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Verdict on National Service, 50 years on

24 May 2013


From Brig. Norman Allen (Rtd) CBE
Sir, - Professor Bob Holman's reminiscence (Comment, 10 May) brought back my memories of National Service. As a teenager, I spent much time in hospitals, only just surviving TB. Supposed to be unfit for military service, I was consigned to a dreary office job.

Nevertheless, when called up, I managed to pass the rudimentary medical, to serve and enjoy a worthwhile 34-year career. I am still in touch with some of those who served with me in BAOR in the early 1960s; they all benefited from the challenge of National Service, and have gone on to be fine citizens.

(Reader, St Paul's, Wandsworth)
18 Viewfield Road
London SW18 1NA

From Dr John Horsfield
Sir, - I served in the Army as a National Service infantryman in the same years as Professor Bob Holman was in the RAF.

His view of public-school officers is different from mine, and shows a class bias on his part. I was a private soldier, and was impressed by the spirit of service and an attempt made by officers from public schools to engage with the non-officer ranks. That many National Service officers came from public schools was not because of any inherent bias in the system, but because many of those schools had officer-cadet training corps.

I do hope that Professor Holman has not carried over the social chip on his shoulder about public-school-background officers into his work as a Professor of Social Policy.

8 Crouchfield Close Crooked Lane, Seaford
East Sussex BN25 1QE

From Prebendary Derek J. Johnson
Sir, - I enjoyed Professor Holman's article on National Service, particularly his drawing attention to class distinction.

I did National Service 1954/56 in the RAOC, serving my time mostly at Bicester, near Oxford. I worked in the orderly room with other offices around. Outside the offices was the lavatory block. There were three sections clearly marked. One. Officers. Two. Warrant Officers and Sergeants. Three. Other Ranks.

Even in the lavatories, the twain were not allowed to meet. True class distinction.

6 St Paul's Close
Aldeburgh Suffolk IP15 5BQ

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