I was working at the carpet factory in Durham after I had being given a contract to stay their full time. I simply did not see my life being about carpet manufacturing so I decided to try to join the army. ( I had previously failed to join the junior leader regiment because of being under-weight. I weighed 7.5 stones when I was 16 years old.)
I had been advised that I needed to put on 4lb to be able to pass the medical entrance. The recruitment sergeant gave me some sound advice. He told me to drink 2 pints of milk and to consume a large pork pie. He told me this would work as long as I did it just before I went in to be weighed. I did as I was told and made the weight by a quarter pound.
I was informed I would be attending a selection weekend for assessment and if I passed I would be given a unit to join. My dad bought me a new track suit courtesy of Sunderland market. It was bright yellow with black stripes and I looked like a half-ripe banana. I ran a basic fitness test and took various tests. I passed and I was told I was joining the Royal Corps of Transport. I was going to be a lorry driver and went home feeling pleased with myself.
I was summoned a week before I was to go to Buller Barracks in Aldershot to swear my oath of allegiance. I did this and was duly presented with a days wage. This used to be known as the Queen’s shilling in days gone by.
I was given a travel warrant, which was a voucher for a train ticket and I had my date for departure. I got taken to the train station by my mum, who ran alongside the train as it left, blowing me kisses through the window.
I arrived in London and transferred to a train that would take me to Colchester. I was collected by two soldiers in uniform and driven to Buller Barracks. I was terrified and noticed how strong these lads looked, whilst I was a runt. I was not filled with confidence.
We were taken to the parade square to watch the troops enjoy the passing out parade. They were completing the training and moving to Leconfield near Hull to start driver training. We were Met by Lt Gartside and he informed us we were all now Stoke fans as he was. He also told us we were the lowest of the low and described us as tarts. I don’t think he meant this in a good way.
We were given lessons in ironing and issued with kit. My head was massive and they could not supply me with my number 2 dress hat. They ordered me one to fit. It was noted that I had a large head and the staff also noted I was skinny. The Geordie Javelin was a name that would be used over the coming weeks.
The staff included a bloke called Cpl Jolly, Smith, Ingalia, Venebales and Brown. The troop sergeant was Sgt Ingrey. The troopy was Gartside. These blokes were tough on us but it was their job. The only one that I couldn’t stand was Jolly. I would enjoy a reunion with him. The rest were good blokes who gave us grief but were always fair. Cpl Venables enjoyed singing to us at night while he played guitar.
Over the next ten weeks we trained hard and had some interesting experiences. I will share some of these in my next post.