Preparation for Our Posting to Hong Kong
We were at Woolwich for a couple of weeks. In that time we had further ‘jabs’ against tropical ills, and more exciting we were issued with our tropical gear, our ‘jungle greens’. We retained our boots, packs, battle dress and great coats, which apart from that we wore was packed away in our kit bags and which we did not see again until we reached our destination. All our kit traveled in the hold of the ship along with several hundred others. Required to form a fatigue party mid journey and search the cargo holds for misdirected kit, we learned the hard way of how many there were.
In getting our tropical uniforms we went through the same fitting out experiences as before walking before a Sergeant Quartermaster. Our new uniforms were an olive green color, the cloth being of an ‘aertex’ type weave and consisted of 3 pairs of bush jackets, long trousers, shorts, and hose tops.
These were knee high stockings to wear with shorts and consisted of just the top half of a pair of socks-the join between your ordinary socks and boot top was covered by puttees; long lengths of cloth wound around the ankle. These were very practical. We also had garters to keep the hose top up with an artillery flash of blue and red . Disappointingly we did not get our jungle hats, but they were issued later.
All together when clean and pressed this was a smart uniform. It was also comfortable and practical to wear in the humidity and heat we were to endure.
Apart from this and other matters which kept us employed, the rest of the day was spent in keeping us exercised and out of the Depot and the RSM’s eye. This was done by taking our draft out on route marches in and around the surrounding areas of Woolwich and Greenwich. These were pleasant suburbs of tree lined streets and we put in many a mile.
Free Time at Woolwich
Nothing whatsoever kept us in the Depot at night other than the NAAFI, and not interested in that or the local public houses we made the short train ride into London and the Union Jack Club for servicemen. You could get a decent meal, a bath and cheap tickets for a London theater and a show, and with several others I can recall seeing the musical ‘Oklahoma!’
Woolwich Depot as a Way Point
I was pleased when our time at Woolwich came to end. But on reflection the Royal Artillery Depot at Woolwich has an important place in my story of National Service. It is a kind of way point that marked my start into the Royal Artillery as a Surveyor. Before this, my time had been spent in training as a soldier and an artillery surveyor. After Woolwich, I would no longer be preparing or training, I would be doing.
The transitional nature of the place came home to me later as well. For as discussed in Chapter 12, Woolwich was the transition point from my National Service t and the return to civilian life.
That was to come. and lay some time ahead. And whilst back to being a civilian again was never far from my mind, more presently it was occupied by the fact that Woolwich was the place where we were very efficiently readied for departure and for our voyage to Hong Kong. That was the exciting prospect immediately in view and a further part of the adventure that had I embarked upon, when I stepped through the gates at Oswestry the previous June.