Preamble – National Service a Memoir
Like every other young man in Britain after the end of World War II in 1945 I was required to do my National Service. That is, compulsory service in the armed forces of the Crown. Unlike most of my comrades, I decided to write about my experience in this National Service memoir. It begins here.
This liability arose at age 18. When I was conscripted in 1949 it was for eighteen months. However, during my service due to the uncertain World situation this was increased to two years. Then having completed my whole time service under the National Service Act 1948 in the Army, I was liable for further part-time service in a unit of the Supplementary Reserve or Territorial Army for five years more. In sum it so happened, with the changed circumstances, I was on the hook to the Crown for seven years of my life. My failure to comply, if that thought had crossed my mind, would have resulted in penalties.
What follows are my own re-collections after 60 plus years. In my memoir I use “I”, ”one” and ”we”. In the Army whilst you are an individual soldier, your role is as part of a whole. One does not act as an individual but along with others, and what happens to the individual is often common to others. Even so obviously the individual thinks and has feelings.
The first step toward my conscription was prior registration. Then I had a medical examination that was no more than the standard strip and cough. At this I was graded A2, having one flat foot, but which never made any difference to my subsequent service. I had also an IQ and aptitude test and an interview where I could express my preference for a particular service. I opted for the army. My choice was the engineers or artillery, and to the extent I could it was against the infantry, but little was I to know what was in store later. The army seemed also the best chance for service overseas, to travel and to see some of the world. I had no interest in the RAF, and the Navy took few National Servicemen.
Prior to age 18 however I had applied for a deferment of my call up until I had taken my first professional examination of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in March 1949 for I aspired to enter that profession. With this being granted it was not until May 1949 I received my calling–up papers.