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National Service



I'll add my two penn'orth if you don't mind Rod.

I can't remember where I registered, I guess that as I lived in Burbury St. Lozells, at the time, it wouuld either be the offices in Aston, or the one that was on the Soho Rd.,by the junction with Villa Rd.
What I do remember was the brown envelope that dropped thro' our door, its contents informing me the one way train ticket that was enclosed, would get me Catterick Army Camp on the 7th. Dec. 1950 and there I was to report to the Training Camp of the Royal Corps of Signals.
From then on I would be afforded the rank of Signalman, and would be further identified by the number 22440138.

When the day came, it was a tearfull parting for my mother. She had already lost a son, when my brother was killed in N.Africa during WW2.
With four sisters I had become the spoilt one of the family,especially as she always wanted sons.

The advice from my Father,who himself had been wounded in WW1 and ivalided out of the Army, was to make the best of it, do as I was told, and NEVER VOLUNTEER!!

The platform at New St. Station was full of unfortunates, like myself,who were heading for the Garrison town of Catterick, deep in the Yorkshire Moors some 165 miles away. Almost like going abroad in those days!
When we arrived at our destination, we were greeted with about 12 inches of snow together with an icy cold north wind.

For 6 weeks we were housed in wooded huts,heated by one combustion stove in the middle of each hut.
I think they used the same huts when they filmed "The Great Escape"!!
It seemed that most of the time was spent "square bashing" after clearing the snow and ice off the parade ground each morning.
The rest of the time was spent getting your kit pressed,polished and what ever else was required to get it to the standard demanded.
It also gave us time to find out what a great bloke the Troop Sgt. was !!

It was at this point that it became evident that my Dad's advice should be heeded.
The Sgt. asked if any of us could play the piano ?
About five hands went up, and they were told to go with the Troop Cpl.
It was a short time later that we saw them struggling to push a large upright piano across the icy parade ground.
It turned out that the piano,normally kept in the Sgts. Mess was needed in the Gym for a Xmas Party for children of the permanent staff.
None of the volunteers got to play it!!

Must finish on my reflection of the first pay day.
Had to stand to attention and salute for less than £4 a £1 of which went straight to my mother!

I will wait for the reaction before relating any more incidents during my illustrious Army career, that come to mind.
In any case, my grandson who has recently joined the Army Cadets has brought his boots round to be "bulled"
Back to the old "spit & polish" !

Wishing Everyone a Happy & Peaceful New Year and continued success to everyone concerned in the running of this site.

Gems may be precious,
Frienship is priceless.


Kiwi Brummie Admin' Team
:D Ray please let us know more! I remember as a child of the 50's growing up listening to the Sunday lunchtime programme for B.F.P.O in Cyprus, Germany, Gibraltar and Malaya. Requests with I think it was Judith Chalmers and some Bloke. I remember hearing Ann Shalton singing ' Lay down your arms' and Pet Clark's ' Sailor' (I think) also Vera Lynn songs. They got lots of requests for Military type songs and there were lots just after the war. :)


master brummie
I have to make a confession about my national service. Doctor Gibson my doctor out of Sutton Street asked me if I wanted to do my national service, to which I replied no, I had been dreading getting called up I had recieved my letter asking me to attend a medical it was at a Lozells school I believe, I was courting at the time which made more inclined to accept his offer of a deferment I had heard of several methods being used to get of doing national service 1. drinking soapy water (caused irregular heart beats 2. wrapping a wet towel round your knee and hitting it hard (caused fluid on the knee) there were others but I can only remember these two but with my doctors note I did not need any other excuse,
many many young lads tried to get out of doing their national service then there was the humiliation of being prodded and messed about with by these so called doctors on the medical board (I still at to go through with the medical even with my letter) I never regretted my deception till many years later when applying for my HGV licence I was turned down on medical grounds because of what my doctor had put in the letter so it turned on me in the end. but I am still glad I never did my national service I spent those two years enjoying the love of my life and still do we celebrate 46 years married life next June


master brummie
Hi Guy's
My N/S was a "Cook's" tour after doing six weeks "square Bashing" at Budbrooke Barracks,then a further 13 weeks training at No 1 TRRE at Malvern Wells,then being posted to the Middle East,first port of call was Palestine,then Egypt,Libya,Jordon,it was an experience I would not have missed,I went when I was 18 was excempt till I was 21 if I had wished,but no wanted to go,and all for the princely some of £2.50? per week


Hi Pom,
Sorry to say that at that time in my life my one and only love was football !
Didn't listen to much music on the radio or any where else for that matter, although I do remember falling madly in love with Pet Clark (Downtown) or was it Shirley Bassey (Big Spender) :?:

Noticed your weekly wage figure,Dennis, and agree you are nearer the mark than the figure I gave.

