This Community Book is not an historical record but rather the recollections of two groups of veterans who were happy to share photographs and memories about their time in the services.
We all know that the memory can sometimes play tricks and one person's recollection might be slightly different to another's but all memories are important and so all have been included here.
A 24 hour ration pack for one person. Service personnel can be very inventive with the way that they use their rations!
There were always innovative service personnel who adapted the inside of their tank to include a cooking area (and even in some cases a TV) to make time on manoeuvres a little more comfortable. There was always a secure place to keep the alcohol as well!
The 'egg banjo' is a sandwich, made up of a runny fried egg, inserted between two thick slices of bread.
Ingredients are simple - heavily buttered, thick sliced bread, and one or more fried eggs.
It is widely known as an 'egg banjo' because when it is eaten, egg yolk usually squirts onto the eater's shirt / jacket, typically resulting in the person raising their sandwich out of the way, to approximately ear height, while they attempt to 'strum' the yolk mess off with their free hand.
Would you eat a steak and kidney pudding if you knew its nickname was Baby's Head?
Did you know if you served in the Household Cavalry and were caught eating cold baked beans then you would be placed 'on a charge'!
For veterans who served in the Falklands the Kelp Goose will be a familiar water bird. It has no fear of man and so is very easy to catch. Sadly because of their diet (yes they eat mostly kelp/seaweed) they are almost inedible!
There is a tale of a new recruit who turned down some offered food - he was immediately placed on a charge! It was explained that he was being charged with 'refusing rations', which was an offence. Behaviours that were obligatory were termed Queen's Parade i.e. an order that it was an offence to refuse. This will now be termed King's Parade of course.
There are many 'affectionate' nicknames in the services:
Blues & Royals: Donkey Wollopers
Royal Marines: Boot Necks
11th Royal Hussars: Cherry Pickers
Any Guards regiment: Wooden Tops
Parachute Regiment: Cherry Berries
R.E.M.E.: Rough Engineering Made Easy
S.A.S.: Silent and Sneaky
Royal Navy: Matelots
Military Police: Monkies
Queen's Dragoon Guards: Queen's Dancing Girls
and many, many more!
All service personnel are issued with their own 'housewife' kit to enable them to carry out minor repairs.
The cutlery in the photograph are placed in the wrong order. The 'Fighting Rods or Irons' are always laid out in the order - KFS i.e. Knife, Fork, Spoon.
The idea of officers with maps always raised a smile with the members of the Woody's drop in.
"Officers can't read maps - they always have some one to read the map for them!"
Amlwch is the final port for ships departing Liverpool. Ships often dropped anchor in order to stock up. As Amlwch was home to a brewing industry and also had a tobacco works the stock usually consisted of, amongst other things, alcohol and shag tobacco.
There was a tradition of approaches being made to local priests to establish what widows there were in the town, especially those with large families. Those widows would be approached to 'release' one or more sons to become members of the ship's crew.
The origin of the name the Senior Service for the Royal Navy is often linked to the suggestion that it is the oldest service in Britain's history.
There was a 'standing navy' in Tudor times, where as the Army was an occasional thing, dating back to the feudal levies, which were bands of trained soldiers brought to the Sovereign's service as occasion dictated by the barons and knights of the realm.
The naval salute, with the palm downwards, is said to have evolved because the palms of naval ratings, particularly deckhands, were often dirty through working with lines and it was deemed insulting to present a dirty palm to an officer, thus the palm was turned downwards.
Ray as he looked when he joined the Navy and how he looks today- still looking good!
Ray told us about the origins of the daily 'tot' in the Royal Navy.
From 1850 to 1970 the rum ration, or 'tot' consisted of one eighth of an imperial pint (71 ml) of rum at 95.5 proof (95.6% BV) given out daily at midday. The rum was diluted with two tots (one quart) of water. A gallon of beer was the original rationed drink for sailor but it could spoil easily at sea. The official change to a rum ration didn't rot inside barrels and also did not take up as much room, freeing precious space for cargo.
In the navy, historically, rum was always 'proofed' before sailors were given their daily ration.
To do this some gunpowder was put in the rum and it was then lit. If it flared up, the rum was as it should be and the sailors knew they were getting their proper measure.
