Entry and training – How does one end up in the National Service? Soon after my eighteenth birthday in December 1950, I received a brown envelope marked OHMS ordering me to report to a Drill Hall in Blackheath for a medical examination. Without question I attended and after an interview, a sight and hearing test, finally dropping my trousers to be poked with a swagger stick and told to cough (I did not ask where the stick had been before my turn), the result was Passed A1. Then it was back to work as a Trainee Surveyor on a building site. [Read more…]
Having arrived at 192 Survey Training Battery we were allocated Hut 98, one of a number of wooden huts sited below the impressive brick structure of the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) and on the edge of Salisbury Plain. In the distance was the wind pump of Bustard Camp, later to be a familiar object in our survey calculations. [Read more…]
Everyday life at Larkhill had a pattern to it. What else would you expect in the Army. Wednesday afternoon was reserved for sports, and if it was not a visit to an open air pool outside Salisbury we chose to go cross country running. This always was along a track past numerous tumuli to Stonehenge which then was a few large stones in a field next to a coffee stall which provided tea and cake. We took advantage of going to Stonehenge on the summer solstice to mingle with the Druids at sunrise. [Read more…]
From the wide open spaces of Salisbury Plain, our next stop to becoming a Surveyor in the Royal Artillery was the barracks at the top of Wellington Street, Woolwich that first opened in 1809. These consisted of squares surrounded on three sides with two storey brick blocks with accommodation on the first floor above stables. There were a number of stone horse troughs around the cobbled square. The rooms had a dozen beds with an open fireplace and a huge cast iron coal box. [Read more…]
Luneburg was home to three different army barracks. We were located in Wyvern, home to 24 Medium Regiment of the Royal Artillery. Our three storey blocks were comfortable and we soon established a routine class and practical work with the theodolite doing sun shots, which require six left face and six right face readings within two minutes and then calculations on a mechanical hand-powered Brunsviga calculating machine – all to establish our position. [Read more…]
The barracks at Munster1 had been purpose-built for the pre-war German Army: two storey brick structures with secondary glazing, 210 Battery were housed in an accommodation block, cookhouse and battery stores and offices around a swimming pool. The fourth side was open to a small parade ground and covered garages. [Read more…]
We participated in a couple of major exercises: Spearhead one and Spearhead two, an authentic scenario involving allied troops with a daily newspaper and paratroops flown from the UK. [Read more…]
When moving into Munster, the camp was being redecorated and on my birthday, 22 December, I was “adopted” by one of the painters and invited to afternoon tea with his family – his wife and three year old daughter. I had a good meal washed down with Nescafe. They really looked after me. [Read more…]
On a cold February day we were ordered in driving snow to parade, when we were told that King George had died and we were now Soldiers of the Queen. It made no difference, we still got wet and cold.
A number of exercises were carried out on the Hohne Ranges, which proved to be extremely cold, a couple of high points Hamm B and Hitler Hof spring to mind. After a day in the field your face became red as if sunburned, but not as cold as some of the troop who with more than one year’s service left, were sent to Korea to fight. They had no winter clothing and had to rely on the Americans.
We were ready to take the second class trade test, which would take place back in the UK at Larkhill. We were told that only one re-sit would be allowed and no extra pay until after two years. As no one wanted to sign on for three years, by midday all except a couple of regulars failed and we were given warrants, ration cards and told to go home and report to Liverpool Street station a week later for return to Germany.
Not being satisfied with a week’s leave, Len Lynch who had been at Erith Technical college with me and remained with me through National Service, contrived to keep getting to the back of the queue for the train until the train was full. [Read more…]