THE SOLDIER AND THE PAY OFFICE
After being fired from his prestigious position as the Generalís chauffer, Billy was assigned to a desk job in the company pay office. He enjoyed handling money, filing papers and writing down numbers and the best part was that he was out of hearing range of Paddy, the crazy Irish Sergeant Major. It didnít take Billy long to figure out that the lowest rank in the pay office was a full corporal, so he felt that he still had his foot on the military career ladder and would some day make his father proud of him. The dreamer still had visions of grandeur!
Billy assimilated well with the NCOs in the office and established a good report with the sergeant in charge, who had just reenlisted on account of not finding work as a civilian. Apparently Billy was doing quite well as a white-collar worker and after a while they sent him to the army pay office in Aldershot to attend a weekís training course.
He arrived in Aldershot feeling rather pleased with himself as a clerical worker and joined the other trainees from around the country. Most of them were non-commissioned officers and many of them were staff sergeants in the military police. These individuals were all large imposing men, some with necks and some without, but all with knuckles swinging close to the ground. Billy noticed that the staff sergeants in their free time were always in groups and seemed to drift from one place to another aimlessly, like kids hanging out in the street and never included others in their affairs. He was left to his own devices!
The first dayís training commenced with numerous discussions between the staff sergeants and the instructor with complete indifference to everyone else. By the time they were finished monopolizing the classroom, there was little time for anything else. At the end of the day, he realised that he not only didnít learn anything, but he didnít understand what the hell they were talking about. He was determined to do better the following day!
The second day continued as before, with Billy scratching his head in confusion. They were talking in a language he was not familiar with, because the terminology and abbreviations used in the pay world were foreign to him - Everything sounded like double Dutch and at the end of the day he pondered his situation and decided to confer with the instructor early the following morning, before the lectures started.
The next day the instructor arrived exactly on time and started before Billy had an opportunity to speak to him. It was now very apparent that he was attending an advanced pay course, which was so far over his head that he couldnít follow a word of it. By the time the instructor stopped talking, Billy was concerned that he would be in trouble for not alerting someone sooner and considered the alternative, which was to goof off for the rest of the week and hope that they didnít produce a test, in which case no one would be any the wiser.
After serious consideration he decided to take a chance and remain silent, which turned out to be the wrong decision, because there was a test at the end of the week and to his embarrassment he had no alternative but to submit a blank form with his name on it.
Within a short time of returning to Catterick camp, the disgraced soldier was posted to Egypt, which was probably the farthest distance away they could send him.
Returning in 1992 the Catterick garrison was still there, but in mothballs. Practically all the camps were closed including the GHQ, but one camp was observed with civilian police at the entrance gate. A number of new buildings had replaced older ones and the trucks in the vehicle parks were naturally of a more recent vintage. There were numerous small white vans and men in white overhauls in evidence around the garrison, indicating that the maintenance was in the hands of civilian contractors and less than a handful of soldiers in their new camouflage uniforms were seen. The large railway station at Richmond, which was erected to cater to the hordes of troops coming and going to Catterick, had been converted into a nursery.
Only a concrete slab remained from the RASC guardhouse opposite the GHQ, where Billy bided away his time scratching his initials and a calendar on the wall like the Prisoner of Zender while waiting to be sent to the Sowerby Bridge detention barracks. To cheer things up at that time he made a promise to himself that he would return one day after making his fortune in the USA and park his large American automobile on the road outside the guardhouse and reflect on the past. Billy fulfilled that promise to all intents and purposes, with the exception that he never made his fortune and he pulled up in a small rented English Vauxhall car - Interesting how things work out sometimes!
THE SOLDIER AND THE BARBER
Copyright © Bill Hawksford.
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