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!