According to a biographer of Blackbeard, the notorious pirate, he was known to impress his tavern companions by drinking an explosive cocktail of rum mixed with gunpowder. This was known as 'yum'.
In the years following Blackbeard's death, the cocktail made its way into rituals and religions in the Caribbean Islands, most notably, Jamaica.
Apollo 11 was the American spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon. on 20th July 1969. This launch was viewed by Ray who pointed out that the 3 sections of the rocket was the same length and weight as his Battle Class Destroyer HMS Aisne. Ray also viewed the launching of the first Polaris Missile.
The Women's Royal Navy Service (popularly and officially known as the WRENS) was first formed in 1917, it was disbanded in 1919, then revived in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War, remaining active until integrated into the Royal Navy in 1993.
WRNS included cooks, clerks, wireless telegraphists, radar plotters, weapons analysts, range assessors, electricians and air mechanics.
When the WRNS was finally integrated into the Royal Navy in 1993, women were allowed to serve on board navy vessels as full members of the crew. Female sailors are still informally known by the nicknames "wrens" or "Jennies" ("Jenny Wrens") in naval slang.
Part of basic training for the WRENS was ensuring that they presented themselves well including instructions in the use of makeup and hair care.
It was expected that all women would wear their hair back in buns under their caps. If their hair wasn't long enough then thy were issued with matching hair pieces!
The Last Post originated with British Troops stationed in the Netherlands where it drew on an older Dutch custom called Taptoe.
It was used to signal the end of the day's activity. Originally the Corps of Drums (playing 'taps') would march through the town and as it went passed each tavern the beer taps were required to be turned off. Once 'taps' were played outside the last tavern (or post) the Corps of Drums returned to base. All soldiers were required to be back at base before the return of the Corps.
Incidentally 'Taptoe' was also the origin of the term tattoo - as in Military Tattoo
A bugler from the Royal Corps of Drummers playing the Last Post will have to stand outside during all types of weather and are trained for all eventualities.
On one such occasion a veteran recalled standing outside a church on an extremely cold day, the air was freezing. Despite his training he forgot to keep his thumb on the mouthpiece to stop the brass from freezing.
He played the entire post but could feel his mouth freezing to the mouthpiece and, with all eyes on him, he removed the trumpet and felt the the skin ripping from his lips!
The King's Shilling ( or Queen's Shilling, depending on the monarch) was a symbol of recruitment at the time of Waterloo. The sum of a shilling was based on the original daily pay rate for a private soldier. When the man enlisted before a magistrate, the shilling would be returned and the recruit would receive a bounty varying over time from £2 to £23 17s 6d (about £2900 in today's money)
The phrase to 'take the King's shilling' meant you had enlisted in the British Army or the Royal Navy.
This was voluntary for the army, although sailors could be impressed, forced (or tricked) into service.
Forcing was known as 'press ganging' after the naval press gangs. Trickery could involve dropping the shilling into the an unsuspecting man's drink hence the development of tankards with glass bottoms.
The practice of taking the shilling was officially terminated in 1879.
Tecwyn looking at a glass bottomed tankard that protected the drinker from inadvertently taking the Kings Shilling.
George told us about his recollection of being ordered back to bed because his Commanding Officer had not yet delivered his 'Gunpowder Cocktail' to him! The cocktail was a mug of tea containing a 'slug' of whisky.
In a similar fashion traditional military roles were turned on their heads in Iraq and Afghanistan at Christmas when rank and file soldiers had their turkey dinners served by their officers.
Formed in 1949, the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC) was the women's branch of the British Army. It absorbed the remaining troops of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)a wartime female force established to free up men for active service.
Its members undertook a variety of important roles until 1992 when its remaining personnel were integrated into the Adjutant General's Corps.
Although termed the Junior Service the Royal Air Force celebrated it's centenary in 2018.
On April 1st 1918 the Royal Air Force was born when the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged - becoming the world's first independent air force.
The Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) was the women's branch of the Royal Air Force. It existed in two separate incarnations: the Women's Royal Air Force from 1918 to 1920 and the Women's Royal Air Force from 1949 to 1994.
On 1 February 1949, the name of the First World War organisation was revived when the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, which had been founded in 1939, was re-established on a regular footing as the Women's Royal Air Force.
