The following is a transcript from another former British Soldier trained at Alton Towers
These transcripts have been most kindly shared by Jane Butterfield from her father R.A Taylor's war memoirs. These memories are very personal, and therefore, it is the wishes of Jane that these transcripts are not copied or published elsewhere under any circumstances without prior permission. These transcripts are the property of Jane Butterfield. Anyone wishing for more information should contact this website who in turn can contact Jane on your behalf. I once again wish to thank Jane for contacting us and being willing to share these memories with us at this time.
These transcripts are from R.A Taylor himself about his life during his training period at Alton Towers during 1942/1943 and are exactly as transcribed by Jane Butterfield.
R.A.TAYLOR 73.Squad 121. OCTU
Friday.13th.Nov. Supposed to be unlucky Friday 13th. but I hope it doesn't apply to the new stage I am setting out upon.
At Stoke after a 30.min. wait I got a train to Uttoxeter, but here the B.A.T. planning went astray, I found I had to wait two hours for a train to Alton. De Rivaz and Frost turned up so we dumped our kit and got some tea, then decided to go on by the 4.15. bus, it was a hell of a jam with all our luggage but we managed to get on. On arrival at Alton we walked to the station hoping to find transport up to the Towers, as going by the footpath apart from being uphill also means climbing 196.steps. We had got off the bus up in Alton village, but the station was down a steep hill in a thickly wooded valley, it looked as if the railway was built by the side of the river that runs through the hills, on one side of the valley it was thickly wooded, on the village side a cliff rose sheer for about 400. feet and on the top was what looked like an old German Castle on the Rhine actually it is a catholic school.
A picture of Alton Castle that sometimes reminds people of a scene on the Rhine
A truck finally arrived and collected our luggage but we had to walk up. The Towers is a grand place built by the Earl of Shewsbury for his French wife, each tower represents a different period of French architecture. I think it was the 1st Earl (It was actually the 15th earl Charles Talbot, followed by the 16th earl, John Talbot).
We filled in a few forms, and had a speech of welcome from the R.S.M. who to my surprise said the permanent staff (including the A.T.S.) had an inferiority complex and we should therefore be friendly and attend their functions. I was very surprised to hear these remarks from the R.S.M. suits me fine, how different to Catterick, Dicky says that up there they are not allowed to mix with any of the staff and may not even speak to the A.T.S. also they are very limited in their choice of pubs, only a few in Richmond are within bounds, here it seems we can go where we like. Saw Vic at supper. I am in 73.squad, we are billeted in a brick built hut in the grounds of the Towers, looking down towards the lake. We have single spring beds, four biscuits, blankets, and bolster, wash-place and W.C. in the same building, and there is hot water laid on too, also each man has a wardrobe, all a great treat and improvement on what I have experienced in the past. Anyway here at long last I am at OCTU.
Saturday. Our first parade was a test, two Log questions, two trig. questions and two questions on gunnery, I was rather shaky on the Trig.questions but everyone looked over each others papers and I got through o.k. After a short break we handed in our eating irons, here plates, mugs etc are kept in the dining hall, all meals are served by A.T.S. who it seems are billeted down in the village.
Next we practised a Regimental parade, we as the junior squad are right at the back, and the squad slowly works it way to the front position of senior squad, this is supposed to be in five months time, of course it is quite possible for a cadet to fall by the wayside, but here unlike Catterick, they don't R.T.U. anyone if they can avoid it. Next we were payed then some of them had a jab, the rest of us went for a run, but it was easy going as we were in gym shoes, a great relief after running in boots.
It seems that in our free time we can go where we like but the nearest town Cheadle is the unofficial hunting ground of the permanent staff so it is considered diplomatic for cadets to steer clear of it.
The chap in the bed next to me is called Windybanks, a year or two older than me, is a chemist working for Boots in Nottingham. After lunch Windy and I decided to visit Leek a small mill town ten miles away, we werent sure if it was in bounds but took a chance and with Green and Johnny Blower dashed off and caught the 1.31.train. On getting there I found I had seen all the films that were to be seen, but as the others had'nt seen it went to see the "Corsican Brothers", I only payed 6d. and got a very good seat. We next supped at a café where the waitresses were very pleasant, in fact one chased after us as we had payed 1/5d. too much. One waitress even wanted to meet us for a beer but we did'nt accept, mainly I think because we are so uncertain as to what a cadet up here can or cant do, and we don't want to take too many chances of coming unstuck.
