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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

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