Despite others from our unit, like Frank, Ian and myself from 15 Observation Battery having been posted to this TA unit on our release earlier, the rest of the TA men were total strangers. Some were NS men like ourselves, the rest volunteers. No Surveyors made themselves known, though I suppose there must have been some present. Survey matters, as I was to find, were very low on the camps list of priorities.
The camp was held at Barton Stacey, a military encampment in Hampshire. We went by road in the unit’s vehicles. The camp’s prime purpose, I was to find, was training in parachute jumping, unsurprising as it was, of course, an airborne unit. This, however, was a voluntary matter and I declined the opportunity for I could see no future in it. So the bulk of the time was spent by the ‘hearty types’ of whom the unit seemed to be composed, doing physical training, jumping from captive balloons and finally from aircraft. Those who survived this then gained their airborne paratroopers coveted ‘wings’ and an increase in pay.
Whilst all this went on Frank and I just wasted time. No one made any effort to find anything useful for us to do, and no survey work was done by the unit at all. I spent time assisting in getting a diesel generator to work, but I could find no enthusiasm for such employment.
The highlight of the camp was, however, a so called tactical exercise at the weekend. Then small parties of us were sent separately off in individual military vehicles for an unknown destination, keeping in touch by radio. We tuned the radio in our truck to Radio Luxembourg, a then pop-radio station, coming back on the net from time to time to get instructions for the next map reference by which we were navigating.
The eventual destination after a pleasant drive in the back of a 15 cwt truck across southern England turned out to be Weymouth, which I happened to know very well. We were billeted on Saturday night in the Nothe Fort, a fortification built in the Victorian era as part of the defense system of Portland Harbor, and which I had often seen from the outside when at Weymouth Harbor. Inside it was damp, dark and gloomy. But it was only the one night. That evening I went across to Easton, Portland to visit an aunt who was surprised to see me. The others enjoyed the delights of a summer’s evening in Weymouth.
That was my first camp and I was less than enthralled by the experience. Other than showing I was still alive, I gained no military training nor was I any a better soldier.