Page 26 - Chiron Spring 2018
P. 26

When I first decided to join the Army I had just left school at 17 years old, as I was under 18, I needed my parents’ permission but initially they were not that keen despite my father having served in the Army himself. I eventually did manage to win them over and joined the Womens Royal Army Corps, (WRAC).
I originally wanted to work with horses with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, (RAVC), as we had horses at home and I was more or less equine orientated from a very young age. I had been involved in quite a lot of training with the youngsters so I thought I knew where my dedication lay. I therefore decided to visit the Army Careers Information Office with the intention of joining up.
The careers office advisors were less than hopeful that I would be able to fulfil my ambition of being a rider/groom and actually advised me to go for my second choice which was Driver. Having made up my mind, I stuck to my decision and kept my first choice of Rider/Groom.
After what seemed a long time my wait was over, I was off to Guildford for 6 weeks of basic military training. Even here I was told that I was not guaranteed a place with the RAVC at Melton Mowbray.
Training in Guildford covered basic military skills, which included marching, saluting, weapon handling, fieldcraft, etc. In October 1973, this training was over and I was posted to the RAVC Training Centre, Melton Mowbray. So along with a few other WRAC recruits we arrived at Melton Railway station to be met by the camp WRAC admin Sergeant and arrived at what was known as top camp, the RAVC HQ and Trg centre camp. First impression was, WOW? wooden huts, well that was certainly a bit different to what we were used to. We were shown our new living and sleeping block which had up to 12 girls in a room. This was quite a culture shock, after living at home with myself and my parents I had only shared with 4 others in Guilford, one could say that life in the female accommodation at Melton block was certainly different.
Sharing with up to 12 other girls was very different, the noise levels, the queuing for a bath, the mood swings was definitely not what I had been used to but it didn’t take long to fit in with everyone else after all we were all in the same boat. On a positive note, the camaraderie was brilliant, you could ask to borrow anything and it was almost guaranteed that someone would have it. Advice was in abundance on any subject.
I do remember one time when we were all extremely short of money and couldn’t afford to go to the NAAFI, someone suddenly produced a bottle of whiskey so we all clubbed together our small change to buy a bottle of orange cordial, not a great mix but any port (or whiskey in this case), in a storm. That night certainly put me off whiskey for life; I have never drunk it from that day to this.
By Pte Gillian Anderson
The uniform we were given probably left a lot to be desired, it certainly would not have won any fashion contest, my trousers legs were so wide before they were tailored 3 of us could have fitted in them but I did like the old type brown boots, steel toe and heel caps, lovely.
We had a welcome to RAVC Trg Centre by the Officer in charge of the WRAC. This basically was, if you have any problems don’t bring it to me, take it to an NCO who would decide if I need to be made aware. Maybe not in those words but at the time that’s certainly what it sounded and felt like.
After being given a little time to settle in, we were off to the Dog School for a two week long Army dog course. The men outnumbered the girls on the course, but this was due to the fact that RAVC recruits and volunteer regimental and Northern Ireland dog handlers were on the same course. The females didn’t expect nor were given any privileges, we did everything the men did, and in all weathers. Though I was disappointed that the “girls” were not allowed to let their dogs loose on the baiter, I never did find out why.
I think my dog was called Rebel, sorry after 40 years the grey cells are not what they were, and to say that he took the mickey would be putting it mildly. I did wonder what my Training Sgt thought as the dog really did as he wanted and not
what I wanted him to do. I must have done enough though and the dog must have listened to me enough at the end of course tests because miracle of miracles I passed
It was definitely a male ordinated world then, there were no female trainers at all, the WRAC in the kennels were employed as Kennel maids and it was them who did the dirty work, but then again, we were really there just to clean the kennels of faeces and etc. and clean all the equipment like feed bowls, leads, harness and any other item of dog equipment that required cleaning. We were often tasked with the job of taking the dogs on their last journey to the Veterinary Hospital for them to be put to sleep if for any reason they failed their training and were not suitable for adoption, we always felt that the dog trainers thought this task would upset the girls who probably had by then become close to the dogs and didn’t want that duty. It did feel at times that we were not allowed to have an opinion and if you did something wrong you would be balled out with the best of them.
After my dog handlers course, I was put on the specialist dog lines, this was right in front of the guard/rest room, in full view of all so you couldn’t afford to do things wrong. The day consisted of feeding, cleaning kennels and bowls, and equipment, grooming dogs and any other
Life in the WRAC at the RAVC Training Centre

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