The PT I never enjoyed, but I do have to say that what with it, the runs and forced marches, ‘bashes’, and all the fresh air and exercise I felt more physically fit than I had ever done so before.
Guard Duty at Larkhill
We also had to take our turn on general fatigues and guards. The fatigues were any form of general laboring but not (here) at the expense of our surveyor training. The guards came around regularly every 7 days or so and as they did wherever I was later stationed. These involved the ritual of a ‘mounting the guard (the same general time honored procedure throughout the whole British Army) at 6pm, or earlier, in best uniform, best boots and with all brasses shining and a clean rifle. Having dust on this and especially down the spout was regarded as a serious matter.
This formal ceremony always took place on the main square with inspections by first the Guard Sergeant, then the Orderly Sergeant,and Orderly Officer of the day and often under the eagle eye of the BSM. Then until 6am the next morning one was on ‘Guard’. It consisted generally of a sergeant, bombardier and eight or nine gunners. At the mounting the ritual also included the nomination by the Orderly Officer of a ‘stick man’, the best turned out and smartest soldier. This invariably was Tim Timberlake who was a very smart soldier. The benefit of this was he could then return to the barrack-room, get out of his best uniform, not stand guard and act as a dog’s body for the Guard Sergeant. Not very often did I get this honor.
The actual guard duty involved a two hour ‘stag’ out on patrol and 4 hours ’off’ when one napped (we were not supposed to sleep) in one’s uniform in the guardroom. During the night the guard was ‘turned out’ for inspection and usually in the small hours of the morning by the Orderly Officer. We carried a rifle on patrol but no ammunition. What we were guarding was not clear for the whole camp was open to access, and I’m not sure what I would have done if I had found something suspicious going on. Doing these guards was a completely new experience. But I have pleasant memories of being out between 2 and 4am on beautiful warm summer moon lit nights with the night sky full of stars above me in the expanse of Salisbury Plain. And not a sound but perhaps a far barking dog, really something quite beyond anything else in my life to date. It was, however, different in the cold of November and December but those clear starlit nights remained as they did on many a night elsewhere.
Passes from Larkhill
Unless on duty we did not work after noon on Saturdays, we were allowed 36 hour passes from then, and a 48 hour pass every month from after duty on the Friday. Both expired at 2359 hours on the Sunday. Living not faraway it was not difficult to get home on these and I returned, to camp I recall, on an evening train from Surbiton at about 8pm. This was full of returning troops to the many army camps on and around Salisbury Plain. We were met at Andover by buses and trucks to return us to our camps where one reported to the guardroom, got one’s kit ready for the morning and “Wakey, Wakey” at 6am.