I was fifteen years, I didn’t shave, my experiences few,
When I stepped aboard a railway train, bound for Wool, from Waterloo.
I felt my heart was in my mouth, with my spirit ebbing low
I had signed upon the dotted line, but now didn’t want to go.
I thought of home and those I loved, and stifled just one sob,
As the train pulled out to take me away, to the Junior Leaders mob.
Arriving at Wool, a Sergeant stood, quite calmly, without any fuss,
He called out our names and ushered us on, to the big green Army bus.
The bus turned right from the station yard, cold rain lashed the window pane.
And ten young boys, in silence sat, none asking each other’s name.
We nursed our fears, my anxiety rose; I peered through the failing light.
At the top of the hill, we rounded the bend; and the Barracks drew into sight.
Stanley Barracks, on a rain-soaked day, and black clouds darkened the sky.
The man yelled “Fall in!” and he led us away, but nobody dared ask “Why?”
We were shown to a room, with a shiny floor, and he told us to each choose a bed.
Soon the yelling resumed, so we lined up again, and then he took us away, to be fed.
That night, as I lay in my steel framed bed; in that scarce furnished barrack room,
I could feel my heart pound, and I couldn’t shake off, that hint of impending doom.
Then something happened, a ridiculous thing, but it made the gloom quickly depart.
Boys’ laughter rang out, as a voice from the dark, said “Let’s see, who can do, the best fart!”
And from that day on, my experience grew. Many friendships were forged there for life.
It was tough, it was fun, there were moments of joy, plus moments of worry and strife.
But now it all seems to have been long ago, and I have memories many to share.
And I do believe that, you will recognise these, if you, noble comrade, were there.
There was Daddy Hales, the Beehive Caff, and running down the Morton track,
Tramping cross Dartmoor’s soggy bog, in webbing, boots, and pack.
Remember the huts, and the pot-bellied stoves, at Renney and Lentney Camp?
And doing the Tank Museum stag, in the dark, and the cold, and the damp?
I hated the runs over Heartbreak Hill, Sandy Gulley, Rhododendron Mile.
But egg and chips at the Red Shield Canteen, I recall with a satisfied smile.
Now I sometimes stay at The Holne Chase Hotel, just reward for my honest craft.
And recall the days of the Holne Bridge jump, wet canoes and an improvised raft.
I hope that I, have awoken in you, with my faint memories and my muses,
A belief that during our God-given span, each man can achieve what he chooses.
Although you have heard them, say this before, I will say it just once again.
To all of my comrades who trod that bold path, “WE joined as boys, and WE left as men”.