AAS Arborfield Military Training / Adventure Training.
(click on pictures to enlarge)
Each Term / Division at Arborfield we had a weeks camp, military training or adventure
training. There was no camp during Junior Company or Senior Company 9 Div and 5 Div
was a regimental cadre week in barracks. Whilst in Junior Company we spent a high
percentage of our time doing basic military training the whole 14 weeks, in 9 Div
our last 6 weeks was entirely dedicated to intensive training for our 3rd class military
training certificate that we were required to pass to qualify as soldiers and tradesmen.
My memories may be a little blurred, any further information on amendments for inclusion
please contact me.
2 Div 1963 – It was January time when we were still deep in the grip of the big freeze,
deep snow all around. From what I remember we had 3 days out in the snowy wastes
of the Berkshire/Hampshire countryside. Day one was a march from Arborfield to the
Rushmoor training area on the Aldershot side of Fleet, which was roughly 15 miles.
I was lucky enough to be in the squad that our Company Commander Maj Sim took charge
of!! I remember being very cold when we started off just in our thin denim jackets
& trousers but Maj Sim was a hard taskmaster and the pace he set soon had us warmed
up. We only carried our water bottles and small packs in which we had some haversack
rations; I believe there was a hot drink waiting for us when we arrived at the RV
on the training area around lunch time.
The afternoon I think was map reading tuition and learning how to use a compass,
it was then a welcome but drafty cold truck ride back to camp in a Bedford 4 tonner.
Day 2 was a nice truck ride back to the Rushmoor Training Area and the day was spent
navigating lots of miles again on map reading exercises.
Day 3 is a bit of a blur but I think we stayed in Arborfield in the warm and did
class room work, possibly first aid and some and introduction to some basic weapon
3 Div Summer 1963 Summertime made a nice change, again as far as I remember it was
4 days 3 nights setting up camp down in the Aldershot training area again, we had
the standard 2 man bivies, I shared with George Fryer as I was to do on many other
occasions in the future. As far as I can remember it was the usual round of map reading
exercises, first aid, field craft, and SMG weapon training. There was a central field
cookhouse for most of our meals but for one day we were issued rations and had to
be self-supporting. I’m not 100% sure but I think day 5 back in Arborfield we were
on the miniature range firing the 9mm Sterling Sub Machine Gun. I do remember that
the first time I fired it was supposed to of been a burst of 3 rounds but I emptied
my magazine of 10 in a flash, the muzzle of the weapon heading skywards and I’m sure
at least one if not a couple of rounds went over the wall!!!!
4 Div September 1963 (photo) Our first week back at Arborfield for 4 Div and we were
off to Chickerall Camp (near Weymouth). How nice, a week at the seaside you might
think but not quite that!!! It was a week’s camp with our Bivies in the grounds of
what I think is/was probably a TA/Cadet training camp. Again I think, George and
I bivied up together. It was a week of marching many miles, and we carried SLR’s
(rifles) most of the time, I can’t remember if we got to fire them though, not sure
We had to feed ourselves, we were in groups of 5 and we were issued a 10 man compo
pack to last us 2 days, not sure how being in 2 men bivies that worked out, I’ve
probably got that wrong! I think my group consisted of, me, George Fryer, Johnny
Bellis, Carrots Carrington, and I think Mick Charman.
I do mostly remember marching over the hills continuously, one particular day we
went from the east side of Weymouth to Lulworth Cove about 15 miles but because of
the terrain probably add another 5 miles. Everyone one was pretty exhausted once
in Lulworth and after a break for lunch for some reason and I’m not quite sure what
Maj Sim made us march most of the way back before a truck picked us up on the outskirts
There was an escape and evasion exercise one night when we were dropped off in the
middle of nowhere and had to make our way back to camp without being spotted. (We
were supplied with maps, no GPS in those days.) Not knowing where we were we eventually
found some habitation where the locals were able to tell us our location and we were
then able to plot our way on the map. I remember a lot of diving in ditches when
vehicle lights were seen coming our way as we didn’t want to be picked up and taken
back out further away our from our destination. As the night wore on we decided we
should get some kip and a kindly farmer said we could use his hay barn on the strict
understanding that there was no smoking!! We were able to assure him that none of
us smoked. I had always thought that it would be rather comfy sleeping in a hay barn,
how wrong I was. Having climbed high on the stack of bales, not a lot of sleep was
had, it was uncomfortable, cold, and in the light of day we found we were covered
in little red lice like creatures that had been biting us all night, I also had a
tick embedded in my calf muscle which I am sure had had a good feed on my blood!!
