The second camp in 1953 was even worse. For some reason I could not attend with the 880th to which I was still attached. So late in the summer I received orders and a travel warrant to report to a unit at their annual camp at Brecon a small town of about 5,000 inhabitants in the Welsh border country set amid the Black Mountains. This meant a train journey with all my kit up to London and from Paddington to Newport, and then up one of the mining valleys of South Wales and across the Brecon Beacons. I had not seen this remote part of Britain before.
The unit turned out to be a TA RA Regiment of 4.2” mortars. They were on their annual firing camp, and presumably I was sent to it by some comedian in military records. I had never served in a ‘gun’ unit at all – and never ever done any gun drill that I hadn’t missed. The unit drew their numbers from the mining communities in and around the Rhondda Valley. Most were miners and our Sergeant was in civilian life a dustman. It seemed they treated the 14 days camp as an extra paid holiday away from work and their wives. As a Surveyor RA I was a complete fish out of water. I had no role and none was found for me. I knew no one.
Our accommodations were the usual hutted camp in appalling condition, and nothing had been done to improve them. It seemed to rain all the time. The only employment I had, with other spare bodies, was to carry ammunition for the mortars out on the firing ranges around Sennybridge in the desolate wilds of the Brecon Beacons. It was miserable. The SAS now use this area for survival training. Here my paratroopers smock was a godsend for it kept me reasonably dry and warm. I can recall too that when we returned cold and wet from one of these days out on the range the only food we were offered were cuts of melon! This gave rise to mutiny and eventually we were given bread and cold corned beef.
The highlight of this camp was a trip either to Pontypridd or Merthyr Tydfil by motor coach on the Saturday night for the miners to get their beer and comforts. With nothing better to do on a wet cold and dark night in where ever it was, I had some hot food in a café and went to a cinema, while of course, it still rained.
I was totally fed-up with the TA and army life. When my last day came on the Saturday morning I was up with the dawn and just left camp making no farewells official or otherwise. I just walked out of the camp, past the guard room and kept walking until I came into the little town of Brecon. There I made for a hotel, which I had previously scouted out, and had a superb traditional English breakfast, for which I was very ready.
Then I went to the railway station and had a delightful train journey across rural Wales and the counties of Brecon, Montgomery, Hereford, Shropshire and onto Shrewsbury. There Jeanne whom I had met working in Liverpool to who I was now engaged had come up from Liverpool, and was waiting for me.
Territorial Army Service Abolished for National Servicemen
Thus ended my direct involvement with the TA; not long after the requirement of attending parades and annual camps with a TA unit after completing National Service was abolished, and I then happily handed in all my kit. The liability however for service in the Reserves remained for a further 5 years or more.