Early Memories of National Service

When we went to the firing range we had a target made of paper with a man’s silhouette on it, floating in the air.

I joined the Army Cadet Force at age 16.  B Company (cadets) 5th Regiment of the Northumberland Fusiliers (the fighting 5th) was based ay Military Roads, North Shields.  I remember the 303 Enfield rifle and going to the Ponteland firing range for target practice using live ammunition, firing at 200/300 yards.

After receiving my call up papers I can remember being in a compartment of the train travelling to RAF Padgate reception camp.  At camp I can remember being issued with a RAF blue shirt and cutlery.  My service number was 2435677 and I became known as ‘welsh geordie’ because of my accent.  I remember the Enfield rifle – when we went to the firing range we had a target made of paper with a man’s silhouette on it, floating in the air.

Alas, I was only in the RAF for 15 days before I was given a medical discharge.  I was devastated, as it was the only thing I’d ever wanted to do.  It was embarrassing to tell parents and work colleagues.  My father had been in the Royal Flying Corps, and my brother in the Air Training Corps.  What I couldn’t understand was how men could pass A1 fit back home and then fail their medical at reception camp.  What a waste of time and resources.

I remember the start of the 6 weeks basic training.  We were issued with two uniforms, one for every day and one for best.  We were given kit comprising; cutlery, a mess tin and an enamel mug.  I remember I was consigned to a top bunk that had been made up in a special way.  Several days after the training began a sergeant came round to tell us we could have photos taken to send home to our families.

Thinking back to my medical discharge, I feel that there are three reasons why a man could fail a medical.  They were; nasal polyps, flat feet or perforated eardrums.

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