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- National Service with the RAEC in Cornwall Part 1 -


   LINKS to other pages in this site and to other sites in the Travelling Days series:

Autographs Home Page:      Bedford 1939 onwards:      BBC in Bedford:
BBC Symphony Orchestra Personalities:      Bedford Miscellany:       Bedford School (1940s):
Composers:      Conductors:       David Gentleman:      Glenn Miller:       Instrumentalists:
Personalities of the 1940s:       Pianists:       The RAEC in Cornwall Part 2:
Religion and Drama:       Singers:       BBC in Cornwall 1949:      Colin Day's List-O-Links:
America West Home Page:      Guest Book:

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THE ARMY EDUCATION CORPS was formed in 1920. After WWII the AEC continued its work educating soldiers and helping them to resettle into civilian life. In 1946 the corps was honoured with the title of 'Royal'. The Walker Lines at Bodmin, built originally for the American forces prior to D Day (1944), became headquarters of the Army School of Education following a move in 1948 from its previous location in Buchanan Castle near Loch Lomond in Scotland.

   In the distance, towering above the town on Bodmin Beacon, stands the 144 ft obelisk to Lt General Sir Walter Raleigh Gilbert (1785-1853), a descendant of the Elizabethan sailors Raleigh and Gilbert, commemorating his distinguished services in India.

    In late September 1949 the British Railways Southern Region 'Atlantic Coast Express' left Salisbury Station heading westward. On board were around twenty five national service soldiers who had recently completed their basic training course at Bulford Camp on Salisbury Plain. They had qualified, with varying degrees of competence, in firing the 303 Lee Enfield rifle and the Bren, were able to march (vaguely) in step and were learning to cope with the rigors of service life. Earmarked for serving the rest of their National Service in the Education Corps they were to spend the next three months in training at the Army School of Education in Cornwall. At the end of the course all the members of the group would be promoted to the rank of Sergeant (with a useful increase in pay) and deemed to be qualified teachers in the field of Adult Education!

    The train arrived in the Southern Region station (now demolished) at Bodmin late in the evening and the tired and hungry travellers were transported by lorry to their new quarters. (The Atlantic Coast 'Express' beyond Exeter used to make a slow circuitous journey to Plymouth and then via Launceston, Delabole, Wadebridge to Bodmin, stopping at every small station on the way. That line from Plymouth to Bodmin has since been removed.)

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   The 'main road' through the camp (right) - now known as Normandy Road, Bodmin had the main administrative offices on the right of the picture. On the left hand side of the road were various class rooms, art and music rooms and the NAAFI. The 'cook house' and Sergeants' Mess were at the bottom of the hill where the road curved to the left before reaching the camp entrance and guard-room.

   (See more on the David Gentleman page. Click here.)

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   The author spent most of his National Service as the librarian at the Army School of Education. The library, situated on the main road towards the top of the hill on which the camp was built and comprising over ten thousand books was housed in the Americans' former gymnasium.

   After the Army School of Education moved to Beaconsfield the building was converted into an indoor swimming pool for the people of Bodmin.

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   The slogan on the wall, "Physical Training turns Protruding Tummy into Perfect Torso", painted by and for the Americans (who else?!) when they occupied the camp and were using the building as a gymnasium, remained intact!

   In 1949 the library was visited by Field Marshal Earl Wavell whose son, Major Keran, was on the staff of the School. Predictably, Wavell was made aware, by the Officer in Charge of the Library, that at least one copy of his anthology of poetry, 'Other Mens' Flowers', was to be found in the library catalogue if not actually on the library shelves !

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   At the Army School of Education bed-sheets were supplied as standard issue, even for the lowest ranks, so rough irritating blankets close to the skin became just an unpleasant memory.

   Parades for trainees were held on the barrack square just once a week, commanded by Sgt Major Vonk who, through the use of a variety of descriptive phrases, made no secret of the fact that he regarded his charges as a pretty miserable lot.
   (Permanent staff were drilled very infrequently yet complained bitterly whenever they were called for parade!)

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   During the three month course one of the officer instructors envisioned that the enhancement of public relations with the local civilian population might be well served by the School putting on a concert in the town in aid of Bodmin's 'Old People' Welfare'. The show included piano solos and duets, sketches, recitations and a short play, 'A Good Woman' (pictured).

   Electrical gear was borrowed from the local dramatic society (the highly sophistiated switchboard and lighting dimmers are shown in the picture below left) and the Bodmin community filled the hall to overflowing. However, it has to be said that the 'locals' weren't overenthusiastic about the show; in fact many thought it the worst concert they had been to in years! Bodminconcswitch.jpg - 30805 Bytes

    Fortunately, the Army School of Education put on a couple of plays in subsequent months; 'Rope' by Patrick Hamilton and Rattigan's 'French Without Tears' which were very successful and helped to restore the School's reputation. (A performance of the latter went down particularly well with the patients at the large local mental hospital!) The set for 'Rope' is shown below.
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