We made it back to Chickerall or the RV for transport; I can’t remember which, footsore
and scratching. All in all I remember it being a tough week but looking back enjoyable.
5 Div February 1964 No Camp this term but “5 Div Cadre week”, lots of spit & Polish
and learning how to be an NCO. Lots of time on the regimental square and leaning
how to teach drill. Who was going to get promoted in 6 Div entirely rested on your
performance this week.
6 Div June1964 -The Brecon Beacons, Talybont On Usk, the first of our trips to
Wales. A train ride I think from Reading to Newport, then a long truck ride up through
the valleys via Crickhowell to Talybont on Usk. We bivied by the river Usk, I was
teamed up with George Fryer again, and I think there was a central cookhouse don’t
remember doing our own grub this time.
There was lots of map reading exercises and marching up and down the mountains, I
do remember a lot of rain but also a very hot day climbing “ Heart Break Hill”. There
was another day when we went out on an exercise that was to last for 24 hours when
we were dropped off in the mountains with tasks to do and had to fend for ourselves.
The weather was so bad that eventually they managed to get us all back to camp where
a big fire had been built in the open barn where the permanent staff lived and we
were able to dry out, it wasn’t long though before they chucked us back out on a
revised version of the exercise.
I do remember that this time we did get to go on the ranges with our SLR’s, I really
can’t remember if this was the first time, anyhow I remember it wasn’t raining the
day we spent on the range, I do remember it was a long march and I got a blister.
The range being on a welsh mountain side was of course covered with sheep, we were
under strict instructions not to shoot the Sheep but that was a red rag to a bull
and a few sheep ended up going to the butchers!!!!!
I not sure how it happened but there was one night when we all trooped off to the
local pub, a bit of a new experience for me being a tender 16 years of age, a couple
of pints and I was anybodies.
Although my main initial memories are of being cold and wet and having sore-blistered
feet looking back it was a character building experience.
Mick Cheeseman, Mac McDonald, George Fryer, Jim (Jock) Kelly, Johnny Bellis, Pip
Rowley, Mick Charman, Dick Whitaker, Bob Smith, Stu Hughes, Phil Carrington, Roger
7 Div Adventure Training October 1964. A cracking good week travelling around various
locations doing lots of exciting things. For C Company it was first back on the train
to Wales on the Sunday morning and off to the Brecon Beacons again complete with
all our kit on our backs, clothing, bivies, food etc. I think it was Reading to Neath
this time and then a truck ride up the valleys again where we camped on a river bank
but I don’t remember quite where. Having arrived there was just time to pitch camp
and make a meal before it got dark, I was again crewed up with George Fryer. We were
there for 3 nights, (4 days in total) it was a very busy time, one day we did Rock
Climbing, not my favourite, I actually slipped when getting close to the top of one
of my climbs and fell a shirt distance before the safety rope took hold, Abseiling,
loved that, and Potholing, which I didn’t think I would like but after initially
getting stuck in the entrance tube and then having a bit of a panic when my helmet
lamp went out when crawling on my stomach through a very narrow tunnel, I thought
it was terrific. This tunnel was a very tight squeeze and very twisty, there was
also water running down it, I was last in line following Mick Charman and when he
went round a bend my lamp flame went out and it was blacker than black in there.
I shouted wait for me and scrabbled like mad to catch Mick up. One thing that does
stick in my memory is that when descending the metal rope ladder into the first cavern
the naked flame of the Calcium Carbide headlamp kept singeing the back of my hands!!
No doubt they have battery-powered lamps these days. To explain these calcium carbide
lamps, they are simple lamps that produce Acetylene gas, which is created by the
reaction of calcium carbide and water, and when ignited the naked flame produces
the light to see by.
