Get some in

Soldiers on basic training scale a nine-foot wall.

Once they had passed a medical and other tests, the called up men would be assigned their barracks. A phrase often shouted at recruits during basic training, ‘Get some in’ would, for many, have been their first welcome to life in National Service.

At their barracks, men queued for their kit, wrapped up their civilian clothes to be sent home and collected everything they needed for their new life.

I’ve never been so fit in all my life… we did everything at the double. John McElroy

Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment, National Service 1954–1956

Basic training was one of the most difficult experiences for many, with conscripts recalling memories of endless drills, uniform checks and boot polishing. The constant shouts and commands from drill sergeants and corporals would unnerve many, and men were expected to know their National Service number off by heart.

The first days would often be the hardest, with many remembering hearing crying at night as young recruits adjusted to their new life.

Peter Cook image 2

Peter Cook, Grenadier Guards, National Service 1959–1961

"The sergeant shouted, ‘Follow that man!’ I picked up my little suitcase and had to run after the soldier who kept shouting, ‘Come on, come on.’"

"Running down the long drive, I thought I was entering a madhouse. On the left was what was to become known as ‘God’s own country’, the dreaded drill square, which contained dozens of men in various squads from the five regiments of the Foot Guards being shouted at and marching at all different speeds, and on the right was a chapel."

It was here that men learnt the discipline and basic skills for life in National Service. Basic training was specific to the unit they were assigned to, but it would generally last around six to eight weeks. Additional ‘trade training’ – such as combat, radar technology or languages – would also be provided for some, depending on their deployment.

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