Christopher Butler - National Service - A Reluctant Snowdrop's Perspective. PDF

PDF It is now fifty years since the demise of National Service in the U.K. It lasted for less than twenty years following the end of the Second World War but it had a profound influence on the lives of hundreds of thousands of young men who found themselves compulsorily called to their Monarch’s colours. All able-bodied young men reaching the age of eighteen were required to serve a period of time, initially 12 months but later increased in two stages of six months to two years, in one of the three Services. Exemption was possible for those in reserved occupations and deferment could be obtained for those serving apprenticeships or enrolled at university.

The idea was that the nation should be provided with a ready-made fighting force that could be called upon at short notice in defence of her territories around the world should the need ever arise again. Irrespective of the trade an individual opted to pursue during his temporary withdrawal from civilian life he first had to undergo the physical hardships associated with eight weeks ‘square-bashing’ at a recruit training centre. This imprinted into his psyche an acceptance of the virtues of discipline, obedience and order – so vital to the efficiency of a fighting machine. With some justification it is claimed that the re-introduction of National Service would go some way to eradicate many of the public order issues involving the young that blight our country today.

This short book attempts to paint a picture of what it was like to be a National Serviceman and of how this conscript viewed his two years in the RAF Police. Rather than attempting to produce an historical account of the nuts and bolts of National Service itself I have concentrated my efforts on describing the human side of the experience as recalled from the distance of half a century. The hurly-burly of life in the forces certainly roughened a few of the smooth edges that my middle-class upbringing had etched into my character and I like to think that I emerged from the experience a more rounded personality. Although it was with some reluctance that I answered the call I was thankful, in time, to have been given the opportunity to ‘do my bit’ and my memories, many of which remain vivid today, are recalled with warmth and affection.

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