This is the story of true events that led
to an extended period of National Service for one particular
soldier who shall remain nameless, and how a train journey
which should only have taken approximately 7 hours, lasted
well in excess of 24 hours.
In the late Autumn/early winter of 1961, I
was serving with the Provost Staff at the Regimental Depot
at Bodmin. As has been mentioned previously on the website,
not only were recruits in training for SCLI, but also for
KSLI, and with the end of conscription in sight some months
the intakes were all made up of regulars.
On one cold and wet Monday morning I set off
from the depot in company with Cpl. John Ballantyne MM.
of Malayan fame, and a driver from the MT. who's name I
am unable to recall, and made my way to HM. Prison at Exeter
where we collected on his release a National Serviceman
from the KSLI.
[Suffice it to say I remember hís name
and his place of birth but as the saying goes. No name's
no pack drill] It appear's that after completing his initial
5 week's basic traìning he had gone home on a 72
hr pass, [As I believe we all did at that stage ín
our training] whilst on this short period of leave he committed
some hei'nous offence for which he was awarded a prison
sentence. I remember looking at him when he came into our
charge and thínking how gaunt he looked, I put thís
down to the possibility, that perhaps the food served in
a prison establishment was not up to the standard of quantity
or quality as was served in mìlitary canteens, or
am I dreaming.
The return journey to Bodmin was fairly quiet
and on our arrival we took him up to see the C.O. Maj.Williams,
who told him what was expected of him and also that the
time spent in HMP did not count towards his military service,
he would therefore still have 2 year's to serve. We then
took him to the Training Company office and left him in
the charge of the CSM . Thís was CSM Dunster.
A new trainìng platoon was forming
that day, so our new comrade found himself the only NS.man
amongst these recruit's, but then he had only 2 year's to
serve and must have been feeling rather peachy. He must
have kept his nose clean for the first part of his training,
as I do not recall him attending the guardroom as a result
of being awarded RP's.
The platoon then reached that period in training
at 5 week's, where they were granted a 72hr. pass, off they
trouped past the guardroom saying theír goodbye's,
or other colloquial expressions as they went. I of course
replied in kind. 72hrs later back they came, that ís
apart from one, and yes you are quíte right, it was
our new found comrade who failed to return by the required
time and was marked up as AWOL.
About 9 hrs or so after he should have returned and certaìnly
ìt was early evening, I received a telephone call
from the British Transport Police at Bristol Temple Meads
railway station., saying that they had our comrade in their
custody having caught hìm travelling on a midland's
bound train wíthout a ticket, and please please would
we come and collect him .
I straight away went to the Sgt's mess and spoke to the
RSM who was Buck Morris, he at the tìme was sitting
ín a very nice arm chair drinking what can only be
described as a very large scotch. I told him the situation
and hìs response was that I should obtain an escort
to accompany me, arrange travel warrants and go and collect
this person as soon as possihle. This is where Laurence
Weeks comes into play, he is to be the escort. So off we
go on our way to Bristol.
On amival at Bristol Temple Meads we went
to the Transport Police office and found that because of
the time delay, (it was just after l 8OO hr's when they
rang the guardroom and it was now 2245 hrs, or there about's)
and the lack of cell space, they had transferred our comrade
to the Bristol City Central Police Station where they had
an abundance of empty cells at that time and were only too
happy to accommodate. A car was then organised to take us
to the Police Station, before leaving I obtained the time
of the next train from Bristol to Bodmin, and arranged with
the night duty Station Master for a compartment to be reserved
on the train. because I knew that handcuffs would be in
use on our return journey and it would not look particularly
good in a carriage full of people.
So off Laurence and I go to the Police Station
where I spoke to the Custody Sgt., arranged for the release
of the prisoner in time for our train at about O230 hrs,
and also for a car to take us back to the Railway Statíon.
Laurence and I wíth a couple or so hours to kill
did some window shopping around the city centre, we returned
at the appointed hour, collected our prisoner and were conveyed
back to the Railway Station.
The train had just pulled in as we arrived
and we were met hy 2 Transport Police Officers who took
us to our reserved compartment, it was typical of the corridor
carriage of that era, we had just about sat down and Laurence
is making himself as comfortable as possible because he
is the one who is cuffed to the prisoner, when the prìsoner
looks up and says to the 2 police officers who are still
with us, that he wants to confess to a crime that he has
committed whilst home on leave, on being asked what this
crime was he says that he broke open a gas meter and stole
the contents of coinage. Straight away we have to remove
him from the train because this was a civìl offence,
and take him back to the Transport Police office where inquiries
into the alleged offence are started.
In those days the Police Servíce moved
at a much slower pace than today. and communications were
still very basic, so after the initial phone call to the
Police Station which covered the area in which the alleged
crime took place. it was many hours before a reply was received,
and I do mean many hours becauce we bade the night officers
farewell as they went off duty at 0600 hrs and welcomed
ìn the early turn as they came on duty. It must have
been close to lunchtíme when the reply came and the
reply was that no offence had been committed, whereupon
the prìsoner admitted that he had made the whole
thing up just to delay his retum to Bodmin.
As you can ìmagìne I díd
not see the funny sìde to this. The next train leavìng
Bristol for Bodmìn was due out at about 15OO hrs
and I agaìn arranged for a reserved compartment.
On íts arríval we got ourselves seated and
saíd goodbye to the Transport Polìce Officer's
who left us just before the traìn pulled out. A short
while after leaving Brìstol I decìded that
some sort of retrìbutiion should take pl ace because
of the ìnconvenìence that Laurence and I had
been put to, so I. released the handcuffs from Laurences
wrist and attached it to the overhead luggage rack which
meant that our prìsoner had to raìse his bottom
slightly from the seat to make
himself comfortable. He remaíned líke that
for a good portion of the joumey between Brístol
and Bodmin Road statìon where we had to change to
take the branch líne to Bodmín General statíon.
On arrival there we marched hím back the short distance
to the Regimental Depot, and put him ín a cell to
awaít hís appearance before the CO the next
Our tíme of arrival was about 1945 hrs, some 25 hr's
after leaving the Depot the day before, and we were all
pretty tìred through lack of sleep. Havìng
spoken wìth the fellow on the way back, ìt
appeared that he had got as far as Bodmín Road on
his retum journey, but then decíded that he dîd
not want to play at being a soldìer so crossed over
to the Up platform and caught the next train back towards
the Midlands, this is how he came to the notíce of
the Transport Police.
The next day he appeared before the CO and I seem to recall
was gìven 7 days in our care and control, after whìch
he then went on to complete hìs traìnìng
and joined hís battalion wíthout as far as
I remember any further mísdemeanour's.
Copyright text and image: Lawrence Hodges
Copyright text & Images: Lawrie Hodges
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