This obedience would stand him in good stead in time of war, when hesitance in obeying a command could well jeopardise the safety of not only him but other soldiers relying on his actions. In order to maintain some measure of unison with each other when performing a drill movement, each recruit would shout out the timing of the movement. With several Squads Drilling at the same time, it could be bedlam when a recruit was learning the art of Foot and Arms Drill; there were certain hazards to be mastered.
The first might be related to the command , "Fix Bayonets", at which command, amongst other things, the recruit was expected to secure his bayonet on the end of his rifle by means of a small spring operated plunger.
The snag was, however, that you were not allowed to look downwards at the rifle to ensure that all was well and truly secured. If this was not the case , the next time you "Sloped Arms", the bayonet would make a beautiful arc into the rear rank of soldiers, resulting in unprintable remarks from the Drill Instructor. The second hazard might also be related to the command, "Right Form". This was a highly complicated manoeuvre at the best of times and when being executed by inexperienced recruits, the results could be disastrous.
This manoeuvre, the right hand man to give a ninety degree turn to his right, take two steps forward and remain Marking Time. The remainder of the squad would make a half right turn and pick up the dressings on the left, If the right hand soldier botched it up however, you would be faced with soldiers wandering all over the Square and wondering if it was best to go home. Weapon training would consist mainly of achieving a high standard of proficiency with the Lee Enfield Rifle. You would be taught to shoot accurately by following the doctrine, "Get the Tip of The Foresight in line and in the centre of the U of the Back sight.
Sights thus aligned Focus" the Mark. You would also be expected to fire ten rounds in one minute, with reasonable accuracy.
The highlight of this training would be a visit to the Rifle Range in order to calibrate the Sights of his Rifle. The rifle itself would be clean on all occasions and would be what the army called," Clean, Bright and Slightly Oiled". It is true to say, that a soldier seemed to spend all his spare time with a "Pull Through" and lashings of material referred to as , "Four by Two"in an attempt to keep his rifle clean at all times.
To accuse a soldier of having a dirty rifle, was a crime only slightly removed from murder. Weapon training would also include the use of automatic weapons, such as the Bren and Vickers Machine Gun. As a soldier was to learn to his cost, no provision was made for training with "Anti Tank weapons. The best the army could do in this field was a two pounder Anti-tank Gun, manned by the Royal Artillery.
This weapon was, however completely outclassed by the famous Eighty-eight Millimetre Anti-tank Gun used by the German army. On the outbreak of war in , there was a vicious implement called "A Boyes Anti-tank Rifle", issued to Infantry Units. When this gun was fired, however, it would either break your shoulder with the recoil or land you flat on your back.
Needless to say that if you ever hit an armoured fighting vehicle with this weapon, the round would bounce off. It was therefore the ambition of every soldier to dump his weapon at the first opportunity.
The army attached a great deal of importance to the question of religion and, with this fact in mind; there would be a Church Parade every Sunday morning. Other than soldiers performing essential duties, everyone would be detailed to attend this Parade. It would be no use trying to escape this Parade by pretending you were an Atheist because you would still be detailed to attend and then told to wait outside until the Service was finished, before marching back to the Depot with the rest of the troops.
It was also true to say that this was the only Parade when you would see troops crawling out of the woodwork, many of whom would vanish equally as fast when the Parade was dismissed, not to be seen again until the next Sunday.
It would be a full scale parade, complete with Band and Drums, with all the Pomp and Ceremony that only the army can present on these occasions. All Officers would be present on this parade complete with the Adjutant on his Horse. It must have been a sight worth seeing, because any number of civilians would line the route in order to watch the proceedings.
During his training at the depot, the whole outlook and bearing of a recruit would have changed sp much that even if he was to wear civilian clothes, his upright stance and arm movement would make him instantly recognisable as a Serving Regular Soldier. However, there is still no doubt that, regardless of the fact, the present day soldiers enjoy the advantages of a better type material for their clothing and stay bright metal for their buttons and badges, coupled with plastic type equipment, requiring very little cleaning.
The Pre-war soldier was equal if not smarter in appearance and bearing than his present day counterpart. It was regrettable, however, that some recruits would not be able to accept the discipline of the regular army and would have, "Gone Over The Wall" and deserted.
If he were caught, such a crime would result in severe punishment. The next phase in the progress of a soldier would be a Posting to a Regular Battalion of his Regiment and then to undertake specialised training in Signals, Driving, etc. Who knows, he might be offered promotion to the dizzy heights of Lance Corporal. The 'victory' of the little ships Don Frame. Second World War. The Victory of The Little Ships. But the evacuation of Dunkirk was also something of a Miraculous Victory. Over the course of ten days, the Royal Navy, along with a flotilla of small vessels famously known as "the little ships" rescued thousands of battle-weary soldiers from the French beaches in the face of hostile fire.
By the end of Operation Dynamo - 64 years ago tomorrow - , troops had been evacuated, enabling the Allies to continue the war with Nazi Germany. And as the Nation remembers D-Day Norman and his comrades recall their feelings during a week they will never forget.
A year-old fusilier with the Lancashire Fusiliers, Norman had only been in France a little over eight weeks when he found himself, along with tens of thousands of his comrades, hemmed in on the beaches at Dunkirk. We assumed we were simply being moved further down the coast to renew the fighting.
Now aged 84, a grandfather and great grandfather, he recalls: "We hadn't had a square meal in days. We had been fighting rearguard actions across France, and we were 30 miles outside Dunkirk when the evacuation began on May 26th. Click on Photo to enlarge it. Chapter 3 Arrival in Co. Durham June Following our return from Dunkirk and our short stay in Bristol we rejoined the Regiment which was spread in various locations around Ushaw Moor Co.
Harpurley Hall, with the river Wear a few hundred yards away where some of use to a swim in the afternoon but only for a short time as we had to move off to a new area. The next step was to be re equipped and retrained. My clothing was almost threadbare from our time in France and being soaked in sea water, so a complete new set was issued by the QM from a warehouse in Durham which we found out later was infested with lice.
Not having experienced lice before we thought the itching was caused by the newness of the clothing and carried on scratching. Seventy-two hours leave was granted and a special train lay on to the Manchester area. Early in the trip and still suffering the itching it was quite funny to see everyone having a little scratch. We stripped off to check but again our lack of experience led nowhere. When I arrived home my mother saw me having a quiet scratch and said, have you got something on you? Of course I said no, had a meal, a good wash and change of clothes.
My mother inspected the uniform and was shocked at the lice she found. Without further ado, she put the clothes in a bucket and covered the lot with paraffin. I went with Dad to the club and on our return was invited to view the bucket of clothes which had a layer of dead lice floating on the top. Then came the washing to remove the smell of paraffin. When dry a lot of the colour had come out with the lice. However, I did extend my seventy-two hours to seven days and did my seven days "Confined to Barracks" Jankers as punishment.
It appeared almost everyone else had done the same.
by The Anchor - Issuu
Matfen was a very small village with one pub and a church. Life seemed to be dominated by Matfen Hall. Bell Tents had been erected by the advance party who had gone by road, and after a meal we were allowed the pleasure of a few hours rest. Training restarted and included practicing rapid deployment to intercept expected German Paratroops. Coaches were commandeered for quick movement of troops, this included embossing and debussing in the fastest possible time.
This kept us awake as the clock chimed each quarter hour and on the hour. We helped to improve the sound by hitting the church bell with our Rifle Butt as the Hammer came down on the Bell on the hour stroke. That made the villagers cross with us if it happened late in the night.