Wednesday, February 05, 2014


IT`S THAT DAY AGAIN...

In 1960, the fourth of February was a Thursday and it`s one of those dates, like Christmas or family birthdays, that seems to be hard wired onto my memory stick.   For that was the day I was conscripted into my 731 days of National Service;  the day I had left `home` and made the perilous journey all the way oop north to Richmond in Yorkshire and thence by 3-ton truck to Bourlon Barracks, Catterick Camp.  It`s odd, but after all these 54 years on, I still have vivid memories of those first few daunting hours spent at Her Majesty`s pleasure.

Having been pitchforked out of the 3-ton truck, the first thing I knew was that I didn`t really have a name any more.  "You, lad," seemed to be the address barked at me most and it reached the stage whereby whenever I was asked "You, lad, what`s your `orrible spewy name?" I could barely remember it.   Not helped by the fact that we were all given numbers - mine was 23762053 (you see, I still remember it even now) - and this number had to be attached to each and every item of kit thrown at us in the Quartermasters Stores - boots, battledress, denims, beret, mugs (enamel,) irons (eating for the use of,) brasses, gaiters and all the other paraphernalia of military life. 

There were a number of problems here;  for example, coming to terms with things being described backwards;  and then no-one knew what gaiters were for, what useful purpose they served apart from boosting sales of blanco. And our army numbers had to be stamped on any metal, leather or wooden items such as tins (mess)  or brushes (boot) - and each barrack room was issued with a set of stamps and a hammer so these items could be clearly marked.  Trouble was, the set of stamps in our room had one of the numbers missing, so my brushes (boot) for example had only seven of the required eight numbers. I still have those brushes now, but such was their infringement of Queen`s Regulations that they were instantly declared `idle.`   Truly, even on day one, the contradiction in terms that is military intelligence had already made its mark.

And so the first, long, arduous, bewildering day drew to a close and I was to discover things in the weeks to come in that northern outpost of Catterick that are still vividly recalled - verbal abuse, physical exertion, weary acceptance of one`s fate and an introduction to heroic profanity which, because of its constant use, soon became obsolete as a form of expression. 

Oh well, there were only another 730 days to do.......

1 comment:

Ray Turner said...

Brilliant post Pt. 23762053 Snopper.

Fortunately, National Service had ceased by the time I left school. I would not have enjoyed it, but wonder how my life would have been different (for better or worse) if I had been called-up...