Archive | January, 2012

Letters to Alan – Wacker Morris – Royal Artillery

29 Jan

Hello Alan
My name Ed wacker Morris served in the Royal Artillery as a gunner
With 20 Field Regt. 1960 training at Park Hall Camp Oswestry
When complete I was sent to Kirkee Mcmun Barracks Colchester and from there we were shipped out to Tampin in Malaya
We went out to Malaya on the Oxfordshire troopship. There were quite a few of us sea sick on the voyage and believe me that is one hell of a way to lose a few pounds in weight!
Thankfully when my service came to an end we flew back to Blighty and demob

Good luck and best wishes to everyone and keep the memories going.

Ed

Other National Service Story by Brian Owen – Royal Signals

29 Jan

Hello Alan
Your Story was very good and engrossing for an ex N/S man. I will spend many an hour reading it through and the other stories.
Do you know I could write a book on the many experiences I had in my 2 years in the royal signals.
If only only I had expertise and know how.
I was defered from military service until I was 21&6months. Now because I had just served my apprenticeship at a steel heavy fabrication works has a plater ( boilermaker ) I thought I had been forgotten, but I was looking foreward to doing it. Many a time I would listen to the older lads talking about their experiences abroad in the different mobs and be disappointed I coudn’t join.

So I got my brown envelope at last .I reported to I think it was Zion St. in Liverpool along with
hundreds of others and had a full M.O.T. that we all passed.
There must have been at least 5 or 6 Doctors including a lady doctor,she of course was the drop your trousers cough expert.
Then it was the selection board for us, I think that was in the same vicinty. The Royal Navy was on the
top floor,The RAF was on the middle floor,and the Army was on the bottom floor.
So I headed for the top floor and the Royal Navy. There was no chance of becoming a jolly jack tar.
unless you had been a member of the sea cadets or the sea scouts or your dad was an ex rear
admiral, or you signed on for at least 3 years. So I headed for the middle floor and the RAF. I thought
people were joking when they said the officers had handlebar moustaches like Jimmy Edwards, but the
one I saw did.
He said in a very posh accent. “Why do you want to join the RAF ” and I said .”because I can’t get in the Navy.” His face went crimson .”GET DOWN STAIRS TO THE ARMY”.
So I went down stairs to the Army. They asked what mob I wanted to be in. I said The Royal Amoured Corps.Or The Royal Tank Corps.
On June 4th 1959 I was summoned to Catterick in North Yorkshire to do my squarebashing in the Royal Corps of Signals.

All the best Brian Owen. Northwich Cheshire.

Dave (Joe) Bell – Parachute Regiment

18 Jan

Hello Everybody
Twenty years ago I was on the road leading from Haifa to Jerusalem. I noticed a British Military Cemetery on the left hand side of the road.
On returning home to England I contacted a friend who is older than myself who was brought up two doors from my house. He was a national serviceman who served in the Parachute Regiment and was sent out to Palestine during 1947-48 troubled years
He put his head in his hands when I asked about the cemetery
He composed himself, and said he had been stationed in Haifa.
He said the R.S.M. of the parachute Regt. asked if anyone could play the bugle. They needed a bugler to play at a funeral in the cemetery in Haifa of two British Soldiers who had been killed by terrorists.
He said he learned to play the bugle in the Army cadets and volunteered too play at the funeral, which he did.
He said it didn’t end there, because he was given the job of playing at all the British soldiers funerals that was beginning to get regular each week.
The man in question was named Dave (Joe) Bell, who was a big, strong friendly character and very popular in my home town
Although I never asked him he said it had affected him all his life. Although Dave had left Haifa many years ago, Haifa had not left him. I am sorry to write Dave died last year.
I am sure some of our ex-military readers who served in the Haifa area will remember the funerals.
Also it is gratifying to know, that family members of servicemen who were buried at Haifa, did get some comfort in knowing that they had been given a proper burial and the heart rendering part played by Dave (Joe) Bell.

Alan

Blog now listed on www.milblogging.com

15 Jan

Delighted today that the blog is now featured on Milblogging.com the best and largest listing for military blogs. The listing is here http://milblogging.com/listingDetail.php?id=5437 and the site general is here http://milblogging.com

For new readers to the blog I am featuring the history of National Service (send in your own stories as well please) and have also published a book on the subject:

The book Get In Get Out and Get Away can be found on Amazon or from this link http://www.getingetoutandgetaway.co.uk or from this Amazon link http://www.amazon.co.uk/Get-Out-Away-National-Serviceman/dp/B0050I6A2E or for US readers  here http://www.amazon.com/Get-Out-Away-Serviceman-ebook/dp/B0050I6A2E.

