Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 7. May 1, 1952
You're in the Army Now — Straight From the Horse's Mouth
You're in the Army Now
Straight From the Horse's Mouth
"What was it Like In camp?" For eighteen months every one " of us had been asking all the CJMLT. veterans that we had met this one question. (C.M.T.—Compulsory Military Training—N.B. compulsory.—Ed.) Answers had varied. The majority had been warmly enthusiastic about it, but never without some spine-chilling qualifying remark on one aspect (or other) of the training.
It was now February 3, 1952, and ever since November of the previous year these spivlshly dressed apprentices, demurely dressed "Just-left-school" types, smartly dressed wool princes, and the down 'at heel, worn at cuff university students had realised that they were advancing steadily towards their period of service. Each little envelope that had arrived with that all embracing phrase "On His Majesty's Service." had meant one pace nearer that parade-ground, whether by medical examination or travelling warrant.
We had, all arrived at the Wellington station in a bewildered mob, carefully labelled with identification tags like kids at a Sunday school picnic, but we did not realise that in a few hours all our individuality would be submerged in the drab oneness of khaki.
Naturally enough there were long clothing queues, plenty of forms to be filled in and a lot of waiting about. One of the first forms to be Ailed in allowed for expression of preference as to what corps or unit one would like to be posted to. When completed these forms were taken and sorted immediately by a long table of officers (at this stage they stirred no particular emotions). Units available for the individual to choose from where governed by the locality he happened to come from. We were then taken to a theatrctte to watch films while waiting for our postings. For two and a half hours many of us watched and waited—except that every few minutes or so the film would be interrupted while an n.c.o. would read out the names of the latest postings. Those whose names had not been called filed out and left the remainder in that bored optimistic attitude one develops when waiting for a trolley-bus that always seems to be just around the corner. Eventually about half past eight that night the last of us moved out and followed the corporal for about half a mile until we came to a dim row of tents.
Tally Ho. S.C.M.
The three days of being under canvas in Linton Camp were three days of sheer chaos. We did not know what to wear at what time or how to wear it, neither did we know what to do or how to do it. While we were at Linton we went through the formalities of swearing allegiance, and one of the questions involved was what each man's religion was. Men both in front and behind me in the queue and the Waac clerk worried when they told her they could not tell what religion they belonged to as they were certain that they had never been to any church (tally-ho SCM ! !). Also we spent an afternoon on personal aptitude tests, and it was during a break from one of these tests that one of our fellow Victorians made himself a noted personality. He strolled out of one of the classrooms with both hands thrust casually in his trouser pockets only to be met with a bellow from the small statured but powerfully voiced sergeant.
"Hey, son! Did you walk about like that at college?"
"Yes, sergeant."—The sergeant looked slightly ruffled.
"What's yer name, son?"
"Beaglehole T., sergeant"
"Good, I'll remember that."—But after all the whole family is noted anyway.
On Monday. January 1. reveille for our section of the camp was at 4.30 a.m. As members of either the Artillery or the Royal N.Z. Armoured Corps we were on the move, and the destination was Waiouru for the remainder of the period in camp. Getting up, at that hour was quite an effort. The "wordly" types in, our tent roiled over and moaned that they should perhaps be going to bed at that hour but oertainly not getting up. The train from Palmerston was a slow, alow train with carriages so antiquated they could have been the originals from the Atcheson Topeica and the Santa Fe. We stopped at every little tin shed along the line as long as it was painted in the faded regimental colours of the SJZ. Govt. Railways. It took us six and a half hours to travel the 70 miles.
"Is this the Region
To the motorist speeding past in his car it is generally agreed that waiouru looks a rather desolate, wind-swept spot But, when it comes to facing nearly three months of living there one feels as if one has been deposited on another planet. The unrelieved' monotony of the tussock is rather depressing, but excellent for the purpose of a military camp.
The basic training is interesting, but basic can also be very hard. The day starts at 6.15 a.m. and finishes at 10.15 p.m. The official working hours are divided into eight three-quarter hour periods. I have said "official" "because all spare-time, especially during basic, is generally taken up with cleaning brass, or cleaning a rifle, or cleaning web gear, or cleaning out the barracks. As one of our sergeants put It, "the Army is a full-time Job." Every day without fall there was one period of drill in the "bull-ring"—no more no less. The drill period was cursed and dreaded, but what did we have to complain of when we read that Major-General Gentry was trained on ten weeks of solid foot-drill even after four years at Duntroon.
Weapon training started with the rifle, and for two-weeks we were certainly given plenty of firing at all ranges. A whole morning at the range could be very pleasant indeed Just sitting down behind the firing point, gazing at Ruapehu glistening In the sun, and perhaps even imagining oneself trying to ski down those slopes in the winter. There was meant to he a certain amount of range discipline observed, but one time when we were' evidently rather lax the Brigadier paid a stealthy visit in his car. Of course our Junior officer In charge got the blast which was handed on to us in the form. "That was a bloody awful display. To say it was a poor show would be an exaggeration. We .have got one corporal where there should be eight, but the instructors are prepared to give you a fair go provided you give them a fair go too; otherwise you can expect no extra consideration!"—And that is the Army's dilemma in a nutshell.
After rifle we moved onto Bran gun training. Such man fired ninety rounds from the Bren which pas of course no effort sad good fun into the bargain. Next weapon was the sten. Firing title gun from the hip at fifteen paces looks easy, but a surprising number, missed the target altogether. All the same ever you want to get an instructor in a flaming temper just turn around—with [unclear: nature]. During basic there were also course in [unclear: (cam-] ouflage, etc.), gas [unclear: wastage] and ouflage, etc.), gas [unclear: was] and mines, but these were out to a [unclear: min] mum because of [unclear: ahoiftaat] of time in the new ten and a half weak programme.
You're in the Army Now
They do tell us though, that there is a new weapon called "Nerve Gas" which is colourless, odourless and tasteless, and the symptoms of which are running eyes, hacking cough, the jitters and toss of control—shouldn't the authorities keep a sharp look-out for an attack of thin sort over Capping Week?
When we finally came to corps training the fortunate 6nes were placed in the Royal N.Z. Armoured Corps, while the privileged of those went into the N.Z. Scottish Regiment. We learnt in those four and a half week of specialist training, wireless procedure and maintenance, gunnery, driving and tank maintenance. D-day as far as we were concerned was the day we moved out of camp to engage the enemy on "Operation Twelve and Six," which was a three-day manoeuvre out in the desert. About thirty Valentine tanks, five carriers and two Daimler scout cars (manned by the Scottish), and numerous other jeeps, lorries, and breakdown trucks were engaged on the scheme and yet all but two vehicles came back under their own power, but there were of course countless delays while broken tracks were mended, feed pipes renewed or radiators plugged. Even many seasons of sleep-out around the shores of Lake Taupo did not harden one to the rigours of sleeping beside a tank on nights so frosty that the blankets would be hard by morning (and this was the summer!). There was tremendous practical value in this three-day scheme, not only of keeping one's vehicles in running order, but also of living together as four men teams inside the tanks, and this last was perhaps the most essential of all. Once the victors had returned to base there remained only the cleaning up to do before we were ready for home. Military training need not be dreaded; there is good food and a good time provided one is willing to accept the situation. The life if perhaps, rather sterile for university intellectuals, but if all our "ivory-towerists" were to spend only a few weeks in a military camp they would soon learn that co-operation is essential in community life, everyone must pull his weight. Here we ought to have a community life, and who knows, by the time we have all experienced" the Army, maybe we will.