Not Again !

19 Nov

So, Hugh Grant has urged Britain to reintroduce National Service. He said it suits us and it goes with our personality. What a load of rubbish from a person who has never served or likely to serve. Here we have a celluloid person advocating young men being called up for national service. Does he not realise that the Government have controversial plans to replace regular soldiers with Territorial reserve forces. The regular soldiers are all volunteers who have made the army their career. These brave men and women serve throughout the world in many conflicts. Sadly some pay the supreme sacrifice losing their lives and many suffer with injuries both physically and mentally. This Government and future Governments must look after our forces and not just while they serve, but also in their retirement with good pensions.
For the attention of people who advocate national service please read this. The men who had to do national service all those years ago were originally called up at the outbreak of World War 2. This was in 1939, when Great Britain was in grave danger of being overrun by the jackboot.
National service continued for another fifteen years after the end of World War 2. When each eligible man called up had to do firstly eighteen months service. The length of service was raised to two years due to the Korean War.
The lads of yesteryear mostly came from poor homes where their father went to work for poor wages and their mother cooked, cleaned the house and looked after the children.
Over 80% of the people didn’t have a bathroom just a tin bath brought in usually on Friday night. The brick toilet was outside in the backyard the paper used was the day before newspaper. The bedroom for the children was shared with two in a bed for brothers and sisters depending on the size of the family.
The only wardrobe was in your parent’s room, the children’s wardrobe was a hook screwed to the back of the bedroom door. The heating in the house was just one-coal fire, which was usually lit before the children got up.
I was in a much loved family life with no television to distract conversation, but as you must be aware homes had a radio.
One was made to respect elders, neighbours etc. it was always Mr and Mrs When talking to neighbours; it was no Jim, Tom and Maggie.
When your time came to be called up for National Service whether you were eighteen or twenty one, you knew it had to be done.
No one was looking forward to doing two years in the forces, while just entering the prime of one’s life. All the frightening tales told to by the abundance of ex-servicemen didn’t help, because they did it and you were no exception.
The day came when you reluctantly left your tight knitted community and left to join your allotted service, be it Army, Navy or Air Force. Although it was a shock to the system there was plenty of food and for the first time in their lives there were showers. Young men at that time had so much in common, coming from similar backgrounds, camaraderie and lifelong friendships soon formed.

The lads of today have the better of two worlds, money in the back pockets, cars and a certainly more permissive society. Their homes have all the mod cons. The downside of their family life has been dampened by television.
I am sorry to say now; there are a small minority who have not much respect for elders, neighbours and the law, which of course should certainly be addressed.
Parents and school teachers should play their part in this and stop passing the problem onto others. Discipline when one is young plays a big part in future life.

The politicians, media and sections of the public who have never been in the forces themselves keep bringing this national service question up. Do it to them not to us attitude.
These same young men who keep getting picked on, will I am sure be the first in line to join up if the country was threatened, like it was many years ago.
No one wants to see lads who were forced to do national service being brought home after losing their life in conflicts. It is sorrowful enough seeing our brave service men and women being brought home from Afghanistan.
National Service should not be introduced, because of our country being involved in conflicts in far off places or any other feeble excuse. Do you honestly think the armed forces want to start training lads who are not making the services their career? I am sure they will agree that it would be a complete waste of time for everyone concerned. Look after the lads who are in the forces both now and in the future, because they have earned the respect of the British people.
Politicians should stop swanning around and start earning their wages, in sorting our own country out. Make it a peaceful and happy place to live, with no such thing as dole queues, poverty and racism.

