“Army Days” – Recollections of being a soldier by Tony Muddimer
“I left Loughborough by rail on the morning of 5th November as Mr Tony Muddimer and arrived at Norton Barracks Worcester and became Sapper Muddimer 22933638 Royal Engineers. We had an introductory briefing in which we were told that it was to be an honour to serve in the Royal Engineers with its long history, and that as a soldier you were required to be on call 24 hours a day, every day and all for the princely sum of less than two pounds a week, and at the age I was then, I was permitted to die for my country but not allowed to vote, which always struck me as being rather odd. We were also warned about the potential attack from the IRA and the possibility of nuclear war, just to cheer us up.
Next, recruits haircut, then off to the stores to get kitted out by passing along a long counter and being given our uniforms, webbing, two pairs of boots, a Lee Enfield 303 rifle and an army greatcoat. The coat I was given came down to my ankles, so I said to the store man it looks a bit long, he replied with a smirk, “you’ll grow into it” in fact it was to be a great benefit whilst doing night-time guard duty to keep me warm. We had to patrol the camp at night to prevent attack from the IRA so we carried our rifles but were not given any bullets as we might hurt someone!
Then came injections where we all stood in a long line stripped to the waist whilst a medic passed along with one giant hypodermic needle injecting each soldier as he moved along the line of 40/50 soldiers’ with the same needle, and I discovered then why we stood close to each other, so you could catch any neighbour who collapsed, which some of them did. It was best if you were at the front of the line whilst the needle was still sharp rather than at the end of the line when it became quite blunt, fortunately I was in the middle of the so it wasn’t too bad.
When all the preliminaries were over we retired to the NAAFI for a cup of tea and a wad (a type of bun, best described as similar to eating blotting paper).
At the end of the day we returned to our billet which was a plain wooden hut without any form of heating to commence spit and polish on our boots, until they had a shine that you could see your face in. Then we had to Blanco our webbing and polish all our buttons with Brasso.
We were woken in the morning at 6 a.m. to wash and shave outdoors, in November, at a row of sinks with just cold water. A very quick breakfast then during the rest of the day learning to be soldiers. Marching and rifle drill, PT in the gym, root marches, assault course, striping down a rifle and Bren gun and reassemble, then back to polishing the barrack room and more spit and polish. Eventually, becoming a soldier!”
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