War Memoirs – Islwyn Saunders
June 1940 - March 1942
On the 4th June 1940 I became eligible for compulsory service in the armed forces. I was instructed on the last week of June to attend the medical centre at NEWPORT MON (GWENT) for examination. After examination by six doctors I applied for service in the RAF but after being interviewed by the RAF officer I was rejected for defective eyesight. I have worn glasses since the age of fifteen. During that time I had seen many opticians. I consider the eye examination at the centre poorly done. The examiner was not an optician.
The recruiting office was in the same building as the medical centre so I went in and volunteered for the RAF. I attended the same medical centre again the following week. The same examination, the same doctors. When it came to the eye test as a precaution I memorised the letters on the fourth line of the chart. I went to see the same RAF officer and was accepted for service. Now came the waiting period; who would send the call up papers first?
During the first week of August I received papers from the Army to report to the Heavy Artillery Regiment at DOVER as a driver on August 14th Second post papers from the RAF arrived to report to UXBRIDGE on August 13th. In those days for the cost of a 1 l/2d (old money, 0.6p new money) we had three posts a day.
On Monday 13th August I left for UXBRIDGE, taking the Army paperwork with me. On arrival at Paddington Station I had to report to the RTO (rail transport officer) to await transport to UXBRIDGE. When the day's quota had arrived, two NCOs escorted us to UXBRIDGE by train. On arrival at the station we were driven in lorries to the camp. On arrival at the camp there was a roll call to make sure that the number was correct; then the delivery note was signed for the two NCOs to return to Paddington. It was like a delivery of sheep.
Then we were sorted out into batches of thirty, allocated an NCO and taken to the barrack blocks - four storey buildings with two rooms for thirty people on each floor. We were each allocated a bed and a clothes locker; as it was getting late we were taken for dinner. Walking around the camp in civvies was not allowed so we had to be escorted each way.
On returning to our rooms we were given our first instructions. How to make up a bed. Everything had to be done according to the book, if not you were in trouble.
The beds were cast iron frames with an open wire mesh base, the foot of the bed slid under the top half so that there was more space during the day. The mattress was made up of three cushions like that of a settee but harder and about three inches thick. There were four blankets, two sheets and a cylindrical pillow. The bed had to be made in such a way that if there was an air raid you could roll on to the floor taking all the blankets with you. The corners of the blankets had to be turned at the correct angle, similar to hospital beds. After the NCO had made up a sample bed, everyone had to make his own. If it was not right you remade it until it was. When he was satisfied, the bed had to be stripped and replaced, as it should be during the daytime.
The bed had to be closed up, the three cushions placed at the head of the bed lined up exactly with the side of the bed frames. The blankets had to be folded the same size as the cushions with no creases and then placed on top. The sheets folded the same way with the creases smoothed out and then the pillow on top. All this had to be exactly square and had to be remade if not correct. The NCO's attitude was very polite being that we were still gentlemen. Beds had to be remade; lights out was at 10pm.
The following morning we were up at 6.30am; breakfast at 7.00am, roll call at 8.00am. Then off to the office to have our paperwork completed. The volunteers were separated from the conscripts and taken to a different room. After all the paperwork was completed I became 1261729 SAUNDERS I AC in that order, always your service number first, and I received my signing on shilling (old money, 5p new money).