The website www.getingetoutandgetaway.co.uk  contains pictures to accompany the story and the description of the book is here:

Get In Get Out and Get Away. This may sound strange but not for your uncles, brothers, fathers or grandads. They knew from an early age that one day they would be called up to do their two years National Service. I am sure the countless millions of ex-National Servicemen will have many things in common in these memoirs, hopefully they are happy ones. I was born in a small terraced house on Walney Island, Barrow-in-Furness, England in 1938. In that era, the toilet was outside and the bath which was made of tin was kept in the backyard and brought into the house when needed. Whilst growing up, the cloud above one’s head of having to do National Service got closer and closer. I knew older lads who were getting called up on a regular basis. I was twenty one years old and had just finished my apprenticeship in 1960 when it was my turn. This was the last year of National Servicemen being called up for the services. I served my two years National Service in the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment reporting to Fulwood Barracks, Preston. For ten weeks, the drill instructors shaped the platoon from a rag tag outfit to smart soldiers. From Fulwood the platoon was sent to Barnard Castle, County Durham and later to the British Cameroons, West Africa for ten months. The regiment was chosen to keep the peace and oversee a vote on the Cameroons future. There was a terrorist organisation on the French border that was intent on disrupting the process and the memoirs include numerous encounters and an eventful raid on a terrorist camp. This true story is mixed with amusing anecdotes of growing up in post War Britain through the swinging sixties. I was given an eye opener in life then and I am sure when you read my detailed account, you will agree, and also see the parallels to the modern day operations undertaken by the American, British and United Nations military. It is all history now but it has been a privilege on behalf of my fellow countrymen to put it all down on paper. We all had one thing in common, that was to Get In Get Out and Get Away.

Another Short Story by Frank Parkinson Cyprus – National Service

7 Jan

While writing my other short story I forgot to mention this other episode
I am not a great believer in fate but a strange episode certainly happened to me that was indeed a chance in a thousand of happening-
I was selected for an advance party to prepare our new camp at four mile point Famagusta. Shortly after arrival, we were allowed to visit a NAFFI . I was sitting with four other comrades drinking a well-earned refreshment, when an announcement on a radio gave out a request for me.
It was on a Cyprus forces request programme. My mother had sent a request for a record for me and had not told me about the request; I did not know at that moment where I would be. Further more I had not listened to a radio in 3 months. or had been informed of the request. The record was Hernando`s Hideaway. I heard it, and what odds of the chance of me doing so. Fate certainly played its part.

It was about this time I was called upon to travel to Nicosia hospital. A major exercise had taken place in the Troodos mountains to flush out the EOKA and their leader General Grivas. Unfortunately, a fire was started and the flames turned upon the British troops. There were casualties deaths and serious burns. Two badly burned soldiers were near to dying and my duty was to stay with them and do what I could. The parents of the two unfortunates were flown into Cyprus and were at at their bedsides. I remembered distinctly and will never forget having to turn one of the soldiers over to place some gauze under his buttocks to allow him to pass motion. The hot sticky substance and the pain that came from his back. Has been a living memory and has remained with me ever since. The two lads died that night, because of the injuries they had received. I am sorry to say it was probably a blessing in disguise. It was a sad time believe me.

On a brighter note the cook sergeants had changed duties. The famous Squeege had taken over and turned his predecessor out of the kitchen.
To give him a job while he waited a plane to back to England and demob. They put the replaced sergeant in charge of a working party doing general duties. He was not very bright and he asked me. “What do you do in civvy street?”
“I work in a chocolate factory. ” I lied in reply.
“What kind of work is that then? He asked.
Well do you know those strawberry whirls that are found on chocolates? I put the little twirl on top of them ” I lied again.
“What, I could do that ” He said laughingly looking assured of his future.
” Yes you could but if you miss one, you have to run half way down the assembly belt to put your twirl on it” I replied with a deadpan face.
He looked puzzled, but repeated he could do that. He left for dear old Blighty some days later and he had assured himself he could do one job at least

Good luck to you all

Frank Parkinson

Your Letters and Short Stories

7 Jan

Hello everybody, if you the reader would like to write a letter or short story or anything that will be of interest to other readers about your time serving in the British Forces. I will publish it with your approval on this site.
What is paramount to all concerned, is that it is all history now and your experiences should not be lost, but should be read by the younger generation in what you experienced many years ago.
If you have trouble putting things down on paper, I will help you if you send me a basic draft.

Best wishes

Alan

Author of Get In Get Out and Get Away – www.getingetoutandgetaway.co.uk

Other Stories From Ex Kings Own Royal Border Regt.

5 Jan

Alan

I said I would put together some notes on my experiences with the KORBR particularly in the Cameroons in 1960/61 as a National Serviceman and my involvement as part of the Advance Party. Firstly I think your assessment of the character and ethos of the people there during that period was spot on! Very many were deferred student/craft apprentices born in the late 30s/early 40s who through their upbringing had already acquired a good degree of self-discipline before the Army added its own brand! Your description of The KORBR, the country and its people is excellent and could not be bettered.

I was called up in Oct 1959, shortly after my 21st birthday and did my basic training at Fulwood Barracks, Preston joining the Battalion at Humbleton Camp, Barnard Castle in early Jan 1960. A very cold winter, I recall, with a fuel shortage and bedside lockers being in great demand for firewood. All to be paid for of course by the time honoured method of deductions for “barrack room damages”!

