Conscription had been introduced in 1939 and continued after the Second World War. It was formalised in peacetime by the National Service Act 1948. From January 1 1949, every man over the age of eighteen was expected to serve in the armed forces for eighteen months (this was extended to two years in 1950 as a response to the Korean War), and remain on the reserve list for four years thereafter.
From the end of the war until the birth of The Beatles 2.5 million young men were called up at a rate of 6,000 every fortnight. Although it officially ended on 31st December 1960, the last National Serviceman, Lieutenant Richard Vaughan of the Royal Army Pay Corps, was not discharged until 13 May 1963.
Some young men went willingly, some went reluctantly, but considering that WWII was over, few were prepared for some of the deplorable conditions and the ridiculous circumstances they had to endure during their involuntary servitude.
Presented here are one man's recollections of the first and only peace-time conscription in the UK. Bill Hawksford's account of his service is a nostalgic walk down memory lane for some and of general interest to all. Enjoy reading about this young man's humorous personal escapades and see the British Army through his eyes as a lorry driver, a boxer, a general's chauffeur, a pay clerk, a janitor and a barber, in addition to an enlightening insight into the lesser known military court-martial and the feared detention barracks.
Find out why Bill's father, an ex-RSM, warned him that in the army they played a lot of 'Silly Buggers '.
Copyright © Bill Hawksford.