Kitting us out with our uniforms involved walking past an RQMS 1 (Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant) who sized you up by eye and handed you what he thought would fit. Often it did, some required alteration and sometimes not at all. Then getting it altered or changed was done by a tailor in camp. I was lucky mine fitted pretty well first time. I think in some cases the Q and his staff handed out wrong sizes just to liven things up in a form of perverse humor, for there were some odd and funny sights with ill fitting uniforms until taken care of by another size or the tailor.
Lastly came a kitbag, a sausage shaped bag of canvas, onto this was painted your name, rank and number and into which it all your kit was expected to fit. Packing that too was an art. It also became quite heavy. So with that on your shoulder and in FSMO one really was encumbered. All the kit had to be signed for and thereafter one was responsible for it. Losing any was a heinous offense punishable under military discipline.
We all too had our military haircuts. These were pretty drastic, very little on top and short on the neck, back and sides.
The first two weeks were I recall a bit of a blur. We were always busy from before dawn, Reveille 6am, a time I had hardly been aware of before, to Lights Out at 10pm, both trumpet calls. In this time a certain camaraderie within the hut and squad was first created. We were all in the army, like it or not, and had to learn to get along with each other, as a squad and with our sergeants who ruled our every moment. What I did find was that those who had been away at school or in the Boy Scouts seemed to adjust the most readily. There self reliance was taught and after, for instance, a few camps under canvas one had learnt how to rough it and put up with things and one’s fellows. Those from working class homes who had not been to a school with a prefectorial system or had not been away from home before or where a mum had done everything for them seemed to find, despite their swaggering toughness, the hardest time in settling in.
The often coarseness of one’s fellows, the barrack room life and lack of manners did take some adjusting to. I was not unaware others lived lives different to mine, but I soon realized how comparatively sheltered my life to date had been. In my prior everyday world, I had not regularly heard the language nor was entirely aware of the lifestyles of many of my fellow squaddies. At home I had been accustomed to my own room to which I could go for privacy, in it a bed with a soft mattress clean sheets and a pillow. Here there was a hard mattress and coarse blankets. And, of course, no privacy in washing and dressing or sleeping, and there was certainly no time for oneself. I had to learn to live my life in company and go to bed and get to sleep with the light still on and noise all around me.