I joined the Signal Platoon under Capt Blinkoe with CSM Medway and Sgt Holt and underwent a intensive training programme of several weeks with a training platoon of about 15. When it was confirmed that we were all going on active service to the Cameroons, a number of us were allocated to go on the Advance Party which meant that we went several weeks before the main body and flew out from Heathrow in a Britannia Turbo Prop, my first flight, direct to Lagos. Because of the war in the Belgian Congo at the time it was considered prudent to conceal our presence as much as possible hence the trucks conveying us to the harbour were driven fast and furiously with the covers down! My impression was of clouds of dust with chickens and cattle as well as local people running in all directions!

The rust bucket that took us from Lagos to Victoria, sailing east into the African Bight, was uncomfortable and so hot that we slept on deck but the voyage was stunning in many ways, we saw our first whales, flying fish with dolphins accompanying us all the way. We were out of sight of land for a few days then passed the island of Fernando Po and entered Victoria harbour, our boat being shallow draught so we could moor at the wharf. The next week or so was very hard, we never stopped working,unloading our gear then guarding it at night, all in continuous rain, and then being called on to use our newly taught skills to establish a telephone system between the harbour and elsewhere in Victoria.

After the unloading the next phase was with the Nigerian Army units to transport everything up Mt Cameroon to Buea the base camp which was a sea of mud, duck boards and bell tents. The roads were dreadful, no surface finish, just laterite and mud. Up and down we went time and time again on what was quite a hazardous journey. We rode “shotgun”,our “shotgun “being a brand new hickory pickaxe handle of the type we frequently used for guard duty at Barnard Castle. Our rifles had gone back into the Armoury, the weather conditions made it impossible to keep them clean. During our training in the UK, when presenting a rifle for inspection, we frequently had it rejected on the grounds that” spiders where nesting in the barrel” Quite true here !

Having transferred to Buea we laboured mightily there in terrible conditions, but I think it was the shared laughter and humour that always saved the day! On one occasion it was thought that we should take our daily anti-malarial tablet, Paladin, as a platoon by numbers in case the regime was not being followed. We gathered as a group in the pouring rain with our officer on parade observing the 1,2,3 from hand to mouth and swallow, when on 3 the Sgt who was leading coughed and out popped the pill to disappear in the mud! It took some time before we could stand to attention and that was the last we heard of swallowing pills by numbers! One day on a” you, you and you” basis, we were told to get our best kit on as a small group had been invited to dine with the District Commissioner. After several abortive kit inspections we finally passed muster and were driven to an impressive house with extensive gardens. The door was opened by a black servant in white suit and red sash and then warmly welcomed by the Commissioner and his family .Nevertheless we were not at ease and even less so when we saw the splendid crystal and silver laid out in the dining room. I don’t think any of us had dined in such splendour before. However after a drink the DC took us out to admire the rose beds and then, led by him, to “water” the roses which we all did with gusto.!

The day finally came when we had to put into practice our transfer to what were to be the camps for the main body which was then at sea on the Devonshire. Two signallers to each camp- Eric Forrester and myself to Mamfe and others to Kumba, Bamenda and of course a presence at Buea and Victoria. Our little convoy with our Nigerian drivers set off into the unknown loaded up with our rifles, kit and every conceivable piece of equipment with strict instructions- and threats if we failed- to open up the network on the scheduled time and day. When we finally arrived at Mamfe after a long journey and overnight stay at Kumba there was nobody there, just a bell tent and a windsock on the grass air strip, together with a native foreman leading a gang digging foundations who introduced himself as Napoleon! The RAF squadron, 230 SQD, flying in from Rhodesia and the UK had not arrived. However we had no time to dwell on that, all the kit had to stowed away and the Tilley lamps made ready for the long tropical nights and the invasion of insects, snakes, and the Cameroonian gorillas that we had been told would be visiting us! The following days we wracked our brains to work out how we could erect a suitable aerial as we could not climb the jungle trees as we would have done in the UK . Nobody had told us about the giant thorns, ants and snakes lurking in the branches to say nothing of the inaccessible size and height. Finally we hit upon an unconventional solution, as a temporary measure, a long horizontal dipole aerial from the windsock! We had been taught to be resourceful and so we were!

After a few days everything was in place, batteries were charged with the mobile generator we brought with us, codes and frequencies were sorted out and the RAF had arrived to our great relief. The network opened on time loud and clear! Shortly after that the Devonshire arrived at Victoria and the rest is history! During our time at Mamfe we had a very good relationship with the RAF and our small Army presence which eventually swelled to include a Pay Corp member and a ACC cook was treated well!

Thinking about those days ,the amount of trust and responsibility that the Army placed on young people is striking. The contribution people made to their country and to the British Cameroons was tremendous and not all were single. Many of the troops had wives and young families at home, such as Jim Thomas who subsequently replaced Eric at Mamfe. The entire operation, the logistics, the support to the UN who were ,as I recall, overseeing the Plebiscite, was in retrospect so impressive. I hope that others will continue to make some record of their experiences on your website. National Service was a Institution of which we shall never see the like again. My best wishes to all.

Mike Hargreaves, KORBR 1959/61. (no. 23645741)

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