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Letters to Alan – Les Singfield National Service REME

21 Dec

Hi Alan.

I began my 2 yr stint Feb 1959 with the REME in Honiton Devon, I was 21, married with two young children. Call up for apprentices was deffered until they had completed their trade, (what a crafty way to get trademen on the cheap) My first weeks pay was 15 shillings, my wife received £2. 12 6. We applied for a national service grant and eventually my wife received £4. 5. 0d about a third of the going rate. The average wage for a mechanic was £12, we lived in povety and visits to jumble sales for clothes. A woman across the road helped my wife out finacially, her husband was in prison, but she was much better cared for than my family. I went to Borden in Hampshire on a tank course. (A vehicles) What a terrible camp that was, we even got an artical in the People or the Pictorial sunday newspaper about the non stop bull.
Some lads even slept on the floor to seep their beds and kit tidy. It was at Borden I realised that some regulars would pay to have their guard duty done. I did at least two a week at £1.10s a time, Weekend guards fetched much more, the most I got was £9 10s for a bankholiday, It was the talk of the camp, I was always able to send money home. We would thumb lifts home if we had a 48hr pass. I lived in Liverpool and would often arrive home in the early hours of the morning soaked to the skin. I was posted to Liverpool (deysbrook barracks) for 7 months, 3 miles from home!! It was a good camp and the food was excellent, not the pig swill we had at Borden.
My last twelve months I spent a Mathew Barracks in Tidworth Hamts, I’d passed my Vehicle Mechanic 2 and 1 and my money went up to £3, I still did a few guards for cash, fiddled a bit here and a bit there, I even stole a complete cooked leg of pork from the officers mess xmas dinner table and thumbed up to Liverpool with it. (It was very nice)
I met some great lads, I wish I’d kept in touch with them.
I do wish the country would give national servicemen more recognition, Over the years many a conscript has laid down his life for this country, We were under paid and under valued, we get no pension, regulars do. No matter how bright and clever, if you had a scouse, brummy or newcastle accent, you would never get a commision.

Best wishes. Les Singfield 23610721 59/03

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