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Anyone got any memories of TA Royal Engineers

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I was in the TA Royal Engineers at Somme Barracks in Sheffield in the early 80s.

I would love to here from anyone who was there about this time.

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Anyone Got Any Memories of T.A. Royal Engineers.


Greetings Mr Pops.


I was ‘stationed’ at Somme Barracks for over 2 years. 1972-74, aged 18-20. I used to go Tuesday evenings and to some weekend camps. I only did the occasional weekends because I had other commitments… Football, birds and booze. Lol.


The weekend camps were at various place…… Forests of Nottingham, Congleton and more. We learned how to build a Bailey Bridge, night patrols (searching out the enemy), and loads more stuff.


The pay was good, the comradeship was great and it was all voluntary whether you attended or not.


At Somme Barracks Major Bailey was in charge. I remember a Sargeant Simmonite, and pals- Brian Smith, Alan Cotton, Geoff Hardy and a lanky lad called (Dennis?) Titterton.


I also did a 6 week (6 weekends) cooking course at Strensall, after which I transferred over to the ACC – Army Catering Corps. This meant I became a Private, no more a Sapper. I still have my cooking instruction manual – 43 different ways to prepare/cook a potato. Lol.


Upstairs at Somme Barracks was a snooker table, and always a barrel of Whitbread Trophy. We made good use of these amenities on Tuesday evenings. Lol.


Private ‘Zakes’ – 24250465. 106 squadron. Sir!!


I did my basic Army training at Southwood Training Camp at Cove. Cove is near to Farnborough, Aldershot, Frimley, Camberley.


We learned many things at Southwood including:


Map reading, combat, 10 mile and 20 mile route marches, assault course, patrolling, square-bashing, very little Egyptian PT, and loads of other stuff, starting at 05.30 ‘til 19:00 most days.


We also did plenty of target practice with:-


S.L.R. – Self loading rifle

S.M.G. – Sub machine gun

L.M.G. – light machine gun.


We learned how to strip these weapons down (to clean them), then put them back together again practically with our eyes closed.


Although the training was tough and made us tired, it was most enjoyable learning all that stuff. The only bad thing was the vile verbal bullying from a few N.C.O’s. – Grubey and Williams especially.


My best mate during training was Sapper Terry Grounsell from Cullercoats.


With money saved at Southwood, plus the bounty cheque (William & Glynn’s) I received a week later, I bought loads of new clobber – platform shoes, boots etc. I was loaded (by my standards) and spent loads of time posing in the Penthouse and at times the Heartbeat and the Genevieve. Lol.

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I was in TA at Somme Barracks around early/ mid 80s.

Had some great times with good people.

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Anyone got any memories of TA Royal Engineers


Some more info of my time in the Territorial Army – 1972-74


As I have already posted in detail about my training, this post will deal with side issues. These issues are things I (we) got up to, some funny, some not so funny. Anecdotes of an enjoyable short time in my life.


I have also posted before on another TA. Thread:


Want to join the territorial army? (History and Expats) by borninsheffield (21/11/2007). I’ve posted detailed stuff on this thread too.


As I don’t wish to overload my secretary with extra work, I have decided to do this post in parts. This being Part 1.




Southwood Army Training Camp – Cove – in Hampshire. 1972


Photos 1 2


A short time before going to Cove for training, I had ceased being a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. I became a Private by transferring over to the Army Catering Corps, ACC (Anyone can cook. LOL.)


I was still ‘stationed’ at Somme Barracks, attached to 106 Squadron. I also retained the same army number … 24250465.


On the photos, I can be seen wearing a light-coloured (lilac, light purple) band around my peaked hat. I also wore the same coloured lanyard on my left shoulder. I wore different badges and buttons to the other soldiers (Sappers). I was 18 at the time. 1972.




The photo with the most people on it:


My best mate during training was Terry Grounsell, from Cullercoats. He is situated in the centre of the back row. A great lad.


My second best mate was Mick Mayne, the son of a stubble jumper. Mick is situated third form left in the middle row. He came from one of the Channel Islands.


The lad fifth from the right on the back row came from Sheffield (Arbourthorne). He can be seen on the other photo too (back row fourth from left. A quiet lad with red hair. He enjoyed Army food!


On both photos are two men who had agreed to correspond with each other once they were back in their own towns, Plymouth and Burnley. Each letter would include a chess move. That right, they were gunna play a game of chess by letter. Ludo was my game. LOL.


On the main photo again. Third from right on the front row was a bloke from East London called Dilt. He is fourth right on the photo with less people on it. Dilt was somewhat cack-handed and cack-footed. He always talked cack, and clack too. He should have been named…Dolt. He received the most amount of verbal abuse from the NCO’s training us. Poor sod.


