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When we were there, it was known as “Boy’s School”,
And our life these days would be seen as quite cruel.
No ‘yuman rights’ then, in those days, long gone,
For generally, things were hard for everyone.
We were there for three years, wooden huts were our home,
In blocks of six, ‘Spiders’ they came to be known.
Protruding like legs from the centre they came,
And that’s how they came to be known by that name.
Our boots were all studded, there were no DM’s then,
And we cleaned up our webbing again and again,
There were large packs and small packs, belts, gaiters and straps
Which we blanco’ed in rooms lined with tables and taps.
The uniforms with which we were issued, and wore,
Dated back to the beginning of the First World War,
They were buttoned right up to the top, and quite rough
To the neck, and believe me, your skin got quite tough!
And a cap badge, distinctive, for all there to see,
Was our own, proclaiming our identity,
The Gear Wheel and Swords with the Torch and the Cross,
Showed the world who we were, until that was then lost.
Along with the buttons, of course, they were brass,
And ‘staybrights’ had still, it seemed, yet to come to pass,
So with Brasso and Bluebell we polished and shone
Countless buttons and buckles till daylight had gone.
If I recall rightly, there were three dozen or more
Buttons on greatcoats and jackets, then four
Sets of titles worn on epaulettes,
Oh, and collar-dogs also, before I forget!
So the cleaning and polishing, the bumping of floors,
The rubbing and scrubbing, the dusting, the hours
Of ‘internal economy’ as it was phrased,
Earned us, hopefully words of commendable praise.
But more likely, the critical eye would alight
On a speck of fine dust, and giving the right
Of the inspecting person to bellow abuse,
And the prospect of him likely blowing a fuse!
The point that needs making is if all that bull
Had been forgone, then we could have saved almost a full
Year at Boy’s School, or given us more
Time for study and training and benefit more.
Of course, realisation did come at last
And lessons were learned from the years of the past,
So the School changed its name to a College, no less,
And the boys, now aged sixteen came into the nest.
No more brasses to polish, all the blanco had gone,
(They still ‘beezed’ their boots untill the uppers shone)
The old cap badge lying redundant and sad,
The ‘spiders’ demolished, (though most were quite glad!)
And the smaller room with all the latest mod cons,
Was the standard, more comfy accommodation,
Though, on some reflection, twenty to a spider,
May have increased the bond of those living inside there.
So the standards of training rose as time went on,
As progressive improvements gained their momentum,
And the technical targets that boys had attained
Was a credit to all that went there to be trained.
The thing is, that we in the earlier days,
Were not subject to quite such intensive ways
Of the technological things that came later,
Involving complex solid state items and data.
We were on a more metaphysical plain,
And the old fashioned values still ruled in the main,
Where the practical aspects of trades meant that we
Concentrated on craftwork more exclusively.
And that is the difference of our generation
From later boy soldiers, but in explanation,
We had in our way, different challenges to face,
And in overcoming them, there was no disgrace.
But the later boys joining in subsequent days
Had their problems to solve but in different ways,
And solve them they did by the word and the deed,
For what we ALL learned was how to succeed.
Therefore, all ex-boys can proudly claim to be best
No matter when they joined, they all faced the test
Of their character, to absorb strict training on these
Trades, military subjects and pass with them with ease.
So stand up, you brats, enough of these speeches,
There aren’t any more, you’re an endangered species,
But you were there, doing the army real proud,
With a spirit that was brilliiantly well endowed!