by John Hall

I remember the day the Regiment received a shipment of rifles purchased in the United States and used for training. They were not the standard Lee Enfield used by British soldiers, but the American 30.06, Springfield, Red band rifles. I believe they had been used at one time by the American Army and did not use .303 ammunition. Range practices were held at a new range east of the town and I distinctly remember carrying pails of water up to the firing point in the hope that I might get a chance to fire the 'thirty ought six'. I kept asking the officer to let me 'have a go' which was Army slang in those days and obviously borrowed from the British who were the instructors. Finally, at the end of one range practice the officer in charge looked around to make sure everybody was well clear and said, "Come on kid, get up here and have a go. Don't tell anybody I let you fire though, or I'm for the chop." I dropped the water pail and ran up to the firing point. He told me to lie down and handed me the rifle which I held in my left hand while he handed me a clip of five rounds. "Put the clip in, push down hard, knock the empty clip away and close the bolt" he said. I did exactly what he told me and he said, "At your target in front, five rounds, fire when ready." I carefully looked through the sight as I had heard the instructors tell the soldiers to do, and squeezed the trigger. There was an almighty roar and I was propelled backwards, almost off the mound. I thought I had been kicked by a mule and I wasn't exactly sure where I was, but I heard the officer shout, "By God, he's got a bulls-eye, dead in the centre." I was hoping he would let me stop right there, but he said, "Get up here kid, and try again" and I did. This time I had an 'inner', just off the bull. By this time the soldiers who had laughed when I crawled up to fire my first shot, were cheering me on and I crawled back up on the mound and fired my third shot. This too, was another bull and as much as that damned rifle was kicking the hell out of me, I was determined to fire my last two shots and I did, one more bull and an inner. "There, you bloody people," said the officer, "even a kid can do it and I'd better see better results tomorrow from you lot or I'll have you." I staggered off the mound, having cleared my rifle as soldiers were trained to do and went home.

The next day my shoulder was black and blue, my right eye was closed and my face was swollen, but I was hooked. I knew that day, as sore as I was, that I wanted to be a soldier and for thirty years I was. I spent many hours during my career firing many different types of weapons but I'll never forget the 'thirty ought six' or the thrill of my first 'bull'.