The NCO’s are situated in the middle of the front row on the main photo


L-R Lance-Corporal Williams - Cardiff

Staff Sergeant Wills - Exeter

Corporal Grubey - from the area (vicinity).


All three were nasty people, but did succeed in smartening us all up.


8 persons are missing from the photos. 7 of them for a mixture of reasons: homesickness, training was too robust, upset by the verbal bullying the NCO’s dished out.


The 8th missing person was a Lance-Corporal, a Scot. He ended up in hospital during our last evening at Southwood. The next day was our passing out parade, with the visit of a scrambled-egged Brigadier.


The Scot (I forget his name) had been really vicious with us trainees during our stay at Southwood. A group of us had crept into his room during that last night, tipped him out of bed and gave him a good leatherin’ in the dark. How we all got away with what we had done is still a mystery. LOL.




When I had arrived at Southwood Camp on that first Saturday in the Summer of ’72 with a long kit bag and a large suit case it took only 2-3 hours before I received my first (of many) brollickings…


We newlings were walking around all areas of the camp to get acclimatised we had been advised to do this. Why it had taken so long for the NCO’s to notice what I’d done showed their (NCO’s) lack of observancy. I had knotted my tie in a Windsor fashion. I had done this deliberately to see how far I could go (a wind up). I knew it would get noticed eventually, and I had expected to be told to tie my tie in the correct manner, but I certainly didn’t expect what was to happen…

Corporal Grubey eventually saw the Windsor knot, his face immediately became a deep shade of rubicund. He then stood with his face an inch or so from mine. Then snarling he shouted in the loudest voice I’d ever heard to take my effing tie off and to knot it in proper soldier fashion. I could feel the spittle hitting my face, plus his hot stinky badger breath. It is (was at the time) frowned upon (perhaps forbidden) to wear a Windsor knot in the services unless you are RAF personnel.


The rest of that Saturday was taken up by us newcomers getting to know each other. Some of the men were quite quiet and reserved. Most were open and candid, me for example. Even in those days, everything was an adventure to me. Learning about where each of them had come from their professions and their accent I found to be very interesting, fascinating even.


At tea time, we all went to the mess hall…for our tea. The hall was enormous, with loads of tables and a big Juke box. The food was unbelievably plentiful with loads of pies and joints, fish potatoes prepared in many variations. There was a wide choice of desserts too.


That same evening many of us came back to the mess hall…to booze. Newcastle Brown Watney’s Red (‘best thing you’ve said’) and Courage Beer were the popular drinks, although some supped a fizzy kid’s drink called lager. There were no snobs at Southwood training camp, hence no ‘rea ale’. LOL.


The loud Juke box blared out a continual variety of tunes like:


Silver Machine – Hawkwind

Jig-a-jig – East of Eden

When I’m dead and gone – McGuinness Flint

Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin


Jackson 5





Having smoked my last (in the packet) consumption tube, I went to the fag machine. Much to my dismay it didn’t vend Park Drive, nor my second choice, Woodbine. It did have Players Navy (lol) Cut, and also Senior Service. I didn’t like these two brands because the tobacco was always tightly packed making it nigh on impossible to draw any smoke out of them. I bought Players Weights (same size as Parkies) in the hope they weren’t tightly packed too.


The Weights were spot on (when I later returned to Sheffield, I continued to smoke Weights. The only place I could find them was at Sylvesters, on Surrey Street. It was worth paying the extra cuppla pence forrem).




Sunday was spent much like the previous day. We supped less booze on this evening because tomorrow was to be our first day of training! Gulp.






To be continued.

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Photo 1: 4th from left top row looks like Phillip Ward, 2nd from left front row looks like Mick Green and the chap flashing the stripes is Taverner. I'll see if I can dig out my Cove photo from 1973.


---------- Post added 06-03-2018 at 17:11 ----------


---------- Post added 06-03-2018 at 17:09 ----------


---------- Post added 06-03-2018 at 21:04 ----------


I joined 106 Sqn in March 1973 and went down to Cove in May for the 2 weeks recruits course. I must admit that after 2 weeks of square bashing and being given the run-around, I’ve never felt so fit in all my life.

Then, in July ’73 I boarded an RAF VC-10 and flew out to Germany for 2 weeks based in Hameln (Hamlin) building various bridges, laying mines, and doing demolitions on a working railway bridge over the River Weser. Other annual camps were at Weymouth and Scotland

Then there were the weekend camps at Ripon, Leek, Beckingham and Proteus (Notts) among others. After passing my driving test with the Sqn, I joined the Signals section and soon found myself behind the wheel of an air portable Landrover and Sgt. Les Mc bride having to remove the spare wheel from the bonnet so that I could see over the top! I’ll recall some names : Dave Gabriel, Frank Melles, Andy Vernals, Colin Early, Dave Summers, Dennis Wells, Jack Lindley, Ron Ward, Mick Foster, Andy “ Pitprop” Burgess, Brian Hobson, Clive Morley, Eric Matthewman, Phil Ward, Phil Scott, George “Robbo” Robinson, Alan Sayers, Albert Bolton, Percy Simmonite ( what a character he was, great chap) Andy Farquar, Gordon Opie, Mick Booth, Chris Girling, Buzz Hives, Lenny Hadfield, Keith Hill, Tony Wilson, Jim Mc’cardle, Les Preston, Mick O’Reagan, and Albert Collins ( snr & jnr). I’m sure I’ll remember many more in the coming days.

