Short, back and Golf

January 11, 2012


Shortly after ‘Q’ Tip, mentioned in an earlier blog, had been sent back to the UK on Medevac, I was nominated to attend a Basic Training Refresher course, not related in any way to John Major’s much-maligned Back to Basics for dedicated Tories.

The Army’s version was an annual project that lasted for two to three weeks in which the soldier was subjected to, and made to suffer, hours of rifle drill, map-reading, assault courses, physical training, route marches and much more besides. He would be tested on each element and his efficiency pay would depend on the outcome.

These results were decided by a Regimental Duties team, headed up by a Regimental Sergeant Major, and being subjective, were therefore suspect. This was deliberate to ensure that only mavericks would break ranks whereas as the majority would conform and knuckle under. Private ‘Ginger’ Gilbert was definitely a maverick but when he fell foul of the system it was without even trying.

If you remember I was in the Far East, on my first tour of duty, serving in Malaya. The course was to be held in Nee Soon on Singapore Island and after packing all my gear I travelled down there and delivered myself up into the hands of The Skull, known officially as Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) Reginald Cuthbert. Evil, fiery, and little, he was a martinet of the first order and having had his sense of humour removed, without anaesthetic, and disposed of, along with the placenta at birth, he made every minute a nightmare for us.

On the first parade, at 05.30 hrs — we had to begin early as we finished early, at 13.30 hrs ,each day due to the heat — we all fell short of the Skull’s standard of sartorial perfection. In addition young Gilbert was ordered to get a haircut before the following day’s parade.

As soon as we were dismissed that afternoon, he set off for the village, had his hair cut and was walking back to camp when a red MG sports car pulled up alongside him and he was called over by the driver. The driver was the Adjutant of our training unit, who had been playing golf, his bag of clubs on the bucket seat beside him. As he had to go straight on to a meeting at GHQ he wondered if it would be possible for Gilbert to take the clubs back to the Officer’s Mess for him. It would be a great help and mean that he would be on time for his meeting.

The clubs slung over his shoulder, Ginger continued on his way to the barracks where he encountered the RSM, about to inspect the guardroom, which was located beside the main gate.
“Ah, young Gilbert,” called out the RSM, from the veranda of the building, in his first, and it is believed his last, attempt at bonhomie, “Been playing golf?”
“No,” answered Ginge, “I’ve been for a haircut!.”

The rest of us never saw Ginger for the remainder of the course as he was charged with rank insubordination and sentenced to seven days confinement for being sarcastic to the RSM. Come to think of it, I believe he forfeited his efficiency pay, too.

2 Responses to “Short, back and Golf”

  1. ron askew Says:

    Arf, arf, the story about Ginger was a tonic to read, just the job on a drab January afternoon. There’e used to be someone called The Skull where I worked, too. Shame about the efficiency money though.

  2. Robert Davidson Says:

    Yes, a little too severe, Orlando, but then the old Army wasx like that. Thanks for the comment.


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