Met a Sgt. from the KSLI, he used to be in 3rd. I. Bde. at Skendelby, spent the evening drinking with him then caught the 9.15. train back to Alton, thats the snag coming here the 9.15. is the last train back so when you are just beginning to enjoy yourself at Leek you have to leave, we are lucky to have this train service, which connects the Midland Line at Uttoxeter with the L.M.S. at Stoke or Manchester. We travelled back 1st class in a very dimly lit carriage, when we got in we found that they had been rounding up blokes for Firewatching, so we were glad we had gone out.
Sunday. Rose at 7.30. had a good breakfast of egg and sausage, then at 10.15. went to church, here you do not parade, but make your own way there, went into the balcony of a very nice little chapel built within the main building, a very nice service.
The Alton Towers chapel seen here in the 1800's in a pencil drawing.
Spent the afternoon polishing, then after tea Windy and I went by bus to Cheadle, found it very uninteresting, crowds of 16.yr olds or women over 60. Came back on the troops bus and was pulled up by the Reggie for not carrying a respirator.
Monday. 16th. Nov. Had a chat from the B.C. followed by a tour of the Towers, and had the P.A.D. scheme outlined to us, I don't fancy climbing about these roof tops in the dark, this was followed by marching drill.
In the p.m. on Infantry tactics, it seems that our first month here is spent on Infantry training followed by a week at Battleschool, I thought that the doubling we did at Wrotham was the lot, but it seems that for this month whilst on duty we double everywhere! We were more like a lot of Red Indians playing about, one stunt was for half of us to line up one end of a field pairing off with a man of the other half at the other end, having identified my opponent we all had to drop onto all four in the long grass, I then had to try and locate my enemy, crawl up behind him unnoticed and stab him in the back, another very exhausting effort was called "The Panther Crawl" this in effect was crawling on ones belly, doing it with a rifle is tiring, but in each Infantry section there is a Bren and the unfortunate man who is detailed to carry this had everyones sympathy, the luckless cadet usually lags behind and soon the cry "Come along the Bren" is a familiar sound.
It seems our kit lay-out did not please the B.C. so we did more polishing in the evening, once our kit is passed as o.k. we don't have to lay it out any more. Later had a good supper in the NAAFI, had a letter from Joan.
Tuesday. Had several letters this morning. Our squad parade is quite a spectacular do there is a large wide terrace by the side of the house and this is where we parade, at one end all the officer and N.C.O. Instructors stand in a line and facing them are the various squads, the senior squad at the front going away to the newcomers at the back. Each week there is a cadet Captain taken from the senior squad, who handles the whole parade whilst each squad has it own leader who called the roll and reports to the Cadet Captain, when all reports are in he reports to the B.C.
This afternoon we went playing Red Indians again, rather muddy and tiring, but good fun whilst it keeps fine. Had a lecture on Signalling after tea, I can see I'll have to get down to learning Morse, I've no idea of it at the moment.
Had supper in the NAAFI then had a go at Morse, this is a big NAAFI and a lot of cadets spend the evening there doing their homework. Had another letter from Joan.
Wednesday. Had two periods of Gun Drill to start with, the usual "With and without Drag Ropes" we then reverted to Infantry training and did a Platoon attack, luckily I was made Platoon Commander so only had to carry a revolver (which would'nt work), I made several mistakes but was afterwards told by the Capt. that I had done quite well, the Capt. in charge of our squad is Capt. Andrews, he had the job of taking a new squad for its first month.
In the p.m. we should have had games, but nothing happened so Johnny Blower and I had a walk around the assault course, we did'nt think much of it! Next had a shower then went down to the Swiss Cottage for some refreshment with Windy and Ken where we passed the time until tea time. The Swiss Cottage is a pretty chalet type cottage in the ground where one of the gardeners lives they do meals and snacks there which is very handy if you don't like the army meals or miss them for some reason.
