A final fourteen day leave was permitted in the UK or slightly longer at a rest area in The Harz Mountains – Who was foolish enough to turn down a free skiing holiday?
The local population were in no way antagonistic, in fact the camp had existed a number of years and was part of the local economy. The main road had a bank, electrical shop, useful for purchasing components to make bedside lamps from Chianti bottles, no plugs just two matchsticks with twisted wire pushed into a socket, a shoe shop and jewelers.
I purchased my first 35 mm camera, a watch with a luminous dial, sweep second hand and date and my first pair of blue suede shoes. They never went with khaki but we were permitted to wear civvies. At the age of twenty I had become a veteran.
Sgt Major Jacques was troop, while Sergeants Tudor Evans and Smudger Smith had signed on in the depression years and been in the war. Smudger had a tic and quite unfairly we would take bets on the number of twitches between the battery office and turning the corner going to the sergeants’ mess which had a parquet floor that as a fatigue had to be cleaned with wire wool and re-polished – probably Smudger’s retribution.
Time passed very quickly until one produced a Demob chart. Then it was a daily count down to returning to the U.K
We were given 14 days termination leave and I reported to a Territorial Army centre at Bromley to start 4 years as a reservist attending drill nights, weekend and annual camps; one in particular at Sennybridge in Wales.
National Service, in retrospect, was good for me. I changed from a teenager to an adult and was able to see a bit of the world, obtain a driving licence and, as an only child, learned to live with others.