My First Day

Discussion in 'The Lamp and Sandbag II - The Tall Story Strikes B' started by exbleep, Jul 3, 2009.

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  1. So, it was June 7th 1967 and I roll up at Poperinghe Barracks in Arborfield. Call someone with 3 stripes on his arm "sir" (I was brought up all proper, like) and hear, for the first but definitely not the last time, "Don't call me sir, I work for a f**kin' living!". OK, first mistake. Told to line up with another load of newbies and we are taken to the guardroom and issued numbers (Don't forget these, we are told, they are now who you are). Get the obligatory "2 bloody 4" from the guy in the admin office who is a 23999...
    Outside we all line up again (got used to this after a while) and are herded (some trying to march, some still trying to preserve a bit of swagger but most of us swinging arms the wrong way to the feet etc) and we are introduced to the camp butcher, known as "Sweeney" who promptly shaves our heads down to the wood except for a mop on top. Next stop, QM stores where we are issued the delights of what we are going to wear, brown plimsoles, hairy BD trousers, hairy shirts, hairy socks (how come everything's so bloody hairy?) hairy jumpers (lightweight ones with V necks and holes in the shoulders for sticking epaulettes through) big hairy greatcoat (still with the hairy stuff), a flasher mac (holes in the pockets for fiddling with your tadger?) and bloody great big, black boots! Never seen such bloody great boots. We are told one pair is for "best" and one pair for "working" but they both look the same to me. Oh, and a big cardboard suitcase to stick it all in. "Here's yer housewife (sewing kit) and button stick" then it's off to this big, wooden hut. 20 metal bedsteads, 10 each side, a metal locker (which is never to be locked except for your "personal" drawer) and a coal heater in the middle of the room. We are warned never to light his heater as it has to be sparkly clean at room inspections.
    Next, across to something called a bedding store where we are given a foam mattress, 2 sheets (starched to buggery), 2 pillow cases (ditto), 2 pillows smelling of something a bit iffy and 5 hairy blankets (back to the hairy stuff again).
    Back to the nice little wooden hut and given the first lesson of my Army career - how to make a bed block. So, the blankets are really for show and not for sleeping. One blanket on the bed, one blanket folded just so, a sheet, then another blanket, then a sheet, then another blanket and the last blanket to wrap them all up in a nice little rectangular block. The pillows go on top. "You will change one sheet every week," says the nice little Lance Corporal, "bed 1 will change with bed 2, bed 3 with bed 4 etc". (Now groan at how many times I'm going to hear that over the next 30 years). Next, in comes our friendly training Sergeant. OH, MY, GOD. He's a bloody homicidal maniac! Keeps prodding us in the gut with his pace stick. Spittle forms at the corners of his mouth every time he shouts at us. He can't say anything without bloody shouting. For God's sake, someone turn him off!!! The only thing I understand is that he is going to make our mothers cry over the next 8 weeks. Things get a bit better when someone (I later learn he is a 2nd Lieutenant and is our OC for the training period) comes in and tells us we should "all be bloody proud of ourselves" and "I am here to help you, so if you have any problems see your training Sergeant (Yeah, right, I'm not going anywhere alone with that psycho). Oh, and the nice, young 2nd Lt is still all matey and chummy and the Sgt and LCpl behind are rolling their eyes at each other.
