Boys No More
The great adventure had begun,
We’d left our families, homes
Away into the great unknown,
Apprehensive, feeling lost, alone,
And wondering what the future held,
Our hopes, though high,
Then suddenly, no time to think,
Life’s one long round of work, eat, drink,
Sleep. Spit and polish rule our lives,
Yet slowly, imperceptibly arrives
The bonds of friendship, long to last
Throughout the years, strong and steadfast.
forged by joy and pain,
Shared escapades of loss and gain,
Yes, truly we were brothers all,
Stronger ties than blood recall
feelings that we shared,
And how we laughed and joked and cared.
We see them still through memory’s haze,
The bright, long, glorious,
When youth enjoyed the summer long,
Erased, the hard times, strife and gone
The times when we felt low,
days in mind’s eye grow.
But time exacts its bitter toll,
And young men age, grow frail and fall
Prey to the ever rolling years,
Life’s toil and pain, sadness, tears,
No more the boys of days long past,
Till finally life ebbs, at last.
life’s span has run its course,
No need for anger, fear, remorse,
But privileged to have shared in part
The life of those, who from the start
Had given friendship unreserved,
No better epitaph deserved!
So we were blessed, much more than most,
To have that comradeship,
In passing years our youth,
Those ties still bind and yet, in truth
They live on, young, as when first we met,
grow old. We won’t forget.
Yet Another Goodbye
We, who trod that road together many years ago,
Living, sharing all the full and boisterous days that so
Epitomised the youthful spirit that bound us so close,
Saw us tied in brotherhood through
best times and the worst.
Then when we went our separate ways, exploring pastures new,
Little did we think, consider that the comrade who
Had been our close companion for three years through thick and thin
In course of time would reappear to share our lives again.
Yet, as the years elapse and
we grow older, thoughts return
Increasingly, and often then our inner spirit yearns
To re-establish what we had, for we found out, as men,
what we had was special, though we didn’t know it then.
And that road that we trod together, many years ago,
Has now become our precious memory lane, which we follow,
Recalling things through half forgotten, rekindled recollection,
Of adventures and friendships, oft with wry but fond affection.
one of our number comes to bid a sad farewell,
We are diminished, each and every one of us as well,
For that tie which we carried from those days in memory,
Means as one goes we lose a little of that entity.
So Guys, you’ll always be recalled by those who shared your youth,
When what we learned
first and foremost was loyalty and truth,
You’ll live on in fond memory, secure in hearts and minds
Of all those many friends who shared those happy, youthful times.
Fifty names marked time’s inexorable march down through the years
In that cool wooded corner, as we listened there were tears
Of sad remembrance as they were called out there, one by one,
While we recalled those times when we were all so very young.
The dappled shade amid this circle of surrounding trees
Helped cool the sun’s fierce glare, and with a passing, gentle breeze,
We stood, as bugle’s
call, so poignant, sounded the ‘Last Post’,
And Pipes, a sad lament, then faded from the listening host.
yet, a sense of some completeness came that they’d returned
To be applauded by their friends, those that they loved, and earned
This final accolade of a good life,
lived fair and true,
According to those values we had learned as years ensued.
So as our voices lifted through those
trees in songs of praise,
It may be that they heard and smiled in their celestial space,
And joined in spirit with all those of us who still remain,
Until that time when we will be reunited once again.
“Boys School”. What do you recall of the place?
Where time seemed to move at a lowly snails pace,
Just counting the days till you went off on leave,
To freedom; for some just a temporary reprieve
From the gypping and bullying, too scared to rebel
that Lancejack who daily was giving you hell.
And the jankers and rodeo which you had incurred
For some minor infringement, considered absurd
your average civilian with plain common sense,
But which plagued you and made your daily existence
A struggle to keep your morale more or less
Above misery, hunger
and sheer helplessness.
Those endless room jobs, the repetitive chores
Of dusting the lampshades, or bumping the floors
With that to-and-fro
motion which could drive you insane,
Yet you knew in the morning, you’d do it again
And again and again, until shining and gleaming,
While all that you had was
backache, muscles screaming.
But that was just while you were back in your room,
Once out on the square then, the unnerving boom
ear-splitting scream of some banshees from hell
Had you doubling around until you couldn’t tell
Whether coming or going and surely you’d give
for civilian life that you had lived.
