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A Reluctant Soldier

William McEwan

Published by William McEwan at Smashwords

Copyright 2013 William McEwan

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Chapter 1 :National Service

After 55 years, one could be forgiven small memory lapses and although the two years spent in compulsory military service and the events of the time are still pretty clear there are some parts that are not mentioned here.

There is much talk about reintroduction of some form of national service to give young people a sense of purpose and pride in themselves and their country; I can only describe my life in the army, and how it affected me.

War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.

George Clemenceau

I don't know whether war is an interlude during peace, or peace an interlude during war.

Benjamin Franklin

The whole history of the world is summed up in the fact that, when nations are strong, they are not always just, and when they wish to be just, they are no longer strong.

Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war.

The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.

Winston Churchill

The words military service means armed forces however; it often conjures up pictures of the army, rather than navy or air force although each has a critical role in times of conflict.

The army or any other form of militia, can be a chosen career or as in the case of the author because of conscription.

Some nations require a certain amount of military service from every citizen (except for special cases, such as physical or mental disorders or religious beliefs). The exception being a country with completely volunteer military service. It is then usually only in times of war that conscription is required.

“Tumultuous” I think best describes life in Britain during and after world war two, especially for the male population and the roll they were required to play under what could be determined the defence of the realm.

War as we know it, didn’t end with the surrender of Germany, although there was great relief at the time, it was not long until there was a war in Korea, also trouble in Malaysia and Cypress.

In other areas in the world, the presence of troops was required, so Britain needed more soldiers and aviators as well as naval personnel.

There was also a demand for non-military such as miners and merchant seamen. This book is not a story of military heroism or daring deeds it is simply a short account of the type of effect this situation had on the author as a young Scotsman in early post war Britain. It points out the good and the not so good effects of compulsory military service that he observed.

Among those called up for military service some were streetwise kids, and at the other extreme, there were those that had led a very sheltered life, in some cases having been home tutored they had never experienced the rough and tumble of the school playground.

Strangely enough, those who seemed to crack under the stress of military training were the so-called hard men.

No matter what the background there were no excuses everyone had the same treatment, I suppose in the world today we could call it a level playing field. This didn’t take into account that we are not all the same, or from the same background, therefore the effect of military life was devastating for some.

The photo above is my home and the village I was leaving.

Personally, I feel I benefited from my national service as it took me way out of my comfort zone and to places I never dreamed of visiting.

Chapter 2: The Envelope

Life can be scary for any teenager at times, and difficult to cope when the bottom looks as though it is going to drop out of your world.

This was the case for a great many male teenagers during early post war Britain, we all new once our 18th birthday was past, what was to come was inevitable; the call up for National Service. The day would arrive when they would get the dreaded envelope from the Ministry of Defence; I never met anyone who was overjoyed at having to join the army. You see this was not just a few weeks training then back home to get on with your life; this was two years when your life would not be your own.

World War 2 had finished about seven years before my 18th birthday so you might wonder why my country needed me after all this time, well they probably could have done without me, but the law is the law and it must apply to everyone.

Britain was somewhat unprepared for the onset of World War 2, caught with their pants down so to speak, they were determined not to be in that situation again. A decision had been made that every young male would be trained for military service and not just a quick course on guns and marching either, but two years military service.


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