The bar at Somme Barracks was run by an ex Sapper Bunny Warren, a Dunkirk survivor.

Edited by Magneteer

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Part 2.


Summer 1972.


1. On the first day of training we were awoken at 5:30. We then had to wash and shave, then to be on the parade square for 6:00, dressed in combat gear. It was forbidden to have a single hair (bristle) on your face. It was okay though to have a face cut to ribbons, a result of 60 men jostling for position at half-a-dozen weshbasins for a shave. After an hour of square-bashing drill, and learning how to salute properly (longest way up, shortest way down) we went to breakfast.


In the mess hall the serving counters were full with cereals, loads of fried stuffs and drinks. . . tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, milk and various fruit drinks. After a hearty fry-up we were informed that next on the agenda was P.T, including assault course. Needless to say, during physical training most of us were puking up big style. From the next day on, most of us ate cereal for breakfast. . . me Ricicles. Lol.



During my time at Southwood Training Camp the weather was very hot. The route marches, foot patrols (stalking the enemy) through the tall ferns of the dense wooded areas, and weapon training, were really enjoyable. Sitting in a classroom, learning and studying map reading was really gruelling, it was a battle trying not to fall asleep.




2. From the few dozen of us TA greenhorns, the younger one's (I was 18) looked forward to an evening boozin'. We felt we were on holiday at the seaside, but without the sea. Most of the older one's were happy enough to stay in the billet to spend time 'bulling' their boots, and to spit-and-polish buckles, buttons and brasses. Webbed packs had to be scrubbed, cap badges and the peaks of our caps had to be polished too. After a twelve hour day of training, I was loathe to do these chores. After a couple of days I managed to get two of the older men to do my stuff. I paid them in money, and in ciggies. This left me free to go suppin' at the mess hall most evenings. Hot days training, then boozing has a habit of catching you up, but I was lucky, some weren't so.




3. I recall Corporal Grubey 'asking' us all for our cigarette coupons if we didn't need them. After he'd gone i suggested to the other blokes that Grubey shouldn't get any coupons because he was a pillock, who took great pleasure in putting all through the mangle each day. They seemed to agree with me. Some hours later, Corporal Grubey collared me alone, then proceeded to give me a frightening talking to, filled with innuendoed threats. This little episode told me there was a mole in the billets.



4. A group of us had decided to have an evening out in Guildford, to see if we could pull some soldieressess. We went over in an armada of taxis. We found what we were looking for, but the bird soldiers didn't seem to be interested in blokes. lol.



5. Coming back to camp one evening after drinking in Camberley, we (a Brummie, a Scouser and me) were stopped at the camp gates, which was usual practice. A voice piped up from inside the camp: "Halt, who goes there?". We identified ourselves to the voice in the dark, then: "Stand (step) forward to be recognised". We stepped forward to be recognised, and waited for the gates to be opened, then the sozzled Scouser spouted something about us not being in the IRA, so let us in.


The upshot of this was: The camp gates opened, and in a flash the Scouser (Pete?) was forcibly dragged into the camp by three burly soldiers who were on duty. The Brummie and I were less forcibly taken into camp, taken to a building, then thrown into a dark, cold empty room. We spent the night sleeping on the hard floor in jeans and t-shirt. At daylight we were 'gently' interrogated, then given cloth and bucket, and told to clean up the mess we had made. After all that booze and sleeping in the cold room, we both had had a slash in the corner. We were then taken back to our billet.


We never saw the Scouser again. We presumed that he had been sent home, some suggested he may have been arrested. We didn't get to find out. Later that day, two regular soldiers came to the billet to collect Scouser's belongings. The Brummie and I were banned from going out from the camp, to socialise, for the rest of the time we were there.



6. One of 'our lot' had a handful of nuddy mags, which were stored in his bedside locker. This confirmed what most of us thought, regarding the sound of clicking during the night, when lights were out. The mags went missing. The bloke went crazy, and accused us all of being thieving rats. He bawled out that he would strangle the bustard who had swiped his mags. Next day it was discovered that the mags had been confiscated by the NCO's. Lol.