And down in the workshops things weren’t any better,
All that filing and sawing of metal to get a
surface to scribe on and then make a hole
Which you filed out again, your ultimate goal
Was to fit yet another piece matching the figure
Of what you’d removed,
as your blisters grew bigger.
Those three years passed slowly. No. Time didn’t fly,
Interminable days dragged as they passed us by,
seemed we were stuck in a time warp, stagnating,
Existing on six bob a week and debating
As to whether we’d spend it on Zebo or polish
Important decisions which
gave us no solace.
At last the day came that we’d yearned for so long,
And the times we’d rehearsed this parade were now done,
slow marched and wheeled to the tune “Auld Lang Syne”,
Making silent self promise that this was the last time
That we’d never march on that square ever again,
Remembering the blisters, the noise and the rain.
Now, fast-forward five decades, and thoughts idly turn
To those days of your youth. Curiosity burns
your mind, and you wonder just what happened to
All those roommates who shared your life and you knew
Much better than anyone, even their Mothers,
For you shared a
life so much closer than brothers.
And then you remember the great times you had,
All that joking and laughter, and feeling quite sad
you had lost touch with the spirit you shared
And those friends who had meant so much to you and fared
Along with you, your life with its highs and its lows,
out at you still from those faded photos.
You think of how great those old Christmases were
When the senior ranks, officers all gathered there
serve up the best meal of the year without doubt,
Roast turkey or chicken, spuds and Brussels sprouts
Followed by mince pies and then Christmas pud,
And felt at that
moment that life was so good.
And mornings when gathered to go off on leave,
With pockets crammed full of the money retrieved
credits, so flush with the cash that we’d earned,
Those fivers we had that now literally burned
The holes in our pockets, just waiting to spend
As we headed
for home to our family and friends.
Yet when you arrived and met up with your mates,
They somehow seemed changed, it was just that innate
that something was missing you felt,
A sense that what you had, had faded to melt
Into past times now gone from recall, now estranged,
When in truth, they’d
not altered, it was you who had changed.
Then it dawned on you slowly that life as you knew it
Was gone, and your new life as you traversed through it
Would hold far more interest than you had foreseen,
When you walked through those gates at the age of fifteen.
For as you learned, gaining experience then,
had changed, unaware, turned from youths into men.
So look at it once again as the time passes,
And probably you’ll feel the need to wear glasses,
While some may have lens with a quite rosy hue,
Others will never feel, as many do,
That our time spent at “Boys School” was not dissipated,
our formative years there were not ever wasted.
It can’t be seen, it has no form nor still cannot be heard,
And to some,
it means no more than any other word.
But yet it has a power so strong that if it could be sold,
No earthly price would e’er suffice, no untold weight of gold.
We, who at a tender age left home and flew the nest
Were fortunate, for we soon found this thing before the rest
Became aware of how it can affect us, heart and soul,
Forever at its mercy, it’s perpetual control.
At first we didn’t notice as it crept into our lives
As we adjusted in our new world merely
It’s surreptitious presence, very quietly begun,
Meant we were all affected, and submitted, one by one.
It is now only
at this stage of life that we can see
What power there is in something that we feel so readily,
That old, familiar feeling that comes flooding back again,
us in that glow of comfort, so hard to explain.
The freedom, so instinctive, that makes us carry on
With conversations started then, though fifty years have gone.
The feeling all of two score years was just an interlude,
A moments pause to draw a breath while savouring the mood.
It’s a pair of old worn slippers
that we wear inside our head,
Friendly, comforting and snug, with thoughts and words unsaid,
To make us feel at home again, among our youthful peers,
the fun we had, while rolling back the years.
Of course, it’s Friendship that we share; to some, a passing phase,
But not I think, for most of us, who lived those
long gone days,
We shared a common lifestyle then, through times of joy and woe,
And now enjoy that friendship which began so long ago.
doesn’t matter when we served, or how much time has flown,
The comradeship that was born then, still spans the years long gone,
And our exclusive Brotherhood, have learned what time has taught,
That we will always share that thing that never can be bought.
………… True Friendship
When we were there, it was known as “Boy’s School”,
And our life these days would be seen as quite cruel.
