Disembarking at Southampton I was issued a rail warrant to travel to Edinburgh, to be housed for my last week of full-time service with the Artillery unit closest to that of the Territorials with which I would serve my three obligatory post service years of an annual fortnight’s camp and three weekend exercises. My posting to Redford Barracks was conveniently only a 20 minutes walk from home, to which I was able to go that evening after an 8 month absence.
Two incidents in that brief association with Redford Barracks in the final week before release stick in the memory. One represented the army at its most intractable. Because the main strength of the Artillery unit based at Redford turned out to be on annual firing practice in west Wales, nobody left in Edinburgh would take responsibility for the sensible decision to hold us there until we reported to our Territorial unit for release five days later. So, the morning after my arrival in Edinburgh I was given another rail warrant to join the absent unit of artillerymen, encamped on a sodden former airfield where only duckboards kept feet above water. After a damp weekend of frustrated walking on a shingle beach for exercise, it took till Monday morning for anyone of seniority to issue a further rail warrant back to Edinburgh for a last week in uniform. However, at parade one morning in that final week with national servicemen at an earlier stage in their service, one made a disparaging comment about the army which drew the anger of the regular sergeant. The sergeant replied fiercely to say how much the army had meant to him in providing a home, sustenance and support for which he was supremely grateful. While the sergeant’s attitude may not have matched that of men enlisted not by their choice, his feeling expressed so strongly is still an impressive memory
On the 28 September I reported to the 278 Territorial Artillery unit at its base in Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, to hand in equipment not required over the four years of my required attachment to it. My Discharge book noted that my military conduct had been very good (failing to observe that I had allowed a failure of the guard of our temporary camp in the islands of Hong Kong ) and that I was “honest sober and reliable—-and should make a good NCO.”) With such a recommendation I left full-time service and started terminal leave of two weeks overlapping with a start to University life, an adjustment which in respects may have had difficulties unacknowledged at the time.
Four years later after half a dozen weekend exercises and four fortnight-long camps on the North York moors or back to Salisbury Plain, I received a final Certificate of Service which recorded that I was discharged on completion of all National Service engagement and also without ‘medals, clasps, decorations, mentions in dispatches, or any special acts of gallantry or distinguished conduct brought to notice’. No stain on my character, apparently, nor any evident mark of any notable kind in army records.