By Iain (Jock) Maddox 71C
Back Row – Pete Brown, Kev Parker, Dave Clark, Bob Rose, Paddy Dick, Jeff Ellis, Mick Crate, Kev Neil.
Middle Row – David Hunter, Will Henze, John Gilbert, Bill Morris, Iain Maddox, Pete Lightowlers, Steve Hunter, Frank Barkas, Dave Smith, Steve Allatt.
Front Row – Alan Larter, Don Paszek, Ken Finney, Andrew Graham, Sgt Bob Bosley, Cpl Ian Burton, Ray Goodge, Derek Moffat, Phil Loveridge, Jeff Marriot.
My Army life started with an over night train journey from Edinburgh and at Kings Cross next morning a bunch of us figured out we were heading the same way and teamed up to navigate the underground system to get across London and eventually find a train to Wokingham where we were met by an Army lorry. So it was that this small group of Scottish laddies were the first of intake 71C to arrive at the Army Apprentices College, Arborfield. We shuffled through those famous gates and were escorted up to Junior Company block where Cpl ‘Bones’ Burton told us which room we were in before attempting to march us down for breakfast – another shuffle with a bit more effort thrown in.
I was impressed by the breakfast but the tea was a shock as it was very strong, too sweet and made with condensed milk. If this is what Army tea is like I’m not sure I’ll be staying too long I thought. I had another tea at lunchtime and decided I actually liked it and thus I decided to soldier on. More lads turned up over the day and whilst it was difficult to understand everyone’s accent we all tried to get along at least. I had got to know the lads I travelled down with by their real names but over the next few days I soon fell in to calling them Jock like everyone else did. The Taffs, Scouses and Geordies suffered the same fate.
Other than being on the go from dawn to dusk, the hardest part of training was the heat. I went to school in winter in a nylon shirt and a blazer and here we were doing drill under a tropical south-of-England sun in a heavy duty jumper over a worsted wool shirt! The other Jocks struggled too, wee Angus fainted even. Our regular Army Sgt was Bob Bosley from the Paras. He had a habit of standing us to attention then walking down the line occasionally calling “drinking duck” as he ‘sack tapped’ a victim who would bend forward just like a drinking duck does. Bobs sense of humour deserted him when his wife got killed in the Aldershot bombing of the Officers Mess where she worked as a cleaner. I had one punch-up whilst in Junior Coy. I and some others had been getting bullied by a lad who had been a county level boxer. I was strongly advised that I had to stand up to him or I wouldn’t make it in the Army. So, one night I answered back and hit him as he came forward to grab me. I then rugby tackled him to the ground and I got a choke on before the other lads pulled us apart. We never managed to become mates which was a shame because his sister was gorgeous.
We did a lot of drilling, cleaning and polishing whilst in Junior Coy but only one week of actual soldiering. We went to a grotty training camp on the Sussex moors and did things like learn the Five S’s, map reading and a march-and-shoot. Rations were very poor and one lunch time Big Rab, Rosie and I decided that the piece of cheese laid out for the NCO trainers needed eating by us not them. I lost the toss so Rab distracted the NCO in charge of the queue whilst I slid under the table behind him, to grab the cheese and lob it at Rosie who almost blew it by crying “Howzat”. Dividing the cheese up, the silly sod almost cut his hand in half using it as a chopping board and bled profusely. Later that evening whilst on 12 to 2 guard duty my mate and I broke in to the cook house and made toast. I’d never stolen anything in my life before joining up and here I was a major criminal within weeks (I’ll save the story for an other time on how my Tiffy and I liberated the Argyles and Sutherland Highlanders beer off them on exercise on Soltau Heath)!