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A Shout From The Attic: Work is a Blessing – Right?

Ronnie Bray, continuing his autobiography, tells of an accident while doing a menial task in the army camp where he did his basic training.

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread all the days of thy life

I was put to work on fatigues, as menial labour around the camp was called. My place of endeavour was the yard behind the cookhouse. I scrubbed the kitchen tables until they gleamed. One of them had a large tin opener mounted on its end. When I stood the table on its end to swill it down with a bucket of water, my short cut, the table top, which was not fastened down, fell away like a felled tree and crashed to the ground with a thunderclap, the opener hit the ground first rendering it inoperative.

The cook-sergeant was kindness itself – an unusual thing in a training regiment. He was probably the first human being I encountered at Blandford – on the staff, that is. The Army ran a blame culture. That was what I had known as a child and sort of expected it to be everywhere. The Army was not about to disappoint me.

If all NCOs had the benign fatalism the cook sergeant displayed when I, led him to the broken tin opener, I might still have been in the Army. He smiled, gave a Gallic shrug, and said, “These things happen. Not to worry.” He removed the particles and prepared them for a military funeral while I wondered what life in the Army Catering Corps would be like.

Although I had boundless a respect for the ACC and its hard working cooks (and at Sudbury developed an intimacy with the cookhouse food store known in its fullness only to the burgling fraternity), I quickly had my mind turned to other matters by the sudden intrusion of reality in a military training camp and thought no more about escaping into the catering business

The British Army had a penchant for sudden intrusion and used it effectively throughout my service life. Although I became accustomed to it, I never developed any strong liking for it.


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