Red Socks

By Iain (Jock) Maddox 71C

The story of how the whole of B Coy got marched to the guard room started with a roar from RSM Pethrick (Coldstream Guards), “Sergeant Major B Company, that man has red socks on!!!”.

If I recall correctly, it was spring of 1972 when the garrison padre decided we needed to have compulsory church parades dressed up pretty in No2s and best boots. This was not a popular decision amongst the boys or adult NCOs who had to come in from home to take the parade. Firstly, we paraded in companies then we were split up in to religions. Our CSM (A Grenadier Guardsman, but I can’t remember his name) would call out the Church of England lads first, which was the largest group, then the “Roman Candles” followed by “Church of Jocks and all other heathens”. The poor old atheists had to come with us Jocks and we numbered about the same as the RC group.

The Church of Scotland service took the shortest time and when we got out we dashed down to the NAAFI to hoover up the free coffee and biscuits put on for the faithful. A catholic lad called Bob Rose started the ‘conversion’ whereby RCs and C of Es drifted in to the ranks of the Heathen Jocks and by week three of compulsory church parades our ranks has swelled significantly. With all these damn converts fighting for the limited supply of biscuits the real Jocks decided to head for the bar instead.

By Sundays very few of us had much money left and it was a surprise when one of our party (who should remain nameless) bought a round two weeks in a row. We asked him if he’d had birthday money or something then he confessed that as he dropped a coin in to the church collection he’d lift a £1 note out. This was why he sat behind the officers apparently. Frankly, we were shocked and he was told that when he got caught they’d lock him up and throw away the key. Whether he got the message or not was never discovered because the following week turned out to be that last compulsory church parade.

‘Bolshie’ B Coy lads decided to wear our company sport socks so that when we were called to attention there would be a wee flash of red to annoy the RSM. It worked a treat and as a result of the RSM’s roar, our CSM replied “Which man sir?”. “THAT MAN!” screamed the furious RSM pointing his pace stick in our general direction. Our CSM did an about turn and told the AT in front of him to show his socks. Bingo, first time lucky, he ordered that AT marched off to the guard room double quick time. We closed ranks and the RSM roared again at our CSM and an exact repeat of the first arrest happened again. The RSM called another command and this time when asked by our CSM which man had red socks on he roared back “They all have, get them off my square!!”.

What a farce trying to march a whole company double quick time to the guard room. When we got there we were dismissed and we enthusiastically rushed the doors to get in first. The guard commander was not having it and told us to leave in no uncertain terms. We told him to lock us up or the RSM would not be happy but eventually we were collected and march back to company lines and told we were on the gate for ever or even longer. I think we did extra guard duties and fire pickets but otherwise got let off lightly. In the end, the faithful got their Sundays back and the rest of us went back to being bored.

Leave a Reply