HIGHLAND FIELDCRAFT TRAINING
POOLEWE, WESTER ROSS
COURSE NO. 7
14TH FEBRUARY - 24TH APRIL 1944
DIARY KEPT BY CADET RONALD BRASH
Mon. 14: After an interesting rail and bus journey we reached Poolewe with many others of all ranks and regiments. Conditions quite good and training sounds tough but enjoyable.
Tues. 15: The Commandant gave us a talk this morning about the course which he said was to develop our natural instincts of observation and resourcefulness..... Here, each has a chance of being section and platoon commander. We run our own ABCAs and do other types of instruction.
Wed. 16: Work began in earnest today and the afternoon was strenuous as we did "crawls" ending with an inter-section race in which the DS went wild with enthusiasm. I was Platoon Commander today and had to write a report on the day's work Tonight a show of entertainment films was given in camp.
Thu. 17: Training becoming more strenuous today with obstacle crossing and PT in the morning, finishing up wiith a very tough cross-country run before dinner. I came in 21st, being first in my platoon.
Fri. 18: I gave the first ABCA today on "Transport in British Cities" - quite well received. Went over assault course and met concentration of DM gas. One succumbed, the rest went on despite sickness and choking. Got my first letter from home tonight.
Sat. 19: We were out all day on a hill walk which was not very strenuous nor injurious to the feet.
Sun. 20: For the first time in the army I had to work on Sunday, with only a short break for church service in the morning. I had a minor misfortune, burning a pair of socks while drying them on a hot pipe. and so to bed with the ecstatic feeling of a day of rest and pleasure tomorrow.
Mon. 21: I went into Poolewe this morning and spent the day at the YMCA hostel in Pool House, reading and writing letters in front of a blazing fire. This has been a day of paradise.
Tue. 22: "Fun and Games" was presented to us this morning and it amazed me how I gained sufficient confidence to climb down a 20-foot tree by a rope, shin along commando ropes, at one point 20 feet above the ground, and walk along a log 15 feet above ground.
Wed. 23: An exhausting day. Just when we thought w~eree done, we had to do "Fun and Games" again. Today, physically exhausted, I lost my nerve after the first rope and could not go on.
Thu. 24: We went to Poolewe tonight for No. 2 Company's Revue, "I Go For This", in the Garrison Theatre. Quite good, but lacked continuity and liveliness, especially on the musical side. We should be able to get up a good orchestra for our show.
Fri. 25: Changed platoons and sections. I am now in I Platoon, Section I (Captain Clayton). Hut more exposed and draughty than the previous one. We did mess tin cooking today and cooked our dinner out in the wood.
Sat. 26: Company Commander's inspection this morning. He was quite pleased with our hut. At P.P.T. today we did boxing. Tonight I heard the Company Dance Band at practice under Captain Quantrill.
Sun. 27: Thick snow on the ground. At church service I played the piano for the hymns. Spirits higher today with the prospect of a rest day on Wednesday. I scarcely ever see a newspaper now so cannot continue recording the main war news.
Mon. 28: After a very easy morning we had a strenuous afternoon crawling in the snow and getting thoroughly soaked. I find battle dress better than denims in such cases.
Tue. 29: The GSM sprang a surprise on us this morning by putting on a charge all men still in bed when he came round about 7 am. They are to do fatigues tomorrow morning. We were out all day climbing Ben Airaidh Char (2500 feet) - in mist at the top. We returned tired and soaked. l got a pass and went to Poolewe to spend the night at Pool House.
Wed. 1: Another day of paradise: I spent the whole day at Pool House. Many from No. 2 Company were there in the midst of their W.O.S.B. Their course is almost over.
Thu. 2: I reported sick this morning as of late I have not been feeling too bright. The MO gave me a tonic. We did some elementary surveying this afternoon and I turned out quite a good map.
Fri. 3: For some reason this was my worst day here so far. I was platoon commander and slipped up on some occasions. We spent an enjoyable afternoon building bridges over a stream. Cleaning weapons this evening took some time and and I was heartily glad to get to bed and be rid of it all.
Sat. 4: Promise of fairer weather today (Met.). We did assault boating in tne morning and it was grand fun. I took the chance of hot water tonight to wash myself thoroughly, and later started on my long-overdue correspondence.
Sun. 5: Changed platoons again to Platoon 4 Section 8 (Lieut Mendi). I am looking forward to this period.
