MICHAEL Knight reflects on his junior army training:

In August 1958, aged 15, I announced I wouldn’t return to school after the holidays. My father allowed this provided I had some aim in sight, or I’d remain in school then seek a career when I had a school leavers certificate.

Having moved around (Dad was Army (Signals) all my life, I’d not settled anywhere to make life-long friends. Born in 1943 in India where my father served, we returned to UK in 1944 and when the war ended he was sent to Libya. He was by this time in charge of clerical work, he told me years later the bulk of this was working with the War Graves Commission, returning personal effects to families and updating military records.

We joined him in 1946 in Tobruk (Libya), then Benghazi and Egypt. School was 8am to noon, too hot to stay in our corrugated iron classrooms, so it was off to the beach. In 1952 my father was appointed Chief Clerk at the War Office. London was a rude awakening; my sister and I attended primary school and for the first time in my life I was faced with discipline. Even though I was a year younger than the others in my class I passed the 11-Plus and went to grammar school in Balham.

The following year my father was posted to Germany, and I attended a British Forces Education School in Rheindalen. I spent most of my time with one mate, Eddy, and our free time with German children. By the end of my second year I spoke German more than English. Mid-1958 Dad was promoted to Captain and sent to York, it was at this time I felt I should no longer attend school and went to the Army recruiting office. I could enlist at 15 into a boys regiment. As Dad was in the Royal Signals he encouraged me to try for the Corps, I passed the aptitude test for electronic trades and joined the Junior Leaders Regiment Royal Corps of Signals. On October 30 1958 I headed from York station to Newton Abbot, South Devon and driven to Denbury Barracks, where I was issued bedding and shown into a billet room. At 2am I awoke in excruciating abdominal pain and within an hour was in surgery having a ruptured appendix removed. Four weeks in hospital, then sick leave, what a great start to my career.

I returned to Newton Abbott in January 1959, joining the next intake for basic training, with a number of the lads wondering why my army number had been issued four months earlier. Ours were unique in that they had a triple number in them, mine being 23666515 (printed on my brain to this day), we’re still referred to as the ‘Triple Sixers’. I learned to rise, eat and sleep at a bugle call, Reveille, clean rooms, put on uniform, meal call, first works parade to gym, classes, (so much for leaving school), drill, rifle range, 2200: Last Post (lights out). Here I was stitched up for the next 12 years. Six weeks of basic training, marching, uniform preparation that included pressing, Bulling (polishing boots), cleaning brassware, webbing and making up bed packs. Having spent most of my life with servants, I didn’t know how to make a bed let alone do my kit, but I learned. Following basic we were allocated to a Signal Troop within a Squadron. I was allocated to M Troop (Later renamed Kohima Troop) No 2 Squadron.