A think tank suggests a return to National Service, but could today’s young teens take what the fifties generation did?
Our first military morning we were awoken by corporals rolling dustbins down the centre of the barrack room, two lance corporals banging the lids together and the platoon sergeant lifting the end of our beds ensuring they hit the floor with a mighty thud.
Then we were tipped out, followed by blankets, sheets and pillows. As we struggled to our feet the platoon sergeant yelled, “What’s this, untidy beds? Untidy beds in the British army? We don’t have untidy beds in the British army, get ‘em tidied up!” Just one lad protested, “But it wasn’t our fault”. The sergeant pushed his face straight into his and said, in a soft voice, “Not your fault? Not your fault? Then whose fault was it?” Total silence.
Over the next few weeks we learned that, if you called a rifle a gun you’d be running around the drill square a dozen times with it over your head, repeating, “It’s not a gun, it’s a rifle, it’s my best friend”.
Calling a sergeant ‘sarge’ had him screaming, “There’s only one sarge in the British army lad, a sausarge”.
“It’s Leftenant not Lootenant, you’re in the British army, not the Hollywood cavalry”, whilst a half-fastened shirt button brought, “A button undone, a button undone? What do you think this camp is, a nudist colony?”
As for bringing it back, would it sort out the nation’s problems? Well, it did sort out the rebellious Teddy Boy generation. Few of them were still Teds back in Civvy Street, having left their Tony Curtis and DA haircuts on the floor of their training camp barber Sweeney Todd.
National Service also made a man out of former rebel Elvis Presley. But we were different people back then so, no, it wouldn’t work. Just a huge waste of tax payers’ money - another one.
But I wouldn’t mind training those national newspaper types who think it’s a good idea.