Gallery: Joining forces to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of National Service
- Credit: Archant
NATIONAL Servive officially came to an end 50 years ago. James Marston met four men who each served their time in the forces to look back at what the experience did for them.
Sitting over a cup of coffee looking through the old albums, four Suffolk men are taken back to their younger days.
Their young smiling faces stare back at them in snapshots of khaki-wearing young man in exotic locations.
The pictures bring back memories of a time of their lives they will never forget.
Because in the 1950s these men served their country – they did their National Service.
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The years of National Service in Britain ran from the Second World War to 1963 and in that time 2.5million young men were called up.
Today we use a professional army, and military conscription is a thing of the past.
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But every now and again the cry goes up: “Bring back National Service!”
Universal conscription is put forward as a way of solving youth unemployment, improving education, increasing respect for others, clamping down on yob culture – it’s a powerful argument.
John Juby, 81, of Grundisburgh, was living in Lindbergh Road, Ipswich, when he was called up.
He said: “I started work at 14 and had been working for five years as a cabinet maker so didn’t go until I was 20.
“When I joined up I went to Blenheim Camp in Bury St Edmunds for my basic training and then to Colchester. I was transferred to the Middlesex Regiment and I was sent to Korea.
“At that age you don’t think too much about it. You go off with a crowd of people and we were all going there.”
He said: “We went to Korea on the HMS Orwell and landed at Pusa and went to the front line. There were times when it was very nerve-racking and your heart was in your mouth. You go from a boy to a man overnight, but we didn’t think it was unfair or anything like that.
“It is no different than the Territorial Army being sent to war today because of these cuts. And you can’t refuse anyway.”
John said: “Four million people were killed in that war. It was a bit like the First World War.
“We lived in dug-outs, it was very cold and you didn’t wash or change your clothes sometimes for days. They were hard conditions.”
John spent some time in Hong Kong before returning to Ipswich and going into the building trade.
He thinks National Service is still a good idea, though some young men struggled to get used to the military life.
Bernie Clarke, 80, of Glemsford, was living in Shimpling near Bury St Edmunds when he received his call up papers in 1950.
He said: “It worried me as I hadn’t been anywhere really and I had to go to Cambridge for a medical and then to Colchester on the train. I hadn’t travelled at all until then.”
Bernie joined The Suffolk Regiment. He said: “I did six weeks of basic training. Our first job was to polish our boots. I remember my first meal. It was half a round of toast and a sardine and a small bit of fruit cake.
“After that I was transferred to the Royal Norfolk Regiment and sent to Dusseldorf in Germany.”
After Germany Bernie was posted back to the UK and to Dover Castle which was still then run by the military.
After further training at Crowborough in Sussex, Bernie found himself on a troop ship to the far east.
He said: “When we got there we were transferred to Japan for about a month and then to the front line in Korea. It was very cold. We dug a hole and lived in it. I was in Korea for nearly a year before my National Service ended.”
Living in difficult conditions and finding himself in a war zone wasn’t what Bernie expected, but he said: “I still enjoyed doing National Service. It taught me respect and discipline.”
Stan Davey, 77, of Charsfield, was called up in 1954.
He said: “I went in the army on May 20 and came out two years later. I was living in Morland Road, Ipswich, when I was called up. I wanted to go. I had older brothers who had done their time.
Stan said: “I was put in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps which supplied the army with everything from a needle to a tank.”
After basic and two weeks of what was called “trade training”, Stan went to Deepcut camp near Didcot.
Later he went to Egypt and then to another army camp at Tripoli in Libya.
He said: “I put my name down to go abroad and I got my wish.” Back in civilian life, he was a machine tool setter for Crane Ltd.
Stan said: “I do think it would benefit youngsters today. It stays with you and teaches you self-discipline.”