Boy Soldier for the Queen

The following is an extract from my book, "A Boy Soldier for the Queen." It covers the period from early January 1959 to entering the Colours in December 1960.

In the beginning. On the 12th January 1959, a very nervous but very excited young lad entered the army recruiting office at Brighton in Sussex for his 'Attestation', the act of signing up for military service in the Queens armed forces. 'Taking the King's,' but in my case the Queen's, shilling,' is an 18th/19th Century expression meaning that a man has agreed to serve as a soldier or sailor. In olden days a soldier's daily pay, before stoppages, was the 'shilling' given to recruits of the British Army and the Royal Navy.

After swearing on a bible in front of an officer, the recruiting sergeant read out the amount of pay I would receive and, not for the first time in my army career, my prospects both for junior and adult service.

As I had already passed a Yorkshire Education Apprentices Board in my technical school at Driffield, I was, therefore, deemed to be exempt from most military education. Having also told the recruiting sergeant, who happened to be a member of the Royal Corps of Signals by the way, that my hobby was amateur radio and could already send and receive Morse code quite well, it therefore didn't take the army's bureaucratic wheels long to work out that it would the Royal Signals for me; just what I wanted. I duly enlisted as 23666863 Junior Signalman Fletcher in the Junior Leaders' Regiment, Royal Corps of Signals to be stationed at Rawlinson Barracks, three miles from Newton Abbot in Devon, close to Dartmoor. It was explained that in my final term in the Junior Leaders' my 'trade' would be determined. The recruiting sergeant suggested that I may be selected for training as a radio, line or teleprinter mechanic or technician and might even be offered at the end of my Junior Leaders service, a transfer to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, REME, who were more on the technical side of telecommunications. I asked that my record show that my preference was to operate radios.

On the 14th January 1959 I started the lengthy journey to south Devon and the British Army. From Bognor Regis to Victoria Station in London, across London on the Underground to Paddington Station, then a train to Exeter and then finally another train to Newton Abbot. Whilst waiting at Exeter station for the connection to Newton Abbot, I met up with another lad who had come all the way from Scotland to join up for Boy service so my journey from the south east of England paled into insignificance. Making our way out of the very quaint Newton Abbot railway station we were both immediately approached by an army sergeant in uniform who very politely asked us if we were for the Junior Leaders at Rawlinson Barracks, as it was called then. On answering yes his voice and mannerism immediately changed somewhat and the next thing we heard was, 'names' in a brusque military manner, we now knew we were definitely in the army. Identification and paperwork checked we were told to climb into a military vehicle, a 'quarter-ton' truck, a military wagon of the last war, and off we went through the town to the barracks.

The sergeant who met us at the railway station was tickled pink that I had actually worn my army cadet boots all bulled up and still reasonably shiny from my journey. Wearing them was infinitely more comfortable than lugging them in a heavy suitcase. As children of the 1940's and 50's with the restrictions of clothing coupons, we boys, and indeed many girls, worn boots most of the time, it was virtually the only footwear widely available our parents could purchase at a reasonable price.

Out of the truck and we were shown our billets where we dumped our suitcases and then straight off to the cookhouse for a late tea. On the way back from our meal we were shown where the NAAFI was, NAAFI stands for, Navy, Army and Air Forces Institutes; they are to be found on virtually all British military bases, same as the PX Club for American forces. They provide recreational facilities and clubs and bars, but of course no alcohol for us Boys, well not yet anyway. The NAAFI also ran a snack bar that supplemented the camp cookhouse. We were also introduced to the Church Army canteen that again sold what was to become one of our most eagerly required necessitates, food. Tired after our long journey most of us made our beds up and turned in for the night. Those of us who had previous army cadet force experience had a very good idea what lay before us in the morning.

Six am and those of that were already awake could hear the crunch, crunch, crunch of the orderly sergeants boots on the concrete path up to our billet. 'Wait for it,' some of us whispered under the cover of our blankets. Then our billet door was thrown open and the orderly sergeant entered and then went through one of the British army's time-honoured traditions for arousing reluctant sleepy soldiers out get of their beds, or 'pits' as they are known in the army, by striking his night stick, a pickaxe handle, over the metal parts of all our beds at the same time shouting something like, 'come on you idle lot, feet on the floor NOW! You won't get a second reminder.' Or it could have been, 'hands off your c**ks and into your socks.'By now the junior corporal in charge of our billet, who had a room all to himself at the end, was up, fully dressed and starting pulling the bedding off from those still slumbering; any boy still having difficulty putting their feet on the very cold floor had his bed very unceremoniously tipped over. Well, we're in the army now.

The procedure now was to get to the ablutions first before all the hot water was used up; and dress ready for breakfast. We were told that we would be marched as a squad to breakfast. Outside we lined up in three ranks and on the words of command, attention, right turn, quick march, we set off for our first breakfast. Mug and eating irons, which consisted of a knife, fork and spoon, had to be held behind our backs whilst marching so that you could swing our other arm.

Breakfast over; eating irons and mugs cleaned in the very greasy communal washing up water; and it was back to the billet for our first full day as Junior Leaders.

Eight a.m. and fall in again this time to the quartermaster stores for the issuing of our uniforms and other items of military kit. As each lad came to the QM stores counter a member of the QM staff, with the expert eye of a Saville Row tailor, looked you up and down and asked your shoe size. This vital, but often ignored piece of information then set a whole chain of events which, with lightening speed, ended with you outside of the QM stores with both arms full of clothing doing a circus jugglers balancing act with your two pairs of boots on the top of the pile and your hat on your head. We were issued with a kitbag, a pair of white braces to hold our trousers up, a pullover, two pairs of Pyjamas, three pairs of underpants, or draws cellular in army parlance, vests, grey socks and brown hairy shirts, three of everything so that you one pair on, one in the wash and one to change into. Our everyday working dress was denims, a form of military dungarees, boots and gaiters and hat. Our best uniform, which in my time consisted of a 1914-issue Khaki serge tunic and trousers, which did up at the neck, hence we were not issued with ties. The tunic had brass buttons and collar dogs of 'Jimmy', the Royal Signals badge, and brass R SIGNALS epaulettes on each shoulder. We were issued with a 'button stick' to assist with cleaning our buttons which avoided getting Brasso on the material. Strange that in 1959, we should be issued with 1914-style uniforms when just six months before in the Army Cadet Force, which is not a regular force, we had modern battledress, the uniform the regular army were then wearing. The army must have still had job lots of the First World War uniforms to get rid of, and we used them up. With our hat we were given a Royal Signals cap badge and a leather chinstrap. Junior Leaders hats came in for much mutilation as their peaks were 'slashed' to make them look like Guardsmen's parade hats. To 'Slash' a hat, the internal support material was sliced through then the front of the hat was propped up with approximately four inches of a ruler. There were the inevitably disasters. When called to attention on the parade square the hat would collapse over the boy's head causing much hilarity and ridicule from the drill instructors as the remnants of his precious hat were now resting on his ears and covering most of his very red face. A well-meaning instructor would stand in front of the poor boy and give him immediate counselling such as, 'Oh dear, another new hat to pay for', or, 'keep it that way it hides your ugly face.' Or, 'you might have broken your mother's heart, but you wont break mine,' all very good character building for young men.