    So, he finishes and it's off to the camp restaurant (or cookhouse, as they call it). Mustn't forget to take the "eating irons" the nice QM gave us but plates will be provided. Here's "yer scran", says the LCpl (does anyone round here speak English?) and we look at some brown "stew with dumplings", eggs done in a particularly fine layer of grease, something they tell us are "sausages" but they don't look like any sausages my Mum ever gave me, extremely un-lumpy mashed potatoes (with lots of unmixed powder) and gravy (?) with about two inches of grease to cut through before you get to the brown stuff. All followed by a big, duff type pudding which makes the plate impossible to handle unless you use two hands. Back to the table to find the eating irons have gone. "That's your first lesson, says the LCpl, "always look after your kit." Then we wash (?) our plates in a metal sink which has more grease on the top than the gravy did.
    We are then shown to the den of iniquity called "the NAAFI" where some big, fat birds with acne eye us up and down as if we are new stock at the meat market. Of course, I'm acting all cool and sexy until I remember my ears are sticking out half a mile due to my new, super-cool hairstyle. Then it's off to a little office where someone with 2 stripes asks us our numbers (of course, we've all forgotten by now except some smart arrse who remember his, so I remember I was 2 after him in the queue and add two numbers to his). This 2 striper turns out to be the pay Corporal who gives me £1/17s/9d and tells me I'll get paid on Tuesdays and will get £4/10s/3d the first week then £6/7s/9d a week after that. Good God, I spent more than that on fags in what I am now learning to call "civvy street". How can I survive on that?
    Tomorrow, we are told, we have to go to breakfast, shower and shave and something else beginning with sh. (not necessarily in that order) and then wait outside in "shirt sleeve order" as it is June. That is, them horrible, heavy boots, the hairy socks, hairy BD trousers, hairy shirt with sleeves rolled up, the "webbed" belt and wearing the beret (no cap badge) that looks like a saucer and has a nice little bow on the back. Whilst we were at the NAAFI, we were made to buy Kiwi boot polish (and told to throw away that nancy Cherry Blossom we brought with us) and a yellow duster. Back to the wooden hut and we are given lessons in how to polish the "working boots" and rub and rub and rub and rub until the pimples on the toecaps disappear. The "special" treatment for the "best boots" will wait until tomorrow.
    And that was Day 1. If I'd known what Day 2 was going to be like, I'd have gone home there and then.
  2. I joined on Christmas Eve 1976; some of that stuff is recognisable but OTOH so much else isn’t only ten years after. I had none of the hairy stuff except the shirts that everyone ditched after basic anyway; no BD and 37 webbing, all (pre-1985 quality) DPM and 58 pattern if that can be called an improvement. Boots DMS were indeed s*it but compared to the ammo things I wore as a cadet they were bedroom slippers. I do recall a corporal telling us that we were required to salute a 2nd Lt. and call him Sir “even though he’s only been in the army a week”. Food was crap, always served after dark; “Oh, you’ve got a bit of meat there, son”, and that margarine in tubes. We had manhandled Wombats and Mobats for AT and Charlie G 84s. My parents lived in an old house with coal fires and I was the only one in my hut at Wretham camp who knew how to get a fire going in one of the old coke stoves in the middle of the room. And you tell the kids this stuff and do they bloody believe you?
  3. Ah yes, those were the days! I arrived at Farnborough station on 19th April 1968 to be met by a diminutive Lcpl of the Scottish variety. "Joining the army?" he enquired politely. I nodded. "Please get on one of the military vehicles in the car park outside", he requested.