No ‘yuman rights’
then, in those days, long gone,
For generally, things were hard for everyone.
We were there for three years, wooden huts were our home,
In blocks of six, ‘Spiders’ they came to be known.
Protruding like legs from the centre they came,
And that’s how they came to be known by that name.
Our boots were all studded, there were no DM’s then,
And we cleaned up our webbing again and again,
There were large packs and small packs, belts,
gaiters and straps
Which we blanco’ed in rooms lined with tables and taps.
The uniforms with which we were issued, and wore,
Dated back to the beginning of the First World War,
They were buttoned right up to the top, and quite rough
To the neck, and believe me, your skin got quite tough!
And a cap badge, distinctive, for all there to see,
Was our own, proclaiming our identity,
The Gear Wheel and Swords with the Torch and the Cross,
Showed the world who we were, until that was then lost.
Along with the buttons, of course, they were brass,
had still, it seemed, yet to come to pass,
So with Brasso and Bluebell we polished and shone
Countless buttons and buckles till daylight had gone.
If I recall rightly, there were three dozen or more
Buttons on greatcoats and jackets, then four
Sets of titles worn on epaulettes,
and collar-dogs also, before I forget!
So the cleaning and polishing, the bumping of floors,
The rubbing and scrubbing, the dusting,
Of ‘internal economy’ as it was phrased,
Earned us, hopefully words of commendable praise.
more likely, the critical eye would alight
On a speck of fine dust, and giving the right
Of the inspecting person to bellow abuse,
And the prospect of him likely
blowing a fuse!
The point that needs making is if all that bull
Had been forgone, then we could have saved almost a full
Year at Boy’s School, or given us more
Time for study and training and benefit more.
Of course, realisation did come at last
And lessons were learned from the years of the past,
So the School changed its name to a College, no less,
And the boys, now aged sixteen came into the nest.
No more brasses to polish, all the blanco had gone,
(They still ‘beezed’ their boots untill the uppers shone)
The old cap badge lying redundant
The ‘spiders’ demolished, (though most were quite glad!)
And the smaller room with all the latest mod cons,
Was the standard, more comfy accommodation,
Though, on some reflection, twenty to a spider,
May have increased the bond of those living inside there.
So the standards of training rose as time went on,
As progressive improvements gained their momentum,
And the technical targets that boys had attained
Was a credit to all that went there to be trained.
The thing is, that we in the earlier days,
Were not subject to quite
such intensive ways
Of the technological things that came later,
Involving complex solid state items and data.
were on a more metaphysical plain,
And the old fashioned values still ruled in the main,
Where the practical aspects of trades meant that we
Concentrated on craftwork
And that is the difference of our generation
From later boy soldiers, but in explanation,
had in our way, different challenges to face,
And in overcoming them, there was no disgrace.
But the later boys joining in subsequent
Had their problems to solve but in different ways,
And solve them they did by the word and the deed,
For what we ALL learned was how to succeed.
Therefore, all ex-boys can proudly claim to be best
No matter when they joined, they all faced the test
Of their character, to absorb strict training on
Trades, military subjects and pass with them with ease.
So stand up, you brats, enough of these speeches,
aren’t any more, you’re an endangered species,
But you were there, doing the army real proud,
With a spirit that was brilliiantly well endowed!
Its submerged in the mists of time, impossible to say
When the first Jeep rose from the grime and saw the light of day.
Maybe Julius Caesar, duffing up the British horde
Had got Jeepus industrious sharpening his sword.
Or was it Bill the Conqueror, while sorting out King Harold,
Got Jeep Le Crepe to get his bow and let
loose a few arrows?
It’s quite likely that history’s been changed, when at the start,
Some lowly, misbegotten Jeep had played a minor part
thing about Jeepdom, of course, is, we have all been there,
No matter what befell us in our subsequent career,
We all know how it felt to be the lowest of the low,
be reviled and scorned for what we were, so long ago.
But it was almost worth it, for after the first term,
We were elevated from the depths, and then could take our
To sneer and mock the next intake, the objects of derision,
Whose lot was to be permanently under supervision.
And as time passed,
we rose in rank and seniority,
Till we were fully fledged old sweats – Jeeps no more, were we!
