Since first being introduced to the RMB website I have been in e-mail contact with one or two from around my time in the IOM and Burford and have been encouraged to add my two-penny-worth to Peter Jackson's interesting memories. Some of our younger brethren might be interested in the antics in those days. I gather that at least three of those in that 90 Squad pic have died. So far I have found no trace of any others. Their names as I know them are given in the Fig. 2 caption and I would appreciate advice of the names of the others and any news of them that might be known to anyone who chances to read this.
Peter has mentioned the huts at Howstrake Camp and anyone who lived in them would have to agree that, as accommodation, they did leave a little to be desired. Perched high on a hillside overlooking the Irish Sea the air could be said to be 'bracing' at almost any time of the year and in winter it was absolutely vicious. Each hut had originally been four units of double cabins for the 'happy campers' who presumably only spent the warmest summer months there. For us Band Boys, the partitions had been removed and 12 of us were located in the resulting larger room, sleeping on two-tiered bunks. Having once been four separate small rooms meant that the previously necessary four outer doors remained in our larger version huts. And mostly (but not always) in winter, cold winds whistled through and around those doors! The outer skin was of corrugated iron, guaranteeing that we were hot in summer and cold in winter. However, we had youth and resilience on our side and, so far as I can remember, no-one died from pneumonia!
The hut walls were originally lined with strawboard and there was soon more hole than lining. Each composite room had a small hatch giving access to the roof space. Early on, Band Boys used to swarm up these holes and hide to avoid the compulsory evening study period, which for some reason were not checked for attendance. This 'work avoidance' was, for some reason I cannot now recall, known as 'greasing off'. Duty NCOs would circulate through the rooms searching for any hiding bods so the hatch covers were permanently removed, for easy inspection. I preferred to do my 'greasing' beneath a bottom bunk, suitably camouflaged behind a kitbag or two, with a good book to read.
There was a large central hall used for indoor parades; as our mess hall, for concerts, etc. The food I seem to remember as being reasonably plentiful and nutritious, if not particularly inspired. In fact typical service grub of those days. It was provided by Wren cooks, who also represented the 'feminine love interest' in the camp - unrequited for the boys but definitely more than that for some of the instructing staff. Many were the tales of passion allegedly observed by eager, young and prying eyes!
Back to the product of the Wren's principle duties (oh, I don't know though?!). On the occasional hot summer days we would have salads, and each table would keep a tally of the slugs and snails that were still lurking in the lettuce leaves! One very thin lad was a Band Boy Gay, known for obvious reasons as 'Ghandi Gay'. (In those days, 'Gay' only meant 'happy' and cheerful'). Like myself Ghandi was a product of the Training Ship Mercury (an establishment run by an ancient female sadist and allegedly designed to 'make men of us'. By comparison, Howstrake camp was a hotel of the 'Hilton' variety. TS Mercury deserves a book to itself, but this is not the place for it!). Ghandi had an unusually sensitive stomach and those slugs and snails were a distinct 'turn-off' for him. Unfortunately, he was also overly-susceptible to suggestion and we, his friends (?), quickly discovered that any mention of unpleasant things (such as 'cupfuls of cold sick' just as he was about to start his meal) would have poor Ghandi pushing his plate away and rapidly leaving the table. The discarded plateful would then be grabbed and consumed by the aforementioned 'friends'. What a horrible lot we were!