I joined the TA (the weekend warriors, The SAS- Saturday's and Sunday's, dad's army call it what you will I've heard it all before)when I was a skinny 16-year old, two months before my 17th birthday in fact. I'd been looking to do something for myself for a while as I was studying at Art College at the time and had no income. My parents couldn't afford to give any real pocket money and I felt a little stupid delivering newspapers with the 14 year olds. So one day I went into the local drill hall which was en route from my house to town so I'd seen it every time I'd gone into town over the years. I went home quite excitedly and told my parents. The only response from my father was a kind of snort. Great encouragement. Thanks dad.
It was on my 17th birthday that I went away with the TA for the first time for my fitness training and assesment. We had to run eight laps around a running track around Qybell (I still don't know how to pronounce it) Park in Sunny Scunthorpe. I was a wreck. I never liked sport at school (which was worsened by a bully of a gym teacher 'Dippy Dranny') and my breathing was totally out. I was heaving and puffing as I made my way to the finishing line but I knew I wasn't going to give up. As I passed the finish line the PTI looked at me and asked puzzeldly, "Why did you do nine laps?" I still finished ahead of many others so I still don't know whether he was joking or not.
There was a photographer from the local newspaper, The Grimsby Evening Telegraph and when you look at the photo you can see that I'm the only one marching out of step.
I didn't know the ways of the army and this was evident when first I was asked my name.
"Name?", the sergeant barked.
"Robert.", I replied, a little too meekly.
Here's the Cadre photo from my Infantry Cadre in 1987
I didn't immediately do too well in the TA. I was a skinny runt and easy prey for the idiot bullly of the platoon - his name doesn't deserve a mention but should he ever read this,"You know who you are!"
This didn't shake my enthusiasm for turning out though as in my first year I went over my allotted number of days in training. We should have around 70 days per year maximum but from February until October I'd passed that limit and had to apply for an extension.
A lot of people think that being in the T.A. is easy, and compared to doing it full time - they're right , but we do exactly the same that regular soldiers do.
Here's how you may look after a three day exercise with six hours sleep the whole time.
The TA did however give me a sense of pride and accomplishment that leads to the confidence that people see in me now. It gave me more self discipline then I would have otherwise had and taught me indepence.
I became fitter than I ever had been at school and when I combined my training with a weights programme I gradually developed the build I still have today (plus a single white ab.)
In my four year TA career (my record of service says five years) I travelled to Germany twice, Gibraltar, and many training camps around the UK.
One of my claims to fame was when the Grimsby Evening Telegraph joined us (for a couple of days) on exercise Polar Bear in October '89. You can see from the newspaper cutting above that I got full coverage while camouflaging Pte. Lee's face with camouflage cream.
After spraining both my ankles on Salisbury Plain in a training exercise I was asked "You like cooking, Price. Don't you?" To which I replied that I didn't know the first thing about cooking and was given the ultimatum, "Well, it's like this. Either you join the Catering Corps or you're out!" Little choice really seeing that this was my only income.
The best thing about this involutary transfer was that I had to go on another training cadre which was far more relaxed than my firsat one the previous year. There was no gung-ho heroic machoistic megalomanic bull that I'd experienced before. We were there to work and to pass the course which none of us had any real problems with.
Here's the cadre photo of Basic military Recruits Course No. 3/88 from 1988. For a closer look at the photo click on the above picture
In 1991, four years after I joined, I left the TA in order to travel to Europe. The trip was origninally planned for one year but due to my 'romantic' connections at home in the UK I cut it down to six months (but in reality, as I later found, it just wasn't enough.)
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