The hats leather chinstrap had to polished or 'bulled' until it, like just about everything we wore, shone like glass. We were not issued with berets but were given an olive green woollen scarf, which could also be turned into a form of balaclava, and a pair of gloves, two towels and a housewife. Soldiers 'Housewife', always called a 'hossif', has always came in for much interested amongst females. A soldiers 'Housewife' is a small white pack made of cotton and able to be rolled up, with contents consisting of spare buttons, a couple of needles, some thread and wool and other bits and pieces that soldiers use to make small repairs to the uniforms and kit.

For Physical Training, PT, we had one pair of blue shorts and one red and one white PT vest and a pair of brown plimsolls, or pumps, an unsophisticated form of trainers. We had to buy our own football or rugby boots if you we elected to play these sports. Two boot brushes, that I still have and use to this day, one to put the polish on our boots and the other to shine them. Our boots, two pair, were known as 'hob-nail' or 'Boots Ammunition' and made of 100 percent leather. In order to get some grip on the soles, hobnails or studs were hammered into them, seventeen on each sole, similar to golf spikes but not as sharp. The hobnails had to be nailed into the sole of each boot according to regimental rules; two at the front, three on the next row and then three rows of four. On some parades you had to show the soles of your boots to the inspecting officer or NCO to ensure compliance to the rules and to see if you had cleaned your leather soles and the nails. Finally, number '37, World War Two webbing, which consisted of a web belt, large pack, small pack and two ammunition pouches, bayonet frog, and two metal mess tins for cooking your rations in the field; no steel helmets were ever issued or ever used in the Junior Leaders. The only trousers we were issued with that had zip fly came with the new army field combat outfit. These were only issued just prior to going out on adventurous training or military exercises. One morning after going to the QM stores to get his set a boy was in a desperate rush to change as he had dwelt too long in the cookhouse at breakfast. Such was his haste that he caught his foreskin in the zip of the trousers. No matter how he tried he could not release himself and was obviously in great pain. His absence was noticed when the nominal roll was called. The troop junior corporal rushed into the barrack room to find the poor unfortunately boy still trying to free his only recently arrived manhood. Even junior corporals were not trained for this tricky situation. Calling on the assistance of the troop sergeant they both stood beside the boy, now almost in tears, to determine a strategy for fixing this most unfortunate predicament.

'Only one thing for it,' said the sergeant sucking through his teeth, 'we will have to cut the whole thing off.' With that the boy burst into floods of tears pleading for mercy.

'No,' said the sergeant, 'we'll have to cut the zip off you fool.'

With the zip cut out and to the poor boys embarrassment, but huge amusement to the rest of us, the junior corporal escorted him to the medical centre for treatment. He never lived it down; a salutary lesson to us all.

For many boys this was the first time they had had so much clothing for them selves and not hand downs from older siblings or second-hand shops, and were completely overwhelmed by the quantity. We were eventually given a black ink number stamp and white labels to put our army number on and the white labels were sewn into our clothes. We had to buy from the camp NAAFI stores our own soap, flannels, toothpaste and toothbrush, also dusters for polishing our boots, Cherry Blossom usually. Brasso for our tunic buttons and the metal on our webbing, and green Blanco, a paste-like substance brought in a block, which was applied to all our webbing. After cleaning all your webbing with a scrubbing brush, Blanco was then applied with great care to ensure that it was applied evenly so that it dried to a smooth flawless finish. All the brass work on the webbing had to be cleaned to an equally exacting standard with no Blanco on your brasses; that's what the sergeant major and sergeants looked for. The newly Blancoed surface was easily scuffed or marked, necessitating a repetition of the entire laborious procedure. I should add that we were not issued permanently with rifles, only a sling to carry it, something else that had to be polished and blancoed.

Having signed for all this clothing and equipment and packed it in to my kitbag and webbing pouches, I then had the delicate task of carrying it all back, without dropping anything, to my billet; no mean task for a lad who was then only 5ft-2 inches tall and weighted six stone I can assure you.

Our civilian clothes were parcelled up and stored in the camp. We weren't allowed to wear 'civvies' again until we went home on our first leave after completing recruits training. Those were the days when it was quite normal and acceptable for soldiers, even junior soldiers, to wear uniform in public out of camp. You could wear civvies in camp in off duty hours if you had passed your first class education or played a sport for the regiment.

We were then all issued with our AB64 Part's One and Two which were our pay book and military record books, which when opened gave us for the first time our army number, which had to remembered for the rest of your military career. As we had all joined up at the same time our army numbers were nearly all consecutive. Boys with a common surname like, Jones or Smith, were always known by their surname and the last three numbers of their army number. We had a Ted Smith in our troop who was always called "Smith 797". Our pay on joining was in today's money a grand, £2-10p per week, after one years service £2-65p, when you had passed your First Class education and Military Proficiency is rose to £3-5p. Money would be stopped if there were any barrack damages to the living accommodation to be paid and £1 was also compulsorily saved in a Post Office savings account for use when on leave.

Our billets were of the dormitory type in which slept 14 boys plus a junior NCO. We each had a bed and a steel locker, collectively known as your 'bed space'. All our military issued kit had to be pressed and folded and laid out in our locker according to regimental regulations and with mathematical precision. For formal inspections of our billets, normally by our troop officer, all our clothing and equipment had to be laid out on our beds, again to a certain format.

Down the centre of each billet was a three-foot wide length of brown linoleum, which had to be 'bumpered' until it shone like glass; you were not allowed to walk on it except on Sunday's and holidays. Crude felt slippers were made to ensure the lino stayed immaculate, it was hallowed ground. We were very fortunate in that Denbury, having once been a military hospital, was centrally heated, quite rare in those days. The ablutions, which we had to clean on a rota system, contained showers, baths, wash basins and toilets. We had no laundry rooms so dirty clothes were parcelled up and handed in every Monday morning and collected clean on Friday's.

Back in our billets we were told to change into our denims and then our service dress for our troop sergeant to see how it all fitted; I didn't have too much trouble getting everything to fit being of average size for those days. The boys who had to keep constantly swapping uniforms about to get them to fit were the very tall and the very short lads. Some I remember even had to go back to the QM stores to change items or have them tailored to fit them. Eventually everybody was in some form of uniform and we paraded outside of our billets trying to look like junior soldiers and others, 'like bags of shit,' said the troop sergeant. However, we were now Recruit Troop, ready to be turned into trained soldiers first and signalmen later. We proudly marched off for our conducted tour of the rest of camp, which included, the Globe Cinema, two Gymnasia, a .22 miniature rifle range, medical centre with an army doctor, nursing staff and a Dentist. The tour ended up on the parade square and our first inspection and introduction by the senior staff.

Recruit Troop – January to March 1959.

'Get your bloody haircut lad,' said the recruit troop sergeant to each boy on our first parade. Even though I had taken the precaution of having a civilian haircut two days earlier it cut no mustard with the instructors, so it was off to 'Geronimo's' for our first army-style short back and sides.

