04 October 2011
Scottish Memories reader David Reid recalls being called to serve Queen and Country in the aftermath of World War Two. I remember receiving a letter from the Queen when I was seventeen years of age, in 1947. It told me that the British Empire was in need of my assistance as a soldier and instructed me to report for a medical examination at the army medical centre on Glasgow’s Argyll Street. ...
Scottish Memories reader David Reid recalls being called to serve Queen and Country in the aftermath of World War Two.
I remember receiving a letter from the Queen when I was seventeen years of age, in 1947. It told me that the British Empire was in need of my assistance as a soldier and instructed me to report for a medical examination at the army medical centre on Glasgow’s Argyll Street.
I’d never been to Glasgow in my life, but it happened that I was living in Ayrshire at the time and Glasgow was the nearest centre. Mind you, my father had just been demobbed the previous year after five year’s service.
On the day appointed, I caught the early bus to Glasgow, which was filled with workers and students and had a smoky upper deck. Reaching the bus depot in Waterloo Street, I coughed my way off the bus and asked someone to direct me to Argyll Street. I stopped a middle-aged man and asked if he could help. He told me I was miles away and should get a tram to Maryhill Barracks. Apparently, he’d had his medical examination there in 1916.
Once I arrived, I entered and found a tall corporal seated at a long trestle table. He fixed me with a steely gaze and barked loudly ‘Naeeem?’ I thought this was a military command, but had no idea how to respond to it. He barked again ‘Naeeem? I, being well brought up, said ‘Pardon’. An older man in a white coat leaned over the table and said ‘Just tell him your name, son.’
There were several of us in the waiting area. The corporal ushered us into a sparsely furnished hall where several men in white coats put us through various tests, some quite embarrassing. We were later led into a long room at the rear of the building. It had a metal trough mounted on one wall. The corporal informed us that we were required to give a specimen of what he called ‘yow woutah’, and he handed each of us a glass receptacle and a stick label with our name and a number on it. The corporal told us that when we had, as he put it, ‘done our duty', we were to stick the label on the receptacle and having done that, we were free to go. He then politely left us to our own devices.
I noticed that two of my companions were somewhat furtively exchanging labels. When in enquired why, they looked at me pityingly and explained that one of them had diabetes and that exchanging the labels would ensure that the healthy one wouldn’t be called up for the army and that the other one would be discharged in a few weeks.
I was impressed. What a simple way to defeat the plans of the British Empire. No wonder we ruled the world.
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