More great websites
While stylish websites may be thin on the ground, this is a period of British history that seems to have attracted a number of historians and former soldiers to write about their experiences. Just type ‘National Service’ into your favoured online bookshop and a host of titles appear. One example comes from the man behind this National Service blog ( nationalservicememoirs.co.uk). The parent book, Get In, Get Out and Get Away, is the story of National Service in the British Cameroons.
Regimental museums may contain useful information for piecing together a soldier’s movements and it’s worth checking what sort of material they preserve. For example, the Suffolk Regiment al Museum’ s archive page( suffolk regiment museum. co.uk/archive) includes details of various biographies of 1950s National Service privates deposited with the museum.
The Ewell and Epsom History Explorer’s modest page details National Service in the 1950s (eps oman de well history explorer.org.uk/1950sNationalService.html). The writing captures the hardships of basic training and the postings that followed. Most associate National Service with the Army, but this includes service with the Royal Air Force, reproducing ephemera such as an Airman’s Service Book issued in 1955, and a 1956 Christmas party menu from Geilenkirchen, a fighter base built by the British.
The Royal Navy was the first to stop accepting National Servicemen. Via the Royal Navy Research Archive ( royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk/ MEM_ I_ spy.htm#. V7oauJMrKfQ), you can read the story of Angus Kidd. His story begins: “I remember well the 3 September, 1956. That day I walked through the gates of Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, clutching in my hand a letter instructing me to report to the Commodore…”
Other examples include firethorne.com/ NatoCourse5615/ reminiscences, and there’s a collection of RAF experiences between 1947 and 1957 at 1900s.org.uk/1949-1960- natservice- raf1.htm. You can see a certificate documenting Francis John Baynham’s National Service with Shropshire Light Infantry at myfamilyhistory.org.uk/photos/johnbaynhamshropshireli. htm. A detailed memoir telling the story of a signalman called to attend Whittington Barracks near Lichfield in January 1948, can be found at stevegilham.com/ jottings/natsvc.html.
Finally, within the mothballed BBC History site, there’s an interesting article about peacetime conscripts written by David Prest ( bbc.co.uk/ history/british/ modern/peacetime_ conscripts_ 01.shtml).
The Royal Navy Research Archive is a great source of maritime experiences
Alan E Parkinson’s National Service blog provides great anecdotes