The man Who Knew Too Much


Sunday, 29 September 2019

The man Who Knew Too Much 


I first met Private Quelch at the training depoA man is liable to acquire in his first wee brea of Arny life-together with his uniform, rifle and equipment--a nickname. Anyone wh con understood why he was known as the Professor. Those who had any doubts on the dro out YwThe Man Who Knew Too Much saw Private Quelch, lanky, stooping, frowning through horn-rimmed spectacle ruin We subject lost them after five minutes' conversation with him.



 I remember the first lesson we had in musketry. We stood in an attentive circle whiles WIc sergeant, a man as dark and sun-dried as raisins, wearing North-West frontier ribboOns Am described the mechanism of a service rifle due The muzzle velocity or speed at which the bullet leaves the rifle', he told you, is well WI over two thousand feet per second.

A voice interrupted. Two thousand, four hundre No and forty feet per seocnd.' It was the Professor That's right', the seargent said without enthusiasm and went on lecturing. When he haw finished, he put questions to us; and, perhaps in the hope of revenge, he turned with hs questions again and again to the Professor.

The only result was to enhance the Professor glory. Technical definitions, the parts of the rifle, its use and care, he had them all b Co heart, 9 int les CO kit The seargent asked, You had any training before ? tha The Professor answered with a phrase that was to become familiar to all of us. 'Non seargent. It's all a matter of intelligent reading.' That was our introduction to him.

We soon learned more about him. He saw to that. H nt meant to get on, he told us. He had brains. He was sure to get a commission, befor long. As a first step, he meant to get a stripe. In pursuit of his ambition he worked hard. We had to give him credit for that. He borrowel R training manuals and stayed up late at night reading them. He badgered the instru with questions.

 He drilled with enthusiasm and on route marches, he was not on miraculously tireless but infuriated us all with his horrible heartiness. What about a son chaps ?' is not greeted politely at the end of thirty miles. His salute at the pay table w a model to behold.

When officers were in sight he would swing his skinny arms a march to the canteen like a Guardsman A ac In And day in and day out, he lectured to us in his droning, remorseless voice on ever aspect of human knowledge. At first we had a certain respect for him but soon we live in terror of his approach. We tried to hit back at him with clumsy sarcasms and practic jokes. The Professor scarcely noticed; he was too busy working for his stripe.


Each time one of us made a mistake the Professor would publicly correct him. Whenever one of us shone, the Professor outshone him. When, after a hard morning's work cleaning out our hut, we listened in silence to the Orderly Officer's praise the Professor would in his first wes break out with a ringing, dutifully beaming Thank you, sir ! And how superior, how me.

 Anyone whe condescending he was ! It was always, 'Let me show you, old fellow, or No, you'll med spectacle uin your rifle that way, old man. y doubts on the We used to pride ourselves on aircraft recognition. Once, out for a walk, we heard the Arone of a plane flying high overhead.

None of us could even see it in the glare of the sun. ve circle while Without even a glance upward the Professor announced, 'That, of course, is a North frontier ribbon American Harvard Trainer. It can be unmistakably identified by the harsh engine note, duc to the high tip speed of the airscrew. told you, is wel What could a gang of louts like us do with a man like that ? nd, four hundred one of us will ever forget the drowsy summer afternoon which was such a turning point in the Professor's life. ing. When hehaWe were sprawling contentedly on the warm grass while Corporal Turnbull was taking a e turned with besson on the hand grenade. ce the Professor's e had them all b Corporal Turnbull was a young man, but he was not a man to be trifled with.

 He had Come back from Dunkirk with all his equipment correct and accounted for and his pet kitten in his pocket. He was our hero and we used to tell each other that he was so tough that you could hammer nails into him without his noticing it. to all of us.

NoThe outside of a grenade, as you can see', Corporal Turnbull was saying, 'is divided up nto a large number of fragments to assist segmentation... He saw to that Forty four nmission, befo What's that ?' The corporal looked over his shoulder. that. He borrownd Forty-four segments. The Professor beamed at him. red the instruct The corporal said nothing. but his brow tightened. He opened his mouth to resume What about a so And by the way, corporal.




We were all thunderstruck. The Professor was s the pay table w ain, Shouldn't you have started off with the five characteristics of the grenade ?Our s skinny arms a structor at the other camp always used to, you know. speaking . he was not on In the silence that followed, a dark flush stained the tan of the corporal's face. 'Here', he ess voice on everd at last, You give this lecture.'As if afraid to say any more, he tossed the grenade to the Professor. Quite unabashed, Private Quelch climbed to his feet and with the air of a man coming into his birthright gave us an unexceptionable lecture on the grenade. The asms and practic his stripe but soon we lv uad listened in a cowed, horrified kind of silence.

Corporal Turnbull stood and watched, impassive except for a searching intentness of gaze. When the lecture was finished he said, Thank you, Private Quelch. Fall in with others now. He did not speak again until we had fallen in and were waiting to be dismissed. Then he addressed us. As some of you may have heard', he began deliberately. "the platoon officer has aske me to nominate one of you for...

He paused and looked lingeringly up and down the Ab Ale boc Kn Ab So this was the great moment! Most of us could not help glancing at Private Quelch who stood rigidly to attention and stared straight in front of him with an expression of Pri Th kn ranks as if seeking final confirmation of a decision. olibom tra On hu ..for permanent cookhouse duties.

I've decided that Private Quelch is just the man f the job.' self-conscious innocence. GI Of course, it was a joke for days afterwards; a joke and a joy to all of us. Pri I remember, though.... lan My friend Trower and I were talking about it a few days later.

We were returning fro the canteen to our own hut. 'Well', Trower remarked as we passed the cookhouse reckon that geezer's had his gob stopped for a bit, eh? sto ser I did not anwer, but took his arm and pointed to the cookhouse. Through the open do we could see the three cooks standing against the wall as if at bay; and from within cae the monotonous beat of a familiar voice mL ba Co Really, I must protest against this abominably unscientific and unhygienic method peeling potatoes. I need only draw your attention to the sheer waste of vitamin values Ha L We fled D

                          -ALEXANDER BARO


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