Exercises on Salisbury Plain

the wide open spaces of Salisbury Plain in southern Britain have long been used for tank exercises , here watched by the King in during the summer of1941

All over Britain men were being called up and were training for service overseas. A.A. Nicholl was a truck driver with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, part of a Detachment attached to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. As such he was expected to put in rather more rifle practice than the average RAOC soldier:

We were twice on the range during August, once at Perham Down and once at Bulford. We took turns at firing and marking in the butts.

The “Gas” test was quite stiff. The target came up for forty seconds only, at 300 yards and, in the same time, each man had to push his tin hat back, put on his respirator, bring the helmet forward again, leaving the chin strap behind the breathing-tube, grab his rifle (with bayonet fixed) from between his knees, set sights, load, aim and fire five rounds from a kneeling position.

Next, he ran fifty yards and, as the target came up again for twenty seconds, threw himself on the ground, loaded and fired another five rounds. With the eyepieces of the respirator steaming up and the bayonetweighted muzzle waving around as you struggled for breath, it was quite a feat to get the shots on the target at all.

It was such range training, no doubt, which inspired that little wartime verse:

I’m not keen on musketry,
For badges I’m not itchin’
The only range I want to see,
Is the one in Mother’s kitchen!

Anyway, this was the last time I was on the range during the war.

See A.A. Nichol: My Moving Tent: Diary of a Desert Rat

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