Mon. 6: The following five days will be written as a continuous narrative. We set out to march to our bivouac area in a wood beside Loch Maree. We built our shelters of trees, moss and brushwood and cooked our rations by mess tin cooking. I shared a bivouac with two others. We had to do a lot of assault boating to get from our camp site to Company HQ and to various parts for our training. The YMCA travelling canteen came daily about 4.30 with tea, food, sweets and cigarettes - the high spot of the day! We were favoured almost the whole time with magnificent weather, and the training was not very strenuous. One night the DS raided our camp area and alarms and skirmishes took place .The visit was returned by a body of cadets who attacked Company HQ at Inveran House, turned all the officers out of their beds, and dragged the CSM and one officer out of the house and nearly into the loch, breaking the CSM's watch in the process. 0n the last day we had an exciting inter-platoon relay boat race.
Fri. 10: We left Inveran this morning and did a tactical march back to camp. The laundry has returned so I have a clean change at last. How good the dinner tasted and how comfortable my bed felt!
Sat. 11: A well-placed free day. I went to Pool Hguse for lunch and tea, wrote two letters and read a book.
Sun. 12: This afternoon the long-awaited and long-feared "Fit to Drop" took place, when we jumped off a 3-ton truck at speeds from 3 to 12 mph. It was not so frightening as we had imagined, and none of our platoon was in any way hurt.
Mon. 13: We left by M.T. for Kinlochewe to climb Slioch (3200 feet), but could not reach the top owing to ice and high wind. We took our rifles with us - fortunately as it turned out as I slipped about 60 feet down an icy slope and stopped myself by using my rifle as a brake between my legs. On our way home, we were stopped at Gairloch and made to spend the night in an empty military camp .
Tue. 14: Back to Tournaig for breakfast. Very energetic day with PT, stick'em courses and Fun and Games, but relieved to find Night Op. postponed. Very relieved to be in my own bed tonight as last night was spent on black-out frames on a stone floor.
Wed. 15: My Black Day!. As yesterday's section commander I was held responsible along with the SC of the previous day for a dirty LMG barrel. The OC admonished us but it is a black mark nevertheless. This will be our last night in Tournaig - and in a good bed -as we go to Garrison Camp in Poolewe tomorrow.
Thu. 16: Today we transferred, to Garrison Camp with its advantages of regular hot water and its proximity to the Garrison Theatre, the YMCA canteen and Pool House. All feeling very keen about tomorrow's early start home.
Fri. 17: Reveille at 4 am and start at 5.15.. After a frantic rush we got away by bus to Achnasheen and caught the train for Inverness. I had lunch on the train between Aviemore and Perth, reaching Glasgow at 5.30, and home to Ayr by 8 pm.
Tue. 21: I reached Inverness early this morning and had breakfast at the Station Hotel. Spent the morning in the town, meeting the others on the 11.45 train for Achnasheen. I have rarely felt so tired as on the ensuing bus run to Poolewe. I spent the evening at Pool House.
Wed. 22: I am now in 3 Platoon (Captain Downton). I feel I should do well under him. Great activity in connection with the Company Revue. I have offered to help with the musical arranging.
Thu. 23: We spent the whole morning rock climbing on Tollie. Hazardous but rather exhilarating. A map-reading test by Captain Downton showed how inexpert we were. He asked searching questions - with the Commandant present!
Fri. 24: Another strenuous morning on "Abseilling" on Tollie, followed by an open half day which our DS spent doing a map-reading hill walk. Tonight I had my first interview with the Commandant who, much to my surprise, complimented me on a good report from the DS of 4 Platoon.
Sat. 25: Comparatively easy day. I was free all afternoon to attend the Revue rehearsal, where I am assisting Sgt. Luff with the musical arrangements.
Sun. 26: At church parade this morning I was again pianist. We have a new padre, Captain Rutherford, MC, who had seen service in North Africa. He was most interesting. I found out later that he is the brother of Dr. Rutherford, a Maths Lecturer at St. Andrews, and that he had once been a student there himself.
Mon. 27: Much of the day was taken up with briefing and discussing plans for Exercise Skye. 1,2 & 3 Platoons are "British"; 4, 5 & 6 are "Germans". Much activity in trying to get hold of the other side's plans. Despite security measures, much information leaked out.
Tue. 28: Exercise Skye began today, the Germans going in the morning, the British in the afternoon to Achnasheen , thence by train to Kyle of Lochalsh. We (British) sent ahead three "agents" in civvies, all being captured but later were released or managed to escape.
Wed. 29: This morning we crossed to Kyleakin, to find that the Germans had taken most of the available transport, but were able to get some, and so got to Torrin via Broadford. Our rations were stolen but we managed to get some more from another dump. Local people were very good, feeding us and inviting us into their houses.
Thu. 30: Off on foot to Sligachan where, thanks to my uncle knowing the hotel owner, I was able to get food for the platoon. Then on to spend the night at Carbost, none too peacefully, there being minor raids by enemy patrols and DS. This was our first encounter with the enemy, apart from a rearguard left at Kyle which was not effective.