    There were about 50 of us in all. We drove to the camp in trucks through the small Hampshire village of Cove.

    As the last vehicle entered Southwood camp and the gates closed behind it the polite little Scotsman turned into the unmittigated c unt that he was to remain for the rest of our time there. "Gerroff those fu cking trucks you idle, useless civilian bastards", he screamed. Having lined us up in some semblence of order we set off at the double for a guided tour of the camp (Which was huge). Soon, the route we had taken was littered with suitcases and other belongings, as people dropped them in order to keep up. The Lcpls name was Richie. If you read this, Mr. Richie drop me a line and I will buy you an evenings beer, because although you were an absolute,uncompromising bas tard, what you taught us stayed with us and was very valuable training.
  4. Cpl; Strip to your keks.

    Skintboy; WTF? Why? (A question I later learned never to ask)

    Cue a lot of press ups and shouting.
  5. Pre dawn start to the day.

    Meet a couple of fellow recruits at local station and catch first train to a real station. Catch second train, conversation becoming increasingly muted as the hours pass. Early afternoon descend at destination to be met by hard faced corporals in civilian clothes. Sit on bus in nervous silence. One of the hard faced corporals recognises a recruit who had previously been in the TA and done his two weeks basic in the same depot.


    Who's ******* and what's all this talk about breaking people?

    Experience a sudden and unexpected sinking feeling in my stomach as an armed sentry in a flack jacket opens the cast iron gates and the bus rolls slowly through.

    Standing to attention outside the accomodation block as a hard faced corporal in working dress reads names off a list and we file upstairs to our rooms.

    Standing to attention outside the accomodation block as a hard faced corporal in working dress reads names off a new list and we file upstairs to our new rooms.

    Being hustled to the pay office and then to the clothing stores. By this time it is dark and snowing and the hard faced men are shouting at people in a manner that suggests imminent GBH.

    Getting shouted at by fat men with blotchy faces and red veined noses as they throw other peoples kit at us and we stuff it into green sausage bags.

    Dropping our sausage bags next to our beds and being marched to the cookhouse. Getting shouted at by fat men in chefs uniforms then having exactly 5 minutes to eat the food they'd cooked.

    Going back to the block for a briefing by our section commander. Introduction to religion as he explains to us that he is now our God and we shall worship no other Gods. God issues his commandments, they are numerous but can be summarised easily; everything is forbidden and punishments for transgressors will be swift and harsh. Funny, I always pictured God as an old man with a beard and a white robe, not as a hulking brute with a combat smock, bad breath and tattooed knuckles who liked to wear His beret indoors.....

    A quick trip to the NAAFI to buy padlocks, coathangers, dusters, polish, washing powder, starch, twisters, brasso and a load of other crap that wipes me out financially.

    Make beds, iron kit, stare at coloured wall diagram of locker layouts in bemused fascination. Attempt to iron kit and create own locker layout. Remake beds Gods way. Remake beds Gods way once more. Continue ironing kit and building locker layout.

    Remove every item of kit from locker to write last four numbers and initials on every piece of kit with a laundry marker that God has just produced - marker to be shared betwen twelve men and marking completed immediately. Everybody who isn't sure of their last four numbers does 50 press ups to jog their memory.

    Dropping everything at various intervals to rush to the corrider and 'number off' half the platoon can't count so this takes several attempts and results in shaking spastic triceps as we do press ups to exhaustion.

    Finally stumbling into bed, shocked and bemused at 0300 and falling asleep within seconds of the light being turned off.
  6. Same camp July 14th 1968,only our bastard was Mick Cooper who terrified me,but turned out decent in the end.
  7. Turned up a week early!Not my fault,but recruits were not due to arrive for another week (AAJLR Tonfanau Camp).Issued with some bedding drifted off to sleep somehow,awakened by someone throwing empty fire bucket into room.Herded down to cookhouse for first meal,still in civvies,then to barbers in and out of chair in 30 seconds now looking like convict in Great Expectations,herded across to stores,issued with vast amount of kit,ammo boots jammed on,without laces,join crocodile of whimpering recruits on demoralising shuffle up to recruit company billets carrying aforesaid mountain of kit,feeling like Sherpa on Himalayan expedition,while all around, the joyful chant of,'You'll be sorry!'And it was all downhill after that.
  8. 20 years ago today I joined up, JLRRA. I can still remember the fact that when offered the chance of 'Get up and leave now or you're here to stay' and one bloke got up, collected his bags and was marched at double time back to the bus and taken back to the station.

    I left around 16 1/2 years later. so 16 1/2 years growing up, 16 1/2 years in the green so I guess my next 16 1/2 years is going to be spent fixing computers for the bloody Council!!
  9. You got given that? We had to pay for ours when I was in training in 1995, Jesus you lot had it easy back then.
  10. 26th June 1980 JLRRE Oldpark Bks Dover.
    Me and a few other lads were being screamed at and abused by JL NCOs for something or other, when a giant of a Sgt wareing a para beret came around the corner and grabbed the JL corporal by the throat. He then very quietly explained that it was pointless to shout at sprogs for not doing what they were supposed to, if you havent explained it properly first.
    The level of beasting was a whole lot lower after that.
    I don't know who that sergeant was, but his intervention certainly made my first day that little bit more bareable.

