Monday 6th February 2006, 0530hrs, a nervous and scary day for me. This is the day as young 17-year-old leaving home for the first time. I have to get the 0630hrs train from Malvern Link to Brookwood. This would have been the furthest and longest amount of time, I have left my family for. Saying goodbye wasn’t as bad as I thought (I was lucky enough to have a friend who was joining the Royal Navy on the same date). We managed to get the same train to Birmingham, before departing our separate ways. Myself heading in the direction of London, him heading in the direction of Plymouth.
As I got closer the Brookwood, I could kind of guess who was in the same boat as me. They had trousers and a collared shirt on, looked young nervous and scared, just like myself. After 3 hours on the train and 3 stops, finally, here we are Brookwood. I was even more nervous and moved from scared to petrified. To this day, I still remember getting off the train and looking about there was about 10 of us who had arrived at the same time, no one really talking to each as we were all scared of what is going to happen next. Then a random coach pulled up and out came this 6ft tall Sergeant, with his big nose and his pace stick. He had the shiniest shoes on I had ever seen, it was blinding me. “Right, you bunch of CROWS, he shouted. Get your bags on the bus and give me your name” We all did as we were told and queued up to hand our names in. The first man in the queue gave his first name, that was a mistake. He was given push-ups straight away. This Sergeant had to illiterate to us all “Surnames only, this is not f***ing school, you are in the real world now chaps, how am I supposed to know who you are by your first! Sort your s**t out. Get up you f***ing lizard. NAME?"
I finally made it on the bus, watching the trees pass by as we made the 10-minute drive to front gates of Pirbright. The Sergeant would stand up and say to us “Welcome to your home for the next 12 weeks” then he would sit back down. I was even more nervous now, looking out the window seeing other recruits marching about, thinking that will be me in so many weeks.
The bus stopped and we all got off we were here…. Home. We stayed in what they called the 50p building, as the building was shaped like a 50 pence piece. We all stood in a line hands behind your back right over left, in silence, one word would result in push-ups. Then this Staff Sergeant would come out with a list. He explained we are now part of the Masters Troop, “When I shout your name you will respond Yes Staff, and I will tell you which section you are in.” My name got called I was in section two up the stairs and to the right. And the door on the far left. That is a lot to remember when you are 17, nervous and scared of what is going on.
I walked up the stairs lugging my suitcase with me, slowly walking to the end of the corridor to the door on the far left, section 2. I walked past the Section Commanders office, I dared to look in. Finally, here, in Section 2. I found my bed space as it had my name and regimental number on the wardrobe. I kept quiet and sat on my bed to take everything in for a minute. The room layout was odd, it was a 12 man room. Not everyone had arrived yet, the guy to my right to me was unpacking quietly. The guy from my left was doing the same, then swiftly introduced himself to me, a nice northern lad from Manchester. I still to this day think he spoke to me as he needed a PT T-shirt as he forgot his.
I hear a shout from the corridor it was my name, I quickly walk to the door. Get shouted at again “why the hell are you walking get here no you f***ing lizard.” I then ran the whole 5m to the section commanders office. Your feet had to be perfectly on the printed footsteps when talking to the DS (Direct Staff).
“Yes, staff” I replied. “Who are you sleeping next to?” I didn’t have a clue on the guy to my right but I knew the guy to my left. I then replied with “I know one of them – Andy” this was my first mistake of the day. “We do not use first names terms, this is not playschool get down in the push-up position, you will go on my timings. Down” A massive pause this felt like 2 minutes. “Up. Down. Up. Down. Up” those Up and downs were so quick I thought he was rapping. “Now I suggest you go and find out what his surname is or you will have more, STANDBY, GO!” I ran back to the room to find Andy. I explained what happened before I even got halfway the shout came out again “Where are you?????? You are wasting my time, get the f**k back here with your bum boy ANDY” We both ran back to section commanders office.
We stood and waited for the Section Commander to talk. “Get down push-up position.” He asked me what “Andy’s” surname is, I still did not know. So, I was honest and said “I don’t know, staff,” He asked Andy what my surname was, somehow he knew. This blew my mind. He then shouted his own surname. The section commander then gave me 10 push-ups per letter of Andy’s full name. This totalled 90 push-ups. I have never forgotten his surname since. Andy and I did end up becoming really good friends during basic training.
