BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in February 2012We've left it here for reference.More information

22 August 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site Print this page 

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!


Knocking us into shape

by CSV Actiondesk at BBC Oxford

You are browsing in:

Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
CSV Actiondesk at BBC Oxford
People in story: 
Bill harvey
Location of story: 
Stonehaven, Scotland
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 August 2005

In February 1941, with departure time drawing nearer, the Company was to be ‘knocked into shape’. This ritual began with the arrival of a regular army drill sergeant. Bill Harvey was to be one of his early victims. He takes up the story. “This sergeant was a veritable ogre of a man, a born Regular from the angle of his forage cap to the mirror-polished on his boots. He had a loud, gravely voice to match. When he gave orders it had a foghorn quality which made everyone in Stonehaven jump. After putting the complete unit through their paces for a few days he decided to give each NCO an individual test.

"A squad of 12 men was paraded on the esplanade running along the sea front. The terrifying drill sergeant with the NCO being tested at his side were stationed on the piece of flat waste ground which we used as a parade ground. The squad was at least 200/250 yards from the NCO giving the orders.

“We not only had the distance to overcome but the sound of the sea at the back of the squad. For us it was a terrifying ordeal, due to the distance and background noise. You could shout an order. Then wait for what seemed like 10 seconds before the squad moved. When my turn came I managed to get through without criticism. It seemed I had passed the test, to my great relief.”

Not everyone escaped without a tongue lashing. “One poor lad, who did not possess a powerful voice got his squad all tangled up. Eventually the squad marching away out of earshot. Helpfully the instructor said, ‘For heavens sake say something, even if it's only goodbye’”.

Bill was relieved to get back to the peace of the orderly room. His reward for having a loud voice was another stripe. He was now a full Corporal in the E&M section. “I thought just one more stripe and I should realise my immediate ambition to be a Lance Sergeant.”

This story was submitted to the people’s War site by a volunteer from CSV Oxford on behalf of the late Bill Harvey. It is a transcript of his own diary and several interviews. He gave written permission for the material to be edited and published.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

British Army Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy