I Discover What It Is Like To Be Shelled

Many moons ago, back when I was about 17 years old (I am now 73 to put this in context), I had joined something called the Territorial Army, which was a sort of British version of the National Guard, or to put it another way, a weekend soldier.  The Territorial Army, or TA as it is better known, is an ancient and noble British Military Establishment, going back quite a few hundred years I believe and as such is a valiant and important part of the protection of the British Isles against any and all foreign invaders.   Well at least that is the idea.

The reality – as is often the case – is rather different.  Or at least back then in the 60’s of the last century that was the case.  We were supposed to be valiant warriors standing ready to defend Britain with our field artillery pieces (25 pounders for those among you who know about these things)  but in fact we were a rather shambolic bunch of very elderly veterans of the second word war, and me, a 17 year old, bearded and long haired kid who had joined simply to be able to ride a military motorbike around the place.

A 25 Pounder Howitzer – This is what was lobbing shells at me – Though there were about 12 of these doing it!!!

Remarkably reminiscent of the British TV series Dad’s Army…..   If you have seen that program, I was definitely the one called Pike!

The regiment I belonged to was called, wait for it…  Queen Mary’s Surrey Yeomanry, and had been in existence ever since (logically enough) the reign of Queen Mary sometime in the 17th Century, and had a long and illustrious history of killing people on behalf of the British Royal Family.

Every so often we all headed off in an enormous convoy of guns, trucks and other military things to the nearest artillery range to get in a bit of practise with our guns.  This was of course our whole reason for existing, and was also a high point in our otherwise drab and dreary lives.

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Motor Bikes And I – A Calm Marriage By And Large

For some reason, I always wanted to ride on motor bikes when I was a kid. No idea why this was so, as to be honest, they are in so many ways vastly inferior to cars, but they do have something about them.

My First Bike

For me it started when I was 16 – which in those days was the earliest age you could ride a motorbike in the UK. So with the reluctant agreement of my parents, shortly after my 16th birthday I found myself the proud owner of about the smallest motorbike you could buy in those days, a BSA Bantam.

It cost all of £50, by the way.

Me on my Bantam ( No idea why the fancy costume), and David on his Tiger Cub…..

This thing with its 2 stroke 150cc engine could just about manage to achieve 70 mph downhill with a following wind.

It had a headlight that would have shamed a firefly, so at night I had to try and keep up with cars going in the same direction as I was, in order to be able to see where I was going…. Otherwise the feeble glimmer from that headlight just about allowed me to see my front mudguard. And given that she could could only just keep up with very slow cars, night-time driving was awful.

At about the same time, a good friend of mine David acquired a “real” bike, a 200 cc Triumph Tiger Cub…. Ahh.. the name alone… Tiger Cub versus Bantam…. Not happy about that.


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