For the rest of the day we were marched about “left, right, left, right” Looking back at this it is funny as you have people out of step, tick-tocking and even not walking in a straight line. Our first Drill lesson will be interesting. So, we, first of all, got marched down the barbers for a haircut, if you thought your hair was “cool or short enough” tough you ended up with grade 2 all over. I still remember one lad crying as he loved his hair, it wasn’t particularly long just very fashionable with red dye. He was gutted that was gone.
Next stop was the kit collection, but before going in. The DS would give you an ultimatum “You F**k tards have reaped a buckshee haircut now. So, if you want to F**k off you can do now. If not once you got your kit you are balls deep in” A few people would question themselves have I made the right decision. For me, it was now or never. I had to stick this out, if not I would be going back home to a job stacking shelves.
I walk into the stores to collect 2 black grips, a black daysack. You then have 5 minutes to start stuffing all your kit into these bags. People were coming out the other end with kit everywhere. The DS just shaking their heads thinking what the f**K have we got for the next 12 weeks. Once we were all lined up in rows of three back to the accommodation to try your kit on. Only to find out you have 5 minutes to unpack and get back outside for lunch. Everyone’s rooms were left in a tip.
This was the first time we had been to scoff house (canteen area), this is not a normal canteen. It was open for breakfast from 0600 – 0800hrs, lunch 1200-1330hrs, and dinner 1700-1800hrs. Anything out these times you were not allowed in. We queued up knowing we were the new kids on the block, no one had a clue what to do expect to collect your KFS (Knife, Fork, Spoon) red plastic ones, your plate then pick your food. Normally this would consist of a burger, sandwich, chicken kievs. Only pick one then move down toy our carbs and veg. Where nothing went well together. Normally you would have let’s say, burger and chips, not here it was burger and roast potatoes with carrots. We would then sit down normally with people you have been chatting to. Before I even sat down the DS staff start shouting. This time not at us but to another recruit “Oi, you, yes you, don’t you f**king ignore me, right get here you c**ting lizard. Think you are big and hard, do you? I will show you big and hard and it isn’t my cock. I will shove this pace stick so far up your arse and pops out of your mouth. Why the f**k are you taking two burgers? You are now leaving one your muckkas left with no food you selfish little f**K. Put your plate down you are coming with me”. Rumours around us saying he was going to what they called “jail”. I would soon know what that place is in my 12 weeks. No one gets away with not going.
Another shout from the DS staff “right, Masters troop you have 2 minutes to finish and get outside” I had hardly started my food, maybe from the distraction from that lad who took two burgers. But, I shoved the food in my mouth, put my plate away and ran outside, still chewing and feeling very full from eating so quickly.
We were all lined up maybe not everyone, but enough of us to start speed marching to our next stop. Left, right, left, right, left, right. They would inform us we had briefs for the rest of the day, they would name this “death by PowerPoint”. It really was, we had a welcome brief, bank brief, payments, welfare, and medical (which will take place tomorrow). Before you knew it, the time was 1700hrs, time for another visit to the scoff house.
After we had scoff we went back to the accommodation, here we would be introduced to our section commanders and our Troop commander for the next 12 weeks. In section one we had a Cpl paratrooper, section two (my section) a Cpl in the Coldstream guards, Section 3 had a Cpl in the RLC (Royal Logistics Corps), section 4 had a Stand in Sergeant in the Coldstream guards until the new guy was posted in. In the evening our section commanders would go throughout kit with us, showing us what is what. This is your Bergen, this is your daysack, this is your shirt, etc. We were told there is a lessons list and it informs you what to wear on what day at what time. You had to be ready downstairs for everything 5 mins before. If you are 4 minutes before you are late, this is the duty Cpl’s watch, not your own. We were shown how to iron, polish, and shave. The section commander then said tomorrow you have to be in your tracksuits ready at 0630hrs (this meant 0625hrs) ready for scoff to then start the day.For the rest of the evening, we finally got to chill out get to know each other and start getting kit ready for day two.