And not everybody wants to meet all kinds and classes of other young men National Servicemen. That is forced upon one. Even then one tended to associate with other National Servicemen not dis-similar to oneself. Nor play sport. Those who excelled at sport got special privileges. Others less gifted had to make up for those by doing their share of both duties and fatigues. So I am not so sure about those so called positive aspects. On the negative side the bigger effect was the immediate loss of direction and control of two years of one’s life.
People were affected by this in different ways. To a casual laborer or unskilled worker it made little difference. When their National Service was over they could walk back into employment. To those in an apprenticeship or on the first steps of a professional career, that was not so easy for one had to start virtually afresh. Instead of soldiering one had to learn again ones craft or start studying once more.
Overcoming this hurdle was a challenge. Then few went to a university as is commonplace today. The customary manner for the bulk of professional aspirants and others was to study for and pass the examinations required for employment in a chosen field by way of correspondence course, in an evening, after a day’s work, and at their own expense. The alternative which some adopted for particular disciplines and subjects was night school, again after a days work and in one’s own time. Some too got day release.
So on the return to civilian life first one had to settle down, learn afresh the stuff one had forgotten, and get used to studying. Quite simply the lasting impact of National Service was being two years or more behind in one’s life. In my later years and when counselling young valuers on my staff I found graduates concerned with their careers at age 21, at that age I was barely out of the Army and had had to start again.
One drawback for those overseas was they were out of touch with the job market in the UK. It was then impossible to know what opportunities were available, what wages or salary were on offer, or write or attend an interview until one was back home.
The compensating affect of National Service was that on its completion one was more mature. It gave too the individual an opportunity for a change of mind and a fresh start on a new and different career path.
On return to civilian life the former national serviceman had many other aspects of his former civilian life to deal with. Not least were the personal relationships that had to be begun again within the family and with friends. Girl friends in particular; if that friendship had survived the separation.
Overall, as in most things it depends upon the individual and their particular circumstances.