For this week’s photograph from my collection we come a bit more up to date with a photograph of a young soldier from the 1950s, from his age it looks likely that he might be a National Serviceman:In the background can be seen the sign of a London Underground station, indicating that the photograph was taken in the Capital:The young soldier wears a 49 pattern battledress blouse, with open collar, shirt and tie:On his head he wears a midnight blue beret with the cap badge of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers:His webbing is the 37 pattern design introduced before World War Two, but he has the Mk III pouches with quick release buckles:He has the haversack slung at the side, with his rain cape tucked under the top flap:Les Singfield was a National Serviceman who served with REME:
I began my 2 year stint in Feb 1959 with the REME in Honiton Devon, I was 21, married with two young children. Call up for apprentices was deferred until they had completed their trade, (what a crafty way to get tradesmen on the cheap) My first week’s pay was 15 shillings, my wife received £2. 12 6. We applied for a national service grant and eventually my wife received £4. 5. 0d about a third of the going rate. The average wage for a mechanic was £12, we lived in poverty and visits to jumble sales for clothes. A woman across the road helped my wife out financially, her husband was in prison, but she was much better cared for than my family. I went to Borden in Hampshire on a tank course. (A vehicles) What a terrible camp that was, we even got an article in the People or the Pictorial Sunday newspaper about the non-stop bull.
Some lads even slept on the floor to keep their beds and kit tidy. It was at Borden I realized that some regulars would pay to have their guard duty done. I did at least two a week at £1.10s a time, Weekend guards fetched much more, the most I got was £9 10s for a bank holiday, It was the talk of the camp, I was always able to send money home. We would thumb lifts home if we had a 48hr pass. I lived in Liverpool and would often arrive home in the early hours of the morning soaked to the skin. I was posted to Liverpool (Deysbrook Barracks) for 7 months, 3 miles from home!! It was a good camp and the food was excellent, not the pig swill we had at Borden.
My last twelve months I spent a Mathew Barracks in Tidworth Hampshire, I’d passed my Vehicle Mechanic 2 and 1 and my money went up to £3, I still did a few guards for cash, fiddled a bit here and a bit there, I even stole a complete cooked leg of pork from the officers mess Christmas dinner table and thumbed up to Liverpool with it. (It was very nice)