Recollections of Chris Neill
I had fallen into the trap of letting my hormones rule my head when I had volunteered to become a ‘Postie’. The ‘Postie’ trade presentation at the Junior Leader Regiment RE (JLRRE) Dover had consisted of a couple of guys spouting off about letters and courier ‘thingy me bobs’ and some rather good looking WOMEN (who apparently outnumbered the guys at Mill Hill) who had my complete attention. With dreams of having my own harem I duly chose to join the ‘Posties’.
Having spent 18 months cosseted within the JLRRE Dover you can imagine my mounting excitement of joining ‘man’s service’ and learning a trade whilst being surrounded by and outnumbered by loads of girls from the WRAC. I had elected to arrive on the Sunday prior to my B3 course starting on the Monday. Sunday morning I got up washed and dressed in my finest mufti. I pick up my suitcase and kit bag, duly waived goodbye to my mother, got on the train and set off on my journey. It being the mid seventies the train was filthy and I spent the whole journey trying not to get dirt on or crease my neatly pressed kit. Having negotiated the tube across London I found the Northern Line and got on another tube for Mill Hill East.
It was a warm spring day and you can picture my horror on arrival at Mill Hill East to see that I had to carry my kit up that Hill. With a deep breath I picked up my kit and off I went. ‘That’s handy a pub…’ No resist temptation and keep going. Not long after I reached the main entrance, now where do I go. A quick recce and off I went to the gate. There’s a Sapper on the gate, ‘I’ve just arrived for my B3 where do I report’. ‘Don’t know mate go to the Guardroom and ask there’.
Now I don’t know if any of other training Regiments were the same but at Dover the Guardroom was a place to avoid. It was the domain of the Regimental Police and of course ‘out of hours’ Guard Commanders both of which were permanent staff ‘mans service’ soldiers. A boy soldier who was not a guard duty only went to the Guard Room if they had been ordered to go there because of some misdemeanour and it normally meant that the staff on duty could have some ‘fun’, normally at your expense. Character building stuff they used to call it, nowadays of course it would be called bullying.
You can imagine the look of horror I gave the gate guard. ‘It’s all right mate it is just over there’ pointing to a door behind the gate box. I picked up my kit and went over to the guard room. I stopped outside and checked my self in the mirror; I didn’t want to give the guard commander any excuse to pick me up for not having my shirt tucked in properly etc…
I drew my self up to my full height, pulled my shoulders back, opened the guardroom door and marched in. Two steps inside the door I neatly came to a halt and standing rigidly to attention reported, ‘24435409 Sapper Neill reporting Corporal’. Expecting and fearing the worst you could have knocked me down with a feather when the corporal said ‘calm down, calm down, we don’t do none of that here, what’s your name again mate?’