My life#6 – The Army -First days

This, and subsequent “The Army” entries, came about through my Niece requesting some information on my Army days. She was doing some sort of project that required a “behind the scenes” view of military life, so I started to jot things down.

I got a little carried away!

I suppose that this became the precursor to my blog, so I have Penny to thank for that!

I am offering these jottings exactly as originally presented, the only changes being the introduction of badges, where appropriate, and occasional comments, shown in blue.


 

I joined the Army in 1964, at the age of 16. As I was under the age of majority I had to have my parents’ permission to do so.

Despite the image of the Swinging Sixties you must remember that the majority of youth was unsophisticated, untraveled and, despite what they believed, very naïve. We had not benefitted, or, perhaps, we had not been ruined, by exposure to mass media!

I had been inspired to join the Army by Ivan, my sister Janet’s husband. He had served in the Royal Signals Jimmyand appeared to me to be tall, strong, and self assured. He did not directly influence me but had, unknowingly, sowed the seed that led me to join the Combined Cadet Force at school and, subsequently, the Royal Corps of Signals.

Selection was by interview and test and, because I had a modicum of intelligence, (that sounds very pompous and demeaning), I came out in the top percentile and could thus choose from the highest grade of careers. My first choice was Royal Signals technician and second choice was RAOC Ammunition Technician. Thank goodness I got my first choice, as the majority of Ammo Techs (bomb disposal), at that time, had a very short career indeed! (Think Northern Ireland)

One of the reasons for joining the Army was to get away from school. I had no idea what I wanted to do and thought the Army would give me a bit of thinking time. It did, 28 years worth!

You may imagine my dismay when I discovered that, far from getting away from school, I was to attend college for 3 years!

Originally called the Army Apprentices School.

AAS

and later, The Army Apprentices College.

AAC_Badge

What a culture shock!

On 15 September 1964 I travelled up to Harrogate, North Yorkshire, dressed in suit and tie, as you did then! I carried a single small bag containing my few possessions, amongst them a sewing kit made by Pauline, my younger sister (I still have it). At the railway station I, together with a myriad of unknown individuals, was herded onto a bus and taken to Hildebrand Barracks, our home for the next 3 months whilst we undertook our basic training.

I had previously been to cadet camps, and had even spent 2 weeks with the Royal Signals in Bϋnde, Germany, but this was something quite different!

We were immediately given a number, our regimental number. It was, is, and forever shall be 8 digits long and I’m sure that it will be the last thing that I ever forget!

More gifts followed in rapid succession, too quick to comprehend, as we were herded from one place to another.

You’re in 2 Troop, you’re in Scott Squadron, you’re in Spider C (8 legged wooden accommodation blocks)

You are size small, what size shoes? what’s your regimental number? Suitcase 1, Kit bag 1,boots leather pairs 2, laces leather 2, trousers denim 2, jackets denim 2, shirts khaki flannel 3, shirts cotton collar detached 2, collars cotton detached 4, studs front 1, studs back 1, ties knitted 1, underpants cotton 3, socks woollen grey 4, vests cotton 3, underpants long 2, brushes polish small 1, brushes brasso 1, brushes polish large 1, button stick 1, knife 1, fork 1, spoon 1, mug 1 pint 1, housewife 1 (an army sewing and darning kit), jersey woollen v neck 1, braces 1, SIGN HERE. Pack it away, follow me! Dump it down there. Follow me! All shouted aggressively. We soon learned when to reply and when to keep quiet!

Mattress 1, mattress cover 1, blankets 3, blankets U/S 1 (unserviceable with a corner cut off, for under the bottom sheet) , pillows 2, pillowslips 2, sheets 2, mats bedside 1, SIGN HERE. Pick it up. Follow me!

Here’s your bedspace, in a barrack room that stretches into the distance. Half an hour to pack all your kit away, make your bed and change into kit that doesn’t fit then pack all your civilian kit into your bag and store it away. That’s the last you see of it until Christmas. [I can’t remember what happened to the used civilian clothes we took off – I rather suspect that they were packed away as they were!]

Of course, the bed is not made correctly, you haven’t packed your locker according to the picture that was hidden in the locker drawer and the whole room is like a pigsty – you ‘orrible lot!

You still haven’t had time to remember anyone’s name and, anyway, there are at least 10 people that you can’t even begin to understand. Geordie, Irish, both North and South, Liverpudlian, Norfolk, Devon and one from Galashiels – it took me an age to fathom that!