Fri. 31: We made for the enemy's embarkation beach at Loch Brittle where the final battles were fought. It seems that they got there by transport on the first day and had been living in luxury at the Youth Hostel ever since! All of us spent the night at the hostel.
Sat. 1 Back to Poolewe today in glorious weather, after a most interesting five days. I learned that owing to serious differences between the Producer of the Revue (Cadet Francis Findlay) and the Musical Director (Captain Quantrill), the latter has been removed from this post and I have been appointed in his place.
Sun. 2 Someone slept in as we were not roused till 9 am. After church, most of the day spent in discussing Exercise Skye. I was not needed at rehearsal tonight so went down to Pool House. Tomorrow is a free day and we are having a full rehearsal with the orchestra.
Mon. 3: Rehearsals held all morning and afternoon till 4.30 when we had tea at Pool House. Our show should go well but there is still so much to be done in ten days.
Tue. 4: Our final change of platoons took place today. l am in 5 Platoon under Captain Quantrill. Sgt. Luff is also one of our DS. At rehearsal tonight we went over the "plantation" musical scene. It is not too easy.
Wed. 5: We set out on Exercise Navigation this morning, and in syndicates of three had to make our way from Aultbea over hills and moorland on compass bearings only (sealed map for emergency). Eventually soaked and tired we reached Dundonnell on Little Loch Broom to spend the night in a disused mill.
Thu. 6: Back to camp by MT this morning, though some unfortunates who had not shaved or whose compass marching was defective had to march part of the way. We had the afternoon free for rehearsal but did not seem to get through things as well as was expected.
Fri. 7: "Good Friday" and some day, on the whole! Entire unit at church service in the morning. In the afternoon our Company was briefed for the notorious Exercise Torridon. Owing to the Admin. Officer forgetting the Bank was closed today, we had no pay tonight.
Sat. 8: We set off at 8.30 am by MT to Gairloch whence we made our way over hills and moors to our objective at Torridon where we got a good billet and good facilities for cooking rations. Several incidents today involving myself gave me a rather unfavourable insight into Captain Quantrill's character.
Sun. 9: What a way to spend Easter! We climbed a 2300-foot mountain in 1½ hours without a break and during the day covered nearly 20 miles. I felt quite ill at one point but recovered after a brief rest. Our billets at Kinlochewe were small and we had to cook outside. This is acknowledged to be the worst day of the whole course.
Mon. 10: Away by 5.30 am for a final bash along the north shore of Loch Maree to Letterewe. 3 Platoon got there second and set up a new record in the time taken. We got back to camp about 4.30 only to find I had lost my map case. After dinner I borrowed a YMCA cycle and found the maps near Loch Kernsary.
Tue. 11: Quite an easy day. In the afternoon a sort of Scavenger hunt was held as an inter-platoon competition. 5 Platoon came second. Great praise was given to the Company by the Commandant and the Chief Instructor on Exercise Torridon.
Wed. 12: Free day. We had a full dress rehearsal of the revue and it is coming on fine. The course is coming to a rapid conclusion as W.O.S.B. starts on Saturday.
Thu. 13: We had four small exercises, but after Torridon they seemed exceptionally tame. Now we all feel really fit. 3 Platoon now has the reputation of being a "bashing on" platoon, and is fiercely rivalling 6 - the acknowledged "cream" platoon of the whole Company.
Fri. 14: We had all afternoon free for rehearsal. It was a shambles. However, at 7.45 pm, to a packed house, the curtain went up on "Get Crackin" and it was a great success, said by some to be the "best ever given here". I conducted our seven-piece orchestra in a dress suit, using the baton I had conducted the St. Andrews University Orchestra with at a concert exactly one year previously.
Sat. 15: W.O.S.B. began today. So far there is little to do and we get plenty of free time.
Sun. 16 At church this morning, the orchestra played the hymns and a voluntary, I leading it this time from the piano. Then followed MTO's tests.
Mon. 17: We set off on a two-day scheme, Exercise Jigsaw, which proved to be the most boring and exhausting of the whole course, as we kept doubling back on our tracks. We landed up for the night near Gairloch. I and three others made a serious blunder and narrowly avoided being in deep trouble.
Tue. 18: We got back to camp by I pm, just failing to beat 6 Platoon to the final objective. All were glad to be back and we had the rest of the day to ourselves. I got a very nice letter from Sgt. Bruce, thanking me for my work in the Revue.
Wed. 19: In foul weather this morning our section did the "Pass the Ammunition" course setting up a new record for length of time taken (3 hours, II minutes). Later we were interviewed by the Deputy President of the W.O.S.B.
Thu. 20: All exertion on this course is finished. We did a T.E.W.T. in which I acquitted myself quite well, but considering everything, I fear I may fail or be posted as a "not yet", End of course leave is definitely off as a general leave ban for all services is in force.