Alan

Ken Bradshaw 2 Field Ambulance RAMC

8 Nov

In my story Get In Get Out and Get Away I mentioned the Medical Orderly who was with our patrol when the terrorist camp was attacked, but until now I did not know it was Ken Bradshaw. I have put this again on the Blog, because I had not put his name on the heading. I had and still have, a lot of respect for the RAMC orderleys They were tough honest men. This is Ken’s letter he sent to me over a year ago

Hi Alan,

I read with great interest your article on the Cameroons. I was in the RAMC field ambulance serving in the Cameroons with your regiment. It was a privilege to have been there with such a professional regiment as the King’s Own Royal Border.
When I read your article it was like being there again and what seemed like a dream suddenly made me realise that it did really happen.
I spent the first couple of months at Beau camp and then moved on to Tiko cottage hospital if you remember we had a surgical unit there not in the hospital itself but in I think it was 2 like nizzen huts with about 6 beds in each. We hardly had any patients but plenty of tarantulas that I had to kill as it worried the patients. Most of the patients seemed to be circumcisions with the occasional appendix operations. We sometimes help with civilian operations.
I then went to Bamenda camp and was soon sent to Sante Coffee. It would seem that we were on to same patrols. In particular I remember the raid on the terrorist camp high up in the bamboo forest I was with the patrol that came up the mountain after the shooting had started. I remember clearly those shots at dawn. You perhaps did not realise that most of us medics were not as fit as you boys and often got left behind as on this occasion. I was probably about 100 yards behind you lot and I could hear the cries of agony coming from the forest and could see the blood all over the bamboo trees. I can’t tell you how scared I was being on my own. When I caught up the first thing I was asked to do, was to verify that the two shot were dead and I can tell you that I took a very quick glance and said yes they are. Everything happened so quickly.
Our next mission was to destroy the camp although I don’t think I had much energy if you remember when we slept the night before it had rained and I just happened to be lying where the water channelled down. On our return from the terrorist camp. I remember we all had to carry two or three weapons that we had captured and I remember that the prisoners were made to carry the ammunition on their heads. There were three prisoners one of whom was a woman who I must say felt sorry for in her pathetic state
We set off down the hill and soon I fell quite a way behind until I could no longer see the platoons in front. There didn’t seem to be any waiting in those days. I was again scared as you can imagine after all that shooting, I would have been an easy target. I had almost given up when I climbed to the top of a small hill and with luck I saw the other medic in the far distance.  I kept him in my sights until I eventually caught up, you had all had a rest and just as I reached you the order was given to move out.
Another patrol went out a few days later I think to recover the bodies and when they
Reached there the camp had been put back up.

The other patrol I was on was where we went to see the chief in the village. We went into the hut; Quite a big hut, there was a large carpet on the floor which none of the tribesmen would step on. There was like a throne at one end of the hut with all the chairs arranged around the carpet. We all sat down and watched as the room gradually filled up with armed tribesmen. Do you remember when they spoke to the chief they covered their mouths. Your sergeant went in a back room to ask his questions and the chief asked if there was a doctor. I was of course called upon to act as a doctor. It was not for the chief, but for one of his wives. I handed out a few pills and told him it was very powerful medicine, he seemed happy with this.
Do you recall how the medic had his own little tent where I used to get a small queue of locals outside in the morning? There was little I could do for many of them but I did my best.

I get the feeling that we must have rubbed shoulders, as many of your experiences are very similar to my own.

I won’t bore you any more but congratulations on a good article.

Best Wishes,
Ken Bradshaw 2 brigade field ambulance

Remembrance

5 Nov

Remembrance Sunday is this coming week-end and as we all know it is a sad day indeed. When, one looks at the figures of United Kingdom men and women, who sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom. It is completely mind blowing. During the 1914-18 War some 886,342 lost their lives. In the Second World War from 1939-45, 383,667 U.K. men and women lost their lives. The various conflicts since 1945 to this present day, 3,739 U.K. men and women have lost their lives.
The overall total since 1914, who paid with their lives for you and me to live in a better world, is 1.273748. I get very angry when I hear a person say they are ashamed of being British over some very minor incident. Obviously they are not in the real world. I again say that the Remembrance to the fallen and the injured, during the conflicts concerning United Kingdom service personnel, should be taught at school. When, young people wear the remembrance poppy. They must have the knowledge of what the British Men and women before them endured in those conflicts.
All ex and present service men and women have their own memories of Remembrance Day. I have mine. It was November 1960. I, along with the platoons of(S) Company King’s Own Royal Border Regiment and men of Ex-King’s African Rifles, who had served in Burma. We all marched through the local village then into a large grassy area in a valley, where the remembrance service was performed. High up on one side of the valley walls there was a small plateau. It was from here a bugler of our regiment appeared. He beautifully played the last post and the sound echoed loudly down the valley. I had a sensational feeling in the back of my neck which is hard to explain. That moment in time has lived with me ever since.
I hope for the sake of this great country of ours. The future generations to come, will remember the sacrifice that was paid by their fellow countrymen.
Alan

