Back to Infantry Training
With these new roles and the emphasis placed upon them, we returned to the basic infantry training we had learned as recruits: Weapon training with rifle and machine gun, being issued our own individual rifles from which we were never far away from, having them with us I think in the barrack room, and with which we were to become very familiar by live firing on the ranges out by Kai Tak, forced marches, digging holes, crawling about in the undergrowth, learning to erect bridges, setting out barbed wire entanglements and sleeping in bivouacs in different exercises on the Island and in the New Territories. All this we found most disagreeable.
The Enthusiastic Officer
Our young Lieutenant was in his element, this training was meat and drink to him. He was probably no older than us, coming from the same kind of background, and while he may have attended a minor public school his education was no better than ours. We held him in contempt for the pettiness he displayed, his lack of survey knowledge and his complete disinterest in the subject and our skills in it. Surveying and all it entailed was no doubt beyond his limited intellectual ability. But it was his military enthusiasm and keenness that was most irksome as in full bloom he became the bane of our lives. And for all his ‘enthusiasm’, he displayed little competence. Out on exercises, even on the Island and with a map, he was constantly lost, and us with him. He often lead us into mock ambushes, always then seemed most surprised. We had no confidence in him whatsoever. Fortunately we never had to place it in him when it might have mattered.
Being the Enemy – Fun
Exercise “Forthright” in November 1950 brought a respite. We spent several days in the Territories where we acted as the ‘enemy’, actually great fun and good Boy Scout stuff. We slept in bivouacs made from our ponchos and ate field rations. The bivouacs held two and I remember sharing with Frank Beames. As the exercise progressed and in the middle of one dark night, we went off with blackened faces in single file to make our attacks led by our enthusiastic 2nd Lieutenant. We crossed the spurs of innumerable hills scrambling up rocky screes and falling down and across through streams in the dark. We got lost, awakened several Chinese walled villages around which we marched with the Headmen coming out to see what was going on, and just before dawn eventually reached our target. We then charged uphill firing blanks like mad and were adjudged the victors. We then spent the rest of the day manning a roadblock. It was all, in its fashion, a most enjoyable lark and did our morale no end of good. Our enemy experience was an exception, and none of the exercises were so much fun and half as enjoyable.
Infantry for Ever?
All of us Surveyors disliked this infantry training and the emphasis on it to the virtual exclusion of all else. We, of course, never knew the truth in it but we did hear that somebody or other was sent out by the War Office to inquire into the use we were being put. We obviously thought we were being completely misused, but we had no opportunity to report our belief. Regardless of the truth of this rumor, we got no immediate relief.
X Troop Escapes, We Soldier On
In November 1950, X Troop escaped the worst of this, for it did get worse, when they left for Benghazi in the Middle East on the Dilwara. A formal parade was held and they were given a proper send off. At this either the GOC or the CCRA gave a speech. In it he said that X Troop had served their purpose and thanked them for what they had done. Left unsaid was what our purpose might be, trained Surveyors doing infantry drills, but this being the Army, of course, we did not get the chance to ask him this question.