PITILESS - The celebration of a 60th anniversary is a rare event. Enter the 1959 Officers Brigade Squad, an eager band of teens and twenties who enrolled at the Guards Depot, Caterham, 60 years ago to be steered, sweated, bellowed and cajoled through a lifechanging programme of character building by pitiless PT instructors, ruthless weapons instructors and ferocious drill sergeants.
NATIONAL SERVICE - Our ranks were drawn from the seven regiments of the Household Division comprising Life Guards, Royal Horse Guards, Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards. That January day in 1959 was wet and windy when we straggled through the barrack gates to answer our National Service call-up. We were greeted at the guardroom with a shrill blast of orders, assigned a ‘runner’ and escorted off at such a speed that it was us who had to run to keep up.
PUSHED TO LIMITS - We were allocated a long-abandoned barrack block which was damp, cold and draughty. It had been declared unfit for use some 20 years previously.On the parade ground we drilled at high speed. Quick march, left-right, left-right, left turn, right turn, about turn. We polished our boots to perfection, saluted when spoken to, ran route marches, scaled fences, attacked assault courses, leaped ditches, scrambled over walls and pushed ourselves to the limits of physical endurance.
Yes, we suffered pain, discomfort and humiliation but together we shared the experience and developed into a united, resolute and disciplined team of officer candidates. We survived the challenge and emerged physically, socially and collectively enriched by the experience.
RESPECT AND FRIENDSHIP - We achieved guardsman status and could now wear our Guard’s tie with pride, earning the respect of our men. The intensity of our training and the structured world of military traditions developed a bond of mutual friendship, respect and loyalty which time has not dulled. Officer cadet school followed, we joined our battalions and served with the Colours. Some pursued military careers while others retired after a few years’ service to follow diverse vocations in civvy street. Whatever our career, all of us benefitted from our military experience.
Our awesome platoon sergeant, Peter Horsfall, was demanding, focussed and fair, and we learned to appreciate his professional skills. Horsfall continued his distinguished career to gain the rank of Major Quartermaster, and appointed Staff Superintendent at the House of Lords, a fitting post for an able man, and for all of us, a fitting memory of a job well done.