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Royal Marines Association North Devon

ONCE A MARINE ALWAYS A MARINE

DEREK SARGENT

DEPOT ROYAL MARINES

I joined the Royal Marines at the Depot, Deal on 19 October 1965 in the first intake of the 837 Squad. Dennis Hannen, also a member of the North Devon Branch of the Royal Marines Association, was in the same Squad. (DS Top Row  2nd left.. DH 3rd Row 1st right )

Recruit training in those days was 9 months in duration, four and a half months of which were spent at the Depot Royal Marines and four and a half months at the then Infantry Training Centre Royal Marines, Lympstone, Devon. During training at Deal, two weeks were spent at Whale Island, Portsmouth at HMS Bellerophon undertaking Seamanship Training. During our time at Lympstone, the training was split into three phases, consisting of 16 weeks Infantry Training, the 6 week Commando Course, during which theSquad had a different training team , and two weeks Kings Squad culminating in the Kings Squad Parade.

My memories of recruit training at the Depot RM are dominated by the parade ground and Drill Instructors with smaller input by the PWIs with weapon training on the SLR, GPMG and basic fieldcraft. 

 

The Physical Training Instructors of course played their part and I have many memories of kit (not mine) being thrown out of the changing room windows because we were taking too long to get changed. In those days at Deal, it was mainly Swedish PT in the Gymnasium and one got used to the Phrase "On your spots........... go!!"

Looking back on the Drill, I think of the number of hours spent learning movements which I never used again in my 23 years in the Corps. Time spent on this Drill could have been better spent giving us a better knowledge of Infantry tactics and techniques, something which the modern day recruits have a far better schooling in. At Deal, we were on the parade ground most mornings for inpection, sometimes by the Drill Instructor and sometimes by the Adjutant. Woe betide anyone who was not up to standard, with an extra parade being the punsishment for minor infringements and extra drill, done at the double, for more serious breaches.

My first memories of the Royal Marines Association were from my time at the Depot RM when myself and Ken Spare, being the two senior recruits at Deal at that time, were invited to the Annual Dinner of the Deal Branch, RMA in March 1966.The photograph left shows Ken and myself at the Dinner with members of the branch committee and the Worshipful Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Deal. My memories of the occasion are really of the attitude of the Guard Commander spluttering in his mug of tea when two recruits turned up requesting permission to proceed ashore with all night leave passes. I thought he was going to have a heart attack and he double checked the passes before allowing us ashore.Ken and I made the mostof it by staying out until the early hours, because in those days shore leave for recruits finished at 2300. Do you remember turning up at the guardroom with a clean handerkerchief and four pennies for the telephone. Without these items, and without being immaculately turned out in walking out dress, no shore leave was given. This was given of course at the discretion of the Guard Commander who, in some cases being a martinet, could make it difficult for recruits to proceed on shore leave. I remember also being lined up outside the dining hall at lunchtime by the provost staff and having our hands checked to see if we had clean fingernails, before we were allowed to eat.Most days were the same. Saturday mornings, if not training were taken up with fatigues around various locations of the vast Barracks and Sunday Mornings were taken up with Church Parades. Another inspection of course.

I must admit that our Drill Intstructer, Corporal Mick Moffit, ably assisted by Corporal Bratt, was a fair man who never bullied us and who led by example and taught us in a fair and just manner, unlike one of the other Squads at that time whose Drill Instructor liked to have a drink at lunchtime and took it out on his squad on parade in the afternoon. My only recollection of bullying was a PW2 who shall remain nameless who I think had a personality disorder and had a penchant for making recruits conduct themselves in a degrading manner.

My overall impression of Deal was of a well oiled machine which turned very basic raw material into well turned out Royal Marines. My spare time was spent in the main cleaning, polishing, washing and ironing clothes. (Only sheets were sent to the laundry) My work consisted in the main of drilling and PT. After four and a half months, we passed out as the Senior Squad at the Depot RM and caught the train to Exeter on route to Lympstone, where our lives were really turned upside down.

