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Pull Up A Sandbag
Sandbag Reminiscences of John Robertson Sandbag
It Started With A Free Coke
I joined the AAJLR on 5 May 1959 and remember arriving at Tonfanau railway station around 10 o`clock that morning having left Dumfries the night before at 7. I had met Tom Morris and Tommy Fairburn at Crewe in the early hours of the morning, we became firm friends and all served in the Greys together.
We were met at the station by Sgt. Tappy Short, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, I remember that we were sent to the cookhouse where a civvy was fitting a coke machine, and he gave the three of us a free coke.
We met up with a Keith Nicholson who came from Coventry and all walked up to 'R' Company lines where we met our troop sergeant, Sgt. Faint, East Anglian Regiment, and an RAEC Sergeant, Sgt. Elgin.
We were joined during the day by other arrivals, Albert Goy, Dennis Hill, Johnny Hainz, Curly Garbett, George Stafford, Jumbo Wilmore, a little Irish guy call ??? Martin and Bob Davies who went on to be J/CSM of 'D' Company.
We formed as Cambrai Troop under Lt. Keith Ecclestone, 3 RTR, we also had a Sgt. Hopkinson who was later promoted to WO2 as Drill Sgt. Major. I think Hoppy was from the Middlesex Regiment. Our CSM was from the Leicestershire Regiment, CSM Sanderson. I remember him showing me his mess tins which he had engraved with his regimental crest and battle honours while a POW of the Japanese, he was a keen hockey player and introduced me to the game, a great CSM.
The mad Welshman mentioned in someones notes, who rode the horse and brandished the shotgun, was Colonel (Ret) Narry Whim (not sure of spelling).
Our Company Commander was from an Irish regiment, I think it was the Inneskillen Fusiliers; he had a thick brogue that made him difficult to understand. The Company clerk was a National Serviceman, L/Cpl MacGlauclan from the Greys.
I did an outward bound course at Towyn in November 59, it was absolutely freezing, but still it was a great course. I teamed up with a guy from the Junior Guards Company from Pirbright called Pete Foss who went on to become the senior Drum Major of the Guards Division. I met up with Pete again in 73 when I did my Guards Drill Course.
I also remember Ian Yuill and Sid Evans joining the troop from the second intake of 'R' Company along with a lot of other guys whose names I have, regretfully forgotten.
When we passed out of 'R' Company we were first billeted up by the MRS, where we spent a lot of time bulling it up until it was shining like a shilling up a chimney sweeps backside, only to be moved to what became 'D' Company lines down by the cookhouse towards the back gate by the gun sheds, where we started all over again.
I was a sprinter in those days, 100 yards being my distance, I remember we were taken down to Morfa Flats sports field where the S/Sgt. PTI made me do six 200 yard heats in the space of a couple of hours and decided I was better at the shorter distance. I remember my great rival was a guy called Wilson a gunner from A Company, you couldn't get a fag paper between us, but he had a faster start than me.
I passed out in the summer of 1960. At the pass off parade the graduating leavers were under the command of J/CSM Jock Warrender, 'A' Company, also Greys.
I must have joined the RAC training brigade at Catterick in August 60 for my Radio Operator training as I sailed to Germany on 17 December 60 arriving at Lothian Barracks, Detmold the following day. Jock Warrender, Tom Morris and I were all on the same draft and ex-AAJLR. Great guys and friends.
I enjoyed Tonfanau and remember it with great affection. I retired from the army in 1982 as RSM of CVHQ Deepcut and revisited Tonfanau last year for the first time, as you know the camp has now gone but I stood on the main road through the camp by the company lines and it all came flooding back.

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