57 Training Sqn 1 Training Regiment RE
It was mid 1964 when I progressed from "Boy's Service" to "Man's Service" I arrived a the Training Regiment with trepidation having being told many a tale as to what to expect. All the stories were true and then some . Southwood Camp at Cove came as more than a bit of a culture shock after Dover. The camp consisted of numerous old wooden huts known as "spiders" the name came from the shape of the huts (a central body with the accommodation forming six legs coming off of it).the spiders were formed around and dominated by two large parade grounds.
Our kit had preceded us from Dover and was piled up in one of the rooms. When we arrived we went through the formalities of reporting in, we were then given 5 min's to find our kit get into working clothes and parade outside, anyone who missed the 5 min deadline was in deep "doo-doo" (and remained so for a long time). The rest of the day from there on in just got worse with a continual beasting of changing parades, (would never be allowed in these days of PC and namby-pamby) locker and kit inspections. this continued well into the evening, we now knew we had arrived at the Training Depot.
We quickly fell into the routine of basic training, with Drill, Combat Engineering, Field craft and Weapons training with plenty of beasting in between. this regime worked as we were soon welded into a tight team knowing what to expect and reacting instinctively.
After our training was completed we young "Professional Soldiers of the 60's" eagerly awaited our first posting. My posting along with half a dozen others was to 36 Engineer Regiment in Maidstone Kent. As we left Cove we bade a fond fair well to those "nice people" who had been looking after us during our basic training, thank god I was clear of that place for good and fairwell 57 training Sqn. (Or so I thought !!!!!!!!).
Farnborough 1976 - 1977
1 and 3 Training Regiments RE
Late September 1976 as I drove into Southwood camp I felt I had entered a time warp, the place looked the same as it did back in 1964. this time though it would be different I would be the one doing the shouting, I had returned to 57 Training Sqn, No. 1 Training Regiment RE as a Troop Sergeant taking recruits through their basic training.
I would like to say that my troop was accommodated in the same spider as I was in in 1964 but memory being what it is, I can't confirm or deny that fact. The regime at the training regiment had changed some what since my last encounter in 1964, it was now far more civilised although still quite vigorous. The SDI and JDI's (Senior & Junior Drill Instructors) were still of the same ilk, The Permanent Staff and the Recruits did not welcome them on the square during drill parades. What I can say is life was defiantly easer as a trainer rather than a trainee, and that my time there for a second time around was far more acceptable.
In January 1977 I received a months reprieve from the training regiment I returned to Chatham to attend the Senior NCO's Cadre Course. A month of drilling on the square and other man managing training ( Not the easiest or most pleasant course I attended during my career).
At the end of 1977 I received notice that I was to be posted out of No.1 Training Regiment, This news came as a ray of light, fate though was having a laugh at my expense as when the posting arrived it was to No. 3 Training Regiment RE on the other side of the Drill square within the same camp. Instead of training raw recruits I was to be a Troop Sergeant conducting basic training for Ex Army Boy Apprentices from Chepstow.
It was this posting that made me set about appraising my future, I decided I had had enough of the training regiments and that it was time to change direction. I managed to secure a job in the Middle East, and so in March 1978 I bade a final farewell to Southwood Camp and the Royal Engineers.
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