Until….until….in future years the Worldwide Web was born,
websites came and drew us back to days we thought were gone.
Now we’ve returned to the old days, and teenagers no longer,
But we are still reminded that the most
Is Intake, which still rules Arborfield’s old pecking order,
And we’re all Jeeps again, because there’s always someone older!
And it’s the same wherever you may be or where you go,
Reunions are organised to keep the system so.
The rank attained, the medals or the riches you did reap,
It’s all of little consequence – you still will be a JEEP!
Nervous, apprehensive, seeing those imposing gates,
what lies in store, what future trials await;
Wanting to turn back, return again from whence we came,
Wishing we had never read recruiting posters claims.
But much too late we stand, confronting stark reality,
That we’re committed to a life we entered voluntarily,
But, hiding grave foreboding, we put all our doubts aside,
And entered, all determined to take life in our stride.
That was the start of our careers so many years ago,
When all was sunny happy days,(or we recall
And we forget the first few days, bewildered, dazed and lost,
While trying to adjust to this New World, this line we crossed.
now our past is done, forgotten- just a memory,
As we prepare to join this new, extended family,
Presently relinquishing our ties to dads and mothers,
for hundreds of assorted newfound brothers.
Though in those first few hours, still feeling empty and alone,
Existing in an alien world, just wishing we were home,
We’re learning a first lesson very quickly, short and sweet,
Which is brought home to us, in short - to stand on our two feet.
No parents to protect
us nor to shield us when we fail
To do what is required, no matter how we weep and wail,
We’re masters of our future now, and we will stand or fall
By our own
actions from this day, throughout life’s fits and squalls.
And on that first night, laid in an unfamiliar, strange, cold bed,
Listening to muffled sobs and quiet
As pangs of homesickness strike home to many youngsters there,
We start to grow up from this time, although not yet aware.
this is how we differed from our pals in Civvy Street
Thrust into a grown-up world, our childhood incomplete,
We learned quite quickly to survive, mature more swiftly then,
major change as we turned into men.
There were some boys who failed to change, who could not readjust,
But really not surprising when we look at the robust
Life that we were thrown into, the complete transformation
That we were called to undertake in our chosen vocation.
Now, with the gift of hindsight, looking
back at times long past,
We see how these things shaped our lives, and showing the contrasts
With how a different path chosen would alter our life’s course,
all in all I think that we could have done a whole lot worse!
The bustling vigour of the day fades in a calm, reflective way
thoughts of restful, quiet things. Conclusion of that time now brings
The nightly veil to cover all, in cool dark blackness, then the call
Is heard - low, softly, urgent, clear, inviting everyone
Its message, as nights shades creep into the world. It’s time to sleep.
Notes hang, suspended, on the air. Echoes seek the shadows there,
The studded stars, the moon so bright, contrasting the dark of night.
Another day draws to its close, the busy scene turns to repose
As muffled calls from rooms around, fade away,
until the sounds
Are finally quieted, all is still, until the dawn, a sweet idyll.
What can stir a thought that’s
buried deep within the soul?
Some say that it could be the sense of smell,
But I prefer to think perhaps, the power of recall
Is wakened when melodic rhythms swell
And spill into the memory of days so long ago,
When voices young and lusty start to sing
Together for the hell of it, the words we used to know,
really made the old roof rafters’ ring.
It could have been a hymn or something from the hit parade,
Or some song parodied, as squaddies do,
it may have come from, or whatever sound it made,
The meaning would be changed to something blue!
Yet music in all shapes and forms can have the same effect
from the mind those recollections,
The ‘British Grenadiers’ will likely readily connect
To eight bars, (fifteen paces), on reflection.
‘Scipio’, or then, ‘Scotland the Brave’
May suddenly transport the unsuspecting
Listener back in time to when these tunes were so engraved
the memory banks, sharp, suddenly connecting.
“It hath the power to soothe the savage breast,” the poet wrote,
And there’s no doubt it leaves a marked impression
On subconscious minds, just lying there, forgotten and remote,
Till distant sounds rekindle resurrection.
What else is there that so inspires, and yet
can move to tears,
When folk hear old familiar music played,
Bringing back to consciousness while rolling back the years,
Recalling life in song and serenade?