On The Rocks - Ken Schofield, Steve Wilson, Roger Heath, Mac McDonald, Stu Hughes
There was also a map reading exercise over the Beacons, quite a long march if I remember,
I think I was with Mick Charman, I remember a mist came down and visibility was only
about 20yds at best and we found ourselves walking in circles. We eventually stopped
and enjoyed the delights of a tin of cheese possessed (processed cheese) and hard
tack biscuits. Eventually we decided that as we calculated we were not far from our
base camp by the river and that we could hear trickling water, we reckoned the water
must be going down to the river, so we carefully made our way to the ravine where
the sound of running water was and were able to clamber down to the river level which
turned out to be only a short distance from where we were camped. In the dim and
distance of my memory I seem to remember 4 of us on an exercise on the Beacons (
not actually sure if this was 6 or 7 div on the Beacons) on a very hot day, we were
all gasping for a drink as we had exhausted our water bottles when we came upon a
mountain stream. The cool water was like nectar, we quenched our thirst and filled
our water bottles and continued up the mountainside only to find about 200 yards
up stream a dead sheep in the water!! Thankfully none of us suffered any medical
Day three (Wednesday) was back on the train heading east alighting I think in Swindon
where there was a truck waiting to take us to R.A.F. Abingdon. We set up camp in
the dark and made ourselves a meal before turning in. We were up early on Thursday
morning for a hard days introduction to Ground Parachute training. First the 40ft
fan tower, apprehensive at first but after the first jump is was back up ladder for
another go. Next was training in the hanger, going through the drills that happen
in the aircraft and hanging from the harnesses suspended from the roof going through
the drills having exited the aircraft.
The last of the ground exercises was the 120ft tower (I think it was 120ft, it was
very high anyway). We were strapped into a parachute harness and then had to leap
into space and hang there doing the opening of the chute drills before they released
the brake and were lowered at simulated drop speed where we landed feet together,
knees bent and rolled.
Next it was to the parachute store to be kitted out with main and reserve chutes
and we then trooped of to board a Hastings aircraft which was to take us on a flight
to practise drills in the air. (Note Pim Meaning pulled the handle of his reserve
chute for what he thought would be a laugh and it billowed all over the place, the
lady behind the counter in the store had a sense of humour failure and went ballistic!!)
The flight lasted about 45 minutes and we went through all the drills that were required
in the aircraft, i.e. standing and hooking up the static line to the overhead rail
and checking the person in fronts kit. We moved down the aircraft to the stand at
the open door as though we were going to jump but on this training flight we stayed
in the aircraft. The day had been a terrific experience but once back on the ground
it was time to pack up our bivies and set off for our next adventure.
I can’t remember if we got back on the train in Swindon or a coach picked us from
Abingdon (probably the train back to Reading) but we eventually arrived late at Hawley
Lake in the dark where we set up camp and made a meal before turning in.
Day 6 (Thursday) another early start and a very busy day, 3 activities to complete;
Rafting, Canoeing and Sailing in the dubious waters of Hawley Lake, cuts and abrasions
had to be covered up; The lake which was primarily a training area for the Royal
Engineers had allegedly been infected with syphilis by equipment that had recently
been returned from the Middle East, there were lots of bubbles coming up from the
mud on the bottom.
Spilt into 3 squads I first did rafting, we built a sailable craft out of oil drums,
planks of wood and ropes, if I remember rightly we successfully paddled our raft
around the lake.
Next was canoeing, having been a Sea Scout for 4 years and spent many hours paddling
I didn’t have any problems and the capsize drills were something I had done on many
occasions, also our next task, sailing, although not a seasoned sailor I knew most
of the ropes so to speak. Unfortunately there was hardly any wind and it made progress
around the lake very slow. After our day on the water it was time to break camp and
it was back on the coach for a relatively short journey back to Arborfield, dirty
and tired we had had a wonderful week.
8 Div Training week. No idea what we did in 8 div!!! From photos recently received
we were out on Ash Ranges in the snow for some of the time.
9 Div was 6 weeks of military training (our final 6 weeks at the school) These 6
weeks of intensive military training were to qualify for the class 3 military training
certificate that was required to pass out from Arborfield as a Class 3 Technician.
The training consisted of Weapon training; 9mm browning pistol, 9 mm Sterling SMG,
7.62 SLR rifle, Anti Tank Rocket Launcher. Field craft, First Aide and extensive
periods of time on the ranges. There was also a chance to take the Class 2 exams
which involved being able to instruct on all the Drill, Weapon Training, Field Craft
and First Aid disciplines.
Pip Rowley, Jim Kelly, Brian Lazenby, Johnny Bellis, Mac McDonald