I served in the Paras, but decided to leave the following year. My knee gradually worsened on the regular battle marches and, literally, I limped through to the end of my time in the battalion. Initial parachute training worsened the problem as I hit the ground feet first and rolled agonisingly along my legs. However, I didn’t leave due to that injury, although it ended up causing pain for years. I was just in a hurry in life and wanted something else. I didn’t know what it was, but I was going to find it. Continue reading

Maroon Beret

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As we neared the end of the course, the fifty-one surviving recruits were mustered before the Dakota for a group photograph. We lined up on the grass in our crap hats. The two rows at the back were standing and the training staff sat in front with boots crossed, fists on their knees and maroon berets on. With the formalities over, we were ordered to sort our kit out. Continue reading

Salisbury Plain


After another day’s training, we were on the parade square as the Sergeant and an Officer melted away to leave Corporals Wild and Savage prowling at the front. It was early evening and the atmosphere grew tense. Anything could happen with these two in charge. We were brought to attention and turned to the right. Standing there, a few peered around to see what the Corporals were doing. Continue reading



It was made clear we had to run everywhere and work hard. We were supposed to rise at 5 a.m. and finish at about 9 p.m. But I got up at 4 a.m. each day to get ready and sort my kit out before most recruits were up. It was a good start. Further instruction was given on cleaning our kit and brushing teeth, and demonstrations of how to fold sheets and blankets into the regulation size and shape. It took about half an hour with a ruler to get the bed clothing into the exact measurements, and this was time we didn’t have in the morning. We were warned not to use our sleeping bags to avoid making the bed blocks for morning inspection. I decided to put my bed block safely under the bed and got into my sleeping bag with a spare blanket over the top. This worked for the full course, which saved me extra time in the morning as I only had the hospital corners to make. Continue reading

Two Corporals


We were introduced to the soldiers of D Company, 4 Para, who were not impressed. Sergeant Hunter told us we were in peak physical condition as we’d just passed P Company, but were untested in the battalion so the jury was out on our competence. In any event, we still wore crap hats as we hadn’t passed the two-week training course in Aldershot, which we were reliably told would be a “Shit time.” The maroon beret presentation waited for those who passed. Continue reading

P Company – Log Race and Result


The final event involved an eight man team carrying a one hundred and thirty pound log over undulating terrain for just under two miles. This race represented carrying a quick ammunition resupply. I was originally at the back at the slightly thinner end and thought this was fair seeing as I was one of the smaller ones on the team. Then a Corporal moved me to the front, which was heavier and was supposed to dictated the pace. But if the blokes behind me were faster, I’d be in trouble. Continue reading

P Company – Stretcher Race and Trainasium


We lined up on the parade square for the stretcher race. In teams of eight, we would carry a stretcher made of metal poles with welded corrugated iron sheets, weighing one hundred and seventy-five pounds, over a distance of five miles. This event simulated a cross-country rapid evacuation carrying a casualty. We were put into our teams and paired up. I was with Borstal Boy. I looked at him and offered encouragement, but was blanked. Continue reading

P Company – Assault Course and Steeplechase


I got an early night and slept well. At 5:30 a.m., I was up and my muscles ached. I went to the shower block to get ready for the day and inspected my knee. The swelling had come up again overnight, so I took some pain relief and strapped it back up. After a quick breakfast, we marched over to the assault course, which would be three circuits around the course, about a mile in all. Each circuit had eighteen obstacles, ranging from ladders to netting – both horizontal and vertical – to wooden beams for jumping over. Anything under seven minutes would earn a pass. I felt positive. Continue reading

P Company – Milling and Battle March


P Company is a test in life that can make or break you. The first event was milling or sixty seconds of controlled aggression against an opponent of similar height and weight. The rules were punch to the head and get punched. No defence allowed. This has been described as the longest minute of your life. On the parade square, we were organised into two long lines facing each other, ascending in height order. I was toward the middle and stood on the same side as my mate Rog, so at least I wouldn’t be fighting him. The three people opposite comprised two weedy-looking blokes and someone who glared under sinister eyebrows and looked like an animal, complete with flaring nostrils. The Corporals shuffled us about and I ended up opposite one of the thinner ones. This was looking okay. The Corporals brought us to a left turn and, just before we marched off, a last minute switch was made and I saw Animal beside me. I thought, Oh shit. Continue reading

I Have A Problem


The battle marches were getting longer, faster and we carried more weight. We wore our usual issue kit, but now also a helmet – the metal inner rattled against my head and gave me a headache – and webbing: Belt, yoke and ammunition pouches. I was getting cramps in my legs, but these lessened with salt-replacement tablets. On these battle marches, I tried to keep expressionless to disguise whether I was cruising or suffering. In truth, it was a mixture of the two, but I didn’t want to show any sign of weakness. The pace was hard running interspersed with brisk walks, which were an opportunity to suck air in and slow my breathing down. On one of these marches, we were brought to a hurtful pace over the village green and Corporal Steele ran alongside me to see if I was feeling the pain. I ignored him and remained straight-faced, running with seeming ease. He shrugged and moved on to assess how the others were doing. Continue reading