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robbie in uniform

Robbie in Uniform, 1929

I suppose that it all started on that fateful day the 7th November, 1927. Working for my Uncle, the architect in charge of building a very large factory for Alfred Herbert Coventry. At the ripe old age of sixteen, I thought that I knew all the answers to life and we quarrelled over the dismissal of a workman with a very large family. Unemployment was high and he appealed to me to speak to my uncle on his behalf. I never wanted to work for him in the first place, feeling very angry, I mounted my motor cycle and rode out of Coventry fully aware that my father would side with my uncle. Riding through Warwick, I caught sight of that well known placard:


The temptation was too much for me, advancing my age by two years, I joined, with the wish to be with horses. We had them on the farm and I loved them. I was posted to the Royal Artillery, Woolwich, where I soon learnt that the horse was king, demanding and receiving attention twenty-four hours a day. The temptation to be trained as an M.T. driver (Mechanised Transport) was too great and I was eventually posted to Portsmouth in 1928 as a M.T. fitter-driver.The regiment was in the process of changing over from horse drawn to mechanised transport. Having just returned from India, none of these ‘bow legged soldiers’ could drive.

Royal Artillery Uniform Button

Royal Artillery Uniform Button

We six drivers reigned supreme and were excused all parades. I took over the battery staff car, a Model T Ford with trembler coil ignition mounted on the dash. The 1918 A.A. guns – eighteen pounders – were mounted on a Peerless Chassis built in 1920. The only other vehicles were two Crossley 30 cwt trucks. We were later issued with Triumph motor cycles with side cars as Officer transport. I also received a solo motor cycle so that I could act as a despatch driver when the car was not wanted.

We soon learnt that we might be important as drivers, but as soldiers we were the lowest form of recruit. The old soldiers of the unit had certain laws which no one could break with impunity. Wednesday afternoons was rest time, into bed or out of barracks was the rule. I had met Lily, my wife, soon after arriving in Portsmouth and one Wednesday afternoon I was late in getting ready to see her. I was reported to “the shitten shankers school” which I treated as a joke. It was no joke, later on when I was frog marched to a group of old soldiers who were members of the shitten shankers school. They held court in a very serious fashion, I was found guilty and sentenced to ten strokes across a very painful part with a leather shoe lace. I was stretched across a barrack room table and the punishment was slowly administered. I never offended again.

I enjoyed my six years in the service, but when the Regiment was again due for posting to India, Lily who was now my wife said ‘No’ and so I came out on reserve. I was fortunate enough to obtain a job with the newly opened Airspeed factory. It was later to become deHavilland and Hawker Siddeley.


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