Home Page | A.A.J.L.R. Forum | Contact The Webmaster

Pull Up A Sandbag
Sandbag Reminiscences of Alan James Wilkinson Sandbag
Who Stole My Park Drive?
I served in the Royal Artillery from 1959 to 1983 and was at Tonfanau from the 26 Oct 59 to Dec 60 in Ypres Platoon.
The first thing I remember about Tonfanau is a big Corporal standing at the gates to the station platform confiscating our cigarettes (20 Park Drive in my case) after a ten hour train journey from Wisbech, Cambs late one October night. I joined the King brothers and a lad by the name of Busby from Norfolk at March station and by the time we arrived at Tonfanau there must have been at least sixty boys, so the Corporal must have got enough cigarettes to last until Christmas!
Bob Cash has mentioned our drill Sgt. (O'Connor) and I can confirm what a B he was. In the hanger on a wet day, (and there were plenty of those, I always thought Tonfanau meant the valley of wind and rain) while doing drill, marking time facing the corrugated door he bellowed "higher, higher" the sound of knees bashing the door was deafening, fortunately I was in the centre rank, at the same time. ('One, two, three, one,') if your hands were floating about then you soon got cracked across the knuckles with a pace stick (30 inches). I did get to like drill but I prefer to think it was the influence of Sgt Major Croanon (Welsh Fusilers) and not the fear of O'Connor. I laugh now but it was not so funny at the time. Anyway Pearson, I think he later went to 3 RTR, wrote a letter to the CO (Colonel Lake), we all signed it and on return from Christmas leave, O'Connell was never seen again.
I also recall CSM Len Haddow RA (B Coy). I later served with him; he now lives in Gillingham, Kent, ended up Major QM. I saw him a few years back, he always mentions Todd Slaughter (Howey? side drummer) from Norwich, he finished RSM Kings troop. I referred to my first recollection of him, when a Junior Leader asked "Sgt Major could you tell me where the Naafi is?" or some such request, Len looking bemused said, "You don't call me Sgt Major only officers are accorded that privilege, you call me Sir!"
When I finished Fox troop at Rhyl together with Geoff (Brummy) Lewis, sadly no longer with us, we were posted to Hong Kong, (yippy). Here we met the Padre Major McClelland from Tonfanau, I believe he was an ex-Irish international rugby player and he took us for rugby training. He put me in as scrum half, Des Palmer (SLI) played fly half with Capper (RAC) in the pack, a big hard looking lad but a gentleman, and I wonder what happened to him? I heard the Padre retired to Canada?
Back to those earlier days in training, we were not allowed to smoke or go to the NAAFI, not even the shop. I smoked in those days and was pleased to see an old school pal, (who was out of training) in the cookhouse one day (Roberts was his name). While washing up (KFS, mug large white one pint pot) I was able to slip him the price of ten Park Drive and waited until he came back with the goodies. On the black market one fag could be sold for as much as half a crown (2,000 percent profit) although I was not in that business. On the subject of the Cookhouse someone said their memories of Tonfanau were of always being hungry, and yes we were. I have never been as fit. If it wasn't for the two slices of bread, a square of marge and a dollop of jam I'm sure the Cookhouse would have been robbed more often.
Moving on I was in a pub near Catterick about 1962 when Trooper Lloyd (Ypres) said hello. Also I bumped into Fuller on the sea front at Hunstanton, he came from Ramsey Hunts, a good boxer, never stayed in the army. The only others I met was Johnny Rogers (Queens) in Hong Kong, we were both on fatigues preparing the sports day in Kowloon.
I completed 22 years in the army ending up at Shoeburyness Essex. I now work as The Range Operations Controller at Foulness testing range.

 Return To The Sandbag Menu 


Why not tell us what you remember:

 Email the Webmaster