Update In History Lessons

27 Oct

I should not have to write this but, I could not believe the picture in the Mail on Sunday. It showed two British soldiers giving the Nazi salute with a Union Jack in the background. I know this is just an isolated case by a couple of idiots. Obviously they do not know the back ground or are completely ignorant to what people endured during the German Nazi era. Well let’s face it every young person who is raised in Britain, should be educated to what happened during World War Two. School history lessons must surely be updated to these modern times. What message does that photo send out to the descendants of the millions of innocent people, who were murdered by the Nazi regime? Every City, Town and Village has a memorial in memory of brave men and women who laid down their lives, fighting for freedom against the Nazi oppression. The British Forces will hopefully send the culprits packing who tarnished the British name. This will also send out a message, that this minority of idiots will not be tolerated in our British society.
Alan

A DEBT OF GRATITUDE!

15 Oct

It is in my own opinion, that I think all ex-national Servicemen have been shabbily treated, since conscription was abolished. Not one mention of gratitude from successive governments was forthcoming. It is 74 years ago, since due to the second World war that an act of parliament brought national service into being. At that perilous time, it was a just act and for that there is no argument. When victory came in 1945 a new parliament act was brought in making all able bodied male, liable for conscription into one of the services. If one did not have a trade they went in the forces at 18 years of age. The men who had an apprenticeship or went to University were called up when they had finished their learning etc. Usually their ages on conscription were 21 or 22 years old, but the odd one escaped the net through faking medical problems etc.
Due to the Korean War, where many National servicemen served, the length of service was increased from 18 months to 2 years. One must remember, they were not volunteers like the regular army. The national servicemen served and fought shoulder to shoulder with the regular servicemen throughout the world, until call up was abolished in late 1960. Most of the last National servicemen were demobbed in 1962 There were some of the late call up men, that had to serve an extra six months, if they were stationed in Germany and were therefore demobbed early 1963. I believe it broke a few hearts, when they learned that they had to serve an extra 6 months as one can imagine. For all National Servicemen to be called up, to serve 2 years in what was termed the best years of their lives. One has to remember the pay in the forces for a National serviceman was in present day money £1.50 pence, a complete pittance. Can anyone imagine the youngsters of today, enduring that weekly wage for two years? I am not going into all the ins and outs of time served in the forces, because national service turned boys into men and made them stand on their own two feet and be counted.
The brave men who fought in Burma during WW2 were once called the forgotten army. I believe National Servicemen have been put in that category by successive governments. The youngest of these ex-servicemen are now over 72 years of age and as you are aware in the twilight of their lives. Surely it is not too late for a government to say some form of thank you, for what you all did so long ago.

