As an example of the comradeship between us those returning from leave always found their beds had been made up for them without any prior arrangement by those who had remained. If weekends were spent in camp, there was a garrison cinema, but more often we went on the bus into Salisbury where there was an excellent NAAFI club. There one could relax, get a decent meal, sit in a comfortable chair, go to a cinema and enjoy simple pleasures.
It was also part of a recruit’s (and later) life to receive numerous ‘jabs’ against all sorts of horrible and tropical ills. The effects of some were so extreme that even the army allowed time off to get over them. It often involved swellings of the arm, stiffness and a high fever. One just collapsed on ones bed for 24 hours, was excused duty and that was the extent of the sympathy offered.
Surveyor Training Starts
In July after our basic infantry training was complete, and we embarked on our surveyor training. This was very intense, totally absorbing and most thorough. The army methods were excellent with a drill for everything. This was drilled into us, time and time again. It involved a lot of arithmetic and trigonometry with all calculations having to work out precisely. We spent long hours in the classroom doing advanced trigonometry (a subject I had always enjoyed at school) and complicated calculations with many steps using six figure logarithmic tables, army pro formas, paper and pencil. We too of an evening had ‘homework’ to complete and to write up the notes we made of the classroom sessions.
The calculations had to be completed both accurately and speedily. Often out in the field in less than ideal conditions. We were in fact human calculators. The only calculators were our brains, this being long before the age of computers to do such work. Slide rules we were trained to use but in most cases they were not accurate enough. There were no mechanical aids.
After our basic surveyor training we were introduced to the art of ‘flash spotting’. And at this stage a BSM Rouse became our Instructor. Flash spotting is a skill exercised to ascertain the position of an enemy gun from cross bearings taken on the flash from its firing, by three or four observers from known points; and so, Surveyor RA (FS). This skill was additional to that of our survey skills for we not only surveyed in our positions but then observed from them the ‘flash’ of the enemy gun so counter fire could be directed at it.
A Simms flash spotting instrument was used, being in effect a superb pair of binoculars mounted on a tripod that had to be level and centered over a previously surveyed in position, and capable of measuring horizontal and vertical angles. It was also was very heavy to carry around as being a precision instrument it was protected by a weighty steel case. The instruments being at posts whose co-ordinates had been ascertained by prior survey it was then a trigonometrical calculation to ascertain the co-ordinates of the enemy gun.