For many boys this was their first introduction to parade ground drill. Inevitably there were the poor lads who just couldn't get the hang of marching and swinging their arms in unison. Some took weeks to lose the habit of marching with their left foot and left arm, called 'duck marching'. But with lots of tender loving care administered by the ever-so-kindly drill instructors balling in their ears, soon had them marching in step with the rest of the squad. I have always loved parades and drill, nothing more satisfying than marching smartly and soldierly in a squad all marching in step. Thank you Yorkshire ACF for the initial training you gave me, it paid off and certainly got me through the first few weeks without too much trouble. There were a few unfortunate boys who didn't make the transition from home to the army. Many had never been away from home before and this manifested itself by hearing them crying in their beds during the first night; one poor lad even wet his bed. The boys who were obviously troubled were spotted very early on by the room corporal and reported to the troop office. They were dealt with very sympathetically and most recovered to join the rest of us, but the odd one or two were given a free discharge and sent home. We had one poor lad in our troop, I came across him later on, he recovered, rejoined the army when he was eighteen and went on to pass the world's toughest military course, that for the Special Air Service, SAS where he served with great distinction in the middle east. For some there was the sheer embarrassment of having to change in front of other boys for the first time. No good them hiding in their lockers for they were soon spotted, dragged out and stripped naked and ridiculed; what innocent fun we had in those days.

We were all smartly brought up to attention and on to the parade square came the recruit troop commander a very jovial officer, Captain JH Lane, accompanied by the Regimental Sergeant Major, WO1 Frederick James Pavey. Captain Lane had obviously read up on all of us and said a few words to us individually referring to his notes. He asked me if I had enjoyed my time with the ACF and would I be going on leave to Gibraltar where my father was posted; he had once served himself and had fond memories of 'The Rock'.

Next came the Commanding Officer of the Junior Leaders Regiment Royal Signals, Lt-Col. RE Baker, OBE, followed by the second in command and chief instructor, Major SF Dunkley, the Senior Education Officer, Major RW Nye, Royal Army Education Corps, Regimental Adjutant, Capt PS Davies, Drum Major and Provost Sergeant, Sgt AJ Yates. The Commanding Officer formally welcomed us to the Regiment. As Recruit Troop or 'R' Troop we had three months in which to pass basic military tests and for some, study for the Army Certificate of Education Third Class before we could be 'passed out' and assigned to one of the training squadrons and troops for the rest of our time in the Junior Leaders. The troop sergeants in my time in 'R' Troop were Sergeants Doucth and Tearse. If a boy failed to pass his third class education exam after a couple of attempts he could be given his discharge.

Captain Lane explained that a Junior Leader normally stays in the Regiment for about six terms, during which his military education will include military proficiency and trade training, further education, streamed according to the level he had already achieved at school, in order that a boy could eventually pass the Army First Class Certificate of Education qualifying him educationally for promotion up to Warrant Officer Class One and even a Commission later, physical fitness, initiative and leadership training. The aim of all of this training was to turn out a leader in his future Royal Signals requirements, be it in a technical grade, a wireless detachment, a radio-relay crew, a signal centre, field telephony, or other posts, with the confidence to lead others in their tasks.

So off we went to be turned into basic soldiers who could, fire and clean weapons, get round an assault course in the given time, march for miles, cook in the field, drill, drill and drill, do push-ups and pull-ups in the gym on the crossbar and run like the wind in very competitive cross-country running. I never experienced any form of what is now called "beasting" from any of the instructors. They got the high standards necessary to pass all the tests by intelligence and good leadership. When I had command myself I instantly dismissed any NCO who "beasted" and on that very day; soon put a stop to it.

There were three of us who were exempt education and were therefore assigned to one of the most important tasks for the Regiment – coal fatigues. So out of the back of a 'three ton' vehicle and under the eagle eye of an adult corporal from the quarter master stores, we filled sacks from the coal dump and delivered it to the many boiler rooms around the camp serving the central heating system. Those sacks of coal were very heavy but it kept us fit. The army, very thoughtfully gave us old leather jackets formerly worn by Royal Signals motorcycle despatch riders to protect our working clothes. Still didn't prevent heaps of coal dust getting down our necks. Luckily we finished before the others came back from their classes and we could have a wonderfully long lingering shower, usually alone, to clean ourselves up. Now those of you who were in my barrack room will now know why the water was cold when you came in sometimes.

Our first evenings were spent sorting out our clothing and getting our boots to the required high standard. First, how to get rid of the small bumps in the leather on our boots? We achieve this by heating the back of our spoon over a candle and then rubbing the hot spoon over the boot leather until it burned off the bumps and the leather could then be bulled and bulled and bulled. Bulling boots is an art handed down by British soldiers ever since the 'Ammunition' or 'Hobnailed boots' were first introduced. British army boots have traditionally always been black, however, during the army reforms of 1908, brown boots were recommended as better camouflage, although 'best' boots were always black. The Field Army of 1914 was issued with both colours but only black polish was provided to the troops, the brown boots were soon discarded.

The 'bulling' process starts with a nice clean yellow duster dipped in water or spat on, then dabbed in the black polish and then rubbed over your boots making circles as you go with additional water or spit until a glass-like finish is produced that will eventually please the sergeant major. Many tried other methods including that of alchemy or even black paint to achieve the desired shine on their boots, most with disastrous results on the next morning parade. When coming to attention all the material they had earlier applied fell off their boots onto the parade square; back to square one again. They soon returned to the traditional method of good old 'spit and polish.'

Now your boots had to be 'broken in' or 'softened'. Old soldiers tell of the technique of urinating on them, then emptying them out just before lights out, applying polish but do not buff or shine them till the morning. Never saw that method used myself, we just wore our boots and soaked and dried them. Fortunately my army cadet boots were already well worn in and kept me going for at least another year before I eventually grew out of them. Boots had to be laced up in a given fashion, known as the King's Tie or Lace. The tale told by our instructors was that if you did your laces the wrong way and a Ghurkha soldier crept up on you, he would feel for your boot laces to identify if you were a British soldier, if done up incorrectly he would immediately slit your throat, as you couldn't possibly be a British soldier.

Bed packs had to be ready each morning except Sundays and bank holidays, for inspection. They consisted of a blanket either side of two sheets, all enveloped by another blanket and the finished product had to be completely square. The pack was then laid on top of a blanket that had been tightly tucked into the mattress with hospital corners so that the inspecting sergeant could bounce a penny off it. However, if you obtained a roller towel you could make it look like two sheets and craftily made one blanket look like two you could make a false bed pack saving you the time in the morning of making a real one. But now and again you returned to your billet only to find that your false bed pack had been discovered and thrown all about the room.

Our individual bed spaces and the rest of our room had to be swept and cleaned, including the polishing of the centre lino, and the windows each morning before we went off to training. Every boy was given additional areas to clean such as the ablutions or outside areas. You soon discovered on returning to your room which item or items had not pleased the inspecting NCO, often they would be scattered around the room or an expletive written in dust on the windows. All had to be done again and re-inspected in the evening; taught you to do things right first time.

Chapter Seven
Denbury Camp

Our home for the next two years was Denbury Camp, south Devon. It was a wooden camp built on the site of an old aerodrome and completed in three months on the 15th August 1939, nineteen days before war was declared. The first occupants were the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who christened it Rawlinson Barracks, after General Sir Henry Rawlinson who served in the British Army in India, Sudan, and the South African War. He was the defender of Antwerp in the First World War and commanded the allied forces in Russia during the Bolshevik uprising.