The WRAF and the RAF grew closer over the following decades, with increasing numbers of trades opened to women, and the two services formally merged in 1994, marking the full assimilation of women into the British forces and the end of the Women's Royal Air Force.
Pride of place on the wall of Woody's Lodge in Eirias Park.
Ron remembered RAF Holme-On-Spalding Moor which was active during the second World War and for several years thereafter as a bomber facility. It was officially closed in 1954 and transferred to the U.S. Air Force. Ron had particularly fond memories of the the local pub - The Red Lion.
The Royal Corps of Transport was established to manage all matters in relation to the transport of men and material for the Army and the wider Defence community. It was formed in 1965 and disbanded in 1993. Its units and trades were amalgamated into the Royal Logistics Corp.
The regiment was formed in 1969 from the merger of the Royal Horse Guards, which were known as the Blues (or the Oxford Blues) and the Royal Dragoons which were known as the Royals.
The Blues were founded as a unit of Cromwell's New Model Army in 1650 and incorporated into the Restoration army in 1660 gaining the title Royals in the 18th century.
The Royal Dragoons were formed shortly after the Restoration, in 1661 and was composed of cavalry veterans of the New Model Army.
The Padre holding a funeral service for a well worn pair of socks!
The ultimate in ''do it yourself' while on exercise !
The Blues and Royals Preparing (!) for the Falklands.
A disabled British Army tank.
Where's our tank? Sure we left it here!
Letters home were very precious. Here is Kevin's to his Mum and Dad announcing his safe return from the Falkland's conflict.
George remembered when the Opera House in Duisburg requested volunteers to enhance the numbers of the soldiers appearing on stage in their version of Aida.
Any soldier that volunteered was paid 10 marks each time they marched across the stage.
George recalled that after a few performances volunteers reduced in numbers and on occasions he marched across the stage ten times - earning a healthy 100 marks!
During the Napoleonic Wars the Royal Marines participated in every notable naval battle on board the Royal Navy's ships and also took part in multiple amphibious actions.
Marines had a dual function aboard ships of the Royal Navy; routinely, they ensured the security of the ship's officers and supported their maintenance of discipline in the ship's crew, and in battle, they engaged the enemy's crews, whether firing from positions on their own ship, or fighting in boarding actions.
The Royal Welch Fusiliers (Welsh: Ffiwsilwyr Brenhinol Cymreig) was part of the Prince of Wales Division that was founded in 1689; shortly after the Glorious Revolution. In 1702, it was designated a fusilier regiment and the prefix "Royal" was confirmed in 1714 when George 1 named it the Prince of Wales's Own Royal Regiment of Welsch Fusiliers.
It retained the archaic spelling of Welch, instead of Welsh, and Fuzileers for Fusiliers ; these were engraved on swords carried by regimental officers during the Napoleonic Wars.
After the 1881 Childers Reforms , normal spelling was used officially, but "Welch" continued to be used informally until restored in 1920 by Army Order No.56.
The Flash is a regimental distinction of the Royal Welch Fusiliers that is shared by no other regiment in the British Army.
It Dates back to the early 18th century when soldiers wore their hair in a braided queue which was held in a bag to avoid the grease soiling the back of the uniform coat.
The wearing of the queue was abolished by 1808, yet the Royal Welch Fusiliers ignored the order to remove the five black ribbons from the collar of their coats.
Ruth was a WREN for 23years and was the first female ship's company officer of the day on board of HMS Victory docked at Portsmouth Dockyard .
This role meant her sleeping alone on board to ensure no fires broke out.
Two male colleagues kept watch on the jetty. As could be imagined they often played tricks on their sleeping colleague!
The Central Band of the WRAF, one of only two all-female bands in the British Armed Forces, was disbanded in 1972. Some of its musicians transferred to the Band of the Women's Royal Army Corps .
If a 2p piece could not be bounced on the bed then it would be stripped and the order given that it had to be remade.
For WRAC recruits a pregnancy test is a requirement at the end of basic training.
The urine of any recruit that might be pregnant is a prized acquisition for a recruit who has changed her mind about joining up!
1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards nicknamed The Welsh Cavalry recruits from Wales and the bordering English counties of Cheshire, Herefordshire and Shropshire, and is the senior cavalry regiment.
