I matriculated to St.Catherine’s College,
Came the war and I sped like a greyhound to the Recruiting Depot. On the 10th September I began square-bashing in
On 5th January 1942 I married my Jeanne. Four days later, I was recalled to my unit for embarkation to the
When I enlisted (during the first week after we declared war on
Medical inspections followed (very, very brief). And everybody passed A1! We were given rail warrants for
What a coincidence! My Dad's first few weeks in WW1 were also spent there. It struck me that very little had been done to smarten up those rackety huts since.
Then followed interminable weeks of square bashing. Not even a whisper about medical matters. You see, we were being taught to do as we were told, just as that horrible S-M at
Haig Lines at Aldershot was sheer chaos (and so was everything else in the
I don't remember how long I was there, but one day I found my name on Part One Orders board with a number of other recruits . We were to be posted to the great
I was consigned to the Sister i/c Surgical Wards as a GDO (General Duties Orderly). In other words a Dogsbody. The Sister was, of course, a Regular of the Queen Victoria Imperial Military Service and so counted as an Officer).
The Sister i/c Surgical Wards was, more accurately, a member of the Queen Alexander Imperial Military Nursing Service and an officer. She was used to dealing with trained regular soldiers and was horrified by these slack civilian newcomers. She barked (literally!) at us. One day she called me into her ward office. "I've been watching you," she said. "You speak well and seem to be educated. We ought to make better use of you here, but don't you start thinking you are above the work you have been doing."
It transpired that she mentioned me to Lieut.Col.Churchill Davidson head of the Surgical Division and I was quickly "re-mustered" (a word I had never come across before) to Clerical Duties within his Division. At the time of the Dunkirk debacle we were overwhelmed with Allied wounded and my fairly good grasp of French, typing and self-taught Gregg shorthand all came in useful and I was promoted to Corporal , so filling a gap in the Division's"establishment".
And so on to 1942. Then, out of the blue, I was posted again (I often wondered how and who arranged these matters) to the nearby Medical Mobilisation Depot whose job was to devise and "man" forthcoming overseas units. My new unit was to be No.1 Egypt Ambulance Train and I would be Chief Clerk as Acting Sergeant (without a Sergeant's pay because "Establishment" did not permit full pay. I never did solve that and was eventually demobbed back in my War Substantive rank of Corporal in January 1946.)
The personnel of No.1 Train amounted to about 30 all told. Two Officers (both doctors) Major and Captain; Two QAIMNS sisters; one pharmacist sergeant, one chief clerk (acting sergeant unpaid), two male cooks and the remainder made up of various Army and Hospital trained male nurses and orderlies. All were accommodated within the train. One carriage contained medical equipment and could be converted at short notice into an operating theatre (the train had to be halted for such an operation (rare, but could happen occasionally on the long trip from,say Mersah Matruh to base at
Beds, such as were, for our patients consisted of the stretchers on which they were brought to us and hoisted onto wooden racks. Stretchers were gold up here in, say, the
The rolling stock itself were ex-Egyptian Railway carriages and locomotives or, later when we were in
Only rarely did any of us spend more than a few snatched hours off-train for weeks on end.
Inevitably, we ended up each journey with a quota of those who who never saw
I realise I have never explained how we got out to the middle east and
All our equipment was waiting for us at Greenock (
On Easter Monday, 1946 I stepped on stage as Cudworth in “They Came to a City”. I later played at Colchester and
Ah, Happy Days! I used to serve in the cocktail bar in that pub at the bottom of the Beacon in Exmouth when each season ended (it was then called "The Vaults") The Landlord was an ex-pro, Noel Somebody-or-other. The WoE couldn't afford to pay me out of season and that flat on the Beacon didn't come cheap. I knew damn-all about cocktails but kept The Hotel and Landlord's useful guide to hundreds of recipes under the bar. I found that few people really knew one cocktail from another in those days and I got by with generous slurges of gin and Martini and a cherry if a woman was in the group. The tips were very good and I certainly was not too proud to accept them.
At the bottom of the Beacon was a tobacconist shop run by a truly modest hero of the Long Range Desert Group. Only a very few knew of his many decorations . The shop now seems to be a sort of cafe. Neither Ron Chorley nor his Dad are with us these days..
Many years later, when I freelanced the edting of Symonds Brewery quarterly magazine, we thought about going into the trade, but lacked the necessary money for a "get in". It would also entail yet another move, this time to Symonds HQ in
We found it almost impossible to find somewhere to live as a family… and faded from that particular scene of life. By then the marriage was in tatters.
So I tried something else. We went back to
When British Leyland crashed I went back again to
If you strain to listen, you will hear a rumbling sound. It is Sir William Lyons, founder of Jaguar Cars, turning in his grave."
Here is a website linking another member of my family from Lympstone, Devon.