Summer at Catterick camp 1947 - The young soldier is goofing off talking to his corporal friend in the company office and in walks a tall handsome officer, a picture of sartorial elegance with his splendid uniform and leather accessories. A stunning private ATS girl whose natural attributes would look better than most, just covered in a potato sack, followed him. You might say that they looked like Barbie and Ken, because that’s what they did look like and they deserve those names for the rest of the story.

“ I wish to borrow a car for the afternoon,” announced Ken. “Yes Sir” replied the corporal, who then asked Ken where he was going and how many people would be involved. “ Darlington” Ken replied and “ there will only be myself and my secretary”.
The corporal made out the worksheet and handed it to the soldier, saying to Ken, “ your vehicle will be here presently sir. The soldier went for the ‘Tilly’, which was the British army’s answer to the Jeep for small run about vehicles. It was a bare bones car with a canvas top and celluloid side window, which involved some time to erect and disassemble, because it required the positioning of large brackets for support and a lot of latching front and sides.

“Thank you, let me have the keys, I won’t require you any more,” Ken uttered in a dismissive tone. Wow - now the soldier had to say no to Ken twice and officers don’t like to hear that! “ I can’t do that,” advised the soldier in his best respectful voice reserved for officers. “ The car doesn’t have keys, it only has a switch permanently attached to the dash board” continued the soldier. “ Also I am assigned to the vehicle and no one else is authorized to drive it,” the soldier concluded with satisfaction. At that Ken marches back into the office and proceeds to explain to the corporal that he does not wish to be chauffeured and requires a vehicle, which he can drive himself. The corporal politely explains to Ken that it doesn’t work that way and that all army vehicles in the RASC are assigned to drivers, who receive the necessary training, to take full responsible for the vehicle and it’s maintenance.

Ken returns to the vehicle with an annoyed look on his face and the soldier responded with a ‘told you so’ look. Barbie and Ken climbed into the back of the Tilly and off they went on this nice summers day with the top down. Arriving at Darlington about 15 miles away Ken asked a policeman for directions to a stationers and the attractive couple entered the store leaving the soldier in the car. Very shortly afterwards they immerged with no visible evidence of a purchase and Ken directed the soldier to drive to the picture palace, where all three of them entered, compliments of the exalted one. Seating themselves in the back row, one each side of Barbie, in an almost empty palace, the military trio enjoyed a few hours of entertainment. Things were more relaxed in those days, when there was always two films, the news and an interval for ice cream - Don’t let anyone tell you that they didn’t put the heat up 10 minutes before the interval to improve ice-cream sales.

When the working day was over, the trio returned to the Tilly and Ken insisted on driving back to camp. At that point the soldier would normally follow army procedures which he knew well and have the satisfaction of asking the officer to sign the back of the worksheet and take full responsibility for the vehicle. However this time for whatever reason he elected not to have a confrontation and climbed into the back seat with Barbie. Yes, we know what you are thinking and you may be partially right! The soldier looked up at the sky, which appeared to be ominous, and asked Ken if he wanted the top up, because it looked like rain. Ken replied in the negative and off they went back to camp, with the officer chauffeuring the soldier and the ATS girl, who incase you didn’t get the picture was exceptionally attractive!

Convinced that it was going to rain, the soldier was ready to pull the canvas top over him and Barby, (how could he leave her out!) when before you could utter another ‘told you so’ a dark cloud opened up and drowned everything beneath it. Instead of stopping to put the top on, Ken kept driving and the rain continued, with the two in the back seat snuggled up under the dry canvas. Arriving at the camp Ken resembled a wet fish wearing a Sam Brown. He was absolutely soaked and his beautifully tailored uniform would never be the same again. As for the two under the cover in the back seat - yes, he was tempted to try his luck, but not sensing the right vibes, decided against it.

Everyone can follow the story of Barbie and Ken’s tryst with the exception of why Ken insisted on driving back and why he didn’t stop to put the top on. Could it be that he was sulking because his day with Barbie didn’t go according to plan, or was he just too stupid to get out of the rain? Little did Ken know that had he crossed the soldiers palm with silver, he would have gladly performed his disappearing act for the afternoon!

Who was it that said, “ two is company, three is a crowd?”


Copyright: Bill Hawksford. E mail to: Bill Hawksford

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