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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part 2 - 30

...When they'd done, he asked Clemence to come and inspect their efforts and he obliged, flipping off articles of equipment with his cane onto the floor so that they had to start again. He paused at John's bed-space, looked at his boxed bedding and laid out clothes, then swept the whole lot onto the floor and ordered the corporal to make sure he did it properly...

John Illingworth goes through a hellish eight weeks of basic training in the Army.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story of the Illingworths, a dynastic Yorkshire mill-owning family.

Williams came to attention and barked a reply. Clemence gave another wet salute and wandered back to his office while the intake was marched to its billet, leaving John wondering how on earth Second Lieutenant Clemence came to hold the Queen's Commission. Later he learned that Clemence and the colonel of his selection board came from the same public school.

When they arrived at their billet, the corporal peppered them with instructions, laying down the law and letting them know who was boss in very flowery language, while Clemence lounged in the doorway listening.

"An' if there's one 'orrible fing we don't like in the army, it's a fucking long-haired college boy tryin' to come the clever-clever. Got that, Greenwood?"

Clemence had set him up. He was the only graduate in his intake and did he know it! He was picked up again and again for the most trivial things. His platoon was marched everywhere at the double. First to the quarter master, where they were issued with kit and baggy denims to replace their civvies, which they had to post home. And with them their last bit of civilised living.

Clemence hovered about the new squad all day watching John being put through his paces, enjoying seeing him chivvied and bullied here and there: having his hair cut short, chased round the stores, then out to the showers before being taken to the medical room for his jabs, and finally marched back to his billet where Williams showed them how to box their bedding and kit.

When they'd done, he asked Clemence to come and inspect their efforts and he obliged, flipping off articles of equipment with his cane onto the floor so that they had to start again. He paused at John's bed-space, looked at his boxed bedding and laid out clothes, then swept the whole lot onto the floor and ordered the corporal to make sure he did it properly.

It was the beginning of a hellish eight weeks of training. Clemence was always inspecting this or that, always watching them parade and saying John was idle, telling Williams again and again to give him extra drill and run him round the parade ground, till even the corporal was sick of it.

Clemence spoke to him privately only once, when he had to interview his platoon individually. When John was called in he began, "I don't think there's much point in prolonging this interview, Greenwood. We know each other only too well." Then he kept John standing to attention while he shuffled through some papers. He pulled one out which he found interesting. John, too. "I see you won't be with us for long, Greenwood. Pity. I was looking forward to a few more weeks together, but you're down for transfer to the Intelligence Corps once they complete your vetting."

He tossed the document to one side with, "You're joining the clever buggers, the 'slime' as we call them. Not real soldiers, y'know. Oh, just one more piece of advice before you go. I've told you before to steer clear of my sister and while you're down here I'll jolly well make sure you do. You get no leave as long as you're here. She's come to her senses at long last and given you the big heave-oh, from what I hear. You never were in her league anyway, so back off."

John remained silent. Clemence obviously knew nothing about what had happened. "Well," he concluded, "if you've nothing to say you might as well bugger off. Corporal Williams, send the next one in!"

Until his transfer came through, the next four weeks were hell. Clemence did his best to break him and had him cleaning the kitchens and scrubbing out the latrines each weekend when the others were on leave. But John didn't crack and later Clemence got his come-uppance. Once his transfer came through, life became much easier and the Intelligence Corps Depot, in the depths of the Sussex countryside, was like a holiday camp after Aldershot.

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