Here is one anniversary that seems to have been missed.
It’s been 50 years (or thereabouts) that National Service came to an end. Much to the relief of many 18 year old lad, and the deferred 21 year old as well.
How different it all was then. The British Isles were pre-multiracial, and it would have been hard to spot anyone who was not a white British person. It was still only 13 years after the World War 2 had ended, and the Government were wary of any further conflicts. So during those past 13 years, they had introduced National Service. But the end was in sight.
All male persons aged 18 years old, provided they were fit for military service, were by law conscripted into either the Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force. Those serving apprenticeships or studying up to the age of 21 years were exempt till these were completed. Then they too had to go.
Well that’s about the outline of what was happening 50 years ago. Most schools at this time had Cadet activities after school hours, Army, Navy and Air Force Cadets, was an activity enjoyed by many. Lots of marching and drills, and visits to different camps to do what the “real” soldiers, sailors and airmen did. A ride in a tank or on a boat, and some lucky Air cadets were to fly in aircraft, and take gliding lessons at the Air Force Camps. We all got to fire live ammunition from rifles and machine guns under strict supervision. So all the training was worth it.
As a cadet we were probably around 14 – 16 years old, and with all the semi military training around the country at this time, and in most schools, I can never remember any one getting murdered like there is today and almost every day.
No, we were not all goody goodies, there were fights, but nearly always one on one, and never a fight to the death.
There was a pride in the country at this time, and although many would run to avoid the “call up” and others once called up, would not enjoy the forced discipline of real life in the forces, It was a great leveler. The poor, the middle classes, and the upper classes and the just plain rich boys would be moulded together into a team, the discipline was strict, and the playing was hard, but as time went on, we became competitive with other teams and fought fiercely to win any tournament. Gradually the general feeling was one of great camaraderie. Class, backgrounds and wealth disappeared, we were a Military fighting machine.
Many would enjoy the life and became regulars. But others would do the 2 years, and leave to continue careers, all the better for the experience.
I was lucky to be in this last group of call ups, and I stayed an extra year to do 3 years in the Royal Air Force. My time was done in a time of peace, and I was not involved in any action that the brave military personnel are facing today. That may have been a different story.
I just thought that there are many of you out there, may never have even heard of a time when everyone was conscripted. With every boy at school, possibly being a cadet, we were all mentally prepared to go into the forces, learning extreme discipline, tough combat, using deadly machinery and weapons. With all this knowledge, it was seldom if ever used on our streets. It was safe to walk out at night, our neighbours lived side by side peacefully, with no marauding gangs creating havoc.
How sad this deterioration can take place in such a once peaceful law-abiding country, in so short a time. All lost to one word – Respect.
It is not until I look back at my early life, that I realise I was so lucky to have lived through this era. I don’t think I would like to be a born in this age.
Today is not the England of my youth.