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Pull Up A Sandbag
Sandbag Reminiscences of Paul Boundy Sandbag
Memories From The Corners Of My Mind
I believe it was the 7th November 1962 when I boarded the train in my home city of Plymouth to begin the adventure of just getting to a place I had never heard of and could only just find on the map, TONFANAU.
I noticed two lads of a similar age to me get on the train at Exeter and by luck they sat in the same compartment. After a while the conversation revealed we were all on our way to the same place. Mssrs ROBERTS ('Streak' as he came to be known in 'R' and 'B' Company) and BENNETT ('A' Company) were to be my companions on the long journey ahead.
It was mid afternoon by the time we got to Shrewsbury where we had to change for the Tonfanau 'Express'. It soon became apparent that the train was full of new recruits all on the same journey. I seem to remember the journey being a lot of noise but little else.
Arrival at Tonfanau was in the dark and we all alighted to be herded onto three-ton trucks for the trip through the camp to Recruit Company lines. Separated into troops and barrack rooms, about twelve of us to a room. Bed spaces were allocated alphabetically and we were left to get to know each other. I do remember Sergeant LOVE carried out the lights out and some wag asking to be tucked in, which got the usual response.
First morning was a whirl. Meeting Staff Sergeant HELLINGS (RMP), Sergeant LOVE (RASC) and Lt. THEISS (RMP) who were to be our mentors for the next seven weeks. Kit issue and a camp orientation talk and a welcome from the Company Commander.
A few things stick in my memory from this period. Being taught how to make a 'bed block'. Why did the belt brasses come all rough and dented so that we spent ages with sandpaper and Brasso getting them all to shine. Boots with pimples so big that it took forever to get them smooth. Hammering in the studs on the bottom of the boot and always remembering to polish the bottoms!
I recall the first pay parade when we had to march to the desk, halt pick up the 10-shilling note and shout "pay and pay book correct, sir". One recruit always manages to halt on the nice shiny floor with the newly fitted studs and slip on to his backside and nearly kick the whole of the pay table over. Ten-Shillings in hand we were marched to the NAAFI shop where we all bought Blanco, Blanco brush, Brasso, Duster, Shoe Polish (Kiwi of course) and a few other items to a cost of 10 shilling and three pence.
I remember brasses inspection when we all stood by our beds with belt brasses, shoulder insignia and corps badges all mounted on white card and laid on our white pillows. We all wondered why the permanent staff came into the room carrying two fire buckets full of water. We soon knew when we had to retrieve our beautifully cleaned brasses from the bottom of the bucket and told "re-inspection in one hour".
Top kit inspection was much the same. All nicely Blanco'd with brass gleaming laid neatly on the bed. In come the staff on a howler of a day, the rain going sideways and the first thing they do is open all the windows. Twenty minutes later a dozen recruits were outside in the rain retrieving their kit from muddy fire breaks.
Who can forget the Cross country race? Down through the camp across the railway and around the training area and then back through the camp. I know that one of the other troops had some clown, BURNETT I think, who was some runner! and I seem to remember that he passed a lot of us coming back across the railway as we were going the other way. Not being an out and out runner myself I was quite proud that I finished in the top ten.
Football and Rugby matches against the Regiment followed later in the training and visits to hobbies and then to our future Companies and Troops. Did we not have our own night at the Social Centre. Just how many times did I play "RISK".
Passing out from 'R' Company was soon upon us and then we were all sent packing home for Christmas - neatly attired in our best S.D.'s.
Who do I remember from these first weeks? Well the permanent staff obviously. I do not believe anyone realises what an influence these people had on the rest of their army careers. From my recruit photo which is included in the 'R' Company file there is Alec Close, Terry Mann, Dusty Miller, Geoff Oakes, 'Streak' Roberts, Brookes' (Who was thrown out in the first few weeks), Snowie White and Jimmy Worton.
