Howstrake Camp - Isle of Man
Peter Jackson 1 2 3 4 5 6

These photo's were taken at Howstrake Camp - an old holiday camp - on the Isle of Man which was used for training budding bandboys (cannon fodder) to replace some of the many casualties suffered by the RM Band during the war. The camp conditions left a lot to be desired but the locality was stunning but jolly cold in the winter The nearest field in the background across Groudle Glen was the sports field. To get there we had to scramble down the cliff on the camp side, wade across the river running down Groudle Glen, climb up the other side and then run about half a mile to the paddock. By the time we got there we were too knackered to enjoy the game. We sometimes used to swim in the sea out from the Glen and in the winter we had to break the ice on the surface. Talk about cold spectacles!

I cannot remember the names of the PT instructors but I do remember our drill squad instructor - it was Colour Sergeant Pook. He was an older man but a great guy and very tolerant to the motley lot he had to transform. The picture of 90 squad on their arrival before being kitted out tells the story. Our "run ashore" usually took us into Douglas past the German Prisoners caged in the boarding houses on the promenade and often included a feed at the good old Salvation Army canteen - yeah you guessed it. Steak, eggs and chips.

This photo is of 90 squad standing in front of the end of one of the barrack rooms (Howstrake Camp) in the Isle of Man just after arriving from Scarborough. I am the handsome one second from the right at the back. Note the pipes on poles. These carried the hot water from the boiler room and was used to heat the barrack rooms which were not exactly healthy places to reside. We were required to scrub the wooden floors and the surplus water went through the cracks between the floorboards and ponded into a smelly pool in the sometimes cavernous underside of the rooms. At Scarborough, where we first reported after recruitment - the RNSM occupied two hotels on the promenade. One had been very posh before the war and had a palm court. This was the place where we were told which instrument we were going to play, bearing in mind none of us had ever seen a musical instrument close up. We were lined up in front of Major Pragnell whom we were never sure was a musical gentleman or a soldier marine. We stepped forward one at a time whereupon he inspected our lips and fingers and declared us either, solo cornet, solo clarinet, clarinet and violin, cornet and fiddle etc etc. If you were a big guy with thick lips you were usually made a string bass and bombardon player and bowlegged fellers were given the 'cello and euphonium. If he was unsure what to do with you, the attending NCO took you to one side and did his best to convince you that a career as a cook had a lot of merit - perhaps you should give that some consideration. All this probably accounts for my inability to come to grips with playing a musical instrument successfully as I am sure some of my Bandmasters will attest. Over a period I "played" cornet, violin, oboe, viola, cymbals, and finished up an indifferent bassoon player. I did however, avoid becoming a cook.

Hi Rich,

Your new page is awesome so thank you for that.

I am sending a few more photo's taken around 1946 at Burford just after we moved there. They will probably interest some of those chaps who came later. There are 8 photo's in all. Burford camp was constructed as an American hospital at the time of D-Day. The casualties were brought into Brize Norton airfield and transferred to Burford camp which was equipped with all the latest medical gear some of which was buried in the woods when they vacated the place. We dug up trolleys and other bits. By the time we moved into Burford, Brize Norton had been abandoned except for small quantities of military stores. I started a cycling club at Burford for the boys and the C.O. encouraged its formation by allowing us a special issue of tropical shorts and shirts - now that was really something. The club was a huge success and we rode all over the Cotswolds and even as far as Stratford on Avon.

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