Arthur’s Tale – Part I

I was called in for Military service in 1942.

I had to go to the Labour Exchange in Spurstowe Terrace in Hackney, to sign on for service, in April 1941.

I was asked to report to Dukes Road Medical Centre in Euston for my medical.  I was seen by about six different doctors who then passed me as fit but Grade Two because of an enlarged right testicle which might cause problems at a future date.

When asked which service I wished to join I gave my preference as the R.A.F.  When asked what I would like to be I suggested a wireless operator/air gunner, as I had already taken the trouble to learn the Morse Code in readiness.

I was told that because I was grade 2 I would not qualify for combat duties, and as there was a shortage of storekeepers in the service, and as I had some experience of storekeeping they were entering me for these duties.  My medical took place on 6/11/41.

The next I heard was when I was asked to go to Cardington in Bedfordshire for two days for tests on the 21st June 1942.  There I was measured for uniform, given a series of tests for maths, English, and general I.Q test, also tests for colour blindness, and general knowledge tests.  I was then attested, swearing to serve King and country and given the King’s shilling.  From that moment on I was on military service for the duration of the war.  On the 21 August 1942 I was called up and asked to report to Cardington for Military Service.  I was just 20 years of age.

I was at Cardington for a week, how to salute was our first lesson.  We were also fitted with our uniforms, and got to know what service life was all about.  Reveille early in the morning, making up our beds and folding blankets in the prescribed manner, cleaning billets and toilets, whitening stones around the billet, marching, saluting, and learning what military life was all about.

After a week we were marched to the railway station and put on a train to Boston in Lincolnshire for our general training.

This was in August and the weather was quite hot.  On arrival we were marched around the town to be put into private billets where women who had spare rooms agreed to billet service personnel for a regular weekly payment, and the women liked to select the men they billeted, and it seemed to me like a cattle market.  We were marched around town with all our kit stopping at each billet for the women to select the lads they wanted.  All the good looking ones were picked first, and all the little ones and odd balls were left to last, and needless to say it was well into the afternoon before I was chosen, and thankful to get out of the burning sun and give my feet a well earned rest.

I was billeted with two other lads beside a river close to the Boston stump.

We would parade every morning in Linden Way, by a Sergeant whose job it was to put us through our military training for the next six weeks.  We were marched up and down Linden Way learning to march, about turn, salute, and to do guard duty.  We were taken to a rifle range to learn to fire a rifle, taught to dismantle and assemble a Sten Gun and how to clean a rifle and a Sten.  We were vaccinated and inoculated, taken to an assault course for combat training, and as a special treat we were taken to Yates Field a local farmers cow field, where as the cows were taken out at 4 o’clock for milking, we were marched in for combat training among the freshly dropped cowpats.  We would be lined up either side of the field and had to charge towards each other with fixed bayonets until a whistle blew, when we had to drop flat on the grass and take aim with our rifles.  We also did our unarmed combat in the same field.

We were taken on route marches the longest being about five miles.  On one occasion we were marched out of town, across a river and told to get back to town without using the bridge, and without being seen.  This meant crawling along ditches around the plowed fields, while our sergeant and a corporal riding bicycles along the road blowing a whistle each time they spotted one of us.  The penalty for being seen was extra drill on return to town for the guilty parties.

We were taken for one day to Skegness where we were supposed to be taught to fire machine guns by the army on their firing range on the beach, but due to some mix up it did not happen, so we had a day learning about sea defences.  We were also given charts of British and German aircraft and ships, and these were in silhouette and we have to learn to memorise these in our spare time, and from time to time were taken to a hall and tested on our recognition ability.  We had to learn this no matter what our ultimate job was to be.  At the end of training, being a storekeeper, I was sent to Swinderby in Lincolnshire, a part of B.S Bomber Group to work in the stores until a place could be found for me to take my storekeeping training course.

In the first week I was selected for guard duty, 2 hours on and 4 hours off.  I was put to work in the stores, and told to clear goods out of the receipt boys and put them into their storage areas, and the first item I had to move was a new tyre for a Lancaster bomber.  It was as big as me and I rolled it down the ramp to store and it overbalanced and fell over.  It was so heavy that I had to get help to lift it up.  I soon found out that I had a lot to learn.  

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