    Edited for mong tryping.
  11. 2nd Feb 1985 ahhh yes I remember it all too well.
    Rolled up at Woolwich Station where I was met by a very nice bloke in No2s 2 stripes carring a stick.
    Can you get on the bus parked outside the station please he said (nice and friendly I thought) got on the bus & waited for the next train to turn up.
    A short bus ride to the Bks 40 odd blokes with a look of horror on their faces thinking what the fcuk have I done.
    Bus parkes up with the nice blokes says right you !!!!!!!!!!!!! get off the bus turn right and form up, as we did so this guy who was in front of me said fcuk this got off the bus turned left and ran out of the camp. Never saw him again.
    I still wonder what happened to him....!!!!!
  12. Was in intake 74/13 Cambrai Barracks RAC. Made a left on a "fall out" Was pulled out, made to stand on path in front of block, and told to inform the entire area of North Yorkshire that I was a spastic! Of course at this time courses 03-14/74 were (KFS in hand) on the way to cookhouse. I informed N.Yorks that I was a spakko, think my dad heard me in Glasgow too! Felt a right twerp, never looked back, still a spakko! Happy days! Do it again!
  13. AlienFTM

    AlienFTM LE Book Reviewer

    I wasn't that far behind you: 75/20 (though I had it easy cos I had previously done 75/02 at RMPTC until I told them where to shove their truncheons).

    I remember the day we did the SLR as our alternative personal weapon. End of the lesson, the Corporal got us stood in a semi-circle around him and he fired random quick-fire questions at us.

    "HOW MANY ROUNDS MAXIMUM IN AN SLR MAG IN DESERT CONDITIONS)? ..." I had my answer ready and was quite happy ... he points at ... the bloke next to me.

    "Special oil to stop the working parts from freezing corporal" came the reply.

    Corporal (entire class) was so bemused by this answer that he didn't get sent out to join the guy from the other class doing three times round the square, SLR at arm's length above his head informing North Yorkshire that, "THE SELF-LOADING RIFLE DOES NOT HAVE A FORESKIN PROTECTOR"
  14. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    January, 1962. Catterick. The old 11 Sigs lines, with about three squares.
    I arrived at Richmond, then changed for Catterick, Train arrived, and I was met by two WRAC girls, who mistook me for someone else. Didn't find that out until we were almost at camp. Still, they were very nice about it. Even the one who was a coporal. Dropped me off at guardroom, where a neandathal in a slashed peak cap was screaming at some sub-human looking creature. Very shortly afterward I found myself dressed and looking sub-human.
    Issued with 'denims' which were green, baggy and certainly not denim. Beret, no badge, and a huge assortment of hairy stuff, as previous poster has noted. No matress, but things known as 'biscuits'. Not for dunking, either. But don't regret any of it. Much.
  15. JLR RAC, Bovington January 1986.

    Arrived at Wool station and was met by grizzling Sgt (It was raining) who asked me politely :eek: if I was joining the Army. Was still in shock to give a witty answer and had already been briefed by my elder brother not to be gobby or Mr Pain would pop by for a visit.

    Bussed it (Yes, JLR had all the comforts :roll: ) and was put in the gym near the main entrance to do all the paperwork. All dull stuff really. Although I do still remember what fear was on some of my companions faces as they were processing us through.

    The realisation sunk in when just before lunchtime when one of the troops came back from a log run in the most knackered and muddy condition I had ever seen anyone in my then 16½ short years (I suspect intentional and therefore staged).

    The rest is mundane, strolled around camp in something resembling drill to our block and then down to the QM's for the obilgitory kit issue. I'm still in awe of how much one 16½ yr old can carry when they're shell-shocked.

    There was no shouting or abuse and I though 'this army lark isn't so bad' Oh how Naïve! They didn't even make us put on uniform (well just coveralls really) for a whole day.

    After that the next 14 yrs were a drunken and hazy blur involving work, a bit of rest and plenty of play.