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Getting the Brown Envelope

by Tpr Philip Atkinson

The recruiting material tells us that the TA soldier is ready at a moment’s notice. Accountant one day – highly trained killer the next. But for all the bravado, few who take the oath reasonably expect that their training will ever be called into practice. Instead, their military skills will lie dormant and unrealised as untapped potential.

So when the brown paper envelopes dropped onto mats in mid January, Britain set in motion the largest mobilisation of her reserve forces since the Second World War, establishing a precedent which changes absolutely the nature and character of the TA – and left most WDs stunned.

Not that this figured particularly highly in the minds of the Westminster Dragoons. After attending to domestic matters, WDs addressed the singular challenge of equipping themselves with ‘Gucci’ kit by buying out Silverman’s of their army surplus stock. Others embarked upon the more radical step of getting married. All prepared themselves for the unknown.

The unknown turned out to be an old munitions works at Chilwell, reincarnated as a mobilisation centre and possessed of that cheery sort of atmosphere that only 30 years of lethal weapons manufacture can bring. It was there that W and A Squadron, with attachments from the RLC, became Y Squadron.

Bodies were probed, kit was issued and freedom was signed away in a series of evolutionary steps that saw the WDs transition from Volunteer to Regular. Some amused themselves by asking the question: “So what do you do for a living?” Reply: “Why, I’m in the Army …. What about you?” Answer: “I’m in the Army as well!” A joke which wore thin the moment we realised that regulars were condemned to a diet of freeze-baked sausage rolls.

But it was with a resolute heart that 140-ish men and women puffed up with that air of confidence that only a full set of temperate climate combats for use in the desert can bring, boarded the bus and headed for Grantham.

Y Sqn Jt NBC Regt, suited and booted for desert warfare

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