The uniform I wore as a cadet was the old-fashioned battledress of Second World War vintage; blouse, tie, webbing gaiters (we always called them – wrongly – spats) and belt. The gaiters and belt had to be blanco’d and the buckles and badge polished with Brasso. Hobnailed boots with highly polished toecaps (done with the back of a teaspoon) gave the finishing touch. These boots gave an impressive noise as you stood to attention but their grip was appalling. We would slide all over the place, especially on made-up surfaces.
I have already done a post on the CCF, but that concentrated on Field Day and on that occasion it was done out in civvies. This article concerns the more normal army side of the Corps, when we were dressed in uniform. We had plenty of drill, but also sat in the classroom learning things like map reading and TWEGOLAPPS. This was the acronym for the Duties of a Sentry. I had forgotten what TWEGOLAPPS stood for, except for a vague feeling that ‘S’ stood for silhouette. Luckily there are old CCF boys out there on the web who have a better memory. In this case one from Harrow – but not the posh Harrow, Harrow County School for Boys. Nonetheless this Grammar School produced some notable characters like Michael Portillo – and he became Minister of Defence. Anyway, here is TWEGOLAPPS; Time on and off duty; Wind direction; Enemy‘s position; Ground to be covered; Own troops position; Landmarks; Action on approach; Patrols; Passwords; Signals. You see there is no mention of silhouette. That must have been part of another acronym.
Map reading was a part of CCF study that I enjoyed, particularly turning the information on a map through 90˚ to produce a graph of the contours. In this way you can easily discern where the “dead ground” is and where enemy troops (for example) might be hiding. This is not obvious from a map although all the data is there. It was only about an hour a week, so the learning process was slow, and a lot of that hour was spent in ’bout turns and left wheel and marking time. But the map reading must have touched a chord for me to recall it (however imperfectly) 50 years later.
My experience as member of the TA was about 20 years after my time as a cadet; I was nearly too old in my middle thirties and things had changed a little. There was no more battle dress and blanco, and we wore camouflage trousers and a flak jacket. The beret remained the same only this time it had an RAMC badge on it and a red flash behind, instead of an out-of-date Britannia of the Royal Norfolks. Instead of an hour a week in was a fortnight a year and few weekends.
I fell a bit sorry for our Staff Sergeant in the TA. “Staff” was kept aloof from the other ranks in the Sergeants’ Mess. Consequently he missed out on a lot of the fun we had in the NAAFI and elsewhere. And as the only NCO in our detachment he was on his own.
But back to school and the CCF. Another regular event was shooting at the range. For this we had both .22 rifles which were very light, and 303s which were really heavy. They were also very loud compared to .22s, but we never had any ear defenders. Not did we in the TA come to think of it, when we were shooting light machine guns. Of course when you are shooting for real and might be killed at any moment the possibility of temporary deafness doesn’t really enter into things. I’m sure the Health and Safety police would blow a fuse at many things we did as a matter of course. Our instructions were very basic, like don’t put the muzzle of your rifle against your boot and then shoot– even a blank can blow your foot off. On the range our ammunition was live of course; charging over Kelling Heath we were firing blanks, and scaring the wits out of the wildlife too no doubt. We had to account for all the shots we fired, and if issued with five rounds had to return five spent cartridges.
The Sergeant Major was the only full-time employee, a former soldier who kept our rifles and other kit in some kind of order. We had two during the years I was in the CCF. Among the boy cadets there were some obvious candidates for the top job – that of Sergeant. During my second year it was Fitch, who actually went on to a career in the army. After I had left the CCF it was Peter Fargus who was the Sergeant. He carried on as an army cadet at University and it the TA well after that, finishing up with quite a high rank. I have not seen Peter since the 1970s when he met me at Barnham Broom Golf Club, but he sends me a Christmas card every year.
In those days you could join up and be paid while you were at Uni. Everybody got free tuition plus a grant of course; if you joined the forces you got a salary as well. You didn’t even have to undertake to continue after university, the army said they knew their students well enough to trust them. They didn’t of course, and the system was soon brought to an end, but not before a contemporary of mine got the Air Force not only to finance him through college but also to teach him to fly helicopters as well, all for just a few weeks in uniform each year. As soon as he had graduated he left the Air Force and got a well paid job flying helicopters in Africa!
ps. The two schoolmasters who were C.O. of the Corps during my time were both veterans of the Second World War. Alex Cunningham had been a fighter pilot and Dan Frampton a Signals Officer.
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