Wednesday, June 15, 2005



Reading the latest Scaryduck post about new words reminded me of when I took the Queen's Shilling and joined HM Forces (Yes folks in those far off days of pounds shillings and pence when you took the oath you were given a small New Testament (I wonder if the gave Jewish chaps an old testament???) and a shiney new Shilling - which you obviously kept for ever as a memento of this great occasion (I should Co Co - went down me neck as half of Brakespears)) - I digress - On arrival at the depot after the usual shouting, screaming and jumping up and down (the recruits before getting off the lorries) - It was a long journey and some needed the loo quite badly we were taken to a huge hanger and ran the gauntlet of a long line of men behind a chest high counter, each of whom piled another item on top of the already wobbly heap you were carrying. You were then shivvied on to the next who did the same - shouts of "Mugs, one pint, china, one for the use of", and "tunics, number two dress, two for the use of" rang down the line and woe betide any poor sod who dropped something - reminded me of a particularly sadistic game of Crackerjack!! - Suitably laden like perambulating garbage heaps (you've all seen the films - and believe me in 1963 it was just like the films - we all lived in black and white and it was intentionally as hard and as cruel as possible) Remember just 2 years before these same sadistic bastards were dealing with National Service squaddies who had no choice - They conveniently forgot were were "The new all Volunteer, professional Army"and in their own peculiar way with their own stacato and highly specialised language, fists, boots and naked aggression turned the average weedy, mothers boys into hardened brutal licentious soldiery.
Which brings me back to the somewhat convoluted point. After kit issue, which you stuffed into a large metal locker, and not being daft and also having seen some of the films, if you were sensible you locked with a padlock you had brought with you from home (the issue ones could be undone with a nail or if you wanted to re-use it there were only 12 locks so in a platoon of 36 at least three of you were likely to have the same padlock keys) You were then run (we ran everywhere for the next 20 weeks) to another large hanger like building were you were issued with bedding - "sheets, cotton, single, two for the use of" etc rang through the air- right down to the last man who stood behind the a huge pile of bent wire- and as you went past him at a steady 12 mph shouted, "extend little finger of left hand", and hung 6 coat hangers on to i, and then shouted "COAT HANGERS , six for the use of" The significance of this remark did not sink in until some time later - when you had arrived back at the barrack room and were given the long list of kit that you had been issued and (if you had carefully locked it up probably still had) if not - no chance I remember one poor guy who was issued with "Two brushes, boot" who had never seen them and never would again (they were carefully hidden inside my second pair of "Boots DMS, size eleven small" just in case ! Setting up the locker was a work of art. Each piece of clothing and equipment had to be immaculate, folded, pressed and placed -"Just so" for inspection right down to the "Coats great, infantry pattern, one for the use of" hanging in the locker - all hanging on their COAT HANGERS. This still did not sink in. It was only after the process was completed and we were almost hairy arsed, licentious and brutal soldiery and ready to be let loose on an unsuspecting regular battalion - where we found out we still had much to learn - We reported in and were issued, at a much slower and relaxed pace - bedding etc
I then asked the Quartermaster's clerk about the nomenclature and sure enough when looking down the ledgers everything was broken down into "Mugs, one pint china, or Mugs half pint plastic right the way down to small bent wire objects which were COAT HANGERS. He had been in the army since 1958 (signed on after national service) and had never noticed that this was the only piece of equipment that had its own name,the right way round. I suppose the explanation is that the only thing you can do with it is hang coats on it so there is only one !! - Now there is a really useless piece of information for you.
slowly climbing back into the saddle

Nice post. When I was issued my kit in the TA it was a little less organized. The colour (sergeant) shouted me into his office "Hey bignuts" in a heavy Irish accent. He pulled a large black bin liner out and tipped it onto the floor. The one bit of kit that stood out was the slacks for the number 2 dress. They really did look odd. They were 3 times in my career that I used them, 1 funeral and 2 Lord Mayor of London parades...oh well.
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