Alan

Sgt Jim Harris A.P.T.C

21 Sep

Hello Alan,
It is possible our paths might have crossed
On reading your Blog brought so many happy memories flooding back to me of my National Service years.
“I went in as a boy and come out as a man.”
I was educated at Johnston Grammar School Durham City. Not long after completing my education I was called up for National Service. About three weeks after having my medical. I received a letter that I had been called up to serve in the Durham Light Infantry. I had to report to the D.L.I. training depot at Brancepath Camp on the 7th July 1955to begin my training (square bashing)
The camp at Brancepath was not far from Durham City so I didn’t have far to go. From now on until demob my Army number was 23152900. A few lads like me were 18 years of age, but always to the fore in sport, I was in a fit condition. Being in this condition no doubt benefited me throughout the hard training; everything is at a quick pace in the Light infantry as you know.
On completing my basic training, I was promoted to L/Corporal and sent on an AC/I course at Bernicle Barracks in Scarborough. Three weeks later I was promoted to Sergeant and sent to the Physical Training Corps in Aldershot.
I was quite pleased in myself being only 18 years old and also being the first National Serviceman to be enrolled in the A.P.T.C.
Four months later I was posted to the Infantry Boys Battalion, Plummer Barracks, Plymouth. This is where I served for the duration of my National Service, being demobbed on 3rd July 1957. Incidentally my CSM was Alec Forbes
After demob I enrolled and studied for 2 years a Bede College Durham, (Malcolm Fox was in my Year group,) I then did an Honours year at Loughborough. Then finally MSc course in exercise physiology at Leeds University. I ended up as Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh.
Incidentally the old Durham light Infantry Training Camp was turned into an open cast coal mine in the early 1960’s. Once the coal was finally extracted, the land was levelled, grassed over and turned into its original state of farm land.
Best wishes to all my friends and fellow ex-servicemen.

Yours Aye

One Time Sgt Jim Harris APTC

The Bombing of Barrow-in-Furness 1941

21 Aug

At the outbreak of World War Two in 1939, Barrow-in-Furness a working class town in North West England had a population in the region of 68,000. Many generations of men and women worked in the main industries of Shipbuilding and Engineering works of Vickers –Armstrong, the Barrow Steelworks and of course the Barrow Docks. Due to the involvement in the rearmament work it was obvious to all in the town, we would be a target for enemy bombing and that proved to be the case in 1941
When war was declared in 1939 the defence of the town and Air raid precautions were set in place. Air Raid Shelters were built to cater for all inhabitants of the Town. On my own side of the street, there were 7 shelters built on the back side of the street, for housing the 28 families. The shelters were divided into two sections with a small steel door dividing the shelter. Usually three families were designated either side of the shelter. Each shelter had three bunk beds fitted. Every able bodied man who worked in the industries had a job to do, whether it was an Air raid warden, Fire watcher, Ambulance Driver, Firemen, Nursing or being in the Home Guard. Anti-Aircraft guns, barrage balloons, Sirens and smoke screens were set up in various areas of the town and rehearsals for what was eventually coming were constant. One has also to remember many of the able bodied men not associated with the rearmament, were called up into the services.
During the early days of 1941 Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) broadcast from Berlin to British listeners, that Barrow-in-Furness had not been forgotten. We were certainly not forgotten. The Blitz on Barrow-in Furness was not long, but came on the nights of 14th to 16th of April and 3rd to 10th May. In that short time over 100 houses were destroyed and 500 more later had to be demolished. The shipyard was bombed, one notable direct hit was the big crane with both firewatchers killed who were on it at the time. Barrow Railway station got a direct hit. The Copper Nob which is now housed in York was situated on a plinth on the approach to the station and was damaged. If one visits the York Railway museum you can still see the shrapnel marks on the Copper Nob. The houses surrounding the Industries took the bulk of the bombing.
There were Eighty three killed and over three hundred injured during the blitz on Barrow-in-Furness. Compared with the big cities we got off lightly but one death is a big price to pay. My Father was an Electrician by day and his duty was a Fire Watcher at night on Walney Island promenade. He told me the first bombs he heard dropped went into the sandy mud between Walney Island and the Shipyard. He said he just heard plop, plop and plop. The unexploded bombs will still be well down in the muddy sand this present day. Incidentally I still have my Father’s steel helmet. The people of Barrow-in-Furness and surrounding areas did what the nation asked of them. Hopefully the many future generations of Barrovians will look back with pride in what their fore fathers and mothers did during the Blitz. I was seven years of age when Victory came in 1945 and it is only when one gets older and much wiser. That I am proud to say, it was a privilege in my life, that I was amongst honest, brave and hardworking people of my home town of Barrow-in Furness, all those years ago.
Alan

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