The Dunkirk 'miracle' in the summer of 1940 saw men of many nationalities snatched from the jaws of death on the north French beaches at Dunkirk and rehabilitated at Denbury.

Sometime in 1942, the first of the 35,000 American troops who found a home there.

On nearby Dartmoor, Allied Forces trained and prepared themselves for D-Day. Causalities were high storming the Normandy beaches and Denbury became a hospital and rest centre for many of the injured.

With victory in Europe in 1945, Denbury changed from being a hospital and the wards were turned into classrooms for some 650 Women's Royal Army Corp. girls being trained to work with the Royal Signals.

They were followed by a contingent of Polish soldiers part of the famous 'Warsaw Guards Unit' who wisely decided not to return to Poland as it was now under Soviet occupation. The Poles are still remembered with great affection by many of the more mature locals in Denbury to this day for the significant contribution they made to clearing Dartmoor of live ammunition before they departed.

With the end of the war and mass demobilization, the barracks were earmarked for demolition but in 1947 it was discovered that the Royal Army Service Corp, RASC, needed a site and they took up residence for the next five years.

In the early 1950's Denbury became the Depot Regiment of the Royal Signals. Followed by the Royal Signals 6th (Boys) Training Regiment relocated from Beverley in Yorkshire. In April 1957 the 6th (Boys) became the Junior Leaders Regiment Royal Signals and eventually the camps name changed from Rawlinson to Denbury Barracks.

With the disbandment of the Junior Leaders Regiment in 1967, 47 Light Regiment, Royal Artillery (returning from Aden) moved in and finally left in about April 1969.

The camp was purchased in 1973 by the Home Office, who then set about demolishing it to make way for the its present use, Her Majesty's Prison Channings Wood.

The village of Denbury, after which the barracks were eventually named, is situated in South Devon, England, between Totnes and Newton Abbot, about ten miles from Torquay. It has spectacular views of Dartmoor and is overlooked by Denbury Down, site of an ancient Celtic Hillfort. It supports a population of about 300 households including outlying farms.

Our living accommodations, or barrack rooms, were known as 'Spiders'. In 1939 the camp boasted that its cookhouse was one of the most modern in the army at that time. With all the energy we burnt up each day, food was constantly on our minds. We had three square meals a day. The food was wholesome and nourishing. Strange but in those days I don't remember any fussy or faddy eaters or boys on a special diet; we just ate everything that came our way and we anxiously waited till the end of each meal sitting to see if any 'seconds' were to be had. One of two of the new boys was put on 'special rations' to build them up if the medical officer considered them underweight for their size. In true army fashion they even had a 'Chit', a form signed by the medical officer to this effect. The cookhouse was typical army, you queued up at one end of the hotplate and moved along with your tray and plates held out and were served with everything, your main meal, and pudding by the cooks under the ever-watchful eye of the head Cook. There was always a small choice to be had. It was an unwritten law that if you didn't like something on offer such as tinned tomatoes you took them anyway and offered to them to somebody else who did. Typically breakfast was either porridge or a cereal with hot or cold milk, one egg, one piece of bacon, one sausage, tinned tomatoes or baked beans, fried bread with toast, butter and marmalade, and tea or coffee. A junior NCO was always on duty to keep discipline and the Orderly Officer of the day, as part of his duties, and anxiously followed round by the Cook, always looked in and asked if their were any complaints. Most of us were far too busy eating to bother about complaints. It is reputed that one senior junior leader in his last week in boy service did ask an orderly officer, 'what was a boy soldier's meat ration for one meal?' The National Service orderly officer turned to the Army Catering Corps sergeant for the answer, which was something like two ounces.

'Why did you ask?' said the puzzled officer.

'Oh, that's alright then sir,' said the boy, 'because this Vienna steak weighs a ton.' Charged with insubordination, the boy was given four days extra duties in the evenings washing up pots and pans in the cookhouse. I expect he had been waiting for years to say that and did it in his last week with the Regiment.

Many people have asked me if boy service was like doing 'monastic service' like a monk. It most certainly was not; more like a nunnery as so many of us were still virgins. You shared a room with fourteen other boys, and whilst there were some you didn't get along with, most of us got on very well indeed. Firm friendships were made which still last to this day. We were not completely devoid of female company in camp if you counted the NAAFI girls, usually the wives or daughters of members of staff, the wife of the Church Army Major and the Women's Royal Voluntary Service officer, Mrs Kay Callington, who in her smart green uniform and hat, could regularly been seen walking up the camp main road. However, we were not permitted out of camp whilst in 'R Troop', so the sight of any female attracted much attention. The distractions and possible debauchery to be had from the nearby town of Newton Abbot and further a field, Torquay, still awaited us. During my time with the Junior Leaders, I cannot recall suffering any bullying from the adult staff or other boys other than that found in any school. The only 'disturbing' incident I can recall came from a newly posted in 'hooray Henry' National Service 2nd Lieutenant, who undertook our room inspection. Walking up the centre of the room he made a rather unfortunate comment that I know upset a lot of the other boys to the effect that 'given the homes most of you have come from, you boys have never lived in such cleanliness before.' This must have been reported up by one of our sergeants and within a couple of days I seem to remember seeing this officer ignominiously disappearing out of the camp on his three-wheel Bubble Car.

Whilst on the subject of National Service, as Britain's compulsory military service was called. Many, if not all of the Education Corps sergeants were recent university graduates, and other National Servicemen did most of the menial jobs around the camp. They were some of the last few young men to be called up as National Service, which formally ended on the 31st December 1960.

Chapter Eight
In Amongst the Training - April 1959

The end of March 1959 saw most of us successfully pass out of recruit training and move into a squadron and a troop. I joined No. 2 Squadron, commanded by Major JH Rothwell, our squadron sergeant major I recall had the very exotic name of Rodriquez, WO11, SM Rodriquez. I was put into Jerboa troop, which like all other troops had National Service officers commanding them. Ours was 2/Lt KLG Sheppard, known as 'Leftie'. I never found out why he was called that, he didn't appear to have left-wing political leanings and looked every inch a Tory. When he completed his two years service a 2/Lt Lundie replaced him.

Our troop sergeant was Staff Sergeant George Aven, a man never to be forgotten. He was known as 'Tash' due his luxuriant ginger moustache. He was a very nice man and is still held in great affection to this day by all of us that had the great privilege to know him. A Korean War veteran and a Linesman by trade he had constantly risked his life in that terrible Asian conflict laying cables and installing field telephones between front line units, usually in full view of the enemy. He seemed to possess the knack of detecting when something was wrong with a boy and went to great lengths to get to the bottom of it and sort it out; he was a tremendous influence on all of us. Alas, no longer with us but certainly never forgotten by us boys.

After passing out of recruit troop, we went on our first leave for three weeks and returned ready to start our training for our eventual move into adult service.

Junior Leaders training at that time was aimed at providing an all-round Signaller and Leader who, on entering adult service had a good level of education, was a 'trained soldier' and familiar with most of the trades in the Corps.

One of the problems the Corps faced was that by wearing the Royal Signals badge, other units and military arms always assumed you could maintain and operate any item of telecommunications equipment the military used. A typical problem was that a Linesman wasn't usually familiar with operating radio sets or teleprinters, and visa versa. However, our training in most of the trades of the Signals did come in handy when disgruntled senior officers demanded that their telephones be fixed immediately.

