Accommodation was in a row of army-surplus bell tents located on a strip of lawn. Each patrol of eight trainees shared one such tent. Sleeping bags were arranged around the central support-pole of the tent. Built- in groundsheets had not yet come into fashion, so each trainee had a groundsheet allocated to him. It was very crowded in the tent as we also had to find space for our suitcase in there, and a place from which to hang our clothes. The ground was lumpy and hard and made for a difficult night’s sleep. Being winter, it was bitterly cold at night with a white frost on the grass outside.
The showers were in an old cowshed close by. Water was heated by a fire, often stoked by the boys themselves. Hot water was scarce, and didn’t last long. The tail-enders in the shivering queue often had to brace themselves for a hasty wash.
The pre sunrise wake-up call was the sound of a railway sleeper being struck with an iron bar by one of the instructors. It was our signal to leap out of our sleeping bags and dress hurriedly into gym shorts, tracksuits, and running shoes with a towel slung over our shoulders. Patrols lined up in their groups in the dark, and a short warm-up PT session followed, with the warden or instructor on duty call out the commands: the normal star-jumps and running on the spot for example. We were measured on our alacrity to be there quickly, and laggards were quick to realise that a patrol had to work as a team. Once all the patrols were there and ready, we set of in patrols, being timed by our respective instructors for the run down the winding path to the Wagendrift dam. Our breath frosted in the bracingly cold morning air. The sun was barely rising when we reached the edge of the dam some ten or fifteen minutes later. Ice on the moored dinghies hinted at the freezing temperature of the dark, lapping waters. We shed our clothes and dashed naked into the water. It was unnervingly cold! The idea was to get wet, submerge and then scramble out madly for one’s towel and clothes. Ten seconds or less is all one could muster. Thereafter each patrol had to assemble, and was then timed again on the jog back up to Greystone.
There were no flushing toilets at Greystone. These only followed a few years later. My memory of a row of stout gumtree poles over a long open trench has fortunately dimmed over the years. There was absolutely no privacy and using the raw, basic facilities was not for the faint of heart. I was, in 1970, well acquainted with a long drop toilet but this was pushing the boundary a bit too far.
Trainees were given a “recommended clothes list” prior to attending a course, and each item had to be marked with the trainee’s name. Clothes that needing washing were handed in at an appointed time and place and laundered by a team of domestics and then left to dry on the lawns in the sun.
Meals were taken in a veranda off an old farm building. Canvas walls were rolled down in wet or cold weather. The kitchen was at one end, and through a serving hatch the bowls of the daily meals were collected by the individual patrols who served themselves at their respective tables. In the evening trainees would dress in “collar and tie” for dinner. This translated to anything from a school blazer, to a sports coat and tie. It at least meant that trainees showered and changed into fresh clothes. I found, after the first week, that a polo-neck woollen jersey and an army greatcoat sufficed and it was a lot warmer.
Am I correct in recalling paraffin lanterns which we carried to our tents at the end of an evening?
Hugh Solomon G8