Fred Bowden interview: Free time in the army

Generally speaking, reveille was 6.30 and breakfast etc and room inspection and all that inspection and first parade was at 9 o’clock, always at 9 o’clock on the Common. When we were in situ. And whatever came, came. It could be anything. It could be weapons training, it could be anti-gas training, you name it…around the Common. Weapon training around the back garden of our grounds, of West Side House. We was training, always training, all aspects of army life, always training.

But we used to have a break during the morning. Quite nice, it was OK. We used to have whatever was going. Oddly enough, exceptionally, in the back of West Side House was a garden. Not a hut but a glasshouse type. But anyway, one corporal who was on the ball used to have a supply of Pepsi Cola. Where he got it from I have no idea. He used to buy it and sell it at a profit. And we would have bottles of Pepsi Cola, I forget how much, tuppence or thruppence or something like that. Which would now be just about… And that was our mid-morning break and then we’d go back on to whatever we were doing. Stripping Bren guns, all our weapons and things, answering questions, training as soldiers.

And then we’d pack up at midday for a midday meal which was in Wimbledon. In the front garden, behind the front wall, was a marquee and that’s where we ate. That was our mess tent, whilst we were in Wimbledon, in this marquee. And then back on training again.

There wasn’t a great deal to do. Occasionally go to the cinema, if you had any money. It was always with David Evans and myself. Or this hut, we used to spend an enormous amount of time there, really there wasn’t much else to do. We weren’t the type to go and spend the time in pubs, most of the others used to spend their evenings in pubs and that was it.

You’d get to know local people. Sometimes we’d go and visit her mother in Arlington Close. That’s really how it was. A lot of the time we spent on these manoeuvres, you couldn’t do anything really. You were too tired you had to polish up.

The NAAFI was in Stamford House, so we’d go to the NAAFI if we had the money, to have a cup of tea and a bun. Wander down to Stamford House and that was it really, there wasn’t a great deal to do unless you went pubbing  and if you had girlfriends. People who had girlfriends would visit their families. Well actually we weren’t engaged until I left Wimbledon but the connection was there. I took her to the pictures a couple of times. That was it really.