We were soon in uniform. This was a “battle dress” of tunic and trousers made of a heavy khaki serge, (one for best and one for ordinary wear, though denims were issued for every day wear, fatigues and dirty jobs) flannel shirts, tie and brown beret worn by new soldiers, (the blue berets of the Artillery came later that we had to buy ourselves) and two pairs of (again one for best and one for ordinary wear) unfamiliar, heavy, studded black leather ammunition boots and a greatcoat. With this came singlets and pants, socks, and gym shoes. And to round it out our small kit, a yellow duster, two brushes for boots, buttons and brasses, and blanco and finally a “hussif” needle, thread and sundries. We were then supplied with all we needed to eat, mess tins, metal mug, knife, fork and spoon.
After these basics came additional gear to integrate. We received our artillery badge worn in our berets, jack knife, belt, various webbing straps, packs large and small, ammunition pouches and gaiters; all this made up our Full Service Marching Order or FSMO. Not that I would have wanted to march far with all that. But I did.
Most of this kit had either been in store for years or was brand new. So next we began to learn how to care for it under the guidance of our mentors. Everything had to have our number on it for obvious reasons; uniforms had to be altered and pressed. Everything had to be returned to as new condition. All of the brass buckles and buttons green with age on belts packs and gaiters had to be polished with Brasso until they shone brightly. And our packs large and small, ammunition pouches squared up. As manufactured and issued the packs were a crude and practical shape, but with the military need for regimentation they had to be converted to precise rectangles and this was done with stiff cardboard. All this had to be blancoed. While the boots, had to be, bulled.
Now to those with little or no awareness of the British Army and its spit and polish (bull) this is probably difficult to visualize. It also occupied a great deal of our time. Using blanco was an art. It came in the form of a khaki colored powder to which water was added to form a thin paste and it was then applied with a brush. The art of applying it just right took a lot of learning and of course it was a continuing process. Belts and gaiters with their wear had to be freshly blancoed each evening before parade the next day.
A great deal of time was also spent on our boots. For the leather from which they were manufactured had little bobbles in it, and all these all had to be removed. Particularly from the toecaps of our best boots until the surface was like glass. This was a long and continuing process involving polish, spit, a cloth, a hot spoon or iron. And of course they too had to be kept highly polished. To get a nasty scratch in the toe caps of your best boots was something of a catastrophe.