The Making Of The Man Page 2

They were then able to bang the serving utensil on the rim of his pot. and transfer whatever he was dispensing onto your tray. Their aim was not always true however, although in hindsight I suspect it was done deliberately because we were new. Finding a seat at a large table was the next task, and we sat down to our first army meal. Within a few moments of sitting down, a very young looking officer came to my side and asked "Any complaints?" He was accompanied by a short squat little man with a thin moustache, a beret on his head, and a red fancy sash across his breast. I was about to say something, only to be told by the Orderly Sergeant to "Shut up". It seemed at the time to be a pointless question, if I was not allowed to answer it one way or the other. Dinner over, leaving by way of the exit. We washed our tray in a huge tank of cold water, the surface thick with oily material. We then stacked them up ready to be steam washed for the next meal I hoped. On returning to our hut, we found a sheet with Part I Orders written on the top. This suggested we turned in early as an early start 0630 would be required. We needed no second bidding, most of us had early starts. The fire would not light, so bed was the warmest place to be. Lights were turned out by an unseen hand at 9.30pm, soon to be drummed into us as "2130 Hrs". Soon the chatter died down, and sobbing could be heard from various beds. It was a strange experience to be with 29 others. Various sounds came over and the night engulfed me. My first day was over. As dawn broke the following day, the door of the hut was thrown open and the Lance Corporal banging a dustbin lid encouraged us to rise. What a sight, all shapes and sizes, staggering around in various states of dress. Four wash basins, no plugs, no mirrors. This was to be the norm for most of the establishments I subsequently served in. We were in the cookhouse at 0700 hrs. stood in line, ate, washed up our trays, returned to our hut and waited. 0800 hrs. More shouting: "Fall in" and "Double" to the R.Q.M.S — the stores. Sized off in alphabetical order: Adams, Brown, Cousins, Drafer and so on. The piles of equipment were placed in a kit bag as if by an educated robot. I reached my turn, went through as the others had done, and reached the end where I had a buff form to sign. Here I was called upon to state my number. I thought for a moment and said "It’s 2-3-something, I think". You would have thought that I had blown up the Houses of Parliament. A storeman told a lance corporal that I had forgotten my number. The lance corporal told the Corporal. The Corporal told the Sergeant. They then all shouted at once that I was not as clever as I should have been, or words to that effect. They produced a sheet with my name and number on and reminded me. The storeman then told me "I am only going to say this once. Come in here again without knowing your personal number, and you will be up in front of O.l.C." I signed it and went to check off my kit. This caused some concern and delay, that did notgo down too well. The Corporal said "It’s all there son, trust me, I am a storeman." This, I was to find out very soon, was my first mistake. We all returned to our hut and put on our denim shirt, hairy vest, sport drawers, cellular jersey wool, beret (blue with badge), socks, boots, gaiters, belt (with buckle). We were all starling to look the part. It became obvious very soon that the army had only two sizes. Too large and too small. However, showing some ingenuity, we exchanged some with our neighbour and looked better for it. Following our first NAAFI break, we reassembled outside for our first parade. I had asked the man behind the counter what NAAFI stood for, and he replied in a low voice "No ambition and few interests". At least, I think this is what he said - he would not repeat it. The parade was quite an eye opener. We were all sized off and stood in line abreast. The R.S.M. with two junior NCOs in his wake, gave us a number as per our place in line. He used his stick, placed one inch under your left nostril, and told you to tell him what he had told you. When this was done, he went to the next quivering recruit, until he got the end of the line. He then marched away to the centre of the square, which seemed miles away. The following complex instruction came from this distant figure: "1,4,7 and 10 stand still! 2,5 and 8 one step backward and one to the left! 3,6 and 9, two steps backward and one to the left." It was a shambles. The R.S.M. raced across the square with the stick in its vertical stance — he was like a man possessed. Red in the face, he threatened the NCO for failing to have prepared us fully, and hopped about for a full 2 minutes. I could see what he was trying to do, and thought it a little ambitious. I wondered whether I could help it along by suggesting an alternative way, although I thought better of it this time. He tried it several times more before giving up. He then tapped each of us on the shoulder with his stick, and placed us in the appropriate place. The line got shorter as we were now in 3 ranks. Happiness was short-lived however, as we were advised to learn who was in front, to the left, behind, and to the right. This was to be our position for the rest of our training period. Page 2