Written by Dale Johnson (A. 1952-55)
Thursday, 13 May 2004
Whilst I did not distinguish myself (Aldrich House 1952 to 55) I did enjoy the CCF, attending "Corps Camps" at Aldershot, Shorncliffe and Thetford. This stood my in very good stead when I was called up as one the last National Servicemen on 15th September 1960.

Having reported to 17th Training Regiment Royal Artillery, Park Hall Camp, Oswestry I joined Royal Artillery Intake 6018 as 23811086 Gunner Johnson DH. Like 2.2 million other young men from every walk of life and every corner of the UK, I completed Basic Training, and went on to qualify as a TARA (Technical Assistant Royal Artillery).
I was fortunate to be sent to WOSB (War Office Selection Board) at Barton Stacey, and after four hectic days of testing, Command Tasks, Obstacle Course, giving lectures, and numerous tests and interviews, I was extremely pleased to be told I had "Passed" and reported to Mons OCS (Officer Cadet School) Aldershot in January 1961.

After a further four busy months of lectures, Exercises in extreme mud by day and night, competing at almost every sport, and more testing, I was delighted to pass out in early May in the pouring rain to the strains of the Royal Artillery Band playing "Seventy Six Trombones...."

My posting was to 22 L.A.A. Regiment Royal Artillery stationed at Pembroke Dock in South West Wales, and I was appointed Troop Leader of "Echo" Troop of 53 (Louisburg) Battery. We were equipped with the post war Bofors L40/70 low Level Anti-Aircraft gun fitted with "Yellow Fever" the FCE 7 (Fire Control Equipment) with each gun having its own Radar, and Meadows 27 KVA Generator mounted on a Sentinel 4 wheel Trailer.

Each Gun required three World War II AEC "Matador" gun Tractors, one to tow the gun, a second to tow the generator, and a third for the Generator. These dependable vehicles had been built to a 1938 design, and most of them had served during the Second World War and Korea. The were very dependable but very slow, and on Exercise we had to travel in convoy covering 20 miles in each hour. We always travelled at night to prevent long hold ups on the A40 to Gloucester, there were NO Motorways and NO Severn Bridge.

In October with the Construction of the Berlin Wall, The Cold War intensified and there was a very real threat of World War III. Our Regiment was posted to Gutersloh in Germany and we drove there at 20 miles each hour with stopovers en route. In the Queens Speech November 1961 it was stated that with the Cold War, there were insufficient Regulars and 9,000 National Servicemen in BAOR would serve an Extra Six Months (at Regular Rates of Pay).

I was very fortunate in being sent on a Langlauf (Cross Country) Skiing Course in Norway, but temperatures dropped to minus 25° Celsius and I developed second degree frostbite and was extremely lucky not to loose the tops of all my fingers and thumbs.

In March 1962 I was appointed Assistant Adjutant which was a very challenging and rewarding job. On Exercise on the German Dutch Border owing to an incorrect Code Word for some 15 minutes we actually thought World War III had started - the longest 15 minutes in my life! I left the Army in March 1963 having proudly served my 21/2 years of National Service.

I am now retired and very much involved with the National Service Veterans Alliance (NSVA), and have proudly led our Contingent "On Parade" at the Cenotaph each year since 1999. I was also very honoured to Parade the NSVA Standard during the Festival of Remembrance at The Royal Albert Hall in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen on 8th November 2003.

My Austin Champ is an almost exact copy of the vehicle I drove 40 years ago, and frequently I turn out in Battle Dress with Champ as "Living History" for 22 Regiment RA in March 1963.

If you did National Service STAND UP AND BE COUNTED! Join the NSVA Today! Just phone Dale Johnson on 01.202.577.226 for full details and a chat.

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