Monday, 30 April 2012

Under the Queen's Colours - National Servicemen

Time flies, doesn't it?  I am sure it has for the contributors of my latest book, Under the Queen's Colours out this week (The History Press).  They all served in the Armed Forces in the sixty years of Her Majesty the Queen's reign and their stories showcase the range of experience in this commemorative Diamond Jubilee publication.
   In the 1950s Britain still had conscription and so, when lads hit 18, they were shipped off all over the world, to serve their country.  As Dave Hart, Royal Hampshire Regiment, recalls,  

I didn’t feel too bad being called up.  We used to go to the Guildhall dances every week when we were that age.  Everyone in Southampton used to queue to get in there Saturday and Wednesday evening and everyone was going off to the Hampshire’s to do their bit.  I think it came as a bit of a shock when you actually got there because at 18 I hadn't done anything.  Not like my grandson, who was a man of the world at 18.  I hadn’t been further than Winchester (13 miles), where we did our ten weeks basic training.  Suddenly, I found myself 8,000 miles away, in a completely different place.  There was no mum there!  I thought, I’m in the army.  I’m with all these other people.  I’ve got to get on and do it.   We all buckled down and did it.  I was frightened more than anything else because I got shouted at a lot.  
In January, I went along to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, to take pictures for the book.  I was really pleased to see a memorial there for National Servicemen.  They are often overlooked and their experiences thought of little account.  I hope the National Servicemen's stories in Under the Queen's Colours go some way to redress this.