We found our Bombardier was a regular soldier ‘S’ – from Birmingham – and our Squad Surveyor Instructor Sergeant was Sergeant Jacques, an older and experienced regular. I never got on with ‘S’. I presume he must have been a surveyor but he never as I remember participated greatly in it. Sergeant Jacques was a genial, tough and knowledgeable taskmaster. As were all the Warrant Officer and Sergeant Survey Instructors from the School, who without exception were of the highest standard, being always smartly turned out and highly intelligent. I think they were probably some of the best men in the Artillery. And I doubt if any had had a university education. The CO I cannot remember, and I don’t think we saw much of him.
Training at Larkhill
The Battery produced a squad of trained artillery surveyors every 4 weeks. Some extent of the training can be visualized in that it was a long one. The first 4 weeks mostly on basic soldier training and then for nearly five months from mid July to December 1949 principally concerned with survey and then a specialty concerned with it. The Squads in training had their survey training separately but for matters such as parades, drill, PT, infantry tactics and the like we paraded and trained together.
Being a new Squad we started on the square with foot and rifle drill, infantry tactics, and eventual live firing with rifle, Sten and Bren machine guns. Rifle Drill was a new experience and shifting a Lee Enfield .303 rifle weighing many pounds through all the various commands from ‘Attention’ to ‘Order arms’ was quite an art that at first gave rise to a few aches and pains from the unaccustomed exercise. All the arms drill was done by numbers. Each squad shouted them out as it was done; ‘One, Two Up’, for example. When we became more used to the drill the squad acted as one with the butt of our rifles hitting the ground together as did our heavy studded boots. Like the foot drill, I cannot say I minded it.
We completed our basic infantry training with live firing. The rifle ranges were at Buford and Ludgershall both delightful spots on the Plain. Firing was some sport. The rifle had a hefty kick to it and there was the smell and sound of shot. Hitting the target over 3 or 400 yards was not easy and where your shots went was a subject of great interest. (I think we had small sweepstakes for the best shot.) It was more entertaining however to be a marker in the butts, indicating by means of a black circle on a board held overhead where the shot went, if it hit the target at all, with the bullets and ricochets whizzing overhead. We also fired Bren and Sten machine guns and revolvers.
We were also got and kept fit with regular PT under Army Physical Training Sergeants, maniacs in red and black striped jerseys. Part of this were runs and marches over longer and longer distances against the clock and culminating in a 5 mile bash-in I think less than 40 or 50 minutes. We also were chased by them over an assault course. What with the drill on the square and regular PT we were got into good shape and I had never felt fitter. These runs were usually early on a Monday morning-just to start the week off.