Questions & Answers


“How to put your foot in it without really trying”

By Tony Cude

On the morning of the 27th July 1947, the 30 men of the 476 CS Squad, in full marching order and led by the band marched past the Guardroom of the Depot RM Deal, turned left past the Receiving Room (where four months previously, as 30 bemused young men they had their first taste of life as a Royal Marine,) on their way to Deal Railway Station. These men, however looked very different from the way they appeared on the day they arrived, they were now smart, coordinated,physically fit.

In the weeks between the 18th March and the 27th July 1947, they had square bashed until they knew every formation in the Manual of Drill, they knew by heart the ins and outs of the No4 Rifle and how to use it and their knowledge had been expanded by lessons on Corps History, Mathematics, English, Map Reading, Personal Hygiene, and all those other many subjects needed for what lay ahead in their service lives.

Now with the band playing “The Girls They Left Behind” they marched confidently out of the barracks for the last time headed for the railway station and a train to take them to the ITC RM at Lympstone in far off Devon for their infantry training. Collecting our sea bags and kit bags from the truck that had transported them to the station, we boarded the train for the great unknown.

The journey was uneventful, nobody got lost (“Happy” Day, our Squad Sgt. made sure of that) nobody lost any of their baggage and all but a few still had some money (Pontoon passes the time but can empty the pockets). Then at last we arrived at a small railway station called Woodbury Road Halt, de-trained and fell in on the roadway outside to await patiently for the truck to arrive that was to take our heavy baggage. No sitting around smoking or gabbing for us.

“Happy” as was his and every Drill Instructor's want, was to stand us at ease and ask questions, “Who won a VC at Peking”, “What does the Laurel on the cap badge represent” “Who was Hannah Snell”, the questions came clear and fast and were promptly answered by one or another of us, and then it came, the question? so simple - so unconnected and so dangerous. “Why does this station only have a single track?” The silence was deafening, then a hand slowly rose to the position of 'the prove'- it was mine, the Cockney boy from the East End of London who knew all the answers, but not enough to keep his mouth shut. “Well Cude, what's the answer”, “Cos' they only have one bloody engine, Sergeant”.

The squad collapsed in roars of laughter, even “Happy” had to smile. “You will find out and report to me at the guardroom with the answer at 1930hrs – Right! All further questions were interrupted by the arrival of the 3 tonner for our gear, and we march up passed the village pub and on to the ITCRM.
Established in the Nissan huts that were to be our home of the next three months, while the squad headed for the canteen, I headed for the Camp Library to solve the problem of the single track at Woodbury Road Halt. With the help of the 'Schoolie's Assistant and a read up on the Railways of Britain, I had the answer and at 1930hrs presented myself to “Happy” at the guardroom and explained the reason. “Happy” patted me on the shoulder, said “Good - Well Done” and dismissed me.

It was to be another 16 years before I was to see him again, in Aden, 1962, where he had taken over as the RSM of 45 Cdo, and over a beer in the Sgt's Mess he told me he had left that same night and taken the late train back to Deal for his next squad. He added that we had been his first squad, and he could not face us to say Good-Bye. Another two years passed before we  met for the last time, this was in the Portsmouth Guildhall  for the Corps Tercentenary Dinning In of the  Captain-General. 

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It was because Southern Railways and Great Western Railways had anagreement that they would share double track lines. Being only a single trackfrom Exeter to Exmouth, GWR travellers to Exmouth had to change to an SRtrain at Exeter, giving SR a share of the fare price. Tony C