Camp 1. We were in army barracks in Sennybridge, deep in the Brecon Beacons. I recall that, prior to setting off from the school, we had been issued with ex-army “tops” which were to prove very beneficial - but no bottoms.
The main exercise during our time at Sennybridge was to be a 3-day “hike” away from the base, sleeping under canvas each night. For many of us, that was probably our first experience of life in a tent.
My overriding memory is of three days in the rain - not unusual in the Beacons! It was dry when we left the barracks but started raining, that very fine heavy “mizzle”, within about 30 minutes.
The first evening, when the time came to set up camp, one lad suggested that a nearby abandoned relic of a building might provide shelter and avoid the need to put up the tent. One lad was duly despatched to check it out and report back. He soon came running back with the chilling words - “I’m not sleeping in there. There’s a dead sheep in it.”
I have no other memories except that it rained constantly and then stopped about 30 mins after we returned to our barracks 3 days later.
The army-issue tops we had been issued with were superb, totally waterproof. Needless to say, we were sopping wet from the hips downwards.
And the tops had to be handed back in when we returned to school. Shame.
Camp 2. Military fort/barracks west of Plymouth. I was in the signals squad and had volunteered to go down with the advance party, to help get everything set up ready for the main bunch of lads when they arrived. As it turned out, this was an advantage and a disadvantage. It meant that we were billeted in the same building as the stores, not with the rest of the lads. This meant that (for some reason lost in the mists of time) we did not have to participate in the various drills and parades, nor did we eat with the main contingent. We ate after them. I recall that on most days there was a surplus of food and we, therefore, ate very well. But one day the situation was reversed and we went short!
The other memory is that it was our task to get our own radio equipment set up and working in the Austin Champ (Austin’s version of a Jeep) which would be the “command vehicle”. This took several hours and we hit all sorts of problems but eventually succeeded and felt very pleased with ourselves having tested everything. Then along came the camp OC and very sternly told us that there had been a mistake and that that particular Champ had not been allocated for our use and that we had to take all the equipment out of it. We were not amused!
Life is quite mundane these days and I’ve probably forgotten what I did a few days ago, but these were “big” moments for a 17-18-year-old and the memories remain even after more than 50 years!
Mike Dodman (OI 1952-63)
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From the Brecon Beacons to the West of Plymouth. More...