The education we had in Boys Squadron gave us the basic foundation for success in all areas of adult life. It was both interesting and character building. We learned so much from the films we saw about other countries of the world. The instructors all bent over backwards to help us achieve and understand what they were teaching us. As we got older, the message that we would need to take on board what we were doing in a practical exercise came over loud and clear. It was preparation for real life situations where not only our own lives but also the safety of others would depend on us following the instructions and procedures we were learning. Assault courses tested our mental as well as our physical ability and this included crawling through tunnels which might be blocked (for a short while) when we reached the end. There were plenty of adventure type activities in locations around the country to familiarise us with new types of terrain. These mainly happened in summer when conditions were easier on us but some of them were during the winter months and not very pleasant as far as I was concerned. We were always in pairs or groups of 3 or 4 competing against the other groups and I loved being outside in all the new environments. In Dorset at Lulworth Cove, we were initiated in basic mountain-climbing techniques that we could develop in more challenging environments, such as Snowdonia, when we were older. We had coastal trekking, canoeing in Swanage, basic sea rescue and lifesaving in Weymouth, Lyme Regis and Bere Regis. They had us practising inflating dinghies and handling them in the water. We camped out while doing map-reading and orienteering and learned basic survival in places like Stonehenge and Dartmoor, where I remember doing a route march. I enjoyed mountaineering and canoeing mainly for the team building and camaraderie they offered rather than for doing the activity itself. I could never see the point of climbing mountains just for the sake of it, our lives dependent on equipment, being put at risk unnecessarily. I particularly hated this when doing it in freezing cold conditions. I realised it was not for me and am sure I must have got on the instructors’ nerves with all the questions I kept asking them. However, I enjoyed the feeling of achievement when I reached the top or completed the challenge. I never dropped out or gave in.
During our last two terms we had to go in November to Snowdonia for a camping and mountaineering exercise. It was freezing cold and windy with continuous drizzle. Our route took us past a mountain stream and Sergeant Walker stopped us and said,
“One of the lads has requested a dip. Does anyone else want to do that? You either ALL do it or NO one does.” At that lots of boys shouted,
“Come on! Let’s all do it!” None of us realised what would come next. Pointing at some rocks, Sergeant Walker said,
“Go over there, get stripped off and come back here,” so we complied, covering our clothes with our ponchos to keep them dry. Then we started jumping around to keep warm and ventured into the even icier water of the stream trying to prove to each other that we weren’t feeling the cold. Crazy really, we hadn’t been forced to do it. I didn’t enjoy it and couldn’t see the point of it but some of the boys seemed to think it was great. I suppose by trying all these things we found out about ourselves and what we wanted to do in life. The instructors also found out about us that way.
Throughout my time in Boys Squadron, I had become bigger and stronger and more determined mentally to achieve success. I always followed instructions to the letter now and knew that there were good safety reasons for doing so. I had always wanted to be in the winning team and made sure I played a full part in the winning. In my last term I won the cup for most points in all the sports we did, as pictured in the photo above. I was Victor Ludorum.
By now I had read what Brian Kenney had shown me about the history of the 4th Queens Own Hussars. Winston Churchill had served in this regiment and I wanted to serve in the same regiment as this great historical figure as well as my role model, Brian Kenney. The regiment was at that time in Germany and there would be opportunities for travel to other countries in the future. So in the summer of 1957, I decided to become a long term professional soldier and to apply for the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. I signed up for 22 years.
When I heard that it had been approved, I was thrilled and went straight to find my troop leader, Lieutenant Kenney to tell him the good news. He was at the garrison officer’s mess at Bovington Camp. He was very pleased to hear that I had the regiment of my choice. He got me a drink. I felt ten feet tall at being given a lemonade and lime in the officer’s mess and going for a short walk with him.
“As soon as you arrive at the regiment, you should make it a priority to get your trades as soon as possible, because without them, you won’t have a specialised job to do on the tanks and will just be given general duties. It will hinder your promotion prospects,” he advised me.
My last term in Boys’ Squadron was taken up entirely with drills and parade rehearsals for the leaving ceremony. By now I had become a very good trumpeter and a budding side drummer with potential. Normally I would have played in the band on such occasions but not this time, since I would be one of the passing out squad. There were many hours of rehearsals under Sergeant Major “Minty” Rose and the drill sergeants and although I didn’t really enjoy it, I put everything into getting it right so the occasion would go off successfully. We were issued with our new regimental uniform and its relevant insignias before the day so we could prepare it and clean it up to ceremonial standards. We all worked hard to look our best for the parade. Important dignitaries would be there and all our parents were invited to attend. I had notified the Munroe family of this date and the accommodation the army would provide for them. Sadly, I got no reply so no one would be coming for me and I would be the only one passing off in the parade with no family member there. Sensing that I felt bad about this, Sergeant Major Rose said to me,
“Not to worry, Joe. My wife and I will be there for you,” to make me feel better. It did, and I will always remember their kindness for this.
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Also if you want to read the story of what happened to me when I came out of the army and tried to help my home country Guyana to develop, then look for “The Eldorado Affair” by Jane Joseph on Amazon.co.uk in paperback or kindle format or Amazon.com where it is available worldwide in kindle format.