As for you, John! I can only admire you for your confession.
No body in their right mind wanted to do NS., but I think you will find that the majority who had to do it, had no regrets when it was all over.
I feel that it at least taught me to stand on my own two feet, to have a respect for discipline and comradeship. Something thats sadly lacking in some of the youth of today.
I fully intended applying for a compassionate home posting, because of my Dad's ill health, after finishing further training as a Wireless Operator.
However, the need did not arise as I was informed that I was being kept at Catterick as an instructor and was promoted to acting, unpaid L/Cpl!!
I think it was because of my footballing ability as much as anything!
It was not long after that I aggravated an old knee injury, and was eventually admitted to Catterick Military Hospital.
It took them a week to decide that I needed a torn cartilage removed.
Not having todays keyhole surgury techniques available,I spent the next two weeks in bed,recovering. What a skive!
I was then posted to the Military Convalescence Depot at Hereford.(Later to become the HQ of the SAS)
Here you had to do remedial exercises, daily, until the Medical Officer decided you were fit to return to your unit.
I was also given a job in the Company Office (my accurate and speedy typing with one finger had been noticed!) It also provided me with access to the week end passes, and with a CO who's signature was easy to forge,meant that I was able to get home for Sunday dinner, most week ends.
Whilst I was excused marching, no one had said anything about not kicking a football with my mutilated leg. (I think the surgeon who operated on me was also a National Serviceman who had been training to be a Purveyor of Meat prior to his call up)
The night before seeing the MO each week I would spend a few minutes dicreetly kicking a ball about with the result that my knee would swell up like a balloon and I would be declared unfit to return to unit.
I got away with this for 6 months!
My confession to swinging the lead.


master brummie
Hi Ray our kid was at Catterick there is a photograph on the main site Bob Houghton but he was an enemy of yours I believe he was in the 5th tanks the tankies and the signals never got did they, Bob was born 1936 they then went to Tripoli and did most of their time there when was you there Ray


Must have been in Catterick before your brother, John. (B.1932)
As I said in my earlier post, I reported on the 7th. Dec.1950
Can't recall any animosity between any of the many regts. there.
My one regret was not going abroad. After my stay at Hereford I was posted to Western Command Signals, stationed at Blacon Camp, Chester so as you can see Catterick was the farthest away from Brum that I travelled.
Here there were occasions of differences between guys in uniform, but it concerned us and the Yanks, who were stationed not far away in Burtonwood. With the difference in pay, us poor sqaddies did not stand a chance with the local talent so differences often turned into fights.
As Blacon was also a transit camp there was always a selection of Regts.who fought as one, on these occasions!!

Certa Cito


master brummie
Hope I will not be the only Brylcreem bloke to enter in this discussion.
Decided, once my call up came, that I was going to make my two years as cushy as possible. None of all that spit and polish for me.
Ok Square bashing at Padgate was bad enough but after trade training in Hereford I was posted to Uxbridge where I spent the remainder of my time.
I can recall the American airmen from Ruislip and how smooth they dressed. They had cool clobber and money so we lost out on the girls. I can recall one night being sat in the back of a pub lounge when some local 'Teds' started a fight with American airmen. Those Yankee 'Snow Drops' (military police) with some of the longest battons I have ever seen bounded in. They laced into their blokes with these and dragged them out bleeding. Felt sorry for them for they did not start it but I suppose the 'Teds' needed, in their belief, to dole out retribution due to jealousy.


master brummie
Hi Lad's,
you must admit that N/s did install self respect,disclipine,pride in our selves,and we had that comradeship,and the NAAFI was ok too,wasn't it marvellous that there was always someone who could "tinkle the ivories"?
plus the fact it gave us the chance to travel,even if it wasjust as far asCatterick :lol: No, I have no regrets whatso ever,I think it was good for us,but I know not everyone will agree


master brummie
The first twelve months were a true drag. Most of it was tied up with the initial square bashing followed by trade training. Posting to your permanent station and settling in and making good mates.
The following twelve months went far too quick as one had 'cracked the system' and for me I was enjoying it to the full.
Then came demob. I was probably lucky for my demob came at the time my station was closing and all the blokes were being sent up to Wisbech. So as I left, so they did they, so the break was not as painful as it could have been.
Over the years have lost track of those with whom I was close to but as they were from London, Yorkshire and Durham little chance they would read these lines. Not a wasted period but one, as you say, that gave me a mature and self confident attitude. No I too would not have missed it.

Harvey Barr

The Services

Very few were excused N/S, a recognised Apprenticeship was one way but you still had to go at the end of it. When one was getting near the 'dreaded time' one would listen to the Home Service on the radio, every Thursday, just before the one oclock news there would be the Announcements which included times to report for N/S,where and when to report. The following week the 'Brown Envelope' arrived. I can't remember where I actually registered but I had my medical at St Martins Street( top of Broad Street ) I failed the medical which really upset me as I was so looking forward to joining the Navy, got a second opinion from my Doctor and all was well.
I had to report to an office in John Bright St at 0900 on Nov 7th, there were about 10 of us all going to the Portsmouth area. What really sticks in my mind was receiving my first days pay, a guy came out with a large flat board and on it neatly stacked were ten lots of 4/- and a rail warrant for each of us. Caught the midday train from Snowhill to Paddington none of us had a clue what to do when we reached London,-no one had mentioned the R.T.O Eventually got to my destination at 7pm (Hms Collingwood) 'a stone Frigate'
I think the first two days were the worst everything is strange and new ,no Mother to back me up. Six weeks 'square bashing' and getting knocked into shape. We had along weekend at four weeks going back was the only time I felt home sick. I eventually passed out as an Aircraft Electrician. Incidentally I signed on for twelve years to start with.
Come the end of twelve years it was decision time do I stay in or join the rat race as a civilian? I had no option really with two children, one 2 years and the other 5 weeks and no where to live so I signed on for another ten years.
I came out at forty with a reasonable pension got a job as a service engineer and finally retired at 60.
I thoroughly enjojed my time in the R.N. and would recommend it to anyone who wanted a 'something different'
My first six weeks were absolute hell marching ,cleaning, guard duties getting your kit ready for inspection only to have it scattered about if one small item was out of place. It never ceases to amaze me how a bunch or raw recruits can be knocked into shape in such a short time. The discipline is instilled for ever. Bring back National Service!!!

Harvey Barr


Super Moderator
Staff member
I remember whenever we went out in the car(yes we were a bit posh)there would be servicemen hitching lifts.My Dad hardly ever refused a lift to a bloke in uniform.
At 62 this year Ididn't know many boys who did National Service,the onesI knew just missed it.
Did the young men go straight back to the jobs they left.Did their employers have to keep their jobs open.

lynn winterton

my dad was in the signals and did his training at catterick,he went in in 1951, from what he says after the initial shock it wasnt so bad! his name was jim dowson and he lived in camp hill, bordesley.

Eric Gibson

master brummie
My brother was at Catterick at about that time and was posted to Singapore after his training ended. He's in OZ now. E.


master brummie
any former N/S guys about who served in the Royal Engineers?
there is an excellant book published by Eric Pegg,Royal Engineers 1930/1963, 487 pages, the size of a telephone directory,with photo's of sappers serving all around the world,whilst doing N/S.
The price of the book is £22.00.plus postage of £5,well worth it to any ex N/S,or regular ex RE.
Anyone interested contact me Dennis,and I will pass on the info to obtain book


Gone but not forgotten. R.I.P.
National Service and my Part Time in it

Loved it to start with hows that. Part 1 :lol:
Called up 1954to report to a Medical Centre off Broad St, didn't pass due to Ear trouble when I was younger, asked back again in Jan 1955told to report 4th Feb1955 to Didcot with RAOC for 6 weeks training.
After that 7 days leave and had to report to CAD Corsham Wiltshire where I spent the rest of my service. Had a great time
2311939 9 shillings a week rising to 14/-
I have my Post Office Savings Book to prove it


master brummie
I went for my medical just off broad st and passed .Iwent for a test to join the brycreem boys and passed that but they only accepting new recruits on a 3 I/2 year term and I turned that down so they sent me downstairs to the army ,I applied for the R.E.M.E but they only asked me two questions can you boil water ,or know anything about first aid ?
I recieved my call up papers and was told to report to the
Queen Elizabeth Barracks Crookham Hants I was to join the Royal Army Medical Corp. R.A.M.C. Nov 3rd 1949 after six weeks of basic training we where all given an aptitude test , those who passed went on to be trained as nursing orderlys train under war time conditions ,those who failed where to become general duties orderlys
most of our intake where sent home on embarkation leave the six remaining of which I was one went home on christmas leave when we returned we where put in holding and drafting huts which just happened to be the camps cooks hut so we never went short of food  I was finally posted to Hong Kong sailing from liverpool on tthe 15th march 1950
when we arrived five weeks later we joined our new unit the
18th Field.Ambulance at Taipo in the new Terrotories of Hong Kong
where our tour of duties was increased from 18 months to 2 years
I was suprised to learn that our company sergeant major was an ex police sergeant from Kenyon street Hockley B,ham 19
I returned home in octoeber 1951? I am grateful because it made a man out of me besides giving me the chance to see and visit places in the world like Port Said Egypt and sail throuh the suezs canal onto Aden,onto Columbo Ceylon now Sri Lanka Singapor finally Victtoria Harbour Hong Kong I wonder just how much it would cost me to do that trip now
R.F.Horton 22196604
Reggie 8)                                                      

22196604 Reggie


master brummie
Now here's a useless bit of info.....
58 years tomorrow 4th Sep, I travelled by train from Snow Hill station to Warwick,where by I among other's was then taken to Budbrooke barracks,
Little did I know then, Where my travels would take me and where I would end up 8) :? :wink:


Gone but not forgotten. R.I.P.
Hi Dennis

Basilhill Bks Corsham Wiltshire ( They have the Secret underground City up for sale have you heard of it?)

Ordnance Corps Late 1956


Gone but not forgotten. R.I.P.
Basic Training Feb 1955 & November 1955 Corsham Wilts

The 2nd Photo is 5 Brummies & a Jock he's front centre
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Gone but not forgotten. R.I.P.
dennis said:
Where were those pics taken Alf?
They were taken at 15 Coy RAOC at Basilhill Brk  Corsham Wiltshire O0

I told you a few letters ago my M* ^-^