Don, reading your remarkable account about life at West Kirby really brought back those days to me in great detail. It was a fascinating way to spend time when laid low by a lousy cold this morning.
I rather suspect you were there the same year that I was, that being 1956 and in my case having joined on the 13th February knew only too well what you meant when it came to keeping ourselves warm by scrounging wood to feed the stoves. One chap used to sit huddled around a stove wearing his overcoat and he singed his best blue trousers but managed to pass inspection without being detected. Said trousers were even worn successfully on our passing out parade.
Like you I was in Roosevelt Squadron in hut 329 also known as Sea Fury. I recollect being greeted on the first evening by one delightful corporal who introduced himself in a barking voice thus: "my name is Cpl Michelson and donít you forget it! This hut is in a shit state, next time I see you I want to see it immaculate."
The suicide took place during my time there but if my memory serves me correctly the unfortunate recruit (a young Scotsman) threw himself off a water tower. This was the result of a DI having had it in for him and the poor fellow committed suicide. Yes it was in the national press and I remember being briefed after the event by a sergeant who told us that this tragic affair was to have been expected since there was a history of suicide in the family. Typical military claptrap by way of a cover up in such events.
I quite agree with you with regard to the unnecessary swearing that took place during those 8 weeks. I seem to recollect it being put down to lack of vocabulary.
The rifle range I remember only too well simply because I was a hopeless shot and simply could not achieve the required 2 inch grouping. I cannot recall how many times I went round, however, suffice it to say that a very kind RAF Regiment corporal felt sorry for me and actually offered to take my place but alas! I had been spotted by a RAF Regiment W.O. who came up to me and scared the living daylights out of by saying " you donít get it this time sonny, and Iíll jump on your back." I must have missed the target completely because I remember collecting it and punching in the required number of holes within the grouping with a nail file en route to a table where it was checked.
I do recollect a kind corporal who was keen on the shuffle board. He might have been a national serviceman himself. He was keen on Lonnie Donnegan and used to bring records to play to us which included The Rock Island Line.
I shall never forget the morons who manned the guardroom simply because of the shoddy treatment I received from them when I returned late from a 48 hour pass through no fault of my own. I was put on a charge which was thrown out by the Flt. Lt. who heard my case. The moron who charged me never even turned up at the hearing.
I was interested in what you said about giving blood because I remember Cpl. Michelson coming round one day and actually asking for volunteers to Ďdowneí blood. I have to confess to having been relieved because needles make me feel nauseous. I too recall the sadistic manner in which we were given our jabs but I seem to remember being let off lightly that afternoon because quite a number of us reacted to this treatment.
Do you recall the order "fall out the Rcs and Jews" when a prayer was said on the parade ground. Iíve asked a friend of mine who was a professional soldier if he knew of this order and he said no. Incidentally our padre (RC) said to us although my rank is Sqdn. Ldr. You may call me father which I rather liked at the time. There was definitely rivalry between him and the Cof E padre. I can vouch for that.
My wife quite rightly reckons you have kept a diary of events to have come up with such a vivid account of those eight weeks which I was able to relive week by week once again. For this I thank you. If only we had national service today our youngsters might be more respectful but Iím not sure about less aggressive. Alas! this can only be a pipe dream because it is too costly an alternative.
Ex N.C.O I/c Flight Planning
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Text © 2006 John Buchanan