INFANTRY TRAINING CENTRE

On arrival at Lympstone on a cold March Friday, our squad were shown into their new accommodation, in my case a Mansard hut positioned in what would be now the Sergeants' Mess car park at CTCRM. I was lucky to have a single bunk, but some lads were double bunked with one bed stacked on another. The ablusions were 30metres walk away and we soon found out that there was no hot water in the mornings.The accommodation at Deal was luxury compared to that at ITCRM. It was obviously very much an outdoor life at Lympstone and we were soon training on Woodbury Common which was to become our second home. We also mastered the intracies of the Sterling Sub Machine Gun, 36 Grenade, 2" Mortar, Energa Anti Tank Grenade and 84 mm Carl Gustavanti tank weapon, with the associated fieldcraft, fire and movement, section attacks drills. A memory that stands out, as with all recruits of those day was the state of your thighs due to wearing only denims for training. Legs were a sore spot of scratches and bruises caused by the constant crawling on the common amongst the gorse and heather.

Life was more relaxing at Lympstone because there was less bull. One had time to go over the NAAFI in the evening and watch some TV and have a pint of beer. I remember at lunchtimes, when in training dress, we would go to the dining hall with our denims trousers  topped with a lovat jacket on, wearing the obligatory tie in an Angola Shirt.In the evenings, no split rig was allowed.

I remember when we arrived at Lympstone, we were due Easter Leave in two weeks time. The Simon and Garfunkle song 'Homeward Bound' was always playing on the radio in the hut, and whenever I hear the song today, it takes me back to the early days at ITCRM. One thing that was different at Lympstone as opposed to Deal was that we were allowed ashore in civilian clothes, but not before they were inspected by the Troop Officer. Taff Williams (Who now lives in Bideford) had his suit passed and in todays era it would be described as quite a conservative suit, maroon in colour with a black collar. Taff proceeded ashore in the suit but as he was walking down the hill towards Exton was collared by the First Drill (Driving by in his car) and told to report back to camp. The Guard Commander received a telling off for letting Taff out insuch an outlandish suit and poor Taff had to buy a new one, no matter that the Troop officer had OK'd the suit. Such was the power of the First Drill in those days. When we got onto the Commando Course stage of our training, we said goodbye to Sergeant Bill Huddlestone, Corporals Nutty Edwards, Terry Waterstone and were introduced to our Commando Course team of Sergeant Gabby Hayes, Sergeant Hayes (Para) Corporals Al Logan  and Critchly. Gam Eaton was our PTI throughout and Sergeant Jock Young our Drill Instructor.

Memories of the Commando course are of parading at Woodbury Common to do the Endurance Course at 0730 on a Saturday morning or 1345 on a Tuesday, having walked the 4 miles onto the common as no transport was provided. We actually had a great summer weather wise in the World Cup year of 1966, and heat stroke was more of a problem than the cold.No quarter was given by the NCOs. You either measured up, or you suffered for it. Get lost on a Dartmoor Training exercise (It was all done without the presence of an NCO in those days and you quicKky learned self reliance in your map reading skills) and you did it again at the weekend.Weapons were inspected every morning whilst in the field and anyone found lacking was severely dealt with. 

Another memory was of lining up outside the Gymnasium for the frequent bouts of battle PT, with a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach because you knew you were going to feel pain of one sort or another. At the end of each session though, you had a feeling of elation because you knew the physical exercise was doing you good, or because you had passed one of the required tests to continue making progress, the Bottom Assault Course, the Rope Climbing, the Fireman's Carry, the Regain, the Tarzan Course. Each test passed was one step on the road to receiving the coveted Green Beret.When that time came, after passing the 9 Miler, Endurance Course, Tarzan Course  and 30 Miler in the same times as our WW2 predecessors, we all strutted around feeling like young gods!!Two weeks Drill and it was the Kings Squad Passout Parade and then off on two weeks leave before the 837Squad dispersed around the World, some to 45 Commando in Aden, some to 40 Commando in Burma Camp, Malaya and some , myself included to 42 Commando in Simbang Barracks, Singapore.