The Feature Page
23149652 L/Cpl Peter Hughes
1955 to 1958
National Service .the unusual way ?
Acquiring a computer at 74 years of age and seeing the Lancashire Fusiliers web site full of anecdotes and photographs I realised that I had photographs taken in Germany and Cyprus that might be of some interest to former members of the XXth
At 21 years of age , having been deferred National Service through studying as a professional decorator at Bury Art College (now the new Fusiliers Museum ) for the proposed five years . I received my call up paper in June 1955.
I was requested to present myself at the Regimental
The fact that I was born and bred at Whitefield only 4 miles away was a big advantage
Along with other lads from Manchester and Liverpool who were mainly 18 years of age made me feel an old man at 21 years of age.
The fun and games ; receiving uniform and a regimental number (which you never forget !). chased from pillar to post ; and a barrack room full of new mates and "innoculation"
Being newly engaged to be married and home cooking I was away from there every opportunity
Along with six other lads all of same height picked out by the RSM we acted as bearers of two "Military" Civilian funerals for former Fusiliers at Bury and Bolton. We rehearsed with a steel locker filled with bricks!!!
We did a lot of drill for Minden day parade in front of family and friends. We saw a fair bit of Holcombe Brook Rifle Range
Passing out parade, embarkation leave and entrain Harwich
crossing North Sea to hook of Holland, a journey made by thousands of
servicemen and women over the years on board the troopship " Vienna
" . By train to Dortmund to Iserlohn in Westphalia BAOR
Our new home was the "Flackhazen" a former
German Artillery barracks home to 1st Bn the Lancashire Fusiliers I was
posted to a rifle coy 2 whole days. I met a former art student and neighbour.
Bill Rawsthorne who advised me to apply to HQ coy as one of the Regimental
Quartermaster "Pioneers " They consisted of joiners, plumbers
painters and decorators The building trade of the battalion, 8 or 9 of
We were responsible to the Regimental Quartermaster
Lt. QM Stanley Price - Formerly Regimental Sergeant
Major. He was better Known as" Kitna" but not to his face. I
kid you not ! Hard men feared but also respected him The stories about
him are legion.
When the Suez crisis blew up the battalion was brought back to the UK on 24 hour standby which was extended again and again!
We were based at Queen Elizabeth Barracks reg , depot
of the KOYLIS at Stensall York in a very dilapidated wooden hutted barracks
last used for demob lads after WW2 . Not having a POL of our own Geordie
and I were surplus to requirements
A 10 day trip calling at Gibraltar and Malta, it was on its last trip to Hong Kong before going to the breakers yard. The boat decks were used in the Titanic film "A Night to Remember" starring Kenneth More. Some of us had a run ashore at Malta before landfall at Limmasol
Our new camp was up in the hills - all new tents half
a dozen corrugated huts. It had been a vineyard 3 weeks before and when
it rained it was a sea of mud, we were issued with wellies!! We were way
out in the country, a small village nearby called Polemi.
There were 4 of us in the I.O. with Sgt Derek Crick;
we were joined by 2 British Greek Interpreters. Within days the battalion
post CPL returned to rifle Co duties, once again I had another job!
But no regrets as it meant leaving camp everyday with 2 land rovers plus drivers and armed escorts of 4. we would drive to Ktima and Paphos to collect a wind sock and drive to await a light aircraft from Nicosia. The aircraft was a 2 seater monoplane Auster type carrying mail and S.D.S. sacks. There were very important. It was info' for Battalion HQ that couldn't go over the radio network. This meant travelling a considerable distance by road through small towns and villages every day at the same time. This was a very risky business so my departure time varied by a few hours every day.
Arriving at Ktims Police HQ everyday to collect the windsock mail and possibly parcels from the UK.
Once a week we would drive along the coast road to Dekalia M.E.L.F, the main military base in Cyprus for supplies.
On rare occasions we could go for a swim at Coral Bay,
a beautiful spot. It had since had hotels and classy homes for ex-pat
Brits built there. Meanwhile the rifle Coy's did sweeps of the Troodos
Mountains chasing Col Grivas and his terrorists out of the caves and village
hideouts. On rare occasions we would escort UK concert parties from one
camp to ours to put on a show. Comedian Jimmy Wheeler, Stan Stennett -
singer Ronnie Hilton and best of all female singers and dancers and an
We had arrived in February 1957, time passed very quickly, it was May 1957 I was due to demob in June
I packed my kit, had a last beer with the lads and travelled to Wayne's keep, Nicosia ready for a flight to UK via Malta I had documentation for 12 other fusiliers going to the UK for release. That wasn't straightforward either! Arrived at Luca airport Malta, for a quick wash and brush-up. I was called to the reception to be taken off the flight for a compassionate case to the UK. So the fusiliers were 1 hour ahead of me. I had followed on Dakota DC3 aircraft 1 hour later carrying 24 Royal Naval wives returning to the UK to have their babies 24 big plump mommas-to-be!
Landing at Blackbushe Royal Naval Airstation, we had refuelled at Nice airport France. I even got chance to walk along the promenade whilst they refuelled!!!
We all travelled up to Manchester on the Irish mail train arriving in the early hours of the morning. I instructed them to report the Depot the following day. I never saw them again.
I handed my kit in at the Depot, then Castle Armouries Bury for reserve documentation and that was it!
I have visited the Regimental museum for "Minden Day" and "Gallipoli" celebrations and had 1 or 2 beers in the old comrades club over the years.
I more than appreciate that my time with the XXth was not the usual service life, it was certainly different, never boring that's for sure.
I learned a lot about myself and my fellowmen and travelled to places earlier than I would have done prior to joining the XXth. Years later I holidayed in Malta, Cyprus and visited former camps and airstrips that I had known. The main tented camp at Polemi has reverted back to a vineyard. I was made most welcome by the locals.
Back Peter Hughes, Peter Quinn,
Jimmy ?,Bill Rawsthorne,
Gorden Stott Eric Bose, Elwyn Wright, Lenny ?.