Saturday, July 19, 2008

Square Bashing

One of the solutions often advocated to the problem of Britain’s yobbish youth is the bringing back of National Service. And certainly, on the face of it, it seems a sound idea.
Due to an accident of birth, I found myself the proud possessor of a British passport, one of the unlisted benefits of which was that I was entitled, absolutely free of charge, to a minimum sojourn of two years as a member of the armed forces of the United Kingdom.
In this respect I was luckier than a friend of mine from Newcastle. On the strength of having a German mother he had opted to take German nationality. Much to his horror, he found himself drafted into the Wehrmacht, despite not speaking a word of German.
The location for my indoctrination into the ways of the military was RAF West Kirby, on the Wirral peninsula. As I had already been the beneficiary of several years at an English boarding school, I was rather better placed to survive than many of my fellows.
Out of curiosity, the other day I Googled ‘West Kirby’ and there was an aerial view of the camp. I had never realised how big it was, but then, during my time there, we were too busy polishing things to do much sightseeing.
Then I found a fascinating article by Don Adams who had been a recruit there.
In it he described all the horrors I remembered only too well, as well as a few that had mercifully been erased by the mists of time.
I could smell the brasso, the blanco and the boot polish along with that strange odour, redolent of dead bodies, that emanated from the cookhouse, just like it was yesterday.
Those of us that survived those ten weeks emerged as far, far better beings than when we first passed through the gates of West Kirby, I am sure.
But how could this happen in today’s state of supreme nannydom?
For a start, it seems that every day I was there, my human rights were violated at least ten times.
Then there was the racial and ethnic abuse:
“Oi, ‘op to it, you ‘orrible little frog!” to say nothing of the homophobia: “Yer marching like a bunch of effing poofters.”
No, no Nanny. It would never do. The Drill Instructors need serious counselling.
And this is before we get to the Health and Safety issues. There are not enough clipboards in that department to record the daily breaches that occurred during my stay there.
Those of you that experienced the joys of National Service and wish to recapitulate the delights of ‘square bashing’ will appreciate Don Adams very accurate article. And for the rest of you, I am sure you will agree that nothing else will be sufficient to drum some sense and discipline into the yoof of today.
Don’s website is at:


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