And we, whose lives were ordered and dictated by the sound
Of the bugle, with those calls so loud and clear,
Have more cause to remember these things, permanently bound
To those ringing notes across the Barrack Square.
A piece of music can point to a milestone in a life,
Touching every single one who hears
Or yet again, provide a bond that husband and a wife
Share, theirs to prize and cherish through the years;
But most of all its value is within its power to calm,
pacify and soothe the troubled mind,
Comforting and helping rid those feelings of alarm,
If harnessed, what a gift to all mankind!
Fred Silver was the long serving provost Sergeant of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps in charge of discipline and consequently held very much in awe and respect (and not a little fear
He was five feet three in his socks, I suppose,
With a small black moustache just under his nose,
affixed to his upper sleeve,
With a red and black armband, lead one to perceive
That this was the guardian of the main gate,
The one to avoid, if getting in late
From a night on the town, or just slightly drunk,
If he was on duty you knew you were sunk.
No drainpipe trousers passed his eagle eye,
Without remonstration, and if one were to try
To argue that these were okay, try to fool
This veteran soldier, out came the rule,
Then the cry, “Fifteen
inches!” assaulted your ears,
And you knew it was hopeless, for over the years
He’d honed to perfection all of the ploys
That had been tried on, by hundreds
This wily old soldier ran a guesthouse,
Full board and lodging, and certain to rouse
The guests from their slumbers, at no extra
Provided that they actively humoured their host
By helping with housework, and some minor chores,
With verbal encouragement, in shape of roars
Of derision, to turn the air blue,
Till all within sparkled, and glistened like new.
Maestro of the fire pump, he tried to show those
Who were on fire picquet the right way to hose
Down an inferno, and be able to get
Personnel out of danger, but he often got wet
Due to some inexperienced,
ham fisted Jeep
Who’d pull the wrong handle, or fail to keep
To his detailed instruction, so in the end that,
He’d vent his frustration and jump on his
His immaculate garden was his pride and joy,
But weeding and digging would always annoy
His guests, who, in fits of bad temper ensured
That seeds, when grown up, spelt out words that were rude!
When his sole means of transport, his trusty old bike,
Needing refurbishing, he sought to strike
bargain with one guest, who, armed with paint pot,
Painted frame, tyres and saddle – the whole blooming lot!
He wasn’t amused, I think it’s
fair to say,
And his invective, impressive, was heard far away,
As the guest, with demeanour so innocent then,
Saw that his sense of humour had somehow worn thin,
So in self preservation, seeing thunderous frown,
He legged it quite smartly till things had calmed down!
But our hero found out that he hadn’t impressed,
he found that he’d do extra time as a guest!
He was certainly not the most popular chap,
His duties precluded him being just that,
for ten years he jealously guarded that gate,
Fulfilling his duties, ignoring the hate
And resentment that always accompanied his task.
Never to have the occasion
In the warm glow of friendship of lads in his charge
He’ll not be forgotten, our Rifle Corps Sarge!
Passing Out Parade
The chairs lined up around the square, parents, siblings, girlfriends there,
Proudly wait expectantly for offspring to parade and see
The youngster who’d left home
so green, to spread his wings, so eager, keen,
Mature into a fine young man, with back so straight, and fitter than
He‘d ever been in days long past - a transformation, oh so vast!
They scarcely recognized the chap, immaculate, from toe to cap.
And as, so eagerly, they wait, a silence falls, then suddenly a great
Swell of sound invades
the air, distantly, beyond the square.
Martial music, Pipes and Drums, diminished first, but nearer comes,
And growing louder with each beat, till the distant, marching feet,
a perfect, synchronized ballet, appear, and smartly make their way
To take their stations, (oft rehearsed, on wintry mornings till well versed!)
The bands wheel left
and takes their post, playing till the boys, at last
Are then in place, by Company. There in front, conspicuously,
Stand erect the senior men, no longer boys, and here again
for the last parade, as is their due, a farewell paid
By all who’ll follow in their wake, examples of what they can make
Of their young lives while at the school, if they just observe the
Inspection time, and while the Brass perambulate, and slowly pass
The tiered ranks, so smart, so still, the sound of music starts to fill
air with haunting melodies, as Pipes and Drums perform, then cease
As Brass and Reed take up the role, quietly play to soothe the soul.
A lull, a pause in ceremony, time for senior men, maybe,
To think a while on previous years, nostalgic thoughts, the laughs, the fears.
But now it all springs into life, the hoarse commands, sharp as a knife
the waiting throng, as orders are obeyed as one.
The march past now, extended line, the bass drum beating in slow time,
As gleaming ranks pass by the dais. The “Eyes Right!” shout, and
Snaps round to proudly gaze upon the decorated chest of one
Whose rank entitles him to stand, saluting all, in manner grand.
change to quick time, arms now swing, pipes are skirling, chanters sing,
As ruler-straight ranks, heads held high, raise the dust as they march by.
White buckskin belts gleam in the sun, polished
boots and buckles, shone
To burnished lustre bright, a truly great, impressive sight
That one won’t easily forget, a really grand occasion, yet,
tinged with sadness too, as men move on to pastures new.
And finally, the pass out starts, the bass drum throbs, and in the hearts
Of all who watch the closing scene,
good fortune wished, as now between
The slowly closing gates they pass, symbolizing now at last,
The time they’ve spent here now is done, the next phase of their life begun.
And as they cheer, and caps fly high, their faces turned up to the sky,
In years to come, when in times thrall, this day, fondly, they will recall.
was the custom in the dining hall to return the empty plates as you left.When a large pile of plates had accumulated, the duty cookhouse NCO would call 'Plates'! and the unfortunate person would be required to pick up the large pile of dirty
plates and return them to the wash-up at the rear of the cookhouse.
It always seemed to be my fate to be the one who caught the “Plates!”
No matter how
I tried to sneak out unobserved I’d hear that shriek
Triumphant, ringing in my ears confirming yet again my fears
That someone somewhere had a grudge, and seemingly I’d never judge
Time opportune when I could slink out of the room, and leave that sink
To someone else just for a change, at least, till I was out of range!
moves on, and when I earned two tapes, it then became my turn
To sit back, scrutinise and glower – oh, the utter, glorious power
I came to wield and give free reign! They sidled, dodged and
tried in vain
To flee, escape by wit and guile from carrying evil, greasy piles
Of porcelain into the wash with stale, caked bits of squaddy nosh,
Through stacks of
tins in glorious muddle, trying to avoid the puddles.
Although, in truth there wasn’t much we wouldn’t throw away or touch
With doubtful and suspicious
notion; all we wanted was our portion
Of the grub which came our way, we really lived throughout each day,
Just dreaming of the next big spread, and salivating, looked ahead
juicy steaks with sticky buns, and “Plates” was just a risk to run
In pursuit of good food again. How simple our ambitions then!
winter mornings, steaming breath hangs in the air,
Wishing we were somewhere else, away from sergeants glare.
Crunching gravel underfoot, rhythmic, tedious tread,
Marching round, when we would sooner be back in our bed!
This daily ritual was the one that we tried to evade,
But mostly there was no escape from the Muster Parade,
The stamping boots, the barked commands a noisy, loud affair
Marching round in circles, never going anywhere.
Not so bad in summertime, we were at least quite
And shirtsleeve order generally made it easy to perform
The wheeling, slow and quick time marching movements that we made,
(And we thought that we’d
all joined up to simply learn a trade!)
But still, it kept us really fit, quite healthy and suntanned,
While some of the more crafty lads joined one of the school bands.
Then, in the warmth and comfort of the band room they could stay
Out of the bawling, nasty ‘orrible Sergeant Major’s way.
Then hunger. Gnawing all-pervading
feeling of starvation,
The griping pangs that clutched our guts, that aching, drained sensation
Of never ending emptiness endured with fortitude,
Along with sex,
our waking thoughts were mainly lewd, and food!
We nicked the bread and spirited the marmalade and butter
Away at breakfast time, so in the evening we could cut a
Loaf up into nice thick bits and, failing fires to fry on,
We made the toast by using our room’s sole electric iron.
It worked a treat, so we enjoyed our
toast - all nice and hot,
But when time came to press our best kit, if we had forgot
To clean the flat plate of the iron immediately we’d used it,
crummy face showed how we’d callously abused it,
And much hard scraping, scouring, buffing, following a soak
Was needed – still, it did give us experience in doing a decoke!
