Being a Boy in JLRRA

PASSING OUT — WHICH IS TO SAY, GOSCHEN-DAY PARADE… RATHER THAN ANYTHING ELSE... IF YOU GET MY DRIFT.

The big ‘marker’ event in our lives at Bramcote was the passing-out parade. “Goschen-Day”. That was the big parade when we would ‘muster-out’ and be acknowledged as adults. They held three of them per year, so that each group of Mustering-Gunners would have their own special day. There would be a General, and other dignitaries, and a band. Our parents would come and be proud of us. We would be men.

This was what we had all been working towards.

Arthur Alec Goschen (heavily-decorated) was an artillery officer who rose to the rank of Major General and ended up as Commandant of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He had no connection with the Junior Leaders’ Regiment. Or, even the Boys’ Battery for that matter. He retired in 1938.

Yet and all, he was the personality selected to mark our rite-of-passage from ‘Spotty-Herbert-Hood’ to ‘Hairy-Arsed-Gunner-Hood’.

Fair enough. Someone had to do it.

This event was very much the ‘Big-One’ when it came to our lives in JLRRA. The RSM would hold practice parades every Saturday morning. The whole Regiment would parade on ‘His-Square,’ to be inspected and rehearse the process of the parade. It would go like this:

  1. The Troops would march on.
  2. They would all form-up on the fringes of the Parade-Ground.
  3. The order would be given: “Right… Marker” (pronounced: “Ree-ight-Maakkaar!). The Right-Marker (Usually the tallest lad in the Regiment) would march forward and take position on the Square.
  4. The Order would be given: “Get On… Parade!” (I’m not going to keep on doing the pronunciation.)
  5. The Troops would march forward for 15 paces and spring to attention in line with the Right-Marker. (Yeah. Right!)
  6. “In Open Order! Right-Dress!” The troops would attempt to shuffle into position.

On the presumption this had been successfully accomplished, the rest of the parade could now continue.

6. The RSM (or the Inspecting Officer) would then go through the whole Regiment. This was probably the most nerve-wracking bit for the Junior Gunners. Any tiny imperfection would be spotted. If you weren’t 100% up to scratch you were doomed. With a Regiment of 1000 kids, it could take almost forever. Many kids fainted with the stress, unlike the Guards on the Queen’s Birthday Parade (Tee-hee Alert!)

7. March-Past in slow-and-in-quick time.

The big problem with this was keeping the ranks in straight lines. There were any amount of opportunities to fuck-up. Given the variable abilities of the accumulated participants, this was when it was all going to turn into a ‘Cake-and-Arse’ party.

And didn't it?

Very often, this would be followed by changing-parades.

All-day.

Me, I never did any of that.

I was a Boy-in-the-Band. Every Saturday morning, us Band-Boys paraded at the Band-Room for practice. We made sure we had polished our trumpets and bugles. We had bulled our boots and ironed our trouser creases. The Trumpet Majors would inspect us.

In many ways, they were harder on us than the RSM would have been. He had to inspect 1000 boys. The TMs only had to inspect 60. We had a higher intensity of inspection.

TM Isedale was particularly pernickity. He could pick a boy up for having the wrong kind of bobbles on his beret.

Yet and all, we probably had it easier than the rest of the Regiment. We practised our tunes and marching and counter-marching. All of the special set-pieces. We made sure we were spot-on. It was our pride to be the best we could be. I don’t know about any of the other kids, but this was the biggest thing in my life. I was never going to be sub-par on this. I had to be the best I could be. I was determined to try to be my best.

When it came to it, we participated, along with the Artillery Bands, at the Goschen-Day parades. I think I did five of them.

I am only now aware, this was leading to one of my biggest disappointments in JLRRA.

My mustering term was May — August 1974. This was supposed to be my term of privilege. I would be allowed to wear a lanyard and a bayonet-frog. All the NIGs would look up to me. At the end, I would slow-march off the square and throw my hat in the air.

Except the NIGs didn’t look up to me and I didn’t get to throw my hat in the air.

I spent most of that term scratching my head and wondering what had gone wrong with my life.

I was going through a bad patch and wasn’t really together very much. The band were busy. We were out most weekends. Also, I was in the Fanfare-Team and we were busy. Accordingly, I never got to go on Saturday-Morning parade and learn rifle drill. I never was in a troop, marching past the dais, slinging an “Eyes-Right”.

I was definitely not prepared for a Goschen-Day parade.

I suspect the RSM and the Trumpet Majors had had a conflab and decided the best thing was that I should stay in the band for my Passing-Out parade.

I wasn’t going to be inspected by a Major-General. I wasn’t going to march-past the dais. I wasn’t going to march off the parade to the tune of Auld-Lang-Syne.

I wouldn’t throw my hat in the air.

I would stand in the band, with my trumpet at my hip, and watch all the others march off and throw their hats in the air.

Then we would march back to the Band-Room. I would change into my working-dress and hand my band-kit in for the last time. Then I would go back to Nicholson troop with a couple of other lads and watch, while the other Mustering-Gunners celebrated.

That was my Goschen-Day Parade.

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