7. In our weshroom were a row of wesh basins, a set of showers, and two panelled-off bath tubs. After a long hot day of training its always good to have a nice soak in the bath. On one occasion a Geordie was relaxing in one of the baths. A couple of bright-sparks thought it was a good idea to tip the contents of a red metal fire bucket (sand) over the panelling into the bath. the Geordie screamed out loud, then loud-throatedly shouted what he was going to do with the culprits. I hardly understood a word he was shouting, but the tone of his voice made it clear. Having climbed out of his 'watery sandpit', he came around the panelling wearing only his birthday suit, then grabbed one of the laughing culprits. The culprit wasn't laughing two minutes later, he was laid out cold. A humorous but frightening event.




8. Iv'e already put on another thread about the passing-out parade on our final day at Southwood Training Camp. I also mentioned about travelling back to Sheffield via coach and by trains, and seeing females fawning and fainting(lol), when they saw us fit lads in our smart uniforms. I remember drinking cans of Youngers Tartan on the train. Others drank McEwans.


In those days I'd always been a thinnish kid, but my parents were astounded when I got home. I'd still got the thin look, but my body had now got a soldiers solidness to it. The training had done me good.



The time spent at Southwood was a time I'll never forget. The comradeship was second to none. The pay was good too. A wonderful experience away from home.




To be continued - Part 3 and final part. Cooking course in Strensell (York).

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reminds me of my experience of joining the reme as an apprentice in 1965.2404xxxx.

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Anyone got any memories of TA Royal Engineers?               


Apologies for having kept you waiting, I don't post much now on the Forum since its unnecessary (in my opinion) format change. I much preferred it as it was. It seems quite evident many missing others feel the same way too.

Part 3  Cooking course.

One Tuesday evening in Autumn 1972 at Somme barracks...106 Squadron Royal Engineers, I was taken to the side and was told that cooking courses were available at Strensall training camp, just north of York. I was immediately interested in enhancing my culinary skills so I jumped at the chance. At hooam I'd become a dab-hand at cheese on tooast, fried eggs, and boiled eggs, and I thought the cooking course would(could) be the gateway to me becoming the head chef at the Waldorf Hotel, in London Lol. The course was to be spread over 6 week-ends.

Within a few weeks everything had been arranged, and I was enlisted on the cooking course. I was looking forward to eventually showing mi Mum how to really cook a roast joint properly, and to show her how to cook vegetables too. Mum always had the habit of over-cooking vegetables, thus making them soggy which caused the loss of vitamins in them.

Each Saturday I was to be picked up at Somme barracks in an army minibus, a Morris JC or similar. After palling-up with the driver on the journey to Strensall, and on the return journey to Sheffield the next day, I talked the driver into dropping me off at hooam at Gleadless Townend from the second week onwards.

The journey to Strensall entailed a diversion to Dewsbury to pick up two other 'Waldorf candidates'. Lol. All told, there were in the region of twelve part-time soldiers on the cooking course.

During the first Saturday afternoon at Strensall, we budding chefs were given a talk by an officer, regarding cooking, hygiene, ordering food and stock taking (I don't mean stealing stock...OXO). We were also issued with our own personal cookbook..a wad of typed-up pages, each section a different coloured page.


After the long instructional talk each of us was then free to do whatever they wished. some read books, others went to the Mess for a few beers. The practical part of our course would be on the following day..Sunday.


During my time on the course there were times of laughter often caused by practical jokes. I'd like to relate two incidents I recall where I became the victim. At the time of the two happenings I didn't see the funny side, but it didn't take long before I did see the funny side of the pranks. LOL.

1.  Returning to our barrack room from the Mess on that first Saturday evening, I and one other were in a slight boozed up state. With the lights out, I slowly opened the door which made a squeaking sound. This caused us pair to quietly giggle. One of the other blokes from the course was loudly snoring (or pretending to). This caused us to giggle again. Having removed our shoes we walked about in the darkness in search of our bed's. Having undressed I climbed onto mi bed. The bed then wobbled like a boat on uncalm waters, then it suddenly collapsed. The metal frame with the bedsprings in it crashed loudly to the wooden floor. This came as no small shock to me, I was stunned.There was suddenly a very loud roar of laughter from the other occupants of the barrack room. Seconds later, the bedstead of my drinking pal also loudly collapsed when he put his weight on his bed.

Whilst we had been out drinking the others fellows had thought it a good idea to loosen the bolts holding the beds together. Chuffs!!! Lol.

2.  During the second or third week of the course I had another prank played on me. I had returned from the Mess, had gotten undressed, then gave the bed a shake to test whether the bolts had been loosened. Satisfied that all was okay I made to climb into bed. I couldn't get into bed. There was a loud roar of laughter,then one of the other bloke's switched on the lights then everyone could see me looking somewhat bemused. The buggers had remade my bed in Apple Pie fashion. The only option open to me was to strip the blankets and sheets from the bed and to re-make it. lol.

To be continued.

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