Exit Peter Matthews, Enter A/T Matthews P (apprentice tradesman)

Colleen’s counsel

This very sensible comment from Colleen applies equally to the United Kingdom. Would that a much larger percentage of folk thought the same way!

 

I am not a Trump fan. To be fair, I wasn’t a fan of anyone running for President of The United States. But I’m not disheartened by his election and him becoming our next President. What I am disheartened by are the Americans who are giving up, even if only verbally, on our country. I […]

via My Faith In America — The Chatter Blog

My life#5 – Journey to school 1953 to 1964 and first motorbikes

f73d2f31edd0a502dbc76880d2a2db3b.jpg
Photo – Pinterest

To get to school I first had to cycle to the nearest village, a mile and a half away. I had the timing perfected and, as long as I left home at 8.10am, I could be sure to catch the bus at 8.19am.  Most days!

HSCP
Infants and Primary School
NHS
Secondary School

I could normally see the bus slowly approaching as I came into the village. There, at a run, I left my bike to park itself, in a shed, behind the Methodist Chapel  and ran across the road to the bus stop.

The bus to the nearest town took 20 minutes, and, then, there was a walk through town to school. None of the Mum’s school run in those days!

If it snowed heavily, the narrow road to the village became blocked very easily. In such conditions, everyone who was travelling by car carried a shovel, or spade. A few of us riding bikes would return home and then return to the blockage with our spades.

I remember with some fondness, the great community spirit on these occasions. Don’t get me wrong, there was not a host of people all stuck at the same snowdrift, just a few, because not many people travelled that road!

So, there we were, my sister and I, a neighbour from a quarter of a mile away, and a local smallholder. We all set to, digging through the snowdrift. We eventually dug through, making a track big enough to get a car through, and moved on to the next drift. There would be a series of drifts within a 200 yard stretch, then a blissfully free section before we hit more drifts. Eventually, we reached the crossroads, and we knew that from thereon the road would be clear.

On one occasion, just as we had broken through the last drift, a Council snow plough appeared from the opposite direction and turned into our road. The blade was set about a foot above the road surface, and extended to a width of about 10 feet. All our hard work was destroyed and the road was, once again blocked,  covered by a  foot of snow all over! I think the adults said “Oh dear!”

There was never a question of giving up and going home because it was too cold, too difficult, or dangerous. We just assumed that we must make every effort to get to school, and we did!

Bus fare obviously changed over time but there was a fairly long period of time where prices (and wages) seemed to be constant. I remember my Dad, who was a farm labourer, earned £9 per week for quite some time.

The bus fare at that stage was 5 pence ha’penny each way, no return tickets available!  that is 5.5 old pennies, just over 2 pence today. I was given a shilling each day and allowed to spend the 1 penny change. Bliss!

You could go into the biscuit shop and buy a bag of broken biscuits, or into the sweet shop and buy 4 chews for a penny. Alternatives were liquorice root and, if you’ve never tried it, don’t knock it! (google the image!)

I did cycle to school a few times. Must have been mad!

Once I reached 16 I was able to ride motorbikes, firstly an NSU Quickly, basically a heavy bike with an engine, later, a Lambretta 125cc scooter, then Dad’s Ambassador 225cc motorbike.

Actually, my first motorcycle experience was at the age of 14, after dark, on my Dad’s 98cc James. I would sneak it from behind an old garage at the side of the road, freewheel it down the road until out of sight and hearing, then start it up and go for a jolly.

All was fine until one day I decided to go and visit a girl in a village about 4 miles away by narrow, twisty country roads. It was raining, and I misjudged a tight left hand bend, ending up in a heap in a ditch.

The bike had a bent footrest and the chain had come off but, other than that seemed OK. My body was not quite so lucky, my right thumb was broken, I had multiple abrasions and my clothes were rather the worse for wear.

Somehow I managed to kick the bent bits into their right places, and forced the chain back on to the sprockets. I then had to ride home. I did it, and it hurt! A lot!

When I arrived back home I tried to make the bike appear to be totally normal and then pondered how to pass off my injuries and appearance.

Dad, bless him, half pretended to believe my story that I had fallen down the steps at the front of the house. The details of what happened next are rather vague in my memory. Somehow, I ended up the following day, going to school with my right thumb in a splint! What kudos that pain brought!

I never did manage to get together with that girl! Maureen Stonehewer – if only you knew!

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