This is part of a recollection of “Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.”
This describes a time, in my past, long gone. It recounts details in the male gender only, because that is how it was at the time. Other genders are now available!
Very early on in a service career you learn all about “duties”!
These are necessary tasks that must be carried out, every day, whilst in barracks. These duties are in addition to normal daily routine work.
At the top of the ladder is the Duty Field Officer, normally a Major, or Captain, who performs this duty for a week. They do not have to remain in barracks, but must be available, at all times, to deal with any situation that cannot be handled by a more junior officer.
Next in line is the Regimental Orderly Officer, normally a Warrant Officer, 2nd Lieutenant, Lieutenant, or Captain. The duty is often given to junior officers as a mild punishment for minor misdemeanours. They carry out the duty for 24 hours, and must remain in barracks for the entire duty so they are instantly available.
Now come the workers.
The Fire Picquet, which normally consists of from 6 to 10 men who are on call 24 hours a day, for a week. They have a couple of practice call outs during the week and have to get to the Guardroom as quickly as possible. Here they are given a fire scenario and have to dash to the point of the fire, hauling a hand drawn cart that contains all the necessary equipment for fire fighting; Hoses, connectors, hydrant keys, nozzles, standing pipes, etc. They then have to spray water on the pretend fire. Job done! It is very tiring, and very wet!
The Regimental Orderly Sergeant organises, and is responsible for, all other duty staff. (Read “normally gets into trouble for anything and everything that goes wrong!”) He parades the Guard at Guard Mount, normally 6pm weekdays, and 9am weekends, and has to perform various other inspections/tasks during the day. For example, he may have to check 6 items of stores in the Cookhouse, 6 rifles in the Armoury, do a stock check of the Corporal’s Mess bar, and visit the Guard, unannounced, a couple of times during the night. It is a long 24 hours where lots can go wrong. He also has to make sure that all bars, on camp, are closed on time and cleared of bodies.
The Orderly Corporal is a general dogsbody. One duty is to be present in the Naafi (Navy, Army, Air Force Institutes) bar at regular intervals throughout its opening hours, and to help the Orderly Sergeant in his duties.
The Guard Commander, normally a Corporal, ensures that the main gate is guarded, that patrols are sent out at irregular intervals, that all buildings are checked for security.
The Guard Second in Command (2 i/c), normally a Lance Corporal, helps the Guard Commander and deputises in any absence.
The Duty Clerk, based in the Headquarters building is there for any administrative tasks required during the night.
The duty driver, used by the Guard Commander for many and varied tasks.
The Guard. Sufficient personnel to ensure that there is cover for gate guards, patrols, and a quick reaction force. They may work 2 hours on 2 hours off, or 2 hours on, 4 hours off, or any other combination, all through the night. They are based in the guardroom and are allowed to sleep during their time off.
Where do they sleep?
NO, not in the cells!
Most guardrooms have a room set aside for resting personnel. It will normally have 4 beds and a table and chairs so meals can be eaten, and sleep can be grabbed in between periods of duty. Any left over bodies can be found on the floor in various corners!
All guardrooms do have cells, normally 4 or 6. Hopefully there will be no occupants because, if there are any prisoners, it creates extra work, and a huge chance of mistakes being made by the duty personnel.
So, we’ve gone through all this information, and still no mention of my spending time in a prison cell. Well, as long as you promise not to tell anyone, here goes.
The Guard Commander, and 2i/c, after midnight, and after the barracks had quieted down, were allowed to split the rest of the night and take turns to sleep.
There were never enough beds for all off duty personnel, and anyway the dedicated rest room was constantly disturbed as people were woken for shift changes. It was, therefore, usual for the Corporal, and Lance Corporal, to sleep in an empty cell. There was a distinct advantage in that they had sole occupation of a room, the light could be turned off, and the door could be closed.
I spent many (not so happy) hours in prison cells. I must point out that none of them were under arrest, or under sentence!