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Sandbag Reminiscences of Roger (Chuck) Pettitt Sandbag
A Rebel At Heart
Just a few (very) odd memories from my time in 'The Valley of Wind and Rain'!
The Cambrian Coast Express used to (sometimes) stop at Tonfanau - we called it 'The Freedom Flyer' - and until recently I possessed a pair of sugar tongs 'borrowed' from it.
I was in Knightsbridge platoon, 'A' Company. The CO was in the Queens Own Highlanders (and wore a kilt) and I remember three Sergeants. One was in the Royal Artillery (I think he left), one was in the Signals (as was I) and the third was an MP who had been on the 'Trooping of the Colour'. He kept the boots he'd bulled for the occasion in separate, cotton-wool lined boxes. Even the soles were bulled!
One of the Junior Sergeants was a big lad known as 'Bin' (possibly Roy Eynon).
I was on the 'rest cure' at Menai Bridge Camp in '61. The eventful time mentioned in 'The Leader' was a murder which kept us all confined to camp for a day or so while the local police fingerprinted us all.
We did 'cliff-leader' training on the sea cliffs behind the firing range (in thread-bare fatigues and hob-nailed boots!) and finished the session abseiling down over a sea cave. Very interesting! Then there was the attack on Castle-y-Bere and paddling up the Dovey in metal assault boats...
Dolgellau was the local 'pull-a-girl' town for me and I was chased off the hill there by the obligatory Welsh farmer waving his shotgun and shouting "Get off my mountain, man". It was difficult trying to run and pull my trousers up!
I also remember the trip (by coach, no less) to Manchester in '60. I spent most of the time there at the ice-rink.
As I played the piano quite well I sometimes played the organ for the Wednesday service. I received three days RP for 'getting caught' playing jazz while I should have been practicing.
There was also a crash on the back road while I was there, the MO was returning to camp (in a rather inebriated state) and the Hillman Husky ambulance he was driving hit and killed a cow. He walked (staggered?!) away unhurt.
Did you know that the camp was used in the film 'The Monocled Mutineer' and was also used as a refugee centre for (I think) the Ugandan refugees from Idi Armin?
I've been back several times and stayed in the area. The camp is no longer there, the Bailey Bridge on the road to Tywyn is out of use although the sports ground at Morfa is still there.
Being taught to darn socks by the ladies of the WVS, bumpering the floors until they were lethal to hob-nailed boots and having water fights with the stirrup-pumps and fire buckets when the concrete parts of the 'spider' billets needed washing. Stealing bread from the cookhouse and lightly charring it, using metal coat-hangers, in the coke stoves. On one memorable occasion one of the lads in our billet stole a tin of jam sponge (tomorrow's afters!). It was eaten very quickly (just to remove the evidence, obviously) but we were left with the tin which was about two feet by one foot by one inch in size. We couldn't leave it around and no-one wanted to put it back so we buried it in among the trees behind the billet. I wonder if it was discovered when they pulled the place down.
I was a member of the model aeroplane club (run by Sgt. Bott) and I brought a model back with me from leave. At the first opportunity I flew this from Morfa - and watched it as it flew majestically West. I wonder if my trusty old Comp Special arrived in Ireland.
We played rugby at Morfa - (have you ever noticed that all the opposing team are bigger than you?) and after the brawl, sorry, game we were told to 'double to the far end of the pitch and back' the last eight back would have to dismantle the posts and put them away. In true Tonfanau style I watched very carefully and arrived back with two people between me and the ten last. The NCO in charge called me over, "Pettitt", he said, "You're a born 400 yard runner!". I took up high-jumping - it didn't involve a lot of effort.
Lt. Neil (Queens Own Highlanders) sometimes gave me a lift into Barmouth or Dolgellau and when going to Barmouth we always used the rickety-looking, wooden, toll-bridge over the Mawddach (does anyone else remember 'The Captain's Guide to the Mawddach Estuary?) at Penmaenpool. The first time we did this trip he told me to hold up a piece of paper. I asked, "Which piece" and he replied, "Any of those on the dashboard". I did as order and we sailed through the toll-gate without paying. When I looked the paper it was the 'Orders of the Day' for several days before. We did this every time.
Just to finish my own story I was medically discharged (bad asthma) but re-enlisted in the Signals some six months later after a series of desensitising injections perform, to me, a miracle cure. I learned to fly while out on secondment and spent a few 'interesting' months in Aden before being invalided out and subsequently flying fast jets in the middle east.
When sanity returned, I took up electronics and spent time designing military 'stuff' for British Aerospace before moving on to silicon chip design. I lived and worked in Germany (Frankfurt) for a couple of years and, while there, taught myself to program computers. Using these skills I've worked, and lived, all over Europe (Frankfurt, Nijmegan and Amsterdam being my favourite places). I'm now retired but still have a small computer consultancy business.
I wonder if any of you remember milk, cheese and hardtack? One of my favourite snacks!!!

Another (Boring) Reminiscence.
While there seems to be a bit of a confession theme going on (see Jock Clazies contribution) I'll add mine. Along with another lad - I don't remember his name but he came from Haverhill - we went over the wall for a week. I can't claim that it was anybody else's fault though, it was all my idea! My girl friend in Luton had invited me to her birthday party and, as my request for a weekend leave had been denied, I decided to go anyway.
We had no trouble getting out of camp and walked to Towyn from where we thumbed a lift to Machynlleth. That night was spent in a railway carriage in the siding there. The next day we bought platform tickets and caught a train to Shrewsbury - sorry BR - from where we thumbed lifts to Luton.
The party was not a success and she wasn't my girl friend for much longer, but I'd done what I wanted and a couple of days later we made our way back to Tonfanau. The first thing they did was put us in the guard house with bootlaces and belts removed, the second was to give us a really good brunch! I don't remember exactly what the punishment was (not too horrendous, obviously) but I do remember being told that I had been up for promotion to Junior Lance-Corporal.
I always was a rebel at heart!

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