Army Recruitment: Fantasy versus Reality

When I was a very young lad all I wanted to do was join the army. I grew up in Woolwich and my father was mates with a few of the artillery guys there and I always thought that I wanted to be "just like them." As I said, I was young and arguably very stupid.

Not only did I want to be in the army, I very specifically wanted to be in the Army Air Corps and fly helicopters. Of all my ridiculous adolescent fantasies this was easily the most far-fetched, even more so than my aspiration to get to sleep with Debbie Harry. Reading the glossy army brochures I decided that I would join as a junior Air Trooper before being spotted as a future aviation genius. Then I would fly around in my big green helicopter and Pull Birds (funnily enough, depsite this interest I never, even for a moment, considered joining the RAF at that time, mainly because I knew I was too thick to pass the officer selection).

Anyway, I went down to the army recruitment office where the sergeant, a kindly Ulster Signaller, cruelly fed my fantasy of becoming the Tom Cruise of Middle Wallop. Similarly, my mate who was determined to be a paratrooper, was also encouraged by this evil, khaki-clad pied-piper. To cut a long story short I ended up at Sutton Coldfield.

After the two days of physicals and written tests I was ushered in to see an ancient LE Green Howards major wearing immaculate barrack dress and a hangdog expression.

"Right....hmmm young mister Vegetius let's see your results."

The anticipation!

"AAC? Look, I'll be honest; looking at your written test results I think it's fair to say that we wouldn't trust you to put fuel in a fcuking helicopter, let alone eventually fly one."

I put my ability to stoically take bad news down to this experience, but at the time I was pretty upset in a fifteen-year-old-way.

"Now, that's not to say we won't let you join the army," said the elderly Green Howard, "we'll offer you the infantry or artillery."


"Now, you don't want to join the infantry. I did it for twenty-five years and it's all about walking everywhere and digging holes."

He drew a large cross next to the "infantry" box.

"But the artillery get to drive everywhere and dig fewer holes. I think you'd make an excellent gunner, OK?"

I nodded dumbly and found myself at Bramcote six months later, leaving shortly afterwards due to one of the most epic career miscalculations of my entire life.

My mate the "para" ended up as an army bricklayer I kid you not.

So, what did you all want to do in the army as opposed to what you ended up doing? I couldn't even make bowser mong!

I wanted to join the Royal Signals J/L's at Harrogate - not because i was interested in comms in any way, but a mate was doing it.

In a conversation very similar to Vegs', in which i said yes Sir and No Sir alot, the LE Officer informed me that there were no places left at Harrogate and that i wasnt suited to the Royal Signals anyway. It was decided that i would be interviewed again at the ACIO later to try and sort out a job for me.

Home i went, expecting a call back for an interview but 4 weeks later, joining instructions turned up for Harrogate, that was in 89, and i'm still here.

vegetius your story could have been mine only i went straight to woolwich and eventually ended up on the cp via mt, op's and M.c.t.c
I too wanted to be in the AAC but failed the hearing test. I then thought 'RCT air dispatch, that's the one for me, lots of flying around in hercs and dropping stuff out of the back'. I ended up a bog standard driver after a year in the JLR RCT\RAOC at Colerne.
Thats strange...I wanted to be a bog standard driver but failed the pie eating test. I then thought 'AGC, that's the one for me, lots of sitting around in the cookhouse and gobbing off obout my para wings. I ended up a lean-mean-killing-machine after a year in Sennybridge.
When I joined I wanted to be Frank!

They wouldn't let me, said the job was filled.

So I asked to become a "steely eyed dealer of death". They said there was no call for them anymore.

I ended up bleeping for a living.
I had no idea what I wanted to do once I joined up – I just knew I wanted to join up. There was no Internet and no ARRSE to ask question about what I needed to do to join up so the first step was the recruiting office, which had a REME recruiting Sergeant. He said to me "REME is for you my lad, go for REME"

Who or what the feck are REME I asked myself on the way out of the office -and finding no answer I asked my cousin who was in the Guards. He told me that REME Vehicle Mechanic was a cushy job, not too much walking and digging holes there. His other bit of advice was that once I was at Sutton Coldfield I should not be deterred from being REME or a VM under any circumstances. – "They will try to trick you into doing something you don’t want to do" he sagely informed me. The trouble was I didn’t really want to be a VM but I had these two real life, marchy up and downy, able to use firearms soldiers giving me this great advice – and for free.