We started off by learning the basics of telecommunications and radio by getting to grips with, elementary electricity including, charging and maintenance of batteries, magnetism and Ohms law. Field telephony taught by 'Tash' Aven introducing us to the good old Tele 'H' and 'J', laying and repairing telephone cables, then Don 8 and Don 10 cables. Every Signalman should know basic radio voice procedure and the Phonetic alphabet. Our initial introduction to the military radio was done on old World War Two No. 19 sets manufactured by W. G. Pye and Co. Ltd of Cambridge which had been developed mainly as a field mobile, medium range, wireless communications for the armoured units. It was designed with a range of ten miles using voice communication or fifteen for Morse, but with a Half-Wave Enfed copper aerial, and under certain atmospheric conditions, Morse communication could be made as far as New Zealand and we often passed dummy messages to a New Zealand signals training unit and indeed many other countries; Norway I seem to remember often came on the air to exchange messages. Considerable time was also spent learning and practising the Morse code and telegraph procedure. Sometimes the barrack rooms of an evening sounded like beehives as boys chatted away to each other on portable battery operated Morse buzzers. Next came one of the most useful things I learnt in the Junior Leaders, the ability to type properly using all fingers and both thumbs. The teleprinter wing was run by a Sergeant Rose, always known as 'Rosie, a Channel Islander and a very funny man I seem to remember. We were also taught the organisation and the workings of a Signal Centre, message procedure and message forms. To this day I am still able to type at sixty words per minute on a computer keyboard much to the utter astonishment of the younger generation and some of the secretaries I have had the good fortune to work for me.

Royal Signals Trades in the early 1960s were split into three groups:

It was in our last term in the Junior Leaders that our actual 'Trade' would be allocated and then we concentrated on that solely until we finally left to join one of the regular army training regiments. When we joined the training regiments, we were first tested and normally excused from doing the first part of the course as a result of our valuable JLR training.

As originally promised at the recruiting office, I was selected to be a Telegraph Operator, an 'A' trade. Some of the Royal Signals trades, such as the technicians and mechanics, which with a 'Sandwich-type' course at the local Polytechnic, a City and Guilds or High National Diploma could be gained. Many of the Linesmen's jobs were recognised by the then General Post Office, GPO, now BT, and the trade unions, but many of our trades were not. The highest level of professional radio operating available in Britain at that time was the Merchant Navy Radio Officer's course which, on completion you were given a professional qualification. With the help of the Education Corps in the JLR, I was able to study for this exam by Correspondence Course, paid for by the Amy. I eventually, again at the Amy's expense, attended the Merchant Navy's training college at Cowlyn Bay, Wales, and passed the exam after I had left the JLR. A qualification that was to later serve me well when I gained the position as Radio Officer to the Port of London Authority.

Another event that caused great excitement in the summer of 1959 was the announcement on Regimental Daily Orders that we could purchase 'Regimental Undress'. Only the British Army could concoct such a name for what were 'official civilian clothes'. The announcement went on to say that the very posh London naval and military tailors Gieves and Hawkes of No. 1 Savile Row would be attending camp during the summer to measure up those that wished to buy the blue blazer, cord trousers, shirt and brown suede 'Chukka' boots. The cost of the new outfit came to either £13 or £20, depending on choice of material and could be paid for over a period of ten to twelve months. A good idea but of course it was just like wearing military uniform in the locality of the camp, it soon immediately identified us as Junior Leaders. When I first went home dressed in my new very posh civilian clothes my mother thought I had been made an officer cadet.

We now had some smart civilian clothes and with as much as a ten-shilling note, 50 pence today, in our pocket we were ready for weekend forays to such exotic places as nearby Newton Abbot and further afield, Torquay, the English Riviera.

Now money or pay as it is called in the army, reminds me of another army ritual that we performed, 'Pay Parade.' Held weekly at ten in the morning, on a Thursday, if I remember correctly. All the regiment would be paraded in a large drill shed usually reserved for parade drill on wet days. At a long table sat the days Orderly Officer who was responsible for doling out our pay according to the Pay Corps corporal sitting at his side with the Pay Ledger. Names were called out either alphabetically or in reverse order on alternate pay days.

When you name and number was called out you came smartly to attention, marched up to the table, came to attention and said your name and number. The pay corporal then told the officer how much you were to be paid and he counted it out. You took you money saluted, did an about turn and marched off the parade, usually straight to the NAAFI to start spending it. If you or your barrack room had barrack damages lodged against you that was deducted from your pay.

One pay parade a senior boy, a rough, tough character had been put on a charge the week before and his squadron commander sentenced him to a week's detention in the guardroom cells and substantial barrack damages deducted from his pay. When the pay corporal read out the reduced amount of his pay for the week it only came to two shillings and six pence, twenty-five pence today. The boy picked up the money and then just sauntered away from the table. The duty sergeant, always in attendance called him over and reprimanded him for not saluting the officer when he left the table. The boy's reply was, 'what the f**ck do you expect for half a crown the f**king Royal Tournament.' He was swiftly and in double quick time marched off back to the guardroom. He got another two weeks in a guardroom cells and hard duties; hard duties were bloody hard. That boy later went on to great things in the Special Air Services, SAS Regiment and only a severe leg injury prevent him from becoming their commanding officer.

Chapter Nine
Adventures out of Camp

Although the Junior Leaders' Regiment Royal Signals no longer exists, it has left one enduring legacy to the youth of Britain and the world that is the annual 'Ten Tors Expedition' on Dartmoor. Originally Ten Tors was the Regiments own training exercise. In 1960 the then commanding officer, Lt-Col LMH Gregory MBE, opened it up to other youth organisations from all over the world and except for a couple of years when severe weather conditions and Foot and Mouth disease caused it to be cancelled, it has been held each year in mid-September.

The first public Ten Tors was held on the 15th/16th September 1960 with 203 participants. The entrants are split into patrols of ten, set off from Hay Tor to cover a fifty-mile, eighty Kilometres, course of ten tors in thirty-six hours. Dartmoor has many tors so it is not the same route each year. For a team to be successful very high standards in map reading combined with endurance, fitness and initiative are required. Carrying their own food and equipment, the patrols set off at seven in the morning. Between ten pm and six am they have to camp, no marching is allowed during the night. The course finishes at Denbury Camp and a medal is awarded to each team of ten that has completed the course in the allotted time.

The Ten Tors Expedition is not for the faint-hearted as Dartmoor with its three hundred square miles of moss, peat and heather and hard granite, can be very unforgiving for those that do not take great care, particularly when visibility is reduced to zero when the mist and fog suddenly rises in the early morning.

As Dartmoor was the regiment's usual training ground we did not take part in this event but provided the backup organisation and manpower. We manned each of the tors on the course with radio sets and reported the time each team checked in and stamped the team's route card. The radio's working back to base at Denbury Camp, also provided emergency cover and assistance if required. We also provided safety teams who covered the whole route and could be called in for immediate assistance and even navy helicopters for emergency medical evacuation if the need required it.

