my glasses and saying sadly, 'sorry, no news, conf., tob., or staty.' - and then going smugly back to my pipe, my dish of toffees, and all the newspapers and stationary that my heart can desire.