The current regiment was formed in 1959 by the amalgamation of 1st King's Dragoon Guards (raised in 1685 by Sir John Lanier as Lanier's or the 2nd Queen's Regiment of Horse in response to the Monmouth Rebellion) and the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays raised in 1685 by the Earl of Peterborough as Peterborough's or the 3rd Regiment of Horse, also in response to the Monmouth Rebellion)
In 1982 John (Queen's Dragoon Guard) was selected to wait on Queen Elizabeth at the dinner celebrating the centenary of the Royal Military Police.
The day was extremely hot and John was, of course, in full ceremonial dress, his Regimental Blues.
He approached and asked if her Majesty wanted one or two slices of roast beef. She looked up and responded that she wanted only one. As he served her, a bead of sweat ran down John's nose onto the slice of beef he was serving. He moved away swiftly.
When her returned to remove her plate...the beef had gone!
Towards the end of the Centenary Dinner John asked Queen Elizabeth if he could have the display in front of her for his wife, she agreed.
At the end of the dinner John took the display onto the minibus (along with a considerable amount of Champagne!) and returned to his Unit.
By the time the minibus reached the Unit all that was left of the display was the stalks.
Somewhere along the journey it was decided to eat the orchids that made up the display. They didn't taste very nice and were very, very hot.
The late Queen visited John's Officer's Mess as part of a visit.
He walked into the Anteroom to serve drinks and crossing the room he noticed a "lady in a red coat".
As he passed by she engaged him in conversation much to the consternation to the Colonel and Adjutant. After a short conversation about Winchester John excused himself from Her Majesty's presence and carried on with his duties.
He was called in front of the Adjutant to get a b....cking for absenting himself from HM's presence.
His retort was to say "I gave Her Majesty a drink. Did you?"
Did you know that this flag is only known as the Union Jack when it is flying from a flag pole. If not flying from a flag pole it is known as the Union Flag.
RAF Valley on Anglesey was opened in February 1941. Over the years most of the Royal Family have visited including Prince William who was stationed there. One Veteran shared a story about a visit to RAF Valley by HRH King Charles (then the Prince of Wales). The chef knowing HRH's desire for local organic food knew the dinner should include Welsh Lamb.
RAF Valley is surrounded by Welsh lambs but none could be sourced for the meal. A New Zealand lamb dinner was served after which HRH thanked the staff and stated that the lamb must have been Welsh as it was so delicious. No one had the heart to correct him!
The King's Life Guards and the Queens Foot Guard are the Cavalry Troops who stand guard at Clarence House.
From 1953 to 2002 it was the London home of the Queen Mother.
A veteran recalled that on very hot days the Queen Mother insisted on serving drinks to the troops and would personally bring out trays of drinks.
She was a little unsteady on her feet and it was feared that the tray would crash to the floor. However she managed to safely deliver the much appreciated refreshment to the grateful troops.
One veteran recalled being stationed outside Clarence House in direct sunlight on an extremely hot day. The sergeant received a call from the Queen Mother to ask if the officer could be moved into the shade. The veteran remembered that he was very grateful for the respite from the sun.
One of the first warnings a gun firing soldier is given is "Do NOT touch the barrel of the gun".
The barrel can become red hot when firing, especially if on firing ranges. When a steady, heavy volume of rounds are fired over a short period and the heat of the gun barrel climbs to very high temperatures.
The veterans remembered accidently failing to follow instructions and burning their fingers.
They also talked about gun barrels melting and bending from this intense heat.
If the gun barrel heats up to the point that it reaches the ignition temperature of the primer or propellant the cartridge can implode or 'cook off'. Fortunately none of the veterans had experienced this but knew of it happening to other officers.
Salsbury Plain training area has remained in its original state since it was first purchased in 1897. Signs and obstructions are placed around the borders to prevent access to the general public. Soldiers use the vast space to practice manoeuvres. On one such occasion a shout went out to "cease fire". Around the corner of the firing range came a Morris Minor with an elderly couple out for a drive!
Although precautions are taken to ensure that foreign insects or animals are not given a free ride back to the UK. Occasionally there were issues.
One such incident happened when a veteran, placing his bag on the floor, started to unzip it. The bag started moving and making a noise!
The bag owner retreated quickly, returning later to find his bag silent and still.
He never discovered what had been provided with a free ride!
