A large brown envelope arrived one spring day of 1959 that was to change my life dramatically.
It contained details of my National Service call up – the recruiting office was at Redruth and I was to use the enclosed railway travel warrant for medical requirements at the DCLI barracks at Bodmin.
I was nineteen and a half years of age, in regular employment at Perranporth sub-post office as a counter clerk. Over the past 18 months or so, firstly cycling the 30 or so miles round trip each day, then by moped and finally with my full motor cycle licence, I had progressed by that year to a Triumph tiger cub. I had met my future wife-to-be Marjorie, who also worked at Perranporth and life, was going well.
The employment law stated that jobs had to be available when NS was finished, sub-postmaster Doug Lean explained to me that he had to employ someone else to take my place and when the recruiting sergeant told me the rates of pay, that clinched it!
One pound two shillings and sixpence per week was the NS rate of pay – or three pounds five shillings per week as a regular soldier – exactly my current wage, with no chance of promotion – a no brainer! I passed my medical, the Royal Engineers had a Postal section (PCS) and so I was off to Farnborough with my railway warrant on 31st March as a 6 years regular soldier, having become engaged to Marj a few days earlier.
My service record shows that I was in military training at Cove for about 6 weeks, then trade training as a Postal and Courier operator for a further period at Mill Hill in North London, before joining the Home Postal Depot (HPD) at Shepherds bush, by the end of August.
four of these became “Posties”: Jim Brady, Bob Davidson, Pete Nuttall and me.
229 PTS August 1959 – we are “Army Tradesmen” half were NS … 1962 Admin parade, with the last of the NS.
All military mail, for overseas destinations would be most commonly addressed to: Name, Unit / Regiment etc, British Forces Post Office – followed by a location number (BFPO XX), was handled by RE (PCS). Distributed from HPD through their 24/7 depot at Gorst Road, Acton at that time, later at Mill Hill. Three daily shifts were either from 06.00 to 14.00, 14.00 to 22.00 and 22.00 around to 06.00 – the dreaded night shift. Weekends were rotated to allow one off in three. Regimental duties still had to be performed, quite often all-night guard duty – two hours on and four hours off, straight back onto one of those shifts.The exceptions were mails by road – known as courier runs, to and from London stations or of course, to and from the London airports. The railway stations were cleared several times per day, most mail came in during the early hours on regular GPO mail trains, the forces mail bags being segregated for our collection.
The duty courier travelling in the rear of the truck to safeguard the bags of mail in transit – rain or shine!
As Christmas time approached I was on night duty, I spoke to my Corporal and asked if I might leave early on Christmas eve and catch the train home from Paddington, riding there in the front seat of the duty truck. “Not a problem Sapper Jackett, make sure you are not late back to duty” I had noted that there was an 05.30 train to Truro, rather than go back to camp, have breakfast to catch the Cornish Riviera at 10.30. I settled into a corner seat and tried to catch-up on some lost sleep, duly arriving at Truro about one hour before the Riviera – my train stopped everywhere, a salutary lesson!In the spring of 1960 I moved to the RE (PCS) TA office, which controlled civilian Postmen performing their 14 days per year of military training, courses at Brighton gave me my first promotion before my marriage in September 1960. November 1960 saw the last intake of NS, we had at least 4 NS in our TA office.
In December 1962 we were blessed with the arrival of our daughter, followed two years later by her brother.
September 1960 ……………………………….. December 1964
Easter 1962 – Corporal Jackett on tour in Cornwall… Autumn `62, passed my car test and parentage looms for us
On posting to Tidworth in 1965 as a sergeant, meant a ten month detachment to Borneo (65-66), then Hannover and Celle in Germany (67-71) for the first of three tours over there. Oman (71-72), Rheindahlen (72-74 – see below *) then Hong Kong and Nepal (74-76), Dusseldorf (77-80 see below **). Detachments from Germany were to Belgium, France and Denmark.
1966 – Borneo with `brown knees`, 1974 our FPO counter, next to the largest NAAFI shop in the world, Bill and Heidi were my two German counter clerks * and 1979 my last Remembrance Parade in Dusseldorf *** Rheindahlen Garrison aka ” Little England “, officially to us – HQ BAOR housed in a huge building affectionately known as “The Big House” also HQ RAF (G) had a separate office complex there. Nine primary schools and 2 secondary schools, illustrating its nick-name, two cinemas a theatre and an olympic sized outdoor swimming pool, completed the unique set-up enjoyed by many families. Walking from my home in south-west extension to my office took 40 minutes, so I drove like everyone else.
Next door to my FPO was a Malcolm Club RAF families centre, in November and early December we set-up two extra counter positions in there to deal with the “Christmas rush” as extra mails and particularly parcels were posted, mostly home to UK or to other families around the world.
** Lohausen barracks Dusseldorf was situated next to the Airport, allowing immediate access to both daily Air Mails in and out, but also UK daily newspapers, which we in the RE (PCS) distributed in trucks alongside the mail. Normally one large container lorry per day handled our surface parcels in and out, but come the Christmas rush, up to three per day were dealt with – very busy times.
I requested my last 12 months service to be in UK, as Warrant Officer class one. I had been offered a commission but we were set on coming home to Cornwall, Marj and our two teenage children had travelled home at Easter of 1980. South Cerney near Cirencester rounded off my 22 years service on 31st March 1981.