Edgar's Travels

by Edgar Weekley

 

 

I joined the Royal Signals at her majesty's request on the 8th of June 1960 at the age of 21, I had a deferred call up due to my apprenticeship, I thought that I had escaped the net but no! along came that fateful brown envelope stamped OHMS complete with travel docs and a one way train ticket to Richmond, one way ticket that's like being told there's no way back, I had already had my medical and was passed A1 serves me right for taking an interest in athletics.


I duly boarded the train at Vauxhall station, waved goodbye to my mother and fiancée and settled back to what turned out to be a journey to nowhere, it seemed to take for ever, the train was filling up as we went along, with lots of excited fresh faced young lads, all heading for sunny Catterick, which was to be our home for the next few weeks.

We finally arrived at Richmond station amid lots of shouting and bawling and lots of bemused young men, eventually some semblance of order emerged and we were ordered to board the waiting three tonners who delivered us to the cook house of our training regiment for our first taste of army food. Now when you have had your food prepared by the best cook in the world your mother it comes as a bit of a shock to see a rubbery egg and two charred logs which I took to be sausages laying in congealed grease fried bread and beans, I recognised the last item because of their colour and shape not because of their taste and a mug of tea. To this day I must admit if there was one thing the army did know how to make that was a mug of tea, after our 'meal' ? we were taken to draw bedding, and shown where we would be bedding down for the night, after travelling all day we were all very tired but it was very difficult to get to sleep and as I laid there I swear I heard a few sobs., my pillow was a bit damp in the morning "must have been sweating".


Morning dawned with more shouting and bawling and we were marched off to breakfast which I refused to eat, it was only after some days of gnawing hunger that I was forced to introduce my taste buds to army food, after breakfast we were once again assembled and marched to another stores this time to draw our kit which was thrown at us regardless of size. Fortunately I'm of average build so my clothes fitted fairly well, or at least where they touched, remember those new berets, how long did it take to get them to lie down instead of sticking out, the sure sign of a new boy. Then it started, several weeks of bull, drill, and yet more bull, I'm not sure where they recruit these sadists from, men who thought nothing of upending your bed with all your kit laid out for inspection, stamping around on a just bumpered floor covered in blankets so as not to take the shine of when you walk on it, or throwing the whole kit out of the window and inevitably it had been raining, so those boots you so lovingly polished till you could see you face in them and webbing blancoed and brasses polished covered in mud all had to be done again. No sleep that night, for some those first few weeks proved unbearable so much so they resorted to any means possible to get themselves classed as unfit for duty and eventual discharge, even to the extent of possibly doing themselves everlasting damage, the hot bath followed by wearing your greatcoat inside out to give you a rash, these lads disappeared never to be seen again, one can only hope they got what they wanted, eventually passing out day arrived and boy were we glad to see the back of it, then it was off home on a weekend pass and to report to the trade training regt the following Monday.

Llife now would be considerably easier apart from the occasional railway picket, I'm sure those of you that were at Catterick will remember doing at least one of those, and other essential duties " army words not mine", the weeks passed and I eventually became proficient, at what I'm not too sure but the army thought we was ready to face the real thing and this is where we all received our first posting, I thought there had been some mix up as it was not the posting that I had requested when asked where I wished to go, I still hadn't learnt the army's sense of humour.


My first posting was to Rhinedahlen as a teleprinter op working in the Big House a great posting, very few parades and little bull, I realise now why those first few months were so idyllic you were led to believe all postings were this great which is how they get you to sign on that dotted line, I think they took advantage of a naive and innocent young man, there I am putting my signature to a piece of paper and thinking later what have I done.

"Too late" there was no cooling of period in those days and to top it all a few weeks after them getting my signature I received my second posting and what a posting. I think the camp was designed for keeping you in and not keeping unwanted visitors out, the camp was Fransisca Barracks St Tonis near Krefeld, this is where I met the bane of my life RSM Spence, somehow I survived till I was posted out to Singapore.

Now that posting made up for all the rest, one magic posting, sitting here looking back and remembering, I've come to the conclusion it wasn't the postings but the personnel, the lads in the barracks, the humour and friendship, many of which have endured to this day, and in my twilight years those memories are very dear to me, and as this website proves the same goes for every other man who was called upon to serve his country, he didn't like the disruption to his life, but looking back he's glad he did it.
a wanabe N/S man


Ps: The real reason I signed on, [I received a dear john from my fiancée of four years]

Copyright Text & Images: Edgar Weekley

 

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