I remember when one morning during the first month or so of our time in Junior Company
we were paraded so that our Drill Instructor could take us a step further (as they
used to say) in our training. This lesson was on how to salute as evidently the day
before a member of our company had failed to salute the School Commandant as he passed
by in his staff car and the officer was not best pleased. The fact that we were new
boys and had not been taught saluting was no excuse so consequently this lesson has
been brought forward. “Longest way up and shortest way down” along with no crooked
thumb was being perfected when the Junior Company OC appeared but was not seen by
Sergeant Pittendreigh. All manner of sporadic salutes were flung up before our beloved
instructor saw the OC, realised what was going on and ordered us to “Stand Still”.
The next part of the training was obviously “When to Salute”. This was not always
as easy as it sounds because all warrant officers wore peaked caps and if they were
driving passed you then in that short space of time the decision had to be made.
Probably my biggest blunder in this department was when I was on my way to the sports
field in my track suit and carrying a hockey stick. An officer was approaching and
so I placed my hockey stick under my arm, pace stick style and threw up possibly
my best salute to date. Before I realised my mistake I was met with the response
“No, no, no you bloody clown” and somewhat deflated continued on my way.
Prior to my enlistment, the only pocket money I got was half a crown (12.5P) a week.
When we joined up our pay was 45/- a week (£2-25p). Of that we were given 10/- pocket
money, 5/- went into a Post Office Savings Account and the rest went into credit
to be paid when we went on leave. Pay Parade on the veranda of the company office
and we lost count of the number of times the table was kneed by an exuberant pace
up to the table to collect our pay. I can still remember on that first leave, I could
afford to by myself a top of the range fishing reel that I still have to this day,
the cost £4-19-6d.
Eventually we were fitted with uniforms, the ones left over from the First World
War, was it Number Threes but without the puttees? Then came the Number Two uniform
and thus dressed photographs were taken so that we could send them home to our parents.
Later on, once in ‘C’ Company I committed the cardinal sin of pressing my No.2 trousers
using brown paper instead of a damp hanky. It was a Friday evening and we were getting
ready for the Saturday Morning Parade. That’s a good sharp crease I thought but as
I removed the paper, sheer horror, my trousers were burnt almost right through. Not
saying much, I tried the uniform on and to my relief the front of the jacket just
covered the scorch mark. As long as it wasn’t too windy on Saturday morning I might
just get away with it and pass inspection. All went well but come Monday morning
I had to confess my error, receive a healthy rollicking and sent to the Q.M. Stores
to repeat the sorry story and receive another volley.
We were all encouraged to buy a mufti which was blazer with School Badge, grey slacks,
white shirt and school tie. Yes, I still have the tie although it now looks like
a piece of old rope. I cannot remember exactly when but from someone came the request
to wear something other than mufti when we went out into Reading or Wokingham. The
next thing to happen was a photograph of one of our intake, Bob Skinner, in a daily
newspaper asking which girls would go out with a man dressed in his school mufti.
I believe Bob got a sack of mail from would be volunteers and sometime after a tailor
was commissioned and we were allowed to purchase a suit of school approved style
from a selection of school approved materials. Nice suit but it knocked a hole in
Another time I can recall making a twit of myself was during one of the education
exams, I cannot remember which but the subject was military history and one of the
questions was acronyms for the various army Regiments and Corps. I just could not
remember that the R.A.C. was the Royal Armoured Corps so yes, you’ve guessed it,
rather than not answer at all I wrote down Royal Automobile Association and then
described their role in life. From this answer I got the obvious humiliating response
and I learned the lesson, “If you don’t know, say you don’t know” it’s much easier
because no matter what anyone else says bulls**t does not always baffle brains.
Whilst thinking about receiving a rollicking, the biggest one I go by far was from
a doctor in the RAMC. I cannot remember whether it was on Dartmoor or the Brecon
Beacons but one of our number badly twisted his ankle and could hardly stand, let
alone walk. Trying to be helpful, I offered to give him a fireman’s lift back to
where our transport was. Next thing to happen was that I then stumbled and our combined
weight ended up on my right ankle, result, two people unable to walk as I had torn
the ligaments in my ankle which proceeded to blow up like a balloon. Back at the
AAS I was laid up for a week until the swelling went down and then sent to the Cambridge
Military Hospital in Aldershot to have a plaster cast fitted. I was issued with a
pair of crutches and the strict instructions not to put any weight on that foot whatsoever.
Well you all know how kind just about every apprentice was to anybody with a slight
disability let alone using crutches and after a couple of days the comments got a
bit tiresome. I tried to walk without the crutches, found no problem and decided
to discard them. Ten days later I was back at Cambridge to have the cast removed.
The same RAMC doctor asked if I had used the crutches all the time and before I could
answer he felt the underneath of the cast. By this time it was softer that a pair
of army issue grey socks so he tore me off such a strip that I thought I would be
maimed for life. Needless to say, the cast was removed, I was sent on my way with
a chit to excuse me from physical effort of any kind for the next fortnight.
Along with all other Ex-Apprentice Tradesmen, my time at Arborfield and later the
Army has shaped my life to what it is now. It sets you standards for all you strive
to do and gives you memories which are never forgotten. So if any of you from intake
62C are reading this then please make a contribution to this web site by sending
photographs and anecdotes to email@example.com so that they can be shared
and enjoyed by all. Furthermore join the AOBA and look forward to the 50 years reunion
in 2012. Best Wishes to you all.