Will pay increases halt the slump in Army recruiting? Our contributor, Raymond Bridgeford, doubts it. In the following article he sets out the reasons that led him, after completing 11 years' service, with thirteen more to do, to pay over £50 and get out.
He writes; If the Service chiefs succeed in doubling rates of pay they still will not get the type of men from Civvy Street they are looking for unless they make other changes in conditions of service.
Let me try to explain why the gaps in the ranks are not being filled.
The preliminary period of training is mostly fun. Apart from contributing a bob towards a present for the corporal in charge of training, who has a birthday with every fresh intake of recruits, life, is not at all bad. When our conscript or regular is posted from square bashing to his first unit, his disillusionment begins.
One certain reward for taking an interest in his work and carrying on until the proper time for "cease work" will be a permanent place at the end of a tidy queue at meal times.
If lunch (or dinner) isn't exactly what mother used to dish up, he has only to walk a few yards to the N.A.A.F.I., where he can get a really excellent meal by the simple process of paying for it.
In spite of numerous investigations proving that "food in the Services is of a very high standard," the fact remains that what many cook-house staffs can and do to wholesome food has to be seen and tasted to be believed.
Then there are "special duties"and if our hero is of a romantic nature, what feats of daring are conjured up in his mind as he is marched away to chop and saw wood for fires in the officers' mess or (that hardy perennial) pick up bits of paper around camp prior to the arrival of a visiting official.
On more than one occasion before an inspection by a V.I.P. new and clean overalls have been issued and all personnel not in possession of a pair have been instructed to disperse over various fields and hedges until the 'all clear."
Most regulars, having signed on for twenty years or more, get marriedand this is where the trouble starts.
Within three months (given unusual luck the bride finds herself settled in the married patch surrounded by Service furniture, plus the little knick-knacks that make all the difference between living in a house furnished to Service scale and a "home."
So the dainty curtains are put up, mercifully obscuring the view of weed-choked back gardens, the cultivation of which is prevented by the knowledge that one might be posted to another unit any day of the week.
Just as the little woman is beginning to kid herself she's got her first home together, her husband walks in and informs her either that he's been posted to another part of this country, or that a large boat will soon be docking at Liverpool to convey him to foreign parts.
The little lady is faced with the choice of packing up and "back to mother,” thus freeing the house for either her husband's replacement or the party on top of the station's housing list, or she can pickle her skin and sit tight, claiming that she is unable to obtain, "other accommodation."
If there are any children of school age when the posting comes through, they are uprooted, taken away from their school chums, started at another school, and so it goes on.
The married woman of today wants a permanent home with a tidy garden. The majority of them, by working in their own locality, bring in almost as much as their husbands towards the family income, which gives them the independence they love. And they want a husband at home, not a letter from Hong Kong.
Their mutual delight at the overseas posting is marred by the following discoveries:
(a) A little stranger is on the way.
(b) The little woman is suffering from ''nerves" and if any length of time is liable to have a serious mental breakdown.
(c) The unfortunate victim of "the boat" begins to suffer from all manner of complaints (including the one about not being able to get a decent pint of draught wallop outside the U.K.).
What about the prospects of promotion? Here is one that is unknown to many Servicemen.
By V.J. Day, hundreds (possibly thousands) of men who had signed on for short term engagements in peace-time had become junior or senior N.C.O.s.
After six years of active service they took their "demob" with both hands, but after a glorious binge which lasted as long as their gratuity, a proportion of these types did not take at all kindly to the "discipline" of Civvy Street and promptly returned to the Service.
By signing on while still on demob leave they retained their rank and rate of pay.
By the end of 1948 it was a common occurrence for the senior N.C.Os. to outnumber the junior N.C.Os. and ranks below (especially on pay parade).
Those types may be a stumbling block to our young regular who may want to get on.