After two years of trudging over this magnificent wilderness you can soon identify the individual tors and features and can navigate in clear weather without consulting your map. Indeed when on our own adventurous training on Dartmoor, especially during the winter months, it was not uncommon to come across other military units undertaking endurance test who were hopelessly lost. We just loved to point into the distance and say very confidentially, 'see that building over there, that's Two Bridges which has a pub, a telephone and a regular bus service,' and we would then very cockily drift away in another direction. The world famous Royal Marines, who constantly use Dartmoor for arduous training, usually rewarded our detailed navigational assistance with a hearty, but illegal, swing of navy rum, called 'sippers' or 'gulpers', I can never remember which, and a few welcome cigarettes.

The highest Tor, peak or summit, is Yes Tor, over 2,000 feet above sea level. The best-known peak is North Hessary Tor that overlooks Princetown and the famous Dartmoor Prison, and is the location of the B.B.C.'s Television transmitter for the West of England. Other Tors have very practical names such as, Vixen Tor, Fox Tor, Hawks Tor or Sheep Tor and the more intriguing Great Miss Tor or Little Miss Tor: never found any girls there when we stopped for a rest.

The other major international event some 150 us of us took part in 1960 was the annual Nijmegen Marches in Holland during July and August. The Junior Leaders' provided eight patrols consisting of twelve individuals, officers, Sergeants and boys plus the Regimental Band and Drums to proudly march us through the town of Nijmegen on the last day. The Marches consist of marching 25 miles each day for four days in a different direction each day. They culminate on the last day with a march past through Nijmegen with our Band and banner flying proudly at the front, to the cheers and applause of the locals and thousands of visitors and supporters from abroad, and then being presented with a medal by the Dutch Queen or a member of the Royal Family.

Reveille each morning was six-thirty am except for the first morning when we started marching at four-thirty am. The Dutch army cooks supplied meals for the military contingents with breakfast consisting of bread and cheese, raw tomatoes and tea or coffee. The evening meal was usually a delicious heavy stew and an orange. We were all very impressed by the sheer quantity of meat we were dished out until one of the sergeants told us it was in fact horse meat; first time most of us had every tasted it, but it got scoffed down believe me. In the 1960 event the Junior Leaders Regiment made a very special contribution to the Marches, firstly for being the largest contingent from any single regiment and secondly for our multi-coloured hats called Balaclavas, which were in great demand by girl soldiers, especially the Israeli army girls I seem to remember. Many of us returned back to the UK and told the quartermaster that we had had them stolen whilst we were marching. I'm afraid our story cut no ice with such an old soldier who had been with Monty at El Alamein. Heard it all before, and we had to buy new ones. Just think there is now a lady in her mid-sixties in Tel Aviv or Jaffa with a green woollen Jerboa troop Balaclava hanging on her wall who could, very impressively, dismantle and reassemble a BREN Gun, a well-known machine gun, and fire a magazine full or rounds in less than one minute.

Our evenings in Holland were free and in a more liberal society than the UK, we could get away with drinking beers in the cafés. There were also dances but our feet were far too sore to 'Rock and Roll' or 'Jive'; the next morning's marching was mostly done in silence as we walked our hangovers off. On one of the days we approached a rest centre when suddenly out leapt four of the most gorgeous blonde German junges Mädchen, young girls, and sprayed us with 4711, Eau De Cologne. Being in the front rank and in the middle I had my photograph taken with two of these girls who's ample breasts came level with my ears, they were very tall girls indeed. One of these photographs reached my local newspaper the Bognor Regis Observer, which caused much comment from my very religious father. It was no good me asking these girls for their phone numbers, way out of my league; I do believe the adult sergeants may have had more success.

I should explain about our very popular colourful Balaclavas. In the previous August it was announced that Balaclavas will replace our Service Dress, SD, hats, which were very uncomfortable and hard to keep on our heads in a gust of wind. The Regiment, it stated in the announcement, will therefore be appearing in 'gay, it was a good word in those days, colourful Balaclavas, each troop will have an individually coloured one, mine was green. Officers wore white ones with a coloured Pom-Pom denoting their troop designation. The adult sergeants and warrant officers wisely kept to their standard British Army berets. We anxiously waited for them to be issued and on the first parade to see what the RSM looked like in one. Alas we were disappointed as he retained his dignity and the very smart officers peaked hat, which he had worked so very hard to earn. I do remember him grinning as he saw the looks on our faces. He did however wear one when on adventurous training with us. Our SD hats were temporarily retired to the top of our lockers and only worn on formal Parades and Ceremonial occasions.

In May 1960, sad news reached us in the camp that a tragic accident had happened. One of our Bedford trucks containing twenty-three Junior Leaders overturned on a bridge near a Devon village called Modbury. Eleven boys were so seriously injured that they were retained in hospital. As the local newspaper reported at the time;

"…a three-ton Army lorry carrying 23 members of the Junior Leaders' Regiment, Royal Signals, of Denbury, near Newton Abbot, struck the parapet of Sequers Bridge by Flete Eastern Lodge on the Plymouth-Kingsbridge road late on Saturday night then mounted a bank and dived into a field fifteen feet below.

As the lorry struck the ground it somersaulted throwing several of the boys out of the back. A fleet of six ambulances from Plymouth, Plympton and the Royal Naval Hospital, Stonehouse, Plymouth was called and took all the occupants back to Plymouth, where eleven were detained at the Royal Naval Hospital. The remainder were sent back to their unit after first-aid treatment for minor cuts, bruises and shock.

The owner of Flete Eastern Lodge Mr AI Coleman a retired civil servant and former First World War Subaltern in the Devon's was extremely helpful in allowing his home to be used as a temporary medical reception until the ambulances arrived…

In the December Graduation Parade, Junior Regimental Sergeant Major Ronald Butcher was justly awarded the 'Queen Commendation For Brave Conduct'. The award cited,

'…in recognition of his taking control and maintaining order and his help in organising relief, despite receiving a facial injury requiring one hundred and twenty stitches. At an age of less than eighteen he displayed inspiring courage and fortitude...'

Chapter Ten
Further Adventures out of Camp – It Gets Worse

One of the first things I noticed when I first settled in and made friends, was the difference in maturity amongst the other boys, although we were all roughly the same age, 15 or 16 years old. Some, including myself, didn't need to shave for another year at least but others were very hirsute and shaved every day. Some spoke of girlfriends and long standing relationships, others of us 'virginal' boys just listened in awe not having had much to do with girls in any romantic way before. One or two had revealing photographs and letters to prove their prowess with the girls. Clearly there were lessons to be learnt by some of us when we were allowed out in civilian clothes. At first we didn't reckon girls would want to meet us in our uniforms; oh, how wrong we were.

Saturday mornings in camp usually consisted of a parade of the entire Regiment to practice drill for a forthcoming ceremonial event such as the Queen's Birthday Parade, a visit by the Colonel in Chief, or a high-ranking officer from the Ministry of Defence or the Signals Officer in Chief. When, and only when, the RSM was entirely satisfied with the standard of turnout and drill we were finally dismissed to have the rest of the Saturday to ourselves.

One Sunday a month was a compulsory church parade that completely ruined the rest of that weekend. A very few who lived close enough would make it home by hitchhiking or thumbing lifts in uniform. Those were the days when motorists readily stopped and gave soldiers, sailors and airmen in uniform lifts and quite often would go out of their way to do so.