But then, what we did learn were all the ways to improvise,
Which came in useful later in some dubious schemes devised.
These may be the events
that faded into distant past,
Yet at the time their impact on our life was truly vast,
But it engendered virtues, although we were unaware,
The instinct to succeed
despite all setbacks started there,
Along with self reliance, coupled with the comradeship
That held us much more firmly than we knew, in timely grip.
So all in
all, we did OK, pursuing lives diverse,
We made the right choice, and, you know we could have done much worse!
Silenced now, this hallowed
No more to echo and resound
To barked commands, the beating drum,
The bugle, calling all to come
To muster, or to beat retreat,
In winters chill and summers heat.
The ghosts are still there, looking down,
And Sergeant Majors grimace, frown,
has come to this, their dream,
The place where they once ruled supreme,
Is now a desolate, lost space,
Their pride, now tainted, in disgrace.
Forlorn, untended now, it lies,
With cracks and weeds in slow demise.
Flanked by two pillars, mute and gaunt,
but now to haunt
The memory of what had been,
Guardians of the changing scene.
Greensward now rings this
Where wooden buildings once stood there,
And echoes of youths, in their prime,
Resound down corridors of time,
Of former glories, in reprise.
The garden occupies the space
Where Guardroom once
took pride of place,
Now, standing testament of where
Young boys began to learn, prepare
For life, in military role,
Succumbs, as progress
takes its toll.
But, while there still exists a man,
Who proudly can proclaim, “ I am
out of Arborfield”,
Then this old square will never yield,
Or ever be forgot by they
Who knew it in its glory day.
A/T O’Toole had been such a fool, going out when he should have been in.
So the very next day, with no undue delay, he was marched in to explain his sin.
The CO said, "O’ Toole, while you’re at this school, Standing Orders you have to obey."
"And to help you reform, seven days you’ll perform, and confined to
these barracks you’ll stay."
O’Toole was so sad, it was hard for the lad to watch all his mates go to town,
While he had to work - he felt a right berk – peeling spuds till his fingers wore down.
And not only that, he had also to start getting kit bulled for evening parade,
Best SD to press, boots, belt, and then dress, attention to detail was paid.
For he knew, if he failed, he would then be assailed by the Orderly
Sergeants great wrath,
And the following day, the price he would pay, on another charge, and that is tough.
For the cycle’d begin, the chances to sin
while on Jankers, they would multiply,
So a seven day stint could become in an inst’t, a fortnight or worse, could apply.
Therefore, duly at nine, he stands in the line of Defaulters, so nervous and glum,
While the Sergeant, so slow, inspects the first row, as he’s waiting for his turn to come.
The Sarge, with a frown, eyes him up and then down, and turns on his heel, walks away.
Then O’Toole grits his teeth, breathes a sigh of relief, he’s survived for
yet one more day.
The following dawn, O’Toole was forlorn at the prospect of six days to do,
bulling and beezing, a prospect displeasing, at the thought, his despondency grew.
So, up at Reveille, his courage he rallied, for he had an appointment with Fred,
if he was late, such a terrible fate of more days, which filled him with dread.
Then, down to parade, with the others, he made his weary way to the Guardroom,
What jobs would he do? The Cookhouse, he knew, would be spuds again, peeling till noon.
But he thought he’d got lucky, a job not so mucky, he pulled QM’s detail
– that’s good!
Inside, in the warm and the dry, he would try to filch items of kit if he could.
his loot in his pocket, he knew he could flog it, when back to the Spider he went,
Selling ill-gotten gains, he would then take great pains to profit from his punishment.
But alas and alack, when reporting back to the QM’s department, he found
That instead of work cushy, with whitewash and brush, he was shown a dirty great mound
Of coal in the yard, and the going was hard, but "coal has to be whitewashed", it states,
To stop boys thieving the coal, and then heaving it
all, over the fence to their mates.
Who, back at the Spider, then sat down beside the stove, stoking away till it glowed.
But the coal that was nicked, left
a black mark, when picked, and the crime then quite obviously showed!
