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Pull Up A Sandbag
Sandbag Reminiscences of Paul Treen Sandbag
Not So Junior
I went to Tonfanau on Jan 14, 1964 (10 days before I was 17 - so not so Junior, not much of a Leader either come to think of it!) and left in April 1965. I was in 2 Platoon 'R' Company and then went to Imphal Platoon 'A' Company (Champion Company).
I remember J/Sgt. Richard Ham, J/Sgt. Mick Burrell RA and Dave Hovell RMP from Newport, S.Wales. I am in e-mail contact with Dave.
Jock Gordon, Rich Ham, John Foster and I all went off to Singapore and Borneo with 16 Light Air Defence Regiment in April 65.
I also remember meeting a J/Gunner from 'B' Company whose face was familiar, his name was Friend and his dad and mine were in 4th Regt RHA together in Germany. Small world ain't it.
Here are some memories I have which may raise a smile or two from old AAJLR inmates.
A 3-tonner ride from the station up to the Social centre to be sorted into Platoons of 'R' Company. Me and another 'volunteer' - 'You and You', told to accompany a Sergeant to the Cookhouse. Jeez - fatigues already! I thought it was just like the horror stories everyone talked about. But no it was merely to collect an urn of tea for everyone arriving - plus running the gauntlet of the 'old sweats' having their supper after hobbies night "You'll be sorry" etc. They'd probably arrived in the previous intake!
Life in 'R' Company:
• All about bed blocks.
• Kit layouts.
• Sewing buttons on greatcoats (tested by holding up the coat by each of its buttons by Sgt. Gracie) and putting hobnails in boots.
• Bulling up those boots (I was hopeless at that!).
• Rubbing belt brasses with Brasso on cardboard.
• Bumpering corridors.
• Scoffing 'Wagon Wheels' (the size of dinner plates in them days) in NAAFI break.
• Foot-Drill "In" and "Out" progressing to 1- 2- 3 - 1.
• SLR firing on the ranges - 'First 2 warmers into the bank'.
• Marching to the cookhouse with mug and KFS held smartly behind back.
• Being allowed to walk to Towyn after 6 weeks providing your civvy suit passed inspection at the Guardroom. Walking into Towyn to find it wasn't worth it!
And after all that we won the platoon drill competition.
Other memories:
• AAJLR squads marching around the camp at breakneck speed. So fast that we had to take an extra pace when halting and drag in the other foot. Looked and sounded tremendous.
• Squads bellowing out "Miss - over" on eyes right/left and eyes front when passing an officer. 'B' Company were very good at this!
• Some bullshitter deciding to scrape their Brasso and Blanco tins and polish them up for the locker layout. "Great idea" said the J/Sgt., "You can all do it."
• Finding out the significance of the contour lines being VERY close together on our maps when we did adventure training and 'The Duke of Edinburgh Silver Expedition'. The hills were never ending especially with those damned rucksacks.
• Saturday morning RSM's drill parade on the Square.
• Cpl. Fagg of the Green Jackets on the Permanent staff Regimental Police - nasty piece of work with two teeth and brain cells to match! He would send you back from civvies inspection on the main gate when you were trying to have a trip out to Towyn - when you eventually got there it wasn't worth it! And I speak as a Taff from Newport.
• Learning to drive in the Morris 1-tonners.
• The Tonfanau Beagles (Maj. Appletons).
• Cookhouse :- J/NCOs and graduates could push in at the front of the queue for grub. Just when you got near the front (we were always starving!) and saw something tasty for scoff some Lance Jack would swoop like a shite hawk and whip it away! Supper on hobby nights; "What's with chips chef?" - To get chips you had to have some crap dish like cheese on toast or eggs left over from breakfast! Does anyone remember when they issued those big useless Mugs China White One pint? If you hit the mug of the bloke in front of you with a knife in the queue he'd be left holding the handle! I don't think they issued them for long!
• And who kept on nicking all the sink and bath plugs? I think I saw one once - then again it may have been a dream. Considering the barrack damages I paid out I should have had a solid gold set.
I also remember on one pay parade crashing to the required halt in front of the paying officer in a smart and soldier like manner. Unfortunately due to the combination of hobnailed boots and shiny floor I sailed right past the desk!
I think I must have been quite acrobatic as a boy? One day we had been on the ranges. The boys in the butts hadn't been overworked on pasting up when I was on the firing point! Anyway, we handed our SLRs back into the armoury just on lunch time so everyone was haring out of the armoury door to get in the cookhouse queue. I emerged at full speed (daydreaming about steamed pudding and custard) just as one of the permanent staff was driving home in his car for his dinner. I hit the front of the car, flew through the air, hit the ground in a forward roll and kept on running. No injuries! As good as a 'Frank Spencer' stunt! I often wonder how he explained it to the insurance company. "Low flying Junior Leader". If he reads this - "Sorry Sarge!"
Also boxing lessons in the Gym with Cpl. Oliver PTI, I picked Gunner Thompson because he was small but he was solid and only needed a couple of punches for me to realise that this was 'not for me'.
Does anyone remember the WVS lady at Tonfanau? Wasn't her name Mabel? I remember that she was in Singapore and Borneo later on in 1965-66.
I remember us Gunner graduates parading to choose the RA Regiments we wanted to be posted to on leaving the pleasant environs of Tonfanau. First choices on the list were the Commando and Para Gunners which a lot of lads opt for. Then they started on the glamorous postings such as Hong Kong and Singapore (that's when my hand shot up) and all the other bits of Empire we had then. Last on the list were the UK postings (Couldn't understand why anyone would want one of those!) I do remember that some latecomers were posted to the only place left - Barnard Castle. A few of us were well pleased with our Singapore postings to 16 Lt AD Regiment till we got back to the barracks and someone said "Ever heard of Borneo?". We hadn't - but we still went - but that's another story!
Great days, yes despite it all they were Great Days.
A few years ago I went back to Tonfanau when on holiday in North Wales. There was nothing but a pile of old iron beds on the site. I didn't recognise mine!
I remember the 4 companies had a colour from the stable belt - I think 'A' Company Yellow, 'B' Company Blue, 'C' Company Green, 'D' Company Red. Also the Champion Company members wore a special lanyard with No 2 Dress.

Another memory.
On 2 Platoon 'R' Company parade by the Drill shed one day being inspected by Lt. Webb Platoon Commander. He took my cap badge out of my beret, looked at the back of it, screamed "You haven't cleaned the back of your cap badge Gunner. You are a disgrace to to your Regiment and the British army. You are not fit to wear the RA cap badge". He then hurled the offending article over the roof of the Drill shed. He then did it to a couple more lads in the platoon. We offenders then had to slink round the camp in disgrace without a cap badge till the whole Regiment knew!! Even Lt. Webb's boxer dog looked at us with a sneer. I was quite upset at the time, I believed we WERE a disgrace!!! It got worse - later I was charged for having dirty back brasses on my belt and my punishment was to be banned from the NAAFI for a week.
Today I read that NCOs are not allowed to shout at recruits in case they ring mum on the mobile and she comes to take them away from the nasty men. Is it too late for me to sue for compensation for hurt feelings?

And surely someone at one of the Army Recruiting offices in 1964 had a really twisted sense of humour.
To assign one of our AAJLR comrades (Dettingen Platoon 1964) to the Royal Regiment of Artillery.
One pace forward Junior GUNNER REA!!!
I expect he would have liked a quid for each time he heard that...... and to strangle people like me who keep reminding him!

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