Saturday, May 18, 2024

Joining The Regiment

April 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Prose

Finally, after fifteen weeks of training, our little squad of recruits was pronounced fit enough to join the Regiment, then in residence at Albuhera Barracks, Aldershot.

There we were fitted out with Busby, Red tunics, Greatcoats and white webbing, the traditional uniform of the Guards. The most difficult bit of new clothing was the traditional grey cape, which had to be folded in a particular way into a small rectangle to specific dimensions, strapped in white webbing and carried on your back just across the shoulder blades. Any officer ordering the capes to be worn in inclement weather was extremely unpopular, as it meant unrolling them. On return to barracks, hours of work returning them to their rectangular shape of approximately 14″ by 6″ by 2″.

Three months later found the Regiment in Wellington Barracks, London, duties Guard Mounting, Buckingham Palace, St James’ Palace and the Bank of England. All interesting but just a little boring after a time. These Guards were always referred to us Buck, Himmies and Bank. The first two were 24 hour Guards. The Bank Guard was strictly just a Picket Guard, night duty only, and simply meant marching to and then disappearing into the bowels of the Bank of England, not experiencing natural light or air all night. One post was considered to be haunted. The stain on the ceiling was rumoured to be the blood of a Guardsman who had shot himself whilst on duty. This was the only Guard where live ammunition was issued.

`Buck’ Guard was considered to be the best one. The sentries, pre­war, patrolled outside the gates and railings, and were in touch with the public. This led to some strange meetings. The worst nuisance was that of model girls, starlets, etc, with their photographers and agents trying to get a picture to enhance their clients’ careers. I could never work out why a picture of a girl looking adoringly at a sentry, with Buckingham Palace as a background, was considered to be of an advantage. Sometimes a pretty girl would pop a note into the barrel of your rifle. Occasionally, so did strange old men. The pretty girls of course got a smile and a wink, the strange men got the shock of their lives: the sentry springing to attention, taking a sharp step forward, the big army boots crashing down on his toes.

Rumours of war were starting to circulate. Suddenly, War appeared inevitable, but the War Office seemed not to worry. The only activity of aggression was the filling of thousands of sand bags for the protection of Government buildings.

This pleasant posting was ended abruptly with the order to hand in all public duty uniforms and equipment, together with civilian clothes, and prepare to move out.

We were never told of our destination until we were safely installed on a troop ship, and on our way to Gibraltar.

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