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Once a PTI – Sam Smith


Once a PTI… by Sam Smith

I was born on St Patrick’s day1940 in India, my father was an officer attached to the Indian Army and I wanted to be close to mum and dad. Dad died in India 1945 and we were repatriated to the UK.

After going through several schools, I ended up finishing school at the Belfast Technical Collage and started an apprenticeship in the linen trade. At 16 I fudged my age and joined the Territorial Army in the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC). At 18 I decided that factory work was not for me and joined the Royal Marines in 1958, being put with 693 Squad.

Passing for duty, I then went to 45 Commando in Malta for my first posting and then later to Aden. Upon return to the UK I went on a JNCO’s course, passed and somehow ended up being sent to Deal to do a PT2 course! I joined 12 other hopefuls and started training. Our staff instructor was Tug Wilson and we were tutored by many other PT legends such as Mick Rutherford (boxing), Jock Joyce, (fencing), Doc Halliday (athletics) and Ted Paddon (cricket).

After the PT2 course (from which 6 of us survived!) I took my first squad through and then went on a SNCO’s course and managed to pass that! I then went back to Deal as a member of staff and taking another squad. Although I had been reasonable at most sports in general at school, I was never really interested in developing any of the skills. The PT course changed all that and I found that I enjoyed most of the activities.

Although perhaps I was not very good at gymnastics in general, especially ground work, I was able to do OK on the rest of the apparatus. Vaulting was my best, and all from 3 paces! I had no problem with 2 long boxes end on end – remember them? Then there was Judo, where I somehow got the name of ‘The Blob’ for holds in groundwork! Also, in fencing, basketball, water polo and swimming I did quite well at unit and corps levels.

All this time I was only acting corporal and so when posted to 42 Commando, I went as a Marine and joined L company in Singapore in late 1962. A few weeks after being there we were called off the beach to get back to barracks ASAP. We soon found ourselves on the way to Brunei as there was a rebellion of some sort going on and Gurkas had been killed. Only two thirds of L Company were able to be airlifted to Brunei, for whatever logistic reasons at the time.

We took over the Brunei Hotel and Captain Moore MC RM briefed us as to the situation, as well as reorganising the company into smaller sections. This caused me to be put in charge of a section of six. We took off early next morning to what has become known as the LIMBANG RAID. John Bickford was one of the Sergeants in the company. A month after the raid I was promoted to Corporal.

From there it was back and forth between Singapore and Borneo in general. In between these trips, there was The Malaysian Games to celebrate the uniting of the Malayan countries. A big parade was held in Kuching and sports were contested by several teams from the newly formed Federation. The Royal Marines teams did extremely well at these games, taking quite a few medals, especially water polo and swimming. I am happy to say I was part of both those teams and it was a wonderful experience!

Following my time in the Far East, I returned to Deal to complete a prequalifying course, along with a few other legends, including Mick Wylie (Navy boxer) and Bill Nixon (who was also a boxer for the corps). This time we had Bill Sykes as our staff instructor and Martin Joyce was around to help with Fencing and other skills.

Some of the antics the staff got up to in my time at Deal were also very memorable! For instance, if a group were in the rest room someone was likely to open the door they would hit a golf ball with a cricket bat – and we all know how those things ricochet around an enclosed space, with bodies diving everywhere!

I also remember being chased out on to the front field by Royston Kear, after hitting him in the face with a basketball while we were messing around in the gym! Then there was the cleaning of the gym. Floors had to be covered in linseed oil and sawdust, then brushed up and polished. Beams had to be brushed down. I remember Taff Rees walking along those beams in the ceiling as though he was on the floor sweeping up!

In between all this fun and frolics I managed to get myself to brown belt in Judo, be part of the team for basketball and also take part in a couple of high box vaulting displays. There many good times at Deal for me with many good people, including Mark Cline, Taff Williams, Red Skelton, Barry Millerchip, Derek Dodderell, Del Sherrif, and Vic Harris, to name but a few. I can honestly state that Deal was always my favourite posting – I just loved the place!

I finished my time at ATURM as the Unit PTI and at the rank of Sergeant, I got myself involved with the SBS section in training and endurance. I also did the usual PT things with unit sports, taking teams to various inter unit competitions, as well as also being a member of the team quite often.

I thought VERY hard before deciding to leave the corps and in the end I did. I taught PE for a while, then came out to Australia and after a year out here doing different things joined the Ambulance Service of New South Wales and stayed for 30 years! I gained my degree in Pre- Hospital care (Paramedic Degree) and ended up a senior officer in the service.

At the time of writing this, I have been retired 10 years. I had the pleasure of getting to the PTI Reunion at Deal (July, 2011) this year and caught up with a few old faces and still recognised them after all this time! It was a fantastic trip and I am glad I got around to attending one!

In conclusion, I can say that during my 9 years in the Royal Marines, of all the people I met and served with in the corps, there was not one real rat bag among them – unlike some of those I have met in Civvy Street!

I am now involved with the RMA New South Wales Branch out here in Australia and truly, as they say, ‘Once a Marine Always a Marine’. It never leaves seems to leave the blood – and neither does being a PTI! Thanks for the memories, they will never leave me!

(Sam Smith)

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