L/Cpl Willie Rushton's last interview: the stew story

Click to follow
"The drilling was deeply unpleasant. I got an early wound. A blister burst in my Army socks and almost immediately my legs swelled up to the size of Pavarotti's body. So I was shifted to a hut where the Medical Corps were allowed to practise and my buttocks were used for a sort of initial hypodermic training by trembling National Service Medical Corps men, with the sergeant shouting 'Go on. plunge it in, get it in there, get it in!' and the men going 'oh, oh, oh!' It was like bayonet drill with hypodermics."

Rushton was determined to have nothing to do with tanks. "I got out of it by saying I had claustrophobia. I think I only got in a tank once and I started pretending to choke. Thank God for the acting. I was made a clerk (general duties). We trained. It was very funny, if you imagine these squaddies, huge burly men, marching off with these two very nice old ladies who ran this typing school. We would all sit down with boots and gaiters, typing the 'Teddy Bears Picnic'. "

One of the least appealing things about National Service was the food. "There was a wonderful occasion when the officer of the day and the regimental sergeant-major came round our tables," recalled Rushton. "I had found this leaf in my stew: 'Sergeant-major, there is a leaf in my stew.' We marched off to the kitchens, where there was a sergeant-major-cook-head chef or whatever. The man pulled out this huge manual of Army cooking where it said: 'Stew - other ranks for the use of' and there was 500 tons of beef, 4,000 tons of potato, onions ... and one bay leaf. They were quite nice about it."