TTGU, Ep. 2, Ch. 21 – A Man At Last
Suddenly, it was my birthday. Though I’d had some cards from home in the week or so leading up to it, the Army life had knocked it completely out of my mind. But the lads around me knew about it – and it had to be a cause for celebration.
I was twenty-one! That was the legal age of manhood back then. And, on the morning of my birthday, a bunch of mates lifted me from my bed – and from my sleep – to give me “the bumps”. That was a ceremony, abandoned now, it seems, due to the Health & Safety regulations, whereby the victim would be lifted bodily and lowered quite brutally to bang his bottom on the floor one bump for each year of his age. “Happy Birthday” was sung and the ceremony concluded by me being carried, struggling, to the ablution-block where a cold bath had been prepared for me to be dumped in.
I think I would have preferred being awakened by the sound of Reveille on a bugle!
At the morning parade, even Ampie mentioned that I was “twenty-one today”, though he didn’t sing it.
Then came the evening and many of us came off duty. I was urged to get into civvie clothes quickly then a great gang of mates whisked me off to the NAFFI where a party was laid out. There was even a birthday cake.
After that, things become hazy in my mind. I knew that I was being bought drinks and that there was lots of laughter. I recall stumbling back to our billet and flopping out on my pit. Then, as I dozed off, I heard someone shout “Call out the Fire Picket for Dickie Wagland”. I slept in the knowledge that Dickie was on fire.
It turned out that Dickie had drunk more than was good for him and he was being sick and sick and sick. The Fire Picket’s other duty was that of stretcher-bearers and they had to carry him to a vehicle which would take him to hospital. He recovered quickly and was back on duty in a couple of days.
The next day, every soldier I encountered on that camp was moaning and clutching his head. I never, ever, at any time, had a hangover.
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