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St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

The Website for St George’s Church, Waterlooville and its Parish Magazine St George’s News

Christmas 2018 issue

A War Veteran’s recollections of National Service

Call Up

Reported aged 18 years old to Budbrooke Barracks, Warwick on Thursday 20 November 1952, a journey of 12 miles by train and foot from my hometown of Coventry. Budbrook was the Regimental Depot of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, which was already earmarked to go overseas to Korea. The strength of a battle ready Infantry Battalion is in the order of 1300 men. This meant there was little chance for we conscripted 18 year olds to find any posting other than to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

Initial training

With our intake, a change was implemented in so far as the whole squad would complete together 10 weeks basic training. Hitherto potential NCO’s and Officers were picked out and followed a different course from the main body.

I had been at boarding school prior to call up and the transition was not too dramatic for me. I realise now, however, I was completely lacking in “street skills” or credibility. During my training, I was singled out for a number of unit interviews resulting in being recommended to attend a War Office Selection Board at Barton Stacey to determine whether I should go forward to the Officer Cadet School at Eaton Hall, Chester for its 16 week course. I was duly selected.

Eaton Hall

I arrived at Eaton Hall early April 1953 complete with Riding Coat and trilby hat for walking out. 1953 was, of course, the Queen’s Coronation on 2nd June and Eaton Hall was down to provide a marching contingent, which would be provided by cadets in their 6th, 8th and 10th week of training as this was less distracting to their scheduled military training. It is an honour I’m proud to have had; it was not based on additional achievement but rather belonging to a particular county regiment at the right time.

Commissioned Service

I was commissioned into Royal Warwickshire Regiment and posted to join the 1st Battalion, who were already in Korea. With another National Service Officer, on 16 September, we set out from Southampton on the Empire Windrush 120 men, as the battalion’s second line reserves at the battle casualty rate. On 27 July 1953, a cease-fire was agreed, one of its terms being no additional troops should be posted to Korea. As a result, on reaching Hong Kong after a 6-week passage, we were held back and attached to the Dorset Regiment based in the New Territories of Hong Kong at a time when it was their intensive training season with frequent 6-day field exercises.

Eventually, we were called forward in 1954 to replace national servicemen going home on demob. Again it was an intensive training period, concluding at the end of April. It meant we quickly had to find our feet and be assimilated into our respective companies and roles, mine as C company platoon commander.


We were given some leave that was taken in Tokyo. Mine coincided with the Queen’s official birthday so I received an invitation to go to the British Embassy for a reception. Coventry products were often successfully exported. I received, through contacts at home, other invitations such as lunching in the Canary Room of the Imperial Hotel, a location that featured regularly in spy stories. In Hong Kong, I was invited to the races at Happy Valley on New Year’s Day 1954, a real honour. I was also entertained on another occasion at the Dutch Settlers’ Club, where “real” Chinese food was served. Together with a doctor with whom I had teamed up on the troopship, we went fishing in the mountains in Japan, going native at mealtimes cooking our own meals over charcoal and followed the Japanese communal bathing routines.

•This article will continue in our next issue with recollections of service in Egypt.

HMT Empire Windrush

Happy Valley Race Course