So O’Toole learned a lesson, it’s no use just guessing that jobs can be doddles,
To make such assumption shows sheer lack of gumption, as he found, while whitewashing the gear.
He thought that he’d cracked it, when he attracted
the QM job, and so he laughed,
Forgetting that QM’s activities ranged wide, from cushy, to downright hard graft!
The worst time he’d spend was at the weekend, the Saturday film in Camp Hall,
While he polished the brass and mowed all the grass, he could hear the lads having a ball.
And so, as the days of his time slipped away, as he tried to avoid further strife,
Released at the end, he vowed not to offend ever again in his life !
And so it goes on, Jankers never was fun, it’s a punishment one must avoid,
But to give it wide berth, it never is worth to get those placed
above you, annoyed.
Or you’ll live to regret it, and they won’t forget it, so humour them, make them feel good
So creep if you have to, although
you won’t want to, it’s better than peeling those spuds!
I am the flickering shadow that haunts the Old School Square,
lingering, echoing, bugle calls that fill the evening air,
I am the ghost of thousands smartly marching in the dawn,
The tramping, rhythmic sounds disturbing early, misty
I am the memory of the countless, carefree, happy days,
The laughter and the fun that came so many different ways,
I am the sadness when that life too soon came to an end,
The knowledge, later on in life, there were no better friends.
I am the guardian of those who were there to guide and teach,
The patience and composure as young minds they tried to reach.
I am the
recollection of upstanding military men,
The fine example of what real soldiers were, was there in them.
I am these things
which will, in this place now, for all time be,
Though signs of that existence will fade from the memory,
The spirit of those who found a new life here will never die,
And in the fabric of this place, forever will reside.
Future generations living in this special place
May think they sometimes hear a sound, although they cannot trace
The source of this disturbance, it will very likely be
A ghostly bugle playing the "Lights
Out" or "Reveille."
And I, the spirit of all these will haunt the leafy lanes,
Remembering forever as the sounds are
Of regimental music floating on the evening breeze,
Gently fading into silence, ‘midst the rustling of the leaves.
A thousand lusty, youthful voices joining in as one,
And once again "The Reds" will resonate as it had done
In bygone years, and men
now grey with age will nod and smile,
And live again those happy years, for just a little while.
We joined the army as young boys, our aim, to learn a trade,
So, in the very early months, a foundation was laid
To make us useful with our hands, and learn to use the tools,
Gain expertise in basic skills, and learn about the rules
Of engineering theory, how
to make ourselves proficient
At filing, sawing, blacksmithing, in short, to be efficient
So that, after our apprenticeship, as members of the Corps
We’d keep the reputation of the school, as always, to the fore.
To this end we toiled, perspired,
to gain the skills we sought,
Endless chipping, filing lumps of metal, we were taught
That when, “up at the sharp end” no machines would be around,
These basic skills, acquired today, invaluable, would astound
And win the admiration of those relying on
expertise and aptitude for improvisation.
For basic skills such as we learned, could make the difference
Between success’s great reward, or failure’s
The blisters, cuts and bruises, the burns that we sustained,
Were marks of honour,
borne with pride as manual skills we gained.
Whether in the blacksmith’s shop, amidst the hot emissions,
Sweating, trying hard to beat hot steel into
Among the smoke, the heat, and through the overpowering noise,
The hammers swung and anvils rung by keen and eager boys.
Or in the fitting shops where trade test work, so intricate,
Was laboured over in the quest to make it accurate.
At the end of workshop training, final tests had to be faced,
To show we’d mastered all the skills, and swiftly, as we raced
To beat the deadlines that our shrewd instructors had devised,
We filed and polished our test pieces, cunningly disguised
The odd faux pas -
hoped to escape the ever seeing eye
Of the dreaded test inspector – it was always worth a try!
But futile. He’d seen all the tricks and wheezes
O’er all the years, by thousands of young, devious, cunning boys.
looking back through time, and with the knowledge that it brings,
We see, and can appreciate the very many things
That we were taught so thoroughly, with
no expense in mind,
And quality the yardstick that applied, back at that time.
No time was wasted; we worked hard, instructors worked hard too,
Their dedication to their work, ensuring that those, who
Deserved success, should gain the goals which in the future lay.
We owe our heartfelt thanks to them, for showing us the way.