Seen here is the Swiss cottage as a restaurant at the park circa late 1970's
After tea Windy and I called at the station then had a look at the YMCA in the village, like the NAAFI it was full of swotting cadets, after a while we climbed the hill to the Shrewsbury Hotel, the best pub in the village, we found a very comfortable lounge so plus some draught Worthington it was very nice, spent a pleasant hour there, wrote to Dad and Dicky.
Thursday.19th.Nov. In our squad we have a chap called Lloyd George, it seems he is the Grandson of the famous Lloyd George.
Today no Infantry training for a change, we were given the Once Over by the Col. an old soldier, but quite young for this sort of job, he had a chat with us all, we later did a spot of Marching Drill, here we took it in turns to give the order, if we gave the order incorrectly the squad had to ignore it, this proved quite amusing, one cadet who could'nt get his orders right had the squad climbing over the wall in their endeavour to carry on, it's a dreadful sensation to see your squad getting further and further away as you frantically try to give the correct order to turn them round.
In the p.m. went round the assault course, the one thing I was'nt sure of was the Tarzan act, you had to climb a tree dive & grap a rope and swing across to another tree, managed this o.k. in fact did'nt do to badly all round much to my pleasure and surprise.
Our rigout now is White bands on our caps, blue shoulder tabs, wear collars and tie, are allowed to wear raincoats and wear shoes for lectures etc.
Friday. Again a peaceful day, 2.hrs gun drill then a series of lectures all very hurried, at this place it looks as if one needs a brain like blotting paper.
Had P.T. in the p.m. followed by some boxing, the instructor was very keen on getting the pupil to try and hit him, he then replied by giving them a good clip on the jaw, which seemed to give him a lot of pleasure but no one else, when he came to Jim Wilson, Jim gave the impression of being a useless great elephant, he took a very wild swing at the instructor which of course missed by yards, however when the instructor replied with his usual bang on the jaw, Jim casually blocked it then upper cut the instructor with his left, the instructor went staggering across the room and landed in a heap much to the joy of all the onlookers, it appears Jim Wilson is the Heavyweight Champion of the Metropolitan Police, I think that instructor will be a little more wary in future.
After tea had a film called "Know your enemy" quite good but a bit out of date. In the evening went down to the YMCA with Windy, then on to the Shrewsbury for a drink, we have been hearing gruesome tales of the Battle-School. i.e. wading down through mountain streams for miles etc. As I have said we are allowed to wear officers trench coats, I'd like to have one but at this stage it is rather "Crossing ones bridges".
Wednesday.25th Nov. Had gun drill and director work in the morning, in the afternoon I played Badmington, I enjoyed it but I'm afraid little skill was shown.
In the evening I was Fire-Watching, I went on with Fox an old Harovian, compared with guards it's a cakewalk, we drew last shift 5-6.30.a.m. so turned in at 9.30. and slept until 5.a.m. we then took up our post at the top of the Leicester Tower, which is the highest of the many towers, apart from Fire-Watching we had to report any unusual incidents and make a note of any planes that flew over. The R.S.M. gave us a very amusing briefing before we started, apparently we do not report noisy officers or N.C.O's returning late at night!
At the top of the tower we made ourselves comfortable inside quite safe from any O.O.s as anyone paying a visit has to climb the long spiral staircase and anyone coming up can be heard a mile off, we took some buns up with us and had an early snack.
Wednesday.2nd.Dec. A hard frost last night, the lake is frozen over. In the morning I gave a lecture on Zones of Dispersion, in the afternoon we went out Map Reading on bikes, something like a treasure hunt, I went with Ferdy Fox, apart from getting lost once we did'nt do too badly and finished the course, but it was pretty energetic whilst it lasted. In the evening went up the village with Windy, our favourite pub is the "White Hart" as Mrs Freak the landlady will always cash a cheque for me and when we are short she always finds some cigs. for us.
