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Basic Training in the Army at Chatham [D.Ormsby : Part 2]

by Bournemouth Libraries

Contributed by 
Bournemouth Libraries
People in story: 
Mr. Donald Ormsby
Location of story: 
Chatham Barracks, Kent
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
11 May 2004

[Continued from "First Experiences of Forces Life"]

I was medically examined and given "The King's Shilling", together with a regimental number of 6148571, on 10th October 1940. Then I was told to take seven days leave before reporting for service. I had enlisted for the emergency into the Territorial Army 70th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment; a great and very distinguished regiment with many awards.

After my seven days leave I had to report to Chatham Barracks in Kent. I reported to the guard room still wearing my civilian clothes, the sentries posted at the entrance reminded me of the toy soldiers which my parents gave me for presents as a boy.

As new recruits we were known as rookies. After a few days at the barracks, and after doing a little training in our civilian clothes, we were all issued with our uniform and gas masks. We then received an identity disc with our number on, together with the most important item of kit, our rifle. We were told this may mean being killed or saved, as this was your first line of defence against the enemy.

The army training at Chatham came a little easier for me thanks to my previous training whilst in the RAF, though I discovered the march and position of your arms were different, as was the salute. However in time everything went to plan there. The Royal Navy were not far from us and for our gas training we had to use the same gas chambers as them. These chambers were not very pleasant as the contained mustard gas and tear gas, but it was necessary for us to experience them and know the effects and treatment for them.

At the time while all this was going on, we had to be aware that an air raid was in all ways possible, so we had to listen for the air raid warning to tell us the enemy planes were on their way. We had to be on our guard all the time, our gas masks and tin helmets ready for warning. The lenses of our gas masks had to be cleaned very often with anti-gas ointment, to ensure we would be able to see clearly as they easily misted over with our breath.

During my stay at Chatham there were many unpleasant incidents. Worst of all was when a section left the barracks to march down the road one dark night to have a bath. As they marched along a heavy vehicle went into the back of the section, killing many in the incident. A neon back lamp, showing a red or white green light, wasn't being carried. From then on, whenever marches went to have a bath in the evening, they were detailed to have a lamp at the back of the section as well as the front.

[Continued in "From Sussex to Yorkshire"]


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