Arrived at Brookwood, I chartered an ancient fly and in about twenty minutes or so espied the camp in a field some distance from the road along which we were driving. “’Ard up for a job I should say!” said my cabby, nodding jocosely towards the khaki figures working busily in the distance. I ignored this sally as I dismissed him and set off across the fields with my suit case.
There was a large mess tent, a store tent, some half dozen or more bell tents, a smoky, but serviceable-looking, field kitchen, and at the end of the field were tethered the horses! As I drew nearer, I felt horribly shy and was glad I had selected my very plainest suit and hat, as several pairs of eyes looked up from polishing bits and bridles to scan me from top to toe.
I was shown into the mess tent, where I was told to wait for the C.O., and in the meantime made friends with “Castor,” the Corps’ bull-dog and mascot, who was lying in a clothes-basket with a bandaged paw as the result of an argument with a regimental pal at Bisley.
A sudden diversion was caused by a severe thunderstorm which literally broke right over the camp. I heard the order ring out “To the horse-lines!” and watched (through a convenient hole in the canvas) several “troopers” flying helter-skelter down the field.
To everyone’s disappointment, however, those old skins never turned a hair; there was not even the suggestion of a stampede. I cautiously pushed my suit-case under the mess table in the hope of keeping it dry, for the rain was coming down in torrents, and in places poured through the canvas roof in small rivulets. (Even in peace-time comfort in the F.A.N.Y. Camp was at a minimum!)
They all trooped in presently, very wet and jolly, and Lieutenant Ashley Smith (McDougal) introduced me as a probable recruit. When the storm was over she kindly lent me an old uniform, and I was made to feel quite at home by being handed about thirty knives and asked to rub them in the earth to get them clean. The cooks loved new recruits!
Feeling just then was running very high over the Irish question. I learnt a contingent had been offered and accepted, in case of hostilities, and that the C.O. had even been over to Belfast to arrange about stables and housing!
One enthusiast asked me breathlessly (it was Cole-Hamilton) “Which side are you on?” I’m afraid I knew nothing much about either and shamