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A Shout From The Attic: The Barrack Square

...He viewed our approach with nothing short of disdain, his face speaking unmistakably that he had seen it all before and didn’t like it at all! Like a mighty Army he approached us, gave us the once over – which was a bit like being given the once over with a welding torch, and told us not only that he had reservations about the marital standing of our parents, but also that he doubted whether worse specimens of humanity had ever dared venture on to his parade ground...

Ronnie Bray recalls his first encounter with a drill sergeant on the barrack square.

Top read more of Ronnie's entertaining autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/


I never liked marching, although I did get used to it – sort of!

Whether it was the second or third day of training proper, I do not now, but the call came one morning, “Out on the back road with your rifles!” Confused but obedient – an increasingly common circumstance – we complied. We were asked to “form threes” by the Drill Sergeant – a man continually out of patience.

What we did not know, he undertook to teach us, employing all the while such extraordinary talents of persuasion and expression. His saving grace was an overdose of savage humour that, while rendering the target helpless, never caused alienation from the rest of the platoon. Once assembled, our rag-tag Army made its shuffling way to the largest piece of asphalt I had ever seen in my life. It seemed to be about ten times the size of Manchester Airport, and was full of soldiers marching up and own, drilling, and being directed in their manoeuvres by a fierce-looking fellow with a pace stick, a flat cap, and the grandfather of all moustaches.

He viewed our approach with nothing short of disdain, his face speaking unmistakably that he had seen it all before and didn’t like it at all! Like a mighty Army he approached us, gave us the once over – which was a bit like being given the once over with a welding torch, and told us not only that he had reservations about the marital standing of our parents, but also that he doubted whether worse specimens of humanity had ever dared venture on to his parade ground. He marched us up and down a bit, shouted a lot, made us very unhappy, a couple became depressed but dare not cry, and we all felt uncomfortable by this man who could not be placated, even when we almost got it right. The half-hour lasted about ten hours in my imagination, and as we marched off the ground, wondering what we had got into, I said to myself, “I hope we never have to do that again!”

We had to do it every morning! I never liked marching, although I did get used to it – sort of! I even became proficient at drill and the thousand and one other things required of recruits to turn them into soldiers. I found the regimen and the discipline hard. I was uncomfortable with authority, and the Army was full of it. Nevertheless, I tried to keep my chin up, my head down, and soldier on.

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