Thursday. A more energetic day, did 2.hrs. gun drill, then to my surprise my Infantry Scheme was selected as the best, so whilst the others doubled and crawled about with rifles, I directed operations, a much simpler business.
Friday.11th.Dec. More tactics, then a Post Mortem on our exam, I got 69% the squad
average with 64%. Lloyd George and Mike Hodgson have to stay behind for another month and go into 75.squad. Vic is in 72, I'm 73 and Dave, Jim and Allan are in 74 squad. In the p.m. we moved our kit into the house, odd numbered squad, "B"Bat. live in the house, the others live in huts. I am in Lord Shrewsburys bedroom, there is a great open fireplace and Windy and I have our beds each side of it, there is a lot of panelling which provides ample cupboards, with a room orderly we should be comfortable in here, the rest in the room are, Windy, Lowe, Ogsen, Turnball, Taylor, Rowan and Bagnell.
121.OCTU. Christmas Card, 1942
R.A.TAYLOR 73.Squad 121. OCTU
Sunday 3rd Jan 1943. Had a good lay in, rose at 9.45. and slipped into the balcony for church at 10.15. next went along to the Swiss Cottage for some breakfast, then fired in a match between 73 and 75 squads, our team was Ferdy, Windy, Turnbull and myself these matches take place in the moat, for this match none of our team could see straight after last nights beer up, let alone shoot straight, so you can imagine my surprise when we won, out of 10.shots I got 7.bulls and three inners, Ferdy got 10. bulls, it was so damned cold we could hardly hold the rifles, with our hangovers we regarded the targets as moving targets! apart from all this it was a lovely frosty, sunny day.
I slept all the p.m. rose at 5.30. then with Windy went up to Elsie Berwicks café for tea, a grand feed, and it was on the house, went to the "White Hart" but could'nt play darts for little toffee apples, had a nightcap at Elsies then left Windy to it.
Monday. A quiet morning, then went out map reading, damned cold but dry, after tea had Lecturettes but I wasn't called on, Ellis produced a firing mec. and gave a talk on it, he kept the lads in fits, quite unintentionally, so the result rather annoyed him.
Got a grand fire going in our room, had a great log half way up the chimney had supper at the YM. wrote up notes.
Tuesday. A very restful day, all lectures. The lecture huts are all heated by one large stove situated at the top of the hut, these are usually red hot and as Windy and I sit in the front bench we are pretty near the stove, it keeps us warm but we get very drowsy, as we are right beneath the lecturer they don't usually see us dropping off, one day I came to, in time to hear the Capt. say "Please tell me if I'm disturbing the slumbers of anyone here"
It snowed all last night and has been hard at it today, in the evening Windy and I went to the YM for supper, wrote some notes, then had a beer and a game of skittles which I lost.
Wednesday.Jan.6th. Raining in a sleety sort of way, so everywhere is slush, very unpleasant. Spent the morning at lectures, in the afternoon instead of games we all tried to clear the slush from the parade ground.
A lot of us were going to Uttoxeter on the 4.50. train, at 4. I never thought we should make it, still its surprising what an average soldier can do when he wants to, result we caught the train after changing our soaking wet clothes.
Had tea there with Windy, Ferdy parked himself next to a WAAF and was doing very well until her boy friend put in an appearance, which shook Ferdy, I don't think Harrow teaches one how to deal with these sort of situations. Had a drink after the flicks then back on the train, Mrs. Swinson gave me a real egg and chips supper, this family are very good to me and make me feel very much at home, they are a happy family and when I'm there we always seem to be in fits of laughter over something or other.
Windy, Ogden and Lowe missed the train from Uttoxeter so as they did not know the road back they walked along the railway line.
Thursday. A Quiet day, the B.R.A. came into our hut and listened whilst I was making comments on some blokes lecture, in the evening he spoke to us on Leadership not much cop, the only good thing about it was that the lecture was short!
All the p.m. we dug gun pits, this kept us warm although it was snowing all the time.
Friday. Spent the whole p.m. drawing panoramas in the Deer Park, it was a clear frosty day, but my feet were frozen, in the morning we did an Anti Tank Shoot on the Min.Range, it was chaos, luckily I knew something about it.