Returning after Christmas to my new Platoon, SOMME, at that time still in the old barrack block just up from the Cookhouse to be met by some of the worse weather imaginable. The rooms were pretty airy from the start but with a little help from the entire troop gaps soon appeared in the walls and it was decided we needed new accommodation, which was found in an empty block between the Social Centre and the Officer's Mess and Church. Our first visit made us think we wished we had stayed where we were. A massive clean up exercise with much floor bulling and painting gave us a block to be proud of. Rooms of three with their lockers next door. Only Junior NCOs were allowed to be in rooms of two or less!
It was here one got to know more of the troops permanent staff. Lt. De-Bretton Gordon, a rather mild mannered Royal Signals Officer, Sergeant Winkless (RMP) and Sergeant McHugh (Royal Signals) were with us throughout my stay.
Jimmy Worton, Dusty Miller and Terry Mann were my 'R' company recruits who I definitely remember as joining me in Somme. Jimmy went on to be a junior inter-services boxing champion and both Dusty and Terry, I understand reached Junior NCO level. Members of the platoon I can remember sadly by name only include J/Sgt Smith RMP, Patterson, Fox, Ritchie, Gregg, Bragg, Macdonald and Elsey.
Each term we all readied ourselves for certain regular features. Commanding Officers Block inspection was one. We spent days and then all the night before 'bumpering' the highly polished black stone floors let alone making sure lockers and kit were ok. Rhyl Cup where we all did our bit to give our selected few a great chance. Somme always did well until the damn initiative test and the various ways of crossing the canal. Graduation Parade was something that I think that anyone who took part in could be duly proud of the way it always went well. But when I think of all those RSM's drill parades which I think were always on a Saturday morning?? When we seemed to always go through a full rehearsal. Funny I never remember bad weather calling these to a halt!
Church parades on Sunday morning unless you got up early and went to communion when you could then go back to the block and have a lie in! You also didn't have to parade beforehand. Or get yourself in the choir and then there was no parade.
Fancy having to parade in your civilian clothes for inspection to check they were suitable for going out! The pass even said what colour your socks were. We had a wag in 'B' Company who could forge the OC's signature, so many, at a cost, had several passes showing all the various outfits worn.
How about 'high tea' !!!! before hobbies. All ushered onto tables for bread and jam and if you weren't in the first two on a table no jam.
Duke of Edinburgh's Award was of course the driving force of the Regiment and gave a main focus to the daily military routine. The four areas were fitness, expedition, first aid for community service and hobbies. I do still have somewhere my book with my achievements and my Silver award badge. Not bad seeing I was only in the Regiment proper for 15 months. Silver expedition and getting off the truck near Talerddigg and walking over the hills to Staylittle to first camp. Second day up past Glaslyn to second camp and the final morning a gentle stroll down to Tal-y-bont. Just how many projects were done on the Farm "gates" of mid-Wales?
Senior Term Snowdon expedition, or a week spent up to the waist in snow, is remembered with gusto. Probably because on return I spent a week in the MRS with pneumonia. (Well a heavy bout of flu at least).
My memories are of lots of sport as my 'hobby' was Rugby so three evenings a week training and two games a week as well. This together with Company matches and troop sport activities seemed to dominate my time. Summer brought cricket to the fore.
All in all, a time in which our lives were changed forever and the discipline, although harsh at times, I'm sure has stood all of us in good stead throughout our lives.
I graduated in April 1964 and off to Catterick with Jack Robson and Pete 'Nobby' Clarke to train as Electronic Technicians. Jack had been Junior RSM and Nobby, after a spell in the Guardroom, became Knightsbridge Junior Sergeant. They became very close friends during our 13 months at Catterick but we all drifted apart and went our separate ways.
I'm sure now that the old grey matter is has been kick started more will come to mind and I do hope that more 'friends' will be found so that we can reminisce on the adventure that was the All Arms Junior Leaders Regiment.
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