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Monday, 31 March 2014

Reminiscences - Ceremonial divisions in the rain

Back in 1969, during training in the Royal Navy. Jargon was everywhere. Certain groups of individuals belonged to Divisions; and to compound matters, Divisions also referred to the mustering in those groups on the parade ground. The entire collection of divisions or groups on the parade ground were referred to as Parade. I hope that’s clear…
Rain - Smithsonian/Wikipedia commons

Normally, if there is likely to be inclement weather, the parade is mustered in a drill shed for ‘wet weather routine’. However, on this particular day of insistent rain, due to the fact that it was Tuesday – Ceremonial Divisions day – the omnipotent officers decided to proceed as usual, with the Parade dressed in gabardines. Beneath our rain-proofs we wore our best uniforms. 

Parade got wet.

As we stood there, at ease, then ho!, at close order, the open order, at wet ease again, dribbles of rain drooled annoyingly off our cap brims onto our collars. Meanwhile, our Divisional Officer stood in his Number One uniform, including sword, without benefit of a gabardine. Presently, a rating crossed the parade ground at the rush and handed an oilskin to a neighbouring D.O.

An order was given: ‘Parade – up collars!’ Of course, by now, our collars were soaking; if our necks had been even slightly dry and warm, now they were wet and cold, and most uncomfortable.

During the intervals between orders, I listened to the sibilant patter of rain. It ricocheted off the parade ground like enemy fire; we appeared like toy soldiers, or rather wet toy sailors (or perhaps more aptly, penguins).

When the order ‘Paray-d will march past, into threes, right turn!’ was given, a husky growl of ‘Oh, for f***’s sake’ issued from the rear of our class, sounding very much like our Petty Officer Bishop. He was a tough taskmaster, but he clearly felt for his lads.

As ordered, we marched past the Commanding Officer, Commander et al, and our trousers were spattered with mud and drenched through and through.

As we marched in that rain, I felt oddly stimulated by it. Perhaps the act of marching got the blood flowing, warming the body? Anyway, there were no lasting effects, save that the uniform required laundering, and it was quite an experience, never repeated. Minor natural adversity, perhaps, but it was strangely exhilarating. Wet but exhilarating.

[These reminiscences were written at the time, 1969. Now, I doubt if ‘exhilarating’ would be appropriate!]

Next – The Polka-dot Parade



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