So fully clued up off I went to Sutton Coldfield to become a VEME RM (or something like that any way)

After the two days of physicals and written tests I was ushered in to see an ancient LE major wearing immaculate barrack dress and a hangdog expression. ( He came off the same off the same production line for ancient LE Majors with hangdog expressions as Veg’s)

"Right....hmmm young mister BlackHand let's see your results. REME VM – what do you want to do that for? – That’s not for you my lad. You learned Russian for five years in school and even managed a O level, so we want to go into the Int Corps"

Ahh the tricky bit !! My cousin was right!!

"Errr… I don’t really know Sir what’s this ‘Int Corps’ thing?

‘We will send you to school and train you as an interpreter – much better for you and much better for us’

Now, two things ran through my mind at this point. The first was – the tricky, tricky old bustard and the second was the word ‘school’. Having only just escaped the place I had no intention of gracing a classroom for a long while. It never occurred to me I would have to grace the classrooms of Borden to become a VM (unlike Veg who was young and arguably stupid I was young and undeniably stupid)

‘Much rather be a VM Sir’ says I.

"Very well. Off you go to be grubby and smell of DERV for the rest of your life" He says (or words to that effect).

As he stamped my file his parting words to me were

‘That’s all. Send the next man in’

A week later I was in Arborfield, well on my way to the start of an illustrious career of being grubby and smelling of DERV.
There I was standing looking into the auditorium at the " Opportunities Fair " trying to decide what to do with my life [ too late, of course ]..all long[ish] hair, bell bottom trousers and chin pubes..when my eye was torn between watching the nerd in the white shirt, thin tie and pocket protector feed data entry cards into a computer faster than a Las Vegas card shark could deal you a Joker, going on about how computers one day would be in every house just like TV's and that you wouldn't have to punch cards just type like on a typewriter, but not for long cause they would soon be just like dictaphones..say something and ' voila '..all you needed to do was go technical college and learn to ' speak ' to computers with the new languages of COBOL an FORTAN..etc.. nutbar left me his card.. Bill something or other..the other 'dsitraction ' was a long haired tie dyed and beaded, braless jiggly young woman hustling for some University where they would make me a complete person if I opted to study " The Humanities ".. Comparative Basketweaving " and " Leftist Philosophies as Typified in Ants ", or something but nothing about how to get into her pants..
when I felt a tap on my shoulder and this tall guy dressed as a bus driver suggested that I had could get an education, and implied, the girl, too..all for free.. well, at government expense..

sign up to serve my country, I'd get my education paid for, get paid while studying, get a nifty doorman's suit, just like his, and only have to ' commit' to 5 years ' service' when done to repay the taxpayers for floating my education..

Tell me more, says I..Do I get to carry a gun and shoot people?.. Well, Canada's Combined Services are there to ' protect ' and are seen as ' peacekeepers' around the world.. actually killing people unless really, really provoked after they won't attend reconciliation and sensitivity sessions or agree to arbitration and mediation, then yeah, maybe we'd have to like, maybe, wing them in the little finger or something, but we'd never shoot to kill, just like the Lone Ranger, only wound them so they could be brought to justice later..

Okay, says I.. Free education, paid to go to school, natty green suit and helping the could there ever be a downside?

Well..years of mindless toil, thousands of paper cuts, empty promises of action and opportunity and empowerment later..and the continual ' deferment' of financial support for upgrades and new technologies..finally opened my eyes to the reality of service to Her Majesty in was just like the recruiter promised...all implication and no possibility of ever shagging the girl..
i tried to join the Regs and the TA, failed due to hearing, instead got diverted to the ACF :lol:

possibly a blessing in disguise considering what has been going on re: Gulf, Afghanistan, Pension and Pay issues and getting royally screwed by the Govt left right and cantre.

in spite of all this i would still be willing serve my country, even in a small way by encouraging the youths to become good citizens and maybe become future warriors. perhaps it was meant to be. :)
Went for Junior Para because I had this book on the Falklands, and seemed to be the thing to do.

However but I hit on one stumbling block….!

The ‘ole dear wouldn’t sign the paperwork.

Oh how things would be different now, nearly thirteen years on!

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