I was already working as a design engineer before I started my National Service, so in 1956 it was the logical choice to join the Royal Engineers as a Sapper (equivalent to the rank of Private) I was 22 Years old.
Once my initial training was completed, I was posted to Maidstone in Kent. I attended a technical college to gain my qualifications in Maths and Heat engines. Another of my duties was to teach basic English and general subjects to other soldiers. I remember once when I was stationed with the 3rd Division in Norfolk, I had to stay in the trenches overnight and that was quite an ordeal. I also participated in an exercise where we had to use boats to cross a fast–flowing tidal river in Dorset.
For the last 9 months of my service, we were sent all the way to Christmas Island. The journey there in itself was interesting, as we first stopped at New York, then Cleveland, then to Los Angeles before flying to Honolulu where we stayed for two weeks at Hickam field next to Pearl Harbour. The last leg of our journey was on a troop ship.
Our task was to build the airfield and scientific facilities for the UK‘S first Hydrogen Bomb tests conducted over the atoll by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. We constructed recording shelters for the scientists, aircraft maintenance hangars and the hard standing for the parked aircraft.
Before I left the island, we were all instructed to assemble at the furthest end of the island, when a V Bomber flew over and dropped a Hydrogen Bomb which exploded at 10,000 feet.
The heat was intense, it was like a second sun behind us. I was sworn to secrecy about this for a while.
When I finished my 2 years National Service, Iwent back to working as a structural engineer, and have built buildings all over the world, one such building was a Mosque in Dewsbury in Yorkshire.