It was a different world in 1962, I was fifteen years old and had decided that I
would take my father’s advice and join the Army to learn a trade and have a worthwhile
career. “Join the REME and try for one of the ‘X’ trades” he said. He had been in
the Service since the outbreak of WWII serving in the infantry (Royal Sussex Regt.),
Royal Artillery and was still serving as a Gun Fitter in the aforementioned Corps.
We went to the Army Information Office in Salisbury where the recruiting Sergeant
insisted that he interviewed me alone but I had been well briefed as to what was
best for number one son. Entrance examinations at the same location, a medical at
Bulford Camp followed by the issuing of the Queen’s Shilling confirmed my recruitment.
I was given a railway warrant and a fortnight later boarded a train to a new life.
Arriving at Reading Station I saw a smartly dressed soldier and approached him. “Are
you looking for me?” I asked. “No, you are looking for me” he replied. After checking
my name on his clipboard he told me to stand with some other bewildered young men
until our transport arrived. After about an hour we boarded an army bus and were
eventually driven through the gates of AAS Arborfield, our home for the next three
A bit of paperwork was followed by a visit to the Quartermaster’s Store. I then remember
walking briskly along the edge of the parade square heading for the Junior Company
block with my civilian suitcase in one hand and an army suitcase full of new kit
in the other. As I passed each spider, a door would open and various questions were
thrown like “Where are you from mate?”.
A very efficient looking A/T Corporal allotted me a bedspace and said that before
I do anything else, take my new kfs & mug to the cookhouse as the midday meal was
nearly over. I will never forget that first meal, Hungarian goulash and roast potatoes
followed by the famous “Duff” and custard washed down with an enamel staining mug
of sweet tea.
In twenty minutes I was back at my bed looking through my kit along with several
new room mates when I suddenly realised that everyone else had more kit than me.
The efficient looking A/T Cpl sensing my consternation ordered me back to the QM’s
where I was issued with a kit bag full of those items I was missing.
A little later our room was called together and our A/T NCOs introduced themselves
and informed us that as “Jeeps” we were the lowest of the low and not to forget it.
Then two questions, what is your army number and name the others in your room. No
answers were forthcoming so we had ten minutes to meet everyone and inwardly digest
a number that we would remember for the rest of our lives. After being tested on
that it was time for our first lesson.
“Bed Making” – we learned that you could make a bed up and you could make a bed down
and after several attempts we were still crap at it (where’s Mum). We were told that
perfection comes with experience and practise so keep trying.
Lastly before our time was our own to settle in, still dressed in our civvies, we
had to scrub the corridor floor. Standing over us our A/T Cpl announced that tomorrow
would be better as we would not have to do this in our civvies as we would be sending
them home and we were going to learn how to box our denims. We had arrived!
I went to bed that night wondering if I had done the right thing. I remember most
of this as if it was yesterday and as I grow older I sometimes wish it was!!