As the saying went we returned to Stanley ‘funnel happy’ for the end was nigh. Seven days and an early breakfast. I did my last guard. I did my last cookhouse fatigue. I packed up my kit and filled a suitcase we could bring back in addition, a case incidentally that served me well for over 50 years. On it was the magic letter ‘R’ which stood for release.
We then paraded and signed shortly before our actual departure our release papers that lead back to our civilian life once again. Among other things, we were given Ration Books as rationing still obtained in Britain, National Insurance papers, a civilian Identity Card and our Army Books 111, Discharge of a National Service Soldier from Whole-Time Service. This Book recorded details of my military service and of my conduct. This was described as “Very Good” and my Testimonial: “A likeable, intelligent person. Able, willing and hard working.” For it I have to thank my Troop Captain, Captain Tilburn and then the document was signed off by the CO, Major Pollard.
My discharge book served several purposes, one being that after leaving 15 Observation Battery I along with the others are classified as ‘in transit’ until we got to Woolwich and were taken on their books. So in this interim period it acted as an authority for us, if stopped by the Military Police, who required proof, for example, we were not Absent Without Leave (AWOL) or deserters we had the correct document to show our “in transit” status. It served the same purpose once we were finally released. Lastly, it acted as a reference we could use for future employers.
It seemed that last night at Stanley would never end. But it did. Up bright and early of a Sunday morning. After that early breakfast, we handed in our bedding, made sure every one else was awake, said our farewells and left.
Afterword: In 1998 after the handover of Hong Kong and the New Territories to China in 1997, Tim Tate-Smith and Ian with their wives, went back and visited the significant places of our National Service. Lo Wu camp had been obliterated by a road, Quarry Camp at Ping Shan had been consumed within the new town of Castle Peak, Stanley Barracks were in the hands of the Chinese Army and our old barrack block had been demolished. The one reassuring sight was that the proud stone lions in front of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building remained.