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January 08 , 2011

A Reluctant Soldier


In Britain from 1947 (after WW2) and right through until 1960 there was what was called National Service. Young men aged 18, were “Called Up” to do their 2 years compulsory military service. The men who gave up two years of their young lives to King or Queen and Country are now in their seventies or eighties and many of them think it was a complete waste of time. Most of these men were sent overseas to serve out their two years, they were sent to many of the trouble spots in a rapidly shrinking British Empire, to places like Aden, Korea, Cyprus, Malaysia , Hong Kong and Kenya due to the Mau Mau Uprising. National Servicemen also served in the Suez Crisis in 1956. In October 1950, in response to the British involvement in the Korean War, the service period was extended from 18 months to two years. The reserve period after “Demob” was reduced by six months to compensate. Many of these young men had never left the country of their birth before, and many had never seen anyone with a different colour of skin. This story is about just such a young man, a young Scotsman, he was a country boy, not even used to a big city, all of this was a bit traumatic for him, but in the end very much a well worth experience. National Service ended gradually from 1957. Those born on or after 1 October 1939 would not be required, but conscription continued for those born earlier whose call-up had been delayed for any reason. In November 1960 the last men entered service, as call-ups formally ended on 31 December 1960, and the last National Servicemen left the Armed Forces in May 1963.

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