Military bands play at many venues but a veteran recalls playing Christmas Carols in Londonderry.
The Commanding Officer ordered the band to march up to the Diamond War Memorial, Londonderry in full dress uniform to play Christmas carols. This was during the period that the “H” block riots were taking place at night. With the unrest and risk of snipers the band decided that they were not going to stand still (becoming a target). Whilst playing the Carols they quickly learnt to dance enthusiastically to the Christmas carols.
The Commanding Officer decided there had not been enough civilians watching and they had to repeat the exercise the next day too.
The veterans discussed the military parade Trooping the Colour and the preparation and practice that this event took. Trooping the Colour is held on the official birthday of the Sovereign in June each year in front of crowds of onlookers as well as being enjoyed by millions worldwide.
There were discussions about the preparations for the day. The early morning start and the long walk prior to starting the march from Buckingham Palace along the Mall to Horse Guards Parade and back. The sand surface which was kind to the horses’ feet was a very difficult surface to march on. One veteran recalled that this was the worst surface he had ever marched on.
There are many examples of parade ground humour, here are just three:
"Have you shaved this morning? Well, stand closer to the razor next time!"
"Am I hurting you - I must be - I'm standing on your hair! Get your hair cut."
"Are you pregnant? No? Well then hold your stomach in!"
One veteran recalled being asked to fit doors at the base. Not wanting to do the job they fixed all the doors upside down to ensure that they were never asked to fit doors again!
A big rule in the Navy is not to fall asleep on deck or you may wake up minus an eyebrow or with black permanent marker on your face.
One veteran remembered stapling a colleague's curtains shut when he went for an afternoon nap. What the veteran did not know was that there was going to be a fire drill. His colleague eventually arrived late after struggling to open his curtains and was in big trouble!
However his colleague decided to get his own back the following week while they were at sea. The veteran could not understand why he woke up soaking wet in his bed. As he stripped his soaking wet clothes and bedding he realized that he had spent the night with the sodden 300lb Man Over Board dummy used in practice under his bedclothes!
During a military tattoo at Wembley Arena the Regimental Sergeant Major RSM was beginning to become frustrated during practice and the 2000 bandsmen became aware so decided to chant "Who's got a bag on" from one side of the arena. When the RSM turned around and started to walk towards them they stopped only to hear a chant of "Who's got a bag on" from the other side of the arena. It took the RSM awhile to calm the chants and thankfully this outburst did not spoil the amazing broadcast.
"Who's got a bag on" incidentally, for those not in the know, means "are you in a mood"?
My father, uncle, mother too who played their part in world war 2
In army, navy, air force blue, they fought for peace for me and you.
When I was in the army in nineteen-sixty-one
We monitored our radar screens, it wasn’t too much fun
We were the air sea watch brigade and out to sea we stared
For ships and planes with bombs and guns, for war we were prepared.
The Suez war was over, when I was only young
The Irish war in 61 had hardly just begun
The cold war had since started and Russia was our foe
We looked for reds under our beds and spoke in voices low.
We had our pick axe handles to fight them at their game
We posted out our lookouts if up the cliffs they came
Our radar was top secret, their main intent was clear
To let them steal our secrets would cost our country dear!
Some nights our peace was shattered when air raid sirens clattered
Come on Get Up! Get out of Bed, The Sergeant Major shouted!
We left our beds and combed the cliffs for grappling irons anchored
Was up the cliffs they’ll come we’re warned, must cut their ropes it mattered
My stomach started churning and then I want the loo
It’s nerves, I know, but still I’m scared, I don’t know what |I’ll do
If one popped up in front of me, will I be well prepared
To hit him with my handle – I never thought I cared
Our leaders, proud with threats so strong from both the east and west
Want power of the world through war and khaki battledress
With bullets flying all around and all the blood and gore
It’s still another human, who might not want a war.
But then the all clear siren goes, my heart begins to settle
Thank goodness now, I never had the chance to show my mettle
I didn’t have to fight that night – my fear was not diminished
The cold war still went on each day and threats were never finished.
Carol Younger (L/Cpl Bell WRAC 1961-64)
A big thank you to all the veterans, male and female, from all the Services, for sharing their memories, their experiences and, most of all, their humour which we have tried to capture in this Book.