Saturday. Had a fire practise, 73.squad just sat in our lecture hut awaiting developments and did sweet F.A.
The lads at OCTU call me "Roger Able" being my initials, here the waitresses call me "Roger the Dodger" cant think why.
Later played our usual Poker Dice in the "Lion" the landlord as usual joined in, if there is a school, he's in it. One amusing but annoying habit is when he has a row with his barman, he closes the pub and clears everyone out whilst the two of them argue it out, later in the evening when all is calm he opens up again, but whichever course the evening takes he usually finishes up pretty tiddly. This evening at 7. we moved on to the "George" but the usual sing song was lacking as there was no pianist.
Sunday.10th.Jan. As usual rose about 9.45. and cut breakfast, I then slipped into Church, this is simple as from our room there is a passage that brings you into the balcony of the chapel, I suppose the Earl of Shrewsbury had this done on purpose so that he could slip into church from his room without mixing with the crowd. Another advantage of the balcony is that throughout the service one can relax unobserved, frankly I found the service short and attractive. This was followed by a few buns in the Swiss Cottage, later had lunch then did a few odd jobs, after this I slept until 4.45. just managed to get down in time for tea but it was'nt worth it, sardines and treacle, what a combination!
The Chapel, Alton Towers - 'my room' pointed out - R.A Taylor
In one of the pubs we visited I often see a little old lady sitting in the saloon bar, it seems she lives alone on the outskirts of the village and in the evening to keep warm comes and sits in the pub, I noticed that she always buys a single gin and then adds a little water to it, later after a few sips she adds a bit more water, this goes on all the evening until she is drinking pure water, that is of course if she's unlucky, I expect she gets quite a few gins bought for her.
In the evening down by the station it is so very quiet, just the bubbling of the river, even in the village there is little sound and no street lights, I should have liked to have been here during the spring or summer, it must be very beautiful with the Convent rising high on the one side of the valley and the thick woods on the other that hide the Towers, I can well understand why it is called "The Vale of Enchantment" beyond the Towers the moors start and stretch away bleakly for miles, reverting to the valley even the railway station fits into the scene as it has been built in tudor style, and from down in the valley you cant see the village as it is up through a cutting, all one can see is the towering cliff with the convent on the top.
A view from Alton (Towers) station with Alton Castle (convent) beyond, upon a cliff.
Sunday.17th.Jan. Last night there was a steady stream of weary or drunken cadets widing their way up the numerous steps to the Towers.
This morning I rose at 9.45. skipped breakfast and got into Chapel this morning most of the 73.squad looked the worse for wear. Next toast at the Swiss Cottage, where the others had it all lined up ready for me. As usual I slept in the p.m. until 4.30. then went down to the Swinsons for tea, then along to the "Oak" for Mr. Swinsons birthday party, got in about 12.
This taxi business is highly organized, by law no taxi can go more than 20.miles from his starting point, so at about 20.miles from Alton we pull up in the car park of a pub and transfer into another taxi that is waiting to take us to Stafford.
Monday. I am Cadet Subaltern for the next 4.days so I should stay in, this means that on parade I represent our squad.
Went on a drill order in the deer park in the morning. I started as Troop Comander but only did one O.P.I. then went onto a gun, Bagnall was No.1. so it was a bit of a shambles, on returning we found there was a coil of wire and a crook-stick missing. I spent the evening in, but did'nt get to bed any earlier.
Tuesday. Had Link Shooting which was rather a Balls-up. Had a drink in the village in the evening.
We are very comfortable in our room, and I'm lucky to have my bed right by the fire, and now we don't have to lay out our kits except on Saturdays, we just make our beds and the cleaning and fire lighting is done by the room orderly.
Wednesday. Went on the run at 2.15. then afterwards I had to take the squad out to look for the wire and crookstick, with the instructions that if we did'nt find them we were to stay out until dark. We found the wire in a farm, but no sign of the stick, however, despite this I brought the squad in at tea time, in the evening was firewatching but this time Windy and I were lucky and drew room 21. and slept undisturbed.
