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It all begins with a key bucket and a iron.

November 2009 the time had come. Back on the great western railway from Plymouth to Exeter St David’s then a quick jump on to the Exmouth line. I was heading back into the jaws of the beast, the beast that had completely smashed me up a few months prior on the Potential Royal Marines Course. In the time spent between PRMC and starting recruit training, I had completed my GCSE’s been surf kayaking, generally messed around smashing footballs of garage doors just kid things, not at all prepping myself for what’s to come. I had played men’s football at u16/u17’s I used that as my excuse for not prepping even writing this now, that sounds like a lousy excuse put hey ho I’m sure I wouldn’t regret that. Right?

Back on the train bags in hand carrying all the crap that I had ask my parents to buy which I thought would help me when I’m out camping. (I hate when people refer to what I do as camping, I enjoy camping but it’s so different and something hard to relate to unless you’ve done it, adventure weekends with Steve maybe inbound). All my stuff in the cheapest, biggest black bag I could find the bloody buckle had already broken so it was a 1 shoulder strap type deal whilst wearing once again a god awful suit that resembled Will Smith in A pursuit for happiness. You know the one.

Dragging my ass, shit suit and massive bag on to the Exmouth line I could see all the other hopeful and delusional candidates who thought they would last 32 weeks of recruit training. A real mixed bag of men all nervous and all carrying shit bags instant relief. We all awkwardly sat next to each other no one speaking all of us just in our own heads bracing for what’s to come. The Exmouth line takes you pass the Exe Estuary and no matter what time of year you take this trip to the quiet town you’ll see men of steel crawling through the thick sludge covered head to toe in the muck of the river Exe desperate to be the winner at any cost. River Exe tick look immediately left you’ll see the tops of the rope climbs, the 30ft wall and the Tank. We where home, a quick scan around and yep, there he was the Drill leader, who was assigned to our troop for the first 3 weeks his sole purpose to weed out those who where unsure and break men to forget they are civilians and install a very early ideology of being a soldier.

Week 1

Skipping the formalities of being bummed on a railway station with onlookers just on their holidays, I’ll move us on to the first task behind the closed gates and it’s doesn’t matter where you go or who you join you are in for a hair cut, sheered like sheep and spat out the other end. Off to the store to collect every piece of 1940’s crap that you could possibly need to survive in the wilderness. Honestly you wouldn’t believe the rubbish that you get given and are expected to make work for you to a unbelievable standard. Failure was always coming your way with this stuff all you could do was minimise the amount coming your way. Grumpy Storeman dealt with kit lugged back to the 60 man hall it was a full afternoon and evening of lectures on hygiene, folding, ironing, washing and cleanliness. Oh don’t forget the thrashings in the room, designed to make people quit and the fact that all recognisable civilian commodities you come to love is taken off you. This made for a particularly challenging week and a complete shock to the system and for some it was to much and the bed spaces started to empty. The days where long of all things I hadn’t expected all basics all boring all general life skills that people don’t even realise can be done in a quicker more professional way. This is where I shined, I hadn’t ever done any of these things and simply had to do as I was told whilst the older men complained and where subsequently punished and then broke under the deliberate mental games. My advice for week 1 is yes you look like a nobber yes there are recruits who are further ahead who think you are a nobber and yes there are elite soldiers who defiantly think you’re a nobber all you have to do is be there at the end. You don’t need to win gold hell you don’t need to be on the podium just be there at the end. Find a comfortable mindset and stay in it.

Week 2/3

These weeks are just progressive weeks from week 1 meaning the routine doesn’t really change. You spend all day doing physical activity, lectures, basic basic soldiering and you may even get shown a weapon sling exciting stuff. The nights are filled with more room phys designed to keep you up late, pointless inspections clothes being thrown everywhere and lights out at 10pm. Immediately turned back on as you have roughly 6 hours of admin that needs doing from washing, drying, ironing, folding and cleaning the Grot. All made worse by the fact that there is only 1 washing machine and a dryer that you have to sit on to make it spin. Between 50-60 blokes this is an impossible task failure was coming and so where the morning thrashings. You spend a lot of time marching to and from places and standing outside for what you believe is no apparent reasons, but what I have learnt (from being on the other side and looking at all the nobbers) is that you are stood there because the Instructor forgot to book the classroom. You also spend hours on the gym floor with all sorts of crazy rules and about 10 PTI’s watching every move. To get a glimpse of what I mean just check out IMF on YouTube. You also run you run a lot mainly around what is called the camp circuit 800m half slightly uphill half slightly downhill the whole way round camp. The sole aim is to be the winner so you don’t have to do it again, and there are dire consequences for anyone who comes over the 2 minute cut off, believe me I know. We all had to wear issued trainers called silver shadows, they where the equivalent of strapping cardboard to the soles of your feet and tying them up with string. The shorts with the perfect crease down each leg where horrendous and also a failure point for blokes who hadn’t got them creases razor sharp. Blue or green t-shirt I have absolutely no idea even to this day I don’t know what you wear and when. You use to have to all obviously be in the correct colour for the day and there would always be at least 1 bloke in blue when everyone else is in green you can guess what came next.

One of the most random and ingenious methods that you are taught early on in training is the famous Key Bucket. Now the key bucket was the sacred item of the duty recruit and must be carried everywhere, within the key bucket was everyone’s keys to there lockers that must be locked when you are not using them. This caused all sorts of confusion, do you just tip the bucket over when you need your keys and everyone grabs there’s like hungry hippos? Do you individually call out whose keys are whose and waste so much time you’ll never make the next detail? Or do you simply grab your as the master of the bucket and let everyone else fend for themselves? I believe the third option to be the smartest and the lesser of all the evils, the fact is someone is going to loose there keys or take an age to find them that was just the game and made making timings impossible.

In summary weeks 1-3 are straight forward, do everything you are told as quickly and as perfectly as possible. Stay in a mindset you are comfortable in and don’t worry about everything else. Win everything what you can’t win just don’t come last. You aren’t going to pick up all the new skills straight away you’ve got your weekends to practice and to learn these skills no matter what you are told no time is ever your own. Work hard and move fast it all has to end some day.

I have deliberately missed out some bits and pieces, I obviously can’t tell the world everything, some parts are deliberately vague and some parts I have just completely forgot about. If you have any questions drop them in the comments and ill respond once my admin is squared away.

Many Thanks

Goonigans UK

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