The idea of a bull night is to keep the Flight in for one night a week to get the billets spotlessly clean and to make the boys do bed packs, polish shoes and show they have all their kit together. During the first six weeks, Monday nights became a real drag as we couldn’t even go to the NAAFI (Navy, Army, Air Force Institute) for a pie and a coke until everything had been checked by the Corporal in charge of the billet. After leaving basic training I came across bull nights very rarely over the next six years.
The NAAFI is an organisation which runs the bars and snack bars which help provide the service personnel with food during the evenings and for those such as me, the chance to have a pint of beer, not that I drank a lot.
As I was never good at doing bed packs, my friend Phil Hamilton did mine, and I polished his shoes. Our Flight was made up of four billets with about fifteen to a billet and to my recollection for most of the time we got along well.
Any squaddie will tell you that you spend the majority of the basic training period doing drill and marching. This lead to some amusing incidents during my six week term, none more than the time I was told to get out of the Corporal’s sight.
My problem was caused by having a longer stride than some of the guys, if I walked at my pace I stood on the heels of the man in front of me and if I slowed down, the man behind stood on my heels.
During one drill session the Corporal was so frustrated with me he called out, “Place get out of my sight!”
Respecting the order, that is what I did.
At the end of the session, he looked around and not seeing me, he called, “Place, where are you?”
I came out from behind some large bins and replied, “Here I am.”
He said, “What were you doing behind the bins?”
Not being a smart ass, I replied, “You said get out of your sight, so, I did.”
Realising the humour of the situation, even he had to laugh as we set off to march to the rifle range.
Physical Training Instructors (PTI’s) and I didn’t get on well, mainly because I am not a fast runner and this lead to me and some other friends having to re-run a section of the cross country course one night, as punishment for being last in the race. We turned up at the PT section as ordered and met the PTI.
We were expecting to have to run at least half the course that night, but the PTI said, “I don’t want to be here and I know you don’t, so, run out to the flag pole and back.” Instead of a run of about three miles, we only did about five hundred feet.
Another incident happened when our PTI arrived for the lesson holding his jaw and said, “I’ve been to the dentist, we are down for ruby but I don’t want to do rugby, what do you want to do?”
Lads being lads most of them chose soccer, but I chose swimming, this had a drawback as they only let non-swimmers go swimming and being a good swimmer for many years, it was almost impossible to get some swimming time.