Thursday. Lectures all day, I got very drowsy sitting in front of the stove, Windy kept dropping off! The Russians have done the impossible and clearly defeated the Germans at Stalingrad, writing off 300,000 of them.
Thursday. In the morning did Col's Reccy, had to get a gun into action in the shortest time. In the evening stayed in and worked. I must be taking life more seriously as I seem to be staying in to work much more these days. I suppose now that I am getting so much nearer the senior squad I feel an effort should be made to make the grade.
Friday. Another all day Drill Order, this time without guns, I was G.P.O. Ack in the morning which was spent in the Deer Park, ate our haversack rations at the "Shrew" then Windy and I slipped up the back way to the "W.H." where we had a beer and Mrs Freak gave us some bread and cheese, afterwards in the truck I went off into a sound sleep. In the p.m. I was Link-Line Signaller so was pretty busy. In the evening I went up into the village for some cigs.
Saturday. Lectures all morning, the Left Section under Dodds had Lecturettes which was very amusing, I lectured on the faults of our soccer team. Turnball spoke on our Drill Orders and Whyle on the best place to spend a weekend. In the p.m. tried to work then after tea went to Leek, from here we walked to Leekbrooke for a drink then back to Alton and up to the Iron Room for a dance, Windy, Vic, Jack and the gang were there, Vic and I rather upset things by doing a Highland Reel when it should have been the Lancers.
Here is a ticket from the now out of use Alton Towers train station
Sunday. Stayed in and did some work, rang Joan then went on Fire-watching once again I was lucky and drew room 21. and slept undisturbed.
Monday. Weather still glorious, 74.squad have been given a long weekend so we are going to agitate for one ourselves.
Tuesday. Off on a 36.hr.stunt. In the p.m. I did No.4. on a gun, prior to doing a Night Occupation we had our rations at 7.p.m. then retired to the local for a quick beer as usually this developed into a session and we emerged from the pub two hours later pretty merry. For tonights stunt I am No.1. to start with things went surprisingly well, but putting our net up in the dark was no fun as it was in a hell of a tangle, it took an hour to get up, my gun was sited on a slope and I found the slightest touched tipped her up onto her nose. By now it was raining and I was fed up, at 5.a.m. I rolled myself in a blanket and slept for an hour, I woke at 6.20.a.m. to do an S.O.S. shoot, by now I was very wet and damned cold.
Wednesday.3rd.March. After a miserable breakfast I became Troop Leader with Derek as G.P.O. we had a string of crash actions and Derek usually got his angle wrong with the result the guns were pointing in all directions, one in fact was found to be pointing straight at a tree.
After a sandwich for break I again became no.4. on a gun, by now we were all damned tired, so when on the move I slept in the quad, we finally got in at 5.p.m. then had a hot meal followed by a shave, after a final check it was found we were only a whistle short this time. In the evening walked to Denstone for a quiet pint then bussed back and early to bed.
Thursday. Lectures all day, I am also Battery Orderly Officer so stayed in and tried to work.
Saturday. Had to listen to another lecture on El Alamien in the Banquetting Hall, the lecturer was late arriving so we did'nt finish until 4.35. this made it too late to get any tea so I set off for Leek and had a good meal there.
We had all intended to work this evening but the lecture so browned us off we stayed out and finished up at a dance at Oakamoor.
Tuesday. All day Drill Order, all very business-like only had a brief stop for lunch, I was Troop B.S.M. in the p.m. this job gave me a chance to ride around on an M/c.
Wednesday. Filled in dozens of forms, then in the afternoon I went into Uttooxeter and got a very good Sam Browne for 30/- Windy is going to have the one from Watford.
Thursday. A very boring day.
Friday. Another Drill Order, we are now senior squad, I never thought the day would come, with this goes certain privileges, one is that we have our own dining room and are waited on by A.T.S. This evening to get us used to mess life several officers came and had dinner with us. This is purely an Alton idea I think it a good one.