Our first formative outings were to the nearby town of Newton Abbott. The first place to stop after walking into the town was 'The Cider Bar' in East Street. Again differences in maturity came up again as some boys could pass for 18 and be served a drink without question and others not. You had to test the barman first to find out. Took some time before I could get away with it. When you did it was the 'Scrumpy' that did you in. Scrumpy is the local cider a very strong alcoholic drink made from apples, raisins, raw meat, champagne yeast and water and matured for about a year. For those not used to it, two pints would be enough; and so it was for us. However, the walk back to camp usually sobered us up but not always as the adult guard commander on a Saturday night would be on the lookout for intoxicated boys. It depended on his benevolence whether you were reported or not; we had to sign in and out of camp and were inspected before being let out. Only once did I get caught and spent two nights in the guardroom cells and brought in front of the squadron commander on the Monday morning. As I had a completely clean conduct sheet I got off with just a severe warning.

Although we were Junior Leaders we were in the British Army proper and subject to the full rigours of Military Law. We could be formally 'Charged' for offences and punishment doled out by an officer. Some offences could require a Junior Leader to spend fourteen days in the guardroom cell, which was no fun – believe me, and I only did one night. For more serious criminal offences a Junior Leader was referred to a civil Juvenile Court and if convicted immediately discharged from the Army. Ironically at one time young men of fifteen or so coming before a magistrate could be given the choice of Borstal, a young offenders prison, or the British Army's Boy service.

In the evenings whilst 'bulling' our boots, the more senior boys told us many apocryphal stories about what awaited us outside the camp gates. These stories ranged from telling us that we will be far too young to attract any girls to a thousand vestal virgins were waiting for us on every street corner; appetites were well and truly whetted.

Weekend trips took us to places like Torquay, known as the Riviera of England or to the city of Exeter. Surely this bustling seaside resort and major West Country cathedral city offered far superior temptations than the country town of Newton Abbott for eager young men. Unfortunately on our meagre pay and after paying out for barrack damages, toiletries, extra meals in the NAAFI or the Church Army and cigarettes, we didn't possess the kind of money required by the young girls kindly offering 'French Lessons' on discreet postcards displayed in the newsagents shops. However, there were many 'not so young girls' who would have been delighted to introduce us into the pleasure of the flesh for nothing, indeed treat us to fish and chips. Some lads I know cultivated the more mature ladies visiting Torquay alone in the summer months. In one case after two or three assignations the lady brought him out of the Army to help her in her greengrocery shop in Warrington. I expect he knows his 'onions' by now.

Chapter Eleven
In-Camp Hobbies and Entertainment

There were many and varied hobbies for us to pursue on Wednesday afternoons which were designated for sports or at weekends or in the evenings. They ranged from:

Farming. There was a small farm on the camp run by Staff Sergeant 'Tash' Aven and assisted by Junior Signalman Keith Greenhaulgh who slept opposite me.

Cooking. I enthusiastically joined this hobby that remained very popular indeed as you can imagine. Became a godsend later on when as part of a small team in a foreign land and up to no good with somebody else's telephone lines, you had the rare chance of making a hot meal if you couldn't cook something edible out of nothing you were in danger of being savagely beaten up, particularly if you gave them all food poisoning.

A Choir. Afraid when nature eventually sent me my male equipment she cruelly took away my boys soprano voice. 'Tone deaf and a musical cripple,' well something like that retorted the choirmaster after my audition. My mother was none too pleased when I told her this as I used to sing with her in the choir at King's Chapel in Gibraltar; life's a bitch some times.

Band, Pipes and Corps of Drums. Didn't we just love it when one of our roommates decided to join the band and became a bugler? Some mornings and right in your ear he would blow Reveille. Fabulous! Cheeky devil would still be in his bed and would just open the windows and blow out. OK, it was cold in Devon in the winter.

Canoeing and Sailing. Enjoyed mucking about in canoes on the River Dart when we could in the summer but sailing appeared to be such hard work.

Rugby. The Royal Signals Corp main sport; you got on well in the Royal Signals if you could play at a high enough standard.

Hockey, football, rugby, cricket and boxing. Played football and cricket for the squadron. Joined in with the boxing team for the training only just to keep fit. I should have known better. I was told by my old-soldier grandfather never to volunteer. Alas one day I was 'ordered' to stand in for the regimental lightweight who was in the sick bay with some unmentionable disease. We were taking on the Royal Engineers, just my luck that their lightweight was the Southern Area junior champion. I remember the bell going and storming into the centre of the ring squaring up to him just as I had seen Tommy Farr do in the cinema. 'It looked so impressive,' said our sergeant major, 'I really thought you were going to give him a real boxing lesson,' he said after the contest in that deprecating way only sergeant majors can do. I have no recollection of the first and only punch of the contest hitting me squarely on the jaw; apparently I went down on the canvas with good grace and some semblance of dignity. Incidentally, Tommy Farr was one of the most famous British boxers of all time. Nicknamed "the Tonypandy Terror", he became British and Empire heavyweight champion in March 1937. On 30 August 1937 he fought world heavyweight champion Joe Louis at the height of his powers at Yankee Stadium, New York City; gaining much respect despite losing a points decision over 15 rounds. Louis, arguably one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, had knocked out 8 of his last 9 opponents and proceeded to knock out his next 7, but was unable to do the same to Farr. Pity I couldn't have followed his example.

Chapter Twelve
Graduation, Disbandment and Subsequent Resurrection

After two years at the Junior Leaders Regiment and nearing 17-1/2 years old it was time to leave. However, we all left the Junior Leaders in some style with a passing out parade that we will never ever forget. The proudest moment of your life and something you put you heart and soul into to make sure you got it right. By now we had been drilling for two years and knew most of the British Army's drill manual off by heart. We had uniforms that had been pressed with creases that would cut bacon and boots that would have put the Guards to shame. So on Wednesday 14th December 1960, with 360 Junior Leaders on parade plus 81 of us that were leaving, paraded on the hallowed parade ground at Denbury Barracks for the very last time as Boy soldiers and marched off as men into Colour Service. A Major-General AE Morrison, CB, OBE, was the Reviewing Officer. Of all the other military parades covering some forty years that I was on or even commanded, none came anywhere near the thrill that this one did.

Sadly in June 1966 the mandarins in the government decided that the system of training boy soldiers in the Royal Signals would be changed and that there was a need to increase the number of 'A' Class Tradesmen being trained for the Royal Signals at the Army Apprentices College at Harrogate. At the same time it was considered that as the Royal Signals was a technical corps and finds many of its Warrant Officers and NCOs from the Apprentices College, there could be no justification for the Junior Leaders Regiment at Denbury and it should be possible to secure the required number of 'B' Class Tradesmen from adult recruits.

A disbandment parade was held on 10th August 1967 and the Junior Leaders who hadn't graduated into man service moved to the Army Apprentice College Harrogate to complete their boy service training. Those already selected for Technician and Telegraph Operator training moved to Harrogate earlier in 1967.

The Army Apprentices School, Harrogate (AAS Harrogate), established in 1947, was sited either side of Penny Pot Lane, outside of Harrogate in Yorkshire. The School was renamed the Army Apprentices College, Harrogate (AAC Harrogate) in 1966 (in line with other such establishments) and thus remained so until the mandarins struck again and it too closed its doors after the Final Graduation Parade on 2 August 1996.

