West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Memories and Recollections

FROM CADETS TO RECRUITS


by MR. H.M. LIVETT

After reading Gerry Delaney’s contribution to The Digest about his family’s epic journey back home from Burma and India during the war, and for your request for more items of interest for the magazine, I have taken the plunge and have written a short piece about the two attached photographs and the lads depicted.

I first met Gerry when, after their travels, his father was posted I believe as R.S.M. to the Pontefract Company of the K.O.Y.L.I. Regiment T.A. at the Drill Hall in Tanshelf. Myself and some of the lads pictured were members of the Army Cadet Force attached to the above, and Gerry joined us as a very popular member of the Company.

The photograph below shows us posing in Pontefract Park – note the Prince of Wales pit head gear behind. I can remember all the lads names except one. From the front row left there is myself, Roy Crumpton and Ernie Townsend. In the middle row from the left is Bernard (Joe) Foster, a lad called Schofield whose first name escapes me, Jack Fawcett and Tommy Howley. On the back row standing I cannot remember the name of the first chap on the left, but then there’s Arnold Waterton, Stan Wilson and Harold Hancock.

Army Cadets

Seven of us took the King’s shilling and enlisted into the Regular Army, five opted for the K.O.Y.L.I. and I believe on the strength of us being Army Cadets, were sent for our basic training to what was described as an infantry training battalion for potential Officers and N.C.O’s. This was at Pinefield Camp, Elgin, Morayshire. The majority of the instructors were N.C.O’s from some of Scotland’s crack infantry regiments – sadly most of them are now disbanded. The Sergeant of my platoon was from the Cameron’s, and a Sean Connery look-alike. I still remember him, he was pretty tough with us but fair all the same, as is the way in the army. I met him years later at Oudenarde Barracks, Aldershot, where he was still a drill instructor. There must be lots of National Servicemen of that era (1947/48) who remember that place.

The training at Elgin lasted three months, and in my case through the glorious summer of 1946. One of the lasting memories I have of that time is being woken at reveille (6.00am) by the bugler, and immediately afterwards being serenaded by a piper marching between the Company huts. It was only later in life that I realised what a privilege this was.

As recruits we were paid three shillings per day – twenty one shillings a week, and were told that seven shillings of this would go to our credits or would be allotted to family at home. Mine went to my mother and just about paid her rent which at that time was 7s-6d per week.

Towards the end of training and after another medical I appeared to have suffered a perforated eardrum which was confirmed by a consultant at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. I had to be downgraded to B1 and because you had to be A1 to be in the infantry, my intention to join the K.O.Y.L.I. went out of the window. I was given a choice to join one of the supporting corps and chose the R.A.S.C. (transport side) and finished up with the Rhine Army in Germany - but that’s another story!

Of the rest who went through Elgin, Gerry was eventually commissioned but not to the K.O.Y.L.I. For some technical reason he finished up in another infantry regiment. Roy, Jack and Ernie achieved their aim and in succession were drafted out to the 1st Battalion K.O.Y.L.I. initially in India, helping the civil powers to keep the peace, then later went to Penang, Malaya, helping to winkle the communist bandits out of the jungle. A posting to the Far East for a regular at that time was three and a half years. Arnold Waterton enlisted before any of us as a band boy at fifteen years old and Bernard (Joe) Foster enlisted into the 11th Hussars (his father’s regiment) and spent nearly all his service with the Rhine Army. I’m afraid I can’t remember what happened to the other lads in the photograph - unfortunately we lost touch. If they read this perhaps they may let us know?

Army Band

The photograph of the band above was taken in camp somewhere near Sheffield, about 1943. The brass section came from Hemsworth Army Cadets. Their bandmaster was a Mr. Unwin or Irwin. He was very dedicated and had a lot to do with the success of the band. They came over to Pontefract at least once a week on the local bus service to practice. Two members of the band not yet mentioned are the drum major Knobby Clark and his younger brother – (another Knobby!) from Monkhill.

Two of the bugle marches we played were "All for a Shilling a Day" and "Marching Through Georgia", supported by the brass section. We played at various functions around the area and possibly brought a bit of excitement and pleasure to people during those gloomy wartime days.

I am going back over fifty years and my memory may have overlooked somebody or other in which case I apologise.

Mr. H. Livett


 

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