Saturday. We went to Hanley for the night, this is one of the five towns which makes up the area known as "The Potteries" I stayed the night at the "Leopard" at Hanley, a quiet Trust House. Spent the evening at the "Grand" Hanley which looked a very promising place, nice bars, dancing, saw a lot of 74.squad there, this looks like their hunting ground.
Monday. More lectures then Gun Drill in the rain, everyone is now slacking off as the final exam is over. Now we are senior squad we wear brown boots and carry a cane. The officers again came to dinner with us, the Colonel looked very smart in his Blues. For these occasions beer has always in the past been Taboo, however 73.squad changed all that and made another nitch for the squad in the history of the Towers by breaking the spell, we had a barrel of beer much to the joy of Capt. Young and other officers.
Tuesday. Off on a 48.hr. Drill Order, in the p.m. I did G.P.O. and got on quite well, we travelled quite a bit, had lunch near Hanley then moved off towards Leek, next moved across towards Ashbourne for supper, our quad broke down so when the others moved on we stayed behind and passed our time in the local pub until it closed at 10. The quad still would'nt go and we had rosy visions of spending the night where we were in some dry shed, but it was not to be they came along with a new quad and we moved off and joined up with the others. It was still raining and as there was no cover I got pretty wet, I finally jammed myself under the canvas of the limber to get what shelter I could.
Friday.2nd.April. More Fire and Movement and more rain, although this stopped by eleven, I took another shoot which went off quite well, the I.G. said "No Comment" one cant ask for more praise than that! George made a complete mess of his shoot and had to carry two shells back to the camp. About noon the sun at last came out, in the p.m. we went over to Harlick to do an Anti-tank shoot, 17.pdrs were firing so we had to wait four hours for them to finish, we also had to drag the guns with drag-ropes in and out of action across miles of loose sand, this caused considerable comment as the 17.pdrs were allowed to use their quads, in all a very exhausting business. We got back to camp at 9.p.m.
Blower led the convoy to start with and I was whipper in on the bike. The Capt. bet us we would'nt be in before 11.a.m. we took him on. It was very dark but fine and we fairly cracked along, Jock on the other bike hit a stray sheep but got away with a sprained wrist, by 5.30.a.m. we were over halfway and going fine with the convoy all complete, at this point Ellis took over leading the convoy and at the first opportunity took the wrong turning, in all we went about 25.miles out of our way, anyway despite this we reached the Towers by 9.30. well inside the time Capt. had reckoned, so we all collected from him.
Tuesday. Chief Instructors Gun Drill Order, I was a Maint.Signaller so my job was easy all one had to do is tap the line every now and then see if its working or not, if not then you have to trace the fault and repair it. It was very cold up on the moors and trying to snow, but I don't think I'll ever be as cold as I was on some of the stunts with the 19th. Survey Party.
This evening had our official farewell party in the Music Room, most of the officers were there including the Col. It has been a very happy time here and for the first time to be made to feel that you are someone that counts does my morale a power of good.
The music room at Alton Towers as it looked in the 1800's
To start with it was rather a starchy affair so Windy and I slipped up to the village at 9.30 and got into a party up there with all the villagers, got in about 1.a.m. to find everyone roaring drunk and the place a shambles.
Friday. The great day has at last arrived, at times I thought it never would, I have been very happy during my stay here, and feel sad to be leaving, the future will have to be very good to improve on the past few months. We first had C.I's final gun drill, he said it was the best ever, next a terrific rush to change for our passing out parade which went off without a hitch, next a farewell speech from the Col. He said that all though our written exams had been rather poor but our practical work was of the highest standard and the War Office are more interested in that side of things, the C.I. and B.C. also spoke the Col. concluded by saying "All squads have a characteristic, yours is an ability to take everything in your stride, enjoy life, and, "What the Hell" I can only say I'd like to fight with you". We were then given our leave passes and details of where we had to report to. Woolley is coming back here as an instructor, quite a few are going to holding units which probably means they are to be posted overseas, I have a posting to 15th.Med.Regt. a newly formed regiment from Coast Defence.
R.A Taylor is seen here in the top row, fourth from the right, with a moustache
Many thanks again to Jane Butterfield and R.A Taylor who were instrumental in these memories being shared.