The memory of World War Two was still very fresh in everyone’s minds during the 1950s and there was concern that there might be further wars. As a result, there was compulsory military training for all eighteen year old males, which involved three months of full-time training at a military camp.
Now, this didn’t apply to Grandad Dale (because I was too young at the time), but our school (like many others) also provided military training for its boys, which was compulsory unless you were medically unfit or had ethical objections (conscientious objectors).
“Barracks Week” (as it was called) was held in February each year and involved the whole school being trained as if we were soldiers. We were organised into military Companies and marched about practising parade-ground drills (“Attention!”, “Present arms!”, “Left wheel!”, “Halt!”, etc). We even had real rifles (303s) and spent time firing live ammunition at targets.
I thoroughly enjoyed Barracks Week each year, it really was much more fun than schoolwork!!! My first experience of it was in 1954, when I was twelve. By 1959 (my last year at school), I’d been promoted to Company Sergeant Major, which meant I was the senior boy in a Company of maybe a hundred or more boys.
It was all pretend, of course, but I can still remember marching my Company onto the parade ground and (in a shrill seventeen year old voice) calling out, “Company B, on the right, form close column of platoon!”. I’m still not sure what that command means!!!