Fifty years a Bootneck!

Fifty years ago today I joined the Royal Marines. Looking at the first photograph of the aspiring recruits of 46 Recruit Troop Royal Marines freezes a moment in time. I can still remember how I felt when the camera’s shutter captured our massive trepidation with a tiny tinge of fear. I’m the little fella three rows down on the extreme left of the picture. it was my second bite of the cherry.  I had joined once before and managed to break my ankle in the first two weeks of training. I had then tested and adjusted and got my fitness sorted out and had another go. Her Majesty’s Royal Marines wasted very little money on the first uniforms they provided. A set of denim fatigues, a hairy shirt, putties, and old drill boots. As you can see, not smart and not casual! There were some epic blokes in the Troop. I’m still in touch with some of them- Steve Kelland and Big Taff Cooper. I also served with another old mate called  Jeff Carvel, when he was a helicopter pilot at Bessbrook Mill. Ed Candlish had an epic career and ended up a Rupert. Hammy Roberts now lives somewhere in Asia. Chuck Berry (PW) is still a good mate. I think out of these young men 17 made it through training to Kings Squad. I didn’t! I managed to get run over outside CTCRM,( before the bridge was built) after an epic run ashore with Steve Kelland having passed the 9 miler that day. So this is the closest I have to a King’s Squad photo.

So what have I learned from the experience? I have had the privilege to serve in the best company a man could ever have. I have been both supported by comradeship and surrounded by laughter. I joined an organisation that developed me as a man while providing body armour for my soul. I have had the privilege to serve alongside the best in one of the finest military units on earth. I have been blessed. Life is full of missed opportunities and times when you zig instead of zag, but I will never regret the cold winter’s day in 1972 when I ducked out of the rain in London and ended up in the careers office, it was the best decision I ever made. To all Bootnecks- past and present- Thanks lads, it’s been a blast!

16 Comments on “Fifty years a Bootneck!”

  1. Bernie, you’ve captured it perfectly. What a privilege it has been to serve alongside blokes such as yourself.

    1. Yeah Graham, A priviledge to have served with you mate. I hope you and the family are well buddy.

  2. Bernie you are still as fit now as you were back then!!! your epic tales of beasting the youngster’s (as a 70 year old) in the crossfit gym makes me both proud and honoured to have you as a mate…catch up for a beer soon in Belfast. Bill Reid.

  3. Bernie, As always it’s a treat to read your posts and although I only enjoyed the privilege of sharing your airspace on a couple of fleeting occasions, one being KAF during the New Century adventure and the other being thrown around by you on the mats during the unarmed combat lessons as a 17 yr old recruit (and even that was a pleasure after being Inspired by you in the Combat and Survival magazine prior to joining up) I am grateful for the example and inspiration you have been to me during my 23 yr career and so many of your RM comrades.

  4. Bernie, I thought things came in threes you broke your ankle, you got run over. What’s missing? 50 years for me this year 2023. Started with 80 Trp. JMNE. Tore my knee cartilage on the lower field, a couple of months in Chosin Troop (Hunter) passed out with 89 Trp. JMNE. Happy Mad days. OARMAARM. Keep up with the great books.

  5. A true professional, a true Bootneck and a true friend! As well as being a mentor you have been like a brother to me and to many others in our illustrious Corps. I don’t have the words to describe the admiration I’ve had for you, and still have for you, from when I was a young aspiring bootneck to working alongside you years later. I still find it surreal that you’ve based one of your book characters on me, discovering in astonishment that you used my actual name… making it even more surreal. Your name and your levels of ‘work’ and your many deeds have made you legendary. It’s an honour and profound pleasure to be your friend in such a superb band of brothers.

    1. Ricky, me bruvver from another Muvver, I am so proud of what you have achieved. A stellar career achieved by guts and hard work old mate.Like you say we are a mutually supporting ‘A band of brothers’ and we will always be in your corner bruv.
      Love to Haley and all the family bruv.
      I am proud of you mate.

  6. Just read this a week after you sent it Bernie!! That’s a Rupert’s admin for you. I always knew that club swingers aren’t great fans of drill (despite the “spot between your heels” malarkey), but to bust your ankle to get out of King’s Squad fortnight, is taking it a bit far mate. Still, that’s the Bernie we all love, never less than 100% effort. Great to see you’ve moved up from a Pusser’s notebook to a pc.

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