Fri. 21: W.O.S.B. concluded today and our fates are now sealed but results will not be released till Sunday. Tonight a "smoker" was held in the Garrison Theatre each platoon contributing something. There were side shows, sketches, sing-songs and refreshments. A splendid time was had by all.
Sat. 22 A day of miscellaneous admin. duties. Tonight all the cast of the Revue had tea at Pool House, then on to the pub where Captain Clayton stood us drinks. A dance was held in the Garrison Theatre, featuring Quantrill's Dance Band, but I did not enjoy it for some reason.
Sun. 23: Results of W.G.S.B. this morning. I, with some 30 others, have failed. Interview with Commandant did something to help me come to terms with this disappointment. Tonight there is a mixture of jubilation and despondency in the camp, understandably.
Mon. 24: Our H.F.T.C. course has dispersed, the DS coming to see us off on the train at Achnasheen. At Inverness we went our separate ways; the majority to pre-OCTU, the rest to return to their units.
PROGRAMME OF COURSE 7 REVUE
HIGHLAND FIELDCRAFT TRAINING CENTRE
(by permission of Lieut-Col. Lord Rowallan M.C., T.D. Commandant
No. 1 Company
a sparkling revue
"GET CRACKIN' "
Garrison Theatre, Poolewe
Friday 14th April, 1944
Producer: Francis Findlay
Musical Director: Ron Brash
Stage Manager: Terry Inglis
GOD SAVE THE KING
2. HERE WE ARE!
All the Boys
3. HAPPY EVENT!
Hank Thomas, Williams Wynn, John Stevens, Flip Floyd
4. AULTBEA ANGELS
Introduced by Jimmy Bruce
Eric Maxwell, Ken Dyson, Artyhew Isaacs, Bill Nelson, Nosmo King, Neviski Neave
5. HALT! WHO GOES THERE!
Bill Simpson, Hank Thomas, John Stevens
6. IRISH FANTASY
Bill Simpson, Paddy Rafferty, Tommy Mitchell
Neviski Neave, Flip Floyd & Jimmy Bruce
supported by some of the boys
Jimmy Bruce, Terry Inglis, & Gabby Grant
9. WATER! WATER!
Fred Wotton & Dicky Mann
10. VICTORY POLKA
The entire company
Community Singing with Bob Todd, Accordion
11. ON THE PLANTATION
Way Down South
12. STANDING IN THE GUTTER
13. MORNING IN THE MANSE
Eric Maxwell, Smudger Smith
Neviski Neave, Rut Rutherford
14. TAFFY GIVES FORTH
15. WILL HE?
16. MADAM LYDOFA DUSTBIN AND HER GIRLS
A Breath of Spring
17. SNOW NOW
Francis Findlay, Bill Simpson, Gabby Grant
18. TWO OF US
Terry Inglis & Jimmy Bruce
19. OUR STEVE HELPS THE COMPANY TO SAY "CHEERIO"
THE BACK ROOM BOYS
You didn't see them but they were in the show!
Al Hind - Brim Brimelcome - Chuck Hayes - Blondie Maynard - Hal Hagreen
Poolewe Pool - Steamboat Struthers - Tansy Lee - Pixie Jones - Ken Loney
"THEY GOT CRACKIN' "
Through the various stages a good soldier passes
He mixes with types of all grades and classes
In fact when the time comes that he's done his lot
He should know a good man and one that is not.
We flatter ourselves from our army career
That we've learnt to see men through their outer veneer,
And whatever our unit I think you'll agree
They're a rattling good crowd at the H.F.T.C.
With Colonel Rowallan in charge of the course
You finish up dead or as fit as a horse.
And though D.S. may mean things that might make you laugh,
The letters mean really a "Distinguished Staff".
And when think retirement of days that are gone
We smile as we say with contentment "Bash On!"
Violins - Ron Ireland, Roe Adams; Trumpet -Harry Luff;
Accordion - Bob Todd; Bass - Curly Sherrett;
Piano - Mac McDonnell; Drums - Pip McGurk
Conductor - Ron Brash
BEHIND THE SCENES
Terry Inglis and his merry men have supplied our scenery and props.
Painter - Bob Kirkby; Carpenters - Rusty Davis, Chippy Coe and Tatler Tate.
R.S.M Williams and Erie Maxwell (Make-up)
Sparker Hammond, Cokky Cookman, Doug Gardiner and Johnnie Westwood (Lighting)
Topper Brown and his GANG of sergeants have manhandled you to your seats.
Your money has been spent by Colin Ware.
We would like to include everyone, but there is no room
so open up your programme and lets
"GET CRACKIN' "