« Vipers In Paradise | Main | Chapter 39 »

A Shout From The Attic: Whitewash

...The day was sunnybright, as Indian Summer September days will be. The sky was stunning cerulean blue, and the air heavy with the smell of harvest home. A thousand soldiers stood waiting for the event to begin. The band was doing something musical at the far side of the square, but my attention was drawn to a hatless man in olive drab fatigues, carrying a bucket in one hand and an eight-inch paint brush in the other...

Ronnie Bray brings another insight into "Army thinking''.

To read earlier chapters of Ronnie's sparkling autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

*

“White wash is very inexpensive to make and is fairly harmless to goats” - Report


An interesting spectacle unfolded in 1952 on the Regimental Parade Ground at Blandford, Dorset, as my half-trained intake was pressed into serried ranks to witness the passing-out parade of a previous cadre. Although it would set a suitably grim scene to the story to begin with, “It was a dark and stormy night …” the truth is that it was nothing of the sort.

The day was sunnybright, as Indian Summer September days will be. The sky was stunning cerulean blue, and the air heavy with the smell of harvest home. A thousand soldiers stood waiting for the event to begin. The band was doing something musical at the far side of the square, but my attention was drawn to a hatless man in olive drab fatigues, carrying a bucket in one hand and an eight-inch paint brush in the other, who was marched on in quick time by an RP.

The prisoner was a National Serviceman who had been attempting in his idiosyncratic way to consummate his mandatory two-year service for more than three years. The reason it had taken him that long was his mile-wide anti-authoritarian streak that resulted in repeated incarcerations for divers periods of time in a melange of military dungeons, including the formidable Shepton Mallet.

After his bondage was completed instead of being dishonourable discharged it was decided on grounds that were largely malicious, to have him continue to see how long it would take him as imprisonment time did not count off the balance left to serve, and then give him a dishonourable demobilisation. You have to be there to appreciate this aspect of military thinking, but it has to do with total control.

He was marched to the leading edge of the place where the graduating company were to assemble, and where a subaltern was stood on the spot with his sabre drawn at the salute. The man with the bucket and brush was marched directly in front of him with a view to refreshing the whitewash of the spot on which the young officer stood. The escort spoke not a word, but the refresher gave the officer a sharp command: “Shift!” he barked once. The officer, not being under orders from this fellow stood his ground like a Soldier of the Queen and did not blink.

The would-be painter did not repeat his order, but swiftly dipped his brush into the bucket, and without wiping off the excess overpainted the designated spot including the lieutenant’s boots. The escort then marched him back to the guardhouse to continue his bondage and to face yet another disciplinary charge. One never knows how much truth there is in soldiers’ rumours, but the last I heard he was still doing his National Service some fifty years later!

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.