Sunday, February 26, 2006

Getting your Army Records

Photo shows: Just one page from my Army Records, seen for the first time 61 years after the events were actually recorded!

I am, by nature, a compulsive diary writer. Originally I used tiny diaries to record my life in the army, but I graduated over the years and I now record everything on a Sharp ZQ-770 Organizer.

I have also, during the last few years, tried to finalise my memoirs, in theory for the benefit of my children and grandchildren, but in actual fact for the simple pleasure of looking back at what I did and marvelling at my own sheer energy.

As I tightened up the record of what I had done I noticed various gaps in the chronology, mainly in my service years between 1942 and 1947, so I decided to write to the Army Historical Disclosures department, because that's the name of the place where they keep your records.

I wrote late in March 2003 and received a package from them at the end of May 2003, but WHAT an Alladin's cave of treasures came pouring out of that large, buff envelope!

There were my two driving licences, the first one dated 9-2-43 when I learnt to drive over the Yorkshire moors and the second dated 10-12-46, ready to be swapped for its civilian counterpart.

There were all my postings, there was my 'Notification of impending release' dated 19-3-47 with its Military Conduct Testimonial from which I learn I was always 'Cheerful and Hardworking and his efficiency at his work is quite outstanding'. (Their words, not mine, I hasten to add!)

There was the momentous announcement that I was 'Promoted Unpaid Acting Cpl wef (with effect from) 20/7/46' followed by a further announcement 21 days later to tell the world that I was now a fully paid corporal.

There, horror of horrors, was an item that read 'Deprived of 7 days pay for (1). Failing to comply with Bty Orders (2) AWOL from 2130 hrs on 17-6-43 to 0505 hrs on 18-6-43. Absent 7hrs 35 mtes.' (The place of this offence is shown as being in the 'Field', although I remember it being at Guelma in Tunisia and although we'd only nipped down to the nearby village wine bar we were charged as though we'd stayed out till the next morning roll call!)

The next item on the same document shows that I made up for this deplorable criminal offence by noting that on 22-8-43 I embarked (ominously shown as 'Destination Unknown') and was taken off the strength of the 8th Army. (In actual fact this was our landing in Sicily.)

Here is a list of all the medals I was entitled to, there is my height, weight and colour of my eyes. Page after page of fascinating memorabilia finishing with two dates, the date I enlisted 1-10-1942 and the date I was posted to Class A release, 21-7-47.

I cannot begin to express how much pleasure it was to get this time machine from the past, I can only recommend this splendid service to fellow ex-servicemen.

Corporal (fully paid-up) Goldstein. R. 14300260, 4th Queen's Own Hussars

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