Any young man in the United Kingdom who turned 18 between the years 1945 to 1960 became eligible for compulsory National Service in one of the armed forces and all but a few exemptions went on to serve their obligatory two years in military uniform.
Very few of them enjoyed the experience at the time but, with the perspective of hindsight, many now look back on their years of National Service with nostalgia. As the author says:
“Ask any of us whether we would like to do it again and you would not find any takers. But just mention it to any one of us – and stand back for the avalanche of reminiscences!”
With this in mind he has written this entertaining account, based on his own experiences as National Serviceman in the 1950s, recalling what it was like for a typical squad of raw recruits to undergo their first 10 weeks of ‘initial training’ in the British Army.
Drawn from a wide variety of social backgrounds and from towns and villages all over the United Kingdom, groups of young men who had nothing in common and who, under ordinary circumstances, would never have crossed paths with one another, were flung together, confined at close quarters and subjected to a crash course in military discipline. It was an experience that none of them would ever forget – traumatic in many ways yet fondly remembered by most, due to the spirit of camaraderie they shared with their fellow conscripts.
“It is true,” the author continues, “that we felt deprivation, homesickness, frustration, self-pity, rage, bafflement, and physical fear; but there were also moments when we felt satisfaction, even pride. We worked, we sweated, we wondered, and we moaned. But we also laughed. How we laughed!”
This laughter, which features prominently within the pages of this evocative and historically accurate account, is sure to be greatly enjoyed by any former National Serviceman.