Now the Royal Signals had no junior soldiers under training and it very quickly became noticable in the additional costs the Ministry of Defence incurred training tradesman straight from adults; we boys and apprecentices cost half as much to train and generally stayed in the Army much longer; good value for the tax-payers money. They had also conventiently forgotten that although the school leaving age had by now risen to sixteen, one of the reasons they used to close the boys service down, many Junior Leaders had also enlisted at sixeteen for many years past, their was always a waiting list to join.

However, common sense prevailed and just two years later somebody at the Ministry of Defence had the brilliant idea that taking in youngsters into the army as soon as they left school was a good idea so in 1998 the Army Foundation College, AFC, Harrogate was opened where school leavers between the ages of 16 and 17 are offered a unique opportunity to 'learn as you earn', thorough first class military training and vocational education to give boys and now girls a head start in their army career. I scratch my now greying head in puzzlement and think to myself, 'this Army Foundation College sounds very much like the objectives of the Junior Leaders and the Apprentices school to me'. What do you think?

Chapter Thirteen
What did Boy Service do for me?

If I were permitted only one choice it would be "Respect". Respect for other people, their property and their well being.

Respect is something that sadly seems to be in such short supply in today's world. Living cheek-by-jowl with fourteen other boys in a barrack room for two years you just had to have respect for each other or life would have been so miserable. Yes, we had our fights and disagreement but we soon learnt to get over those.

Next would come personal discipline. If you promise to be somewhere or to do something for somebody by a certain time, do it. If you cannot for very good reasons tell them in good time.

Black shoes, even in civilian clothes they should always be shiny, just something that never leaves you. Those toe caps just have to be bulled. Well you never know; you may meet your old sergeant major on Victoria Station one evening and he wouldn't half let you have it if your shoes were not up to standard, and you would have to buy him a few pints at least; happened to me once.

Forgiveness, even when a very famous British Army general, in the middle of a very chilly night in Norway, casually opens up the rear door of his field caravan and urinates all over you. I was quietly slumbering in my warm sleeping bag outside of his caravan waiting to take my shift on the NATO command radio network. He did apologies most profusely in the morning putting the blame squarely at the door of the chief of the Norwegian Army for his lavish entertainment the night before. The general was none other than, "Farrar the Para" or, General Sir Anthony Heritage Farrar-Hockley, KCB, DSO and Bar, MC, when he was NATO Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Northern Europe. The staff officers who worked closely with him called him, Horror-F**kley". He was always kind to me, he had to be, I was in charge of his communications team. He was also very chatty when the radio networks were silent. Told me that he had also been a boy soldier. At the beginning of the Second World War, at the age of fifteen he ran away from his school in Exeter and joined the Gloucestershire Regiment until he was discovered and discharged. He had to wait until 1941 to reenlist.

Team player. In the army you just have to be a good team player or you personally don't survive. As part of a platoon or troop you have to rely on others to play their part, if they don't the whole systems collapses. Leadership. The ability to take charge and give clear concise orders others can follow. Well, we were trained as Junior Leaders.

Welfare and well being of the people you are commanding or in charge of. Take the time and trouble to ensure the problems encountered by those serving under you are promptly dealt.

The End

Annex One.

Military Experience Opportunities Open to Adults and Teenagers Today.

The Territorial Army

Established in 1907 by Army reformer R B Haldane, the Territorial Army (TA) was at the time Britain's response to the continental concept of "a nation in arms". Originally known as the Territorial Force, people across the country were asked to give up their time to help in "homeland defence".

And they did - in there thousands. Dozens of regiments were formed and in 1921, such was the gravitas placed on the volunteers that they changed their name from a Force to an Army. So, the Territorial Army was born.

Strength. Over the years successive governments have increased and decreased numbers depending on policy, politics and war commitments, but the force has remained and is still a strong one today. There are currently more than 40,000 members of the TA, making up a quarter of the total strength of the British Army.

One regular Army officer who works with TA units said the old "Dad's Army" image of the volunteers was a thing of the past. Most people join up for the challenge. We get people from a complete range of professions, everything from vicars to people earning serious money in the City. "The TA is a very important part of the Army and I think it's seen as that these days."

Sign-up. Britain is one of a very few countries to retain a permanent volunteer army. British TA soldiers have played a vital role in the war in the Balkans and the Gulf and are currently deployed in many of the more than 80 countries their regular counterparts are in.

To join the TA you must be:

You do not need to have any academic qualifications.

Pay. When attending training, officers earn from £30.27 to £130.33 a day while soldiers collect between £27.29 and £64.69.

Period of Service. The minimum period of service is three years and the number of days required each year to serve are 27 for members of most units, 19 for specialist units.

The 1998 Strategic Defence Review made it a requirement that TA volunteers are liable to be called out to operate alongside regular forces though both the volunteer and their employer may seek exemption.

The Army Cadet Force

The Army Cadet Force(ACF) is the British Army's youth organisation that offers progressive training in a multitude of the subjects from military training to adventurous training and first aid, at the same time as promoting achievement, discipline, and good citizenship, to boys and girls aged 12 to 18 year old and 9 months. Its affiliated organisation, the Combined Cadet Force provides similar training within various schools. It has connections to the training of the British Army.

Although sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and being very similar in structure and activity, the ACF is not a branch of the British Armed Forces, and as such cadets are not subject to military 'call up'. A proportion of cadets do, however, go on to enlist in the armed forces in later life, and many of the organisation's leaders - formally termed 'Cadet Force Adult Volunteers', or informally 'Adult Instructors' - come from a previous cadet service or military background.

The ACF can trace its beginnings back to 1859, when it was formed in order to prepare youths to enlist in the army in anticipation of an invasion by the French. It remained in existence after no invasion materialised, thanks in part to the influence of pioneer social worker Octavia Hill, because of its positive benefits on youths. The ACF is a registered charity.

A young person can join the ACF at age 12 and 9 months. Training begins with a short Induction interview with the Detachment Commander, followed by a tour and introduction by a Senior Cadet. The new recruit is assimilated into the training immediately, but it can take between 1 to 12 months to be issued a uniform and be fully inducted into the unit. Some counties have Basic Training Cadres; where recruits from each detachment attend a weekend camp, and are tested in BTC knowledge and eligiblity to become a cadet.

Throughout their time through ACF, they move through the Army Proficiency Certificate star system, which allows the cadets to learn the following activities listed below. After they have taken the skill to a certain level, they take a test. When they have completed that star levels requirements, they move up. Each star level allows cadets to be promoted through the NCO ranks.

Cadets are taken through the basic and one-star syllabus of the APC, including Drill, Shooting, Fieldcraft, Map and Compass, Military Knowledge, Expedition training, First Aid, Skill at Arms, and Cadet in the Community. Each year a two-week annual camp is held at a army camp where the training and skills learnt at the detachment are exercised and tested.

Annex Two.

Acknowledgements and Further Information.

Very special thanks to the following three ex-Junior Leaders and their Web Sites for the kind use of their material.

Tony Gask.

John Thompson.

Steve Wright.

Further information on the Royal Corps of Signals can be found on the following Web sites:

The Royal Corps of Signals Web Site.

The Royal Corps of Signals Museum:

Royal Signals Association:


Clive Fletcher: Posted on this website 10th March 2015