Sergeant Sydney Bowbrick of 1/5th Battalion, the Queen's Royal Regiment, tries to avoid conscription by joining the Territorials with World War II looming.
Pensioner John KershSydney Bowbrickaw
Sergeant Sydney Bowbrick

Was it the Cranleigh Territorials you joined?
No it was Guildford. Well I did know that Cranleigh existed of course but Guildford was always more direct. So anyway it was in April that my mother set up for me to come home. I had a motorbike and a sidecar at the time. She said it come over the radio that if you join the territorials before midnight you won’t be conscripted. I would have been the first lot of militia and I would have been called up somewhere around June, Doug will know, always similar to myself. So I get off into Guildford with more or less a few minutes to spare, so officers, sergeant majors and whatever title, "I understand you want to join the territorials?" "Yes". You would do whatever was necessary, I suppose they would find something to do to give you the Queen's shilling and you are in the territorials. Yes, but if I had waited for my call up which would have been in June and it would have been for 6 months but it would have been done and done with, but as you know yourself, being a territorial, I joined the territorials, I was already in and then they tell you what is expected of you which was you were supposed to get 40 drills in a year which is almost 2 nights into Guildford isn’t it? You know every week, and you would have to go to all the camps. Easter camp, Whitsun camp and a week in August down in Fulmer under canvas and that was pretty rotten because what I remember of that, we were fortunate up in 5th Queen's up on the brow of the hill and then there was a valley, the 5th were up the top and in the valley were the 6th. It was terrible weather you know and you were doing night ops and all this sort of thing, go out, get wet, come back, and you know what it is, 20 in a bell tent. Something like that. I think, if I remember rightly, there were deaths in the 6th through pneumonia and that sort of thing. It was very bad conditions. Somebody might dispute that but this is very much what was going around at the time. So that was it and of course the thing that annoyed me about that, the only thing that would have been worse off at the time in the six months in regards of loss of money. I was then 20 and had finished my apprenticeship and a full blown chippie, get my pay which was, we worked a 5 day week, 10 hours a day, 50 hours and it came out at £3 4s a week which was pretty good pay compared with a lot of other people around at that time. So of course when you go to these camps, Easter, Whitsun or August, with the building in those days, no work, no pay. So of course the worst one was of course the week, so you could use holidays if you like, but you didn’t get any pay, so if I had to go to a week's camp and lose a weeks pay. All these sort of things grip you a bit really. It is something you don’t want to do in the first place. Anyway so that was it and that was my call up I don’t know there is anything I can add to that.
No that is fine so your first call up was at Fulmer. Yes in 1939?
You won’t mobilised straight after the camp?

Well in what way?
You know called up for full time service. When did that happen?

Well yes. We were called up a week before war was declared on the Sunday 5th September something like that. Well my girlfriend and I were down at her home. We were there on holiday and she worked at the big house and they expected, well they started a bit of bombing in London, I think, or it was imminent and so children from London were already being evacuated to the country and the big house where my girlfriend was working was receiving these children. So in actual fact she got a message to return directly to help with these children, so in fact she was called back to her work before I was called up. Anyway this was the weekend and so we left on the Saturday morning and got home, I suppose, Saturday afternoon, and then it came over the radio that all territorials and reservists had to report to their barracks or whatever so having done over 100 mile journey back from Harwich to Shamley Green and then thinking that you have got to report, I was probably a good soldier then. Anyway I go off into Guildford about 8.30 on Saturday evening. RSM Newman, I think, nice chap, was there. He said "Oh you, you are reporting in". "Yes", I said. He said "Well we haven’t got much accommodation here". From our drill hall just across the road to the centre of a terrace you know semi-detached houses, rooms about 10 feet square, something like that. Four chaps to a room with 2 blankets. So I realised this afterwards. "We haven’t got much room for you". "That is fair enough", I said, "I only live at Shamley Green so I can go home and report in the morning". Cause I realised pretty sharply he was already in the army. So he said to me "Oh no", he said, "You are not going home. You are in the army now". So I had to collect a couple of blankets to be taken over the road to Sandfield Terrace where there 2 or 3 chaps in the room already spending the night on bare boards with 2 blankets as opposed to going home. I was pretty green then, but would not be so green now. I would not have reported straight away, I would still be in Harwich, but there you are that I was called up.