As time went by, I settled into the routine of Boys Squadron Royal Armoured Corps loving every minute of it. I never got time to be upset or bored, there was so much to do. It was one of the happiest periods of my life. The Education Corps staff, especially Teach Pilling, helped us so much. They wanted us all to succeed and there were so many well planned activities and good friends to do them with. For the first time since leaving British Guiana, I felt wanted. I did it for myself and it was up to me to make the best of it. I was excited. I wanted to do everything, NOW. There were classes, evening classes, and extra training if you wanted it. There was strictness but with a lot of freedom to think, act and do things for yourself, and yet we were also taught never to forget our mates. I loved the independence it gave me. We soon got to know the Dorset countryside through map-reading in the field and in the sword and lance tasks, where they would drop us off in one place and tell us to find our own way back, alone or in pairs. We had to use our initiative, speak to strangers, be positive and ask questions. Already I wanted to be the first back, to be the best at whatever we did.
Like most of the other boys, I did no trades or trade courses such as gunnery, wireless, weapon training or tank commanding while at Boys Squadron. I just loved doing the sport and many other physical activities. Everyone told me I was just skin and bones, so I wanted to make myself stronger, bigger and fitter so they would stop saying this. Through the daily P.E. and sports we were being taught, I began to excel in athletics and became junior champion of triple and long jump, hurdles and relay. We were army champions a couple of times. I was very proud to be selected to play cricket for Dorset County Cricket Team and was the youngest player at the time ever to do so. I also played cricket for Dorset juniors and was selected for the Dorset Junior Basketball and Hockey teams as well as the Rugby Sevens as wing three quarter. I took up every offer to get extra coaching by turning up early for training in basketball. I won all my boxing bouts at the various Dorset clubs and became the National Association of Boys’ Clubs Boxing Flyweight Champion. Gymnastics was a new sport which I became good enough at to take part in displays in Dorset and neighbouring Wiltshire. I started winning medals and trophies for athletics, cricket, boxing and basketball and was told that if I kept it up, I would turn out to be a very good all-round sports person, maybe even reach international standard. Other new activities were fencing, which I loved, and cross- country running. I became very good at this because I loved running through the open countryside. It gave me a sense of freedom and of well-being. It was also an escape from the noise and shouting of the barracks. It reminded me in some ways of my childhood in British Guiana, and while I was doing it, I was building up strength and stamina. Not all the boys liked cross country as much as I did. For them it was cold, wet and miserable and some of them would get out of it if they could find a way to do so. On one occasion, I allowed my friends to influence me to hide in the loft of the billet when the others went out on the run. Sergeant Major “Minty” Rose was too wily a fox to be fooled by this. He always checked the billets after the boys set off and that day he came in and shouted,
”Anyone in there?” We didn’t answer, but he poked the loft door with his pay-stick and we were so scared, we owned up and came down.
“We all wanted to rest up to train for the gymnastics team, sir,” I said and my mates all agreed.
“If that’s the case, then I expect to see you all at 5 a.m. training from now on, and to see you all winning something,” he said. He well knew that not all of us were capable of making the team. I was the only one to do that so I didn’t get punished but they did.
This is me ready for boxing training
and my first hurdles race with Billy Bye in 1955/6
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