The first two weeks of basic training were spent mainly “square-bashing” with a bit of PT (physical training). Reveille was at . This was a rude awakening by the duty sergeant where he battered on the door and switched on all the lights, followed by a fierce prod with a drill stick if your weren’t already on your feet. You then had to wash, shave, dress, make your bed and be lined up armed with eating irons and mug to march to the cookhouse at 7am. The cookhouse was a massive space to accommodate several hundred soldiers with all the clatter and chatter that went along with it. Then it was down to business marching, marching, marching. Everywhere you went you were marched as a troop, consisting of three lines, three abreast with the NCO following close behind.
There was a break for lunch and the day finished about . Tea followed immediately afterwards and your time was your own until lights out at 11pm. Most of us lay on our beds to recover from exhaustion for a while but, as we were confined to camp for the two weeks, the only place to go was the NAAFI where you could eat, drink and perhaps play snooker, pool or table tennis. The staff were mostly women but fraternising with the natives was not encouraged on camp. In fact each regiment had its own police, known as RPs, to ensure discipline was maintained around the clock. Evenings were very often spent on “bulling” your boots and polishing your brasses.
The culture shock having worn off after a few days, I was able to adjust to army life knowing that, following the initial two weeks, we were all to be sent to other training camps around the country and even overseas in some cases. In the meantime we were having the edges knocked off, ready to continue basic training for a further four weeks and then Royal Engineers special training (Field Engineering) for 16 weeks.
We were subjected to a thorough medical examination to determine level of fitness and written intelligence tests to identify potential for a limited career varying from a Commissioned Officer to a technical or administrative NCO. The medical examination was later to prove my downfall when applying for a commission because my broken leg was identified and registered a downgrading for ‘lower limbs’. This was part of your ‘PULHEEMS’ assessment covering various body parts. All the information was recorded in your Passbook together with personal records of rank, serial number, pay grade, religion. This document had to be carried around at all times, rather like an ID card. There was also the Pay book; basic pay for a new recruit was 27/6 d a week (about £1.40 today).