Memories of the Officer Training Corps

We have recently been contacted by Mr P. John Fish, who was at the school between 1942 and 1948. He is enjoying getting into the school’s history in his retirement, and was particularly interested in our 2016 post of the historical role of the school OTC’s cap badge. Mr Fish has been kind enough to type up some of his memories of the school in his time, with a view that it may interest others.

He writes:

The Officer Training Corps (OTC) changed to the Junior Training Corps (JTC) towards the end of 1940 or during early 1941.  This is reputed to have been done to give a less elitist status to the Corps when it was important for social cohesion in a time of danger. A friend, two years older than myself, at a different grammar school west of London actually joined his OTC in 1940, and within a few months the OTCs changed to become JTCs.

The uniform of the OTC was based on the standard Army service dress, as typically seen in studio photographs of British soldiers in WWI. What is not evident from such pictures is that brass buttons were used to fasten the jacket front and smaller brass buttons fasten pocket flaps and shoulder flaps. A 3″ webbing belt, sometimes not worn for the photograph, had brass buckles to fasten at the front, and at the back had two extension straps with brass buckles, angled to link with cross webbing from a haversack as well as brass end covers to the webbing. All this brass had to be cleaned the night before a school day in which a parade or training would occur, usually after school.

The shoulder flap on each side had a brass OTC badge (shown below with inch scale) held in place by two long brass wire ‘split pins’ inserted through the corresponding eyelets which penetrated through the flap.

OTC should flap badge

Bournemouth School OTC shoulder flap badge (Photo: J. Fish)

These two badges together with the cap badge (below) also had to be cleaned with the Brasso or if available the new Duraglit.

Cap badge

Bournemouth School Cap Badge

A ‘button stick’ (below) behind a button or against a belt end protected the khaki cloth while cleaning was in progress.

Button-stick

Button-stick (Photo: J. Fish)

The shoulder badges had to be removed for cleaning. Memory tells me that we were issued with puttees and learned how to wind them on, but I do not remember having to wear them on parade.

The badge worn in the peaked cap of the Service dress by BS OTC was almost certainly that shown above. The uniform did not change immediately on the change of title to JTC because resources in uniforms were needed for the Army and for the newly established LDV/Home Guard.

Battle Dress was the normal uniform for the JTC. Changes to Battle Dress for the JTC came in stages as supplies permitted. This uniform can be seen in most of the WWII pictures of the British Army and perhaps more accessible these days in Dad’s Army. However the belt worn in some editions of that programme are not the standard 2″ webbing belt  worn over the waistband, intended to be used for ammunition pouches etc. in a similar way to the previous 3″ belt. Also the buttons around the top of the trousers which fastened to the button holes around the blouson jacket waist are not usually visible, being covered by a belt.

Rebadging was done as each cadet was rekitted. I started at BS in September 1942. Either in that Autumn Term or in the following Spring Term I joined the school JTC. New recruits were at that time kitted out in Service Dress with OTC badging. There was intense competition to be at the Quartermaster’s at the time when any new or spare Battle Dress became available, since the only brass then to be cleaned was the cap badge and the front buckles on the 2″ webbing belt. It was possibly a couple of terms or more before I and my co-recruits were kitted out in Battle Dress.

Initially the JTC cap was the ‘split pea’ Forage Cap which could be opened up to become a balaclava in really cold weather. Later this was changed to a khaki beret in the fairly thick material of the rest of the uniform. During my time one or two of us did manage to move on to the soft beret. The cap badge remained the BS badge, so I think of this as the ‘JTC Badge’.

The brass OTC shoulder badge was replaced by a cloth JTC badge (below) sewn at the top of the sleeve on each side.

JTC Shoulder Flash

JTC shoulder flash (photo: J Fish)

Webbing gaiters were worn around the trousers at the ankles thus covering the top of the boots. These were about 7″ in depth, slightly shorter than is the fashion for gaiters now.  All the webbing still had to be ‘Blancoed’ with a standard green.  An old tooth brush would be wetted and scrubbed lightly on the top of the blanco block enabling the colouring to be picked up and spread evenly over the webbing surface. (Many of us used the same approach to whiten our tennis shoes.)

The main objective of the Corps was training cadets for War Certificate A (Cert ‘A’). This was taken in two parts.  Part 1 covered basics of drill, map reading , and weapon handling. Part 2 took these to more lengths but also included basics of command, drilling a squad to carry out maneuvering as required by the Examiner (an Army Officer). On successful completion of Part 2 one was entitled to wear a cloth red four pointed star (pictured below), half way down on the left sleeve and to be eligible for promotion, I think , above Lance Corporal.

War certificate A badge

War Cert. A Badge

Other badges were:

  • “1st class shot” for achieving a sufficiently high score on the .22 Range in the ‘Air Raid’ shelter under the Junior recreation area. At annual Camp from 1944 onwards there was live firing of .303 on an outdoor range.
  • “Signaller” for showing proficiency e.g. in setting up a field telephone line and in establishing and using a radio comms net.

An annual ‘Field Day’ was held, for example marching with kit and rifle from school down to cross the Stour  near Hurn Manor and on to St Catherine’s Hill where mock attacks and defence were made, before the tired march back. Annual Camps  were held and other specialist courses  at Army Training Centres could be attended by those interested.

From 1942 (possibly earlier) until about 1946 the CO was Captain Dixon (below) , the position was then taken by Major(?) Quinn.

Captain Dixon in May 1946

Captain Dixon (on the right) in May 1946

A Sea Cadets and an Air Cadets were established at the school probably around 1944 or 1945 and  expanded in size. In parallel with this, in the wider youth population the Army Cadet Force was expanding and it must have become once more necessary to avoid ‘elitism’ so the JTC became the ACF, at a guess by about 1947 and the three branches of service were joined in the Combined Cadet Force, CCF. For the JTC this required rebadging, although no other significant uniform change. The cap badge became that of the Hampshire Regiment.

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