A Life in the British Army, 1981 to 2003

I was, it would appear, always destined to be a soldier!

Steely-eyed killer in the making, Selsey Scouts, around 1973, hair and all!!!

From the age of 5, I cannot remember wanting to do anything else, perhaps it was being close to Caterham Barracks and seeing the Guards training.  But at that stage, I had no idea what an illustrious set of distant relations we had in the Guards.  The fighting Murphy’s, no less, of the Irish Guards!  See their page!

Photo Credit: George Murphy

After stints with Luton ACF (Royal Anglian Regiment), Tenby ACF (Royal Welsh Regiment) and Tenby ATC (1284 Squadron) from 1975 to 1981, I joined the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry who, at that time, formed A Troop, 224 (Pembroke Yeomanry) Transport Squadron, part of 157 (Wales and Midlands) Transport RegimentRoyal Corps of Transport .  This was a Territorial Army (TA) unit with A Troop (Pembrokeshire Yeomanry) based at Haverfordwest with Squadron HQ at Carmarthen.

I did my first set of Basic Training as Driver Palmer at the RCT Central Volunteers Depot, Prince William of Gloucester Barracks, in Grantham in November 1981 at the age of 18:

Driver Palmer, 224 Sqn., Pembrokeshire Yeomanry, 157 Regiment, Royal Corps of Transport.

We were equipped with ancient Bedford RL 3 ton trucks and I had my first experience of driving on these, complete with double declutch and crash gearboxes.  My instructors were very brave!

We followed a fairly boring routine of training and camps but in April 1982 all that changed.  I had already been accepted for the Regular Army and was unemployed awaiting my next Basic Training.  Suddenly we were asked to go to the Barracks to provide convoys taking ammunition to the docks for the Falklands Task Force.  A busy fortnight followed but then I had to leave to take the train to Catterick for basic training with the Regular Army and my new Regiment, 1st. The Queen’s Dragoon Guards. On 26 April 1982 I began my Regular career under the care of the RAC Training Regiment, who at that time were 4th./7th. Dragoon Guards.

Graham Thatcher 13/18H, Stuart Pollock RH, Simon Little QDG, Rob Potts 4RTR, Neil Palmer QDG,Cpl Robert Virr 4/7DG, Steve Maitland 14/20KH, Gordon Stuart QRIH, David Sutherland 4/7DG

I passed out 8 weeks later, having learned much about drill, bed blocks, changing parades and other assorted bullshit but very little about being a soldier in the Royal Armoured Corps.

Back Row: Paul Kitchener, Brian Espei, Geoff Wallace, Steve Maitland, Eric Babbage, Martin Kapp, Mike Hughes,Marcus Hamilton, Brian Biddlecombe, Andy Young, Marcus Bjork, Barry Wassel.
Middle Row: Neil Palmer, Brett Duxbury, Stuart Pollock, Alex Bond, Gordon Stuart, Graham Thatcher,Mark Harris, David Sutherland, Mike Tribe, Kevin Kerr, Hew Annal.
Front Row:  Rob Potts, Steve Hatcher, Shaun Hobson, L/Cpl Mal Grunshaw 4/7DG, Cpl Martin Hopkins 4/7DG, Sgt Ted Brindley 4/7DG, WO2 Malcombe WG, WO1 Jeff Bull 4/7DG, Cpl Rick Lamb 4/7DG, Cpl Robert Virr 4/7DG, Derek Livingstone, Simon Little, Mark Havery.

From Catterick next stop was Bovington and Lulworth where I became a Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (CVR) Gunner/Operator.  We learned how to use the 76mm, 30mm RARDEN Cannon and 7.62mm Machine Gun along with B3 radio training on the Clansman series of VHF radios.  And finally, in October 1982, I arrived at Carver Barracks, Wimbish, Essex, but my Regiment had not!  The QDG were still finishing a 2 year tour in Northern Ireland so for 8 weeks I was the odd man out with 13/18th. Hussars who were in the process of moving to BAOR.  Not much fun, lots of stacking QDG MFO in a huge hanger and stacking 13/18th. MFO in trucks destined for Germany.

But in early December the Regiment arrived! And I became Trooper Palmer, Gunner/Operator on C/S 12C (a Scimitar CVR(T)), of 2 Troop, A Sqn, QDG.

Trooper Palmer begging for hot water so I could make coffee, I never, ever, drank tea, hated the stuff. So one became adept at acquiring hot water so one could have coffee!