Wednesday, 16 November 2011

National Service looming...

Before I took my A levels I received notification from Emmanuel College that I had been accepted (conditional on A levels) to start in October 1954 after National Service.  I could now see forward to the next five years providing I got the necessary grades.  In the meantime life seemed to revolve around school work (and homework) as results were all important to me now.  From time to time, however, certain outside events intruded into the normal routines.  It was 1951 that our history master came into class one afternoon to announce that “Phillip has managed to hitch himself to the Royal payroll”, (Princess Elizabeth’s engagement).  By February 1952 King George VI had died and Elizabeth II began her long reign as Queen.

The Korean War, which had started in 1950, was destined to continue until July 1953 and involved American, British and Commonwealth troops. With National Service looming up the prospect of me fighting in another war must have been a real worry to Father and Mother although I must confess I didn’t think about it much at the time.  I can’t remember the actual sequence of events but I made the choice to go into the Army (preferably the Royal Engineers). I attended a preliminary medical before receiving call-up papers in the autumn.  All of this, of course, was going on during the run-up to the taking and awaiting the results of the important A levels. 

The art examination held no fear for me, even the written work.  There were only two of us taking the subject and, as my father loved to point out, I came second!  However I still got the “A” grade.  I used to enjoy geography, particularly physical geography although economic and political aspects of the subject were more hard work.  I finished up with a “B”.  When it came to history this was a disaster.  The period of history was the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries but separated into British and European history.  We had two history teachers over the two years and it is worthwhile recording that this led not only to me failing to make an A level grade but the failure of the whole class.  Both teachers seemed to concentrate on British history with the result that European history was never properly covered.  One paper was therefore easy to cope with and the other was a nightmare. 

With only two A levels I consider myself lucky that Emmanuel was still prepared to take me.  So here I was with a few precious weeks to go before joining the Army.  Most of my pals had managed to get deferred because of entry into further education straight from school but I was about to experience a major shock to the system as, wet behind the ears, I reported on 4 October 1952 to the Royal Engineers training camp in Worcester.


  1. Still reading even if I do not comment every time! :)

  2. I'm surprised he wasn't worried about possibly being sent to the Korean war - I bet his parents were horribly anxious. Can't wait to see where he ends up after training camp!

  3. Ms Caroline - I wonder why he didn't defer National Service and go to University first; I'm not sure whether he had a choice or not.