Cutting a long story short we ended up walking almost half the 18 miles and getting a ride on the back of an old flatbed style coal lorry (truck) the rest of the way. Well you can imagine the look on the sergeants face when we rolled in, wearing the Queens uniform and totally covered in coal dust! The rest of that episode is too, too sad.
You have to realize that we guys were just very young army ‘Nig Nogs’ ~ that is raw recruits. ~ So upon finding out that the last bus had already left, there was a momentary fit of panic set in. Learning army discipline will do strange things like that to you in the beginning. The discipline is designed to have every man act as one upon command, the premise being that one day that same discipline may save your life. So it was that we set off for camp the minute we realized we could end up in trouble. ~ (Late & marked AWOL) Grrrrr perish the thought!
It’s not much fun when you are hoofing hell bent for leather down a country road in uniform, certainly working up a sweat in a hurry. There are no lights in the country & no stars for the sky was overcast. So you just follow the road hoping for the best, that something will come along so we can hitch a ride. It was just our good luck that this lorry came down the road and pulled over. “Running late are you lads, need a lift?” the driver shouted out. Quickly we gathered around the cab hoping we would fit in there, but no luck.
Take it or leave it, we had to climb on the back and hang on to the rail that ran behind the cab. Straight away we were covered in coal dust, it was all over our hands. Then looking down with a groan, saw it was all over our uniforms from climbing aboard. Not much we can do about that now I guess. I for one was just hoping that as the truck went down the highway the wind would take most of it off, but not much luck for it just kicked up more coal dust.
We went along and keeping an eye on the time, breathed a sigh of relief as it looked like we would make it in time after all.
When one goes out in their off duty time you have to sign out at the guardhouse as you leave camp. So when we arrived back, there was no way we could sneak in for we had to sign in again on our return. Being as it’s that late in the evening too, more reason we would be seen by the sergeant and we were.
In the British Army the well known (music hall) saying was “laddie,” so when those who wield power want you, that’s when you hear that well known phrase ringing from the heavens! ~
Tonight was no exception when the sergeant laid eyes on us, “miserable manky miscreants” his words, “Where the hell have you been & what the fr***en hell happened you miserable little men.” ~ More of his soft fatherly renderings.
He then proceeded to verbally berate you downwards till you shrink down to about two inches in height, I am sure that at that point he would have loved to raise his boot and stomp on us like some small irritating bugs.
The end result to all of the verbal rampage is, we got put on report and the following day got sentenced to 7 days confined to barracks. That also means working cookhouse duties, usually spud bashing (peeling taters) ~ ever figure out just how many potatoes a camp full of soldiers can eat? You don’t really want to know my friend.
So that was the memorable end to an even more memorable 18th birthday, one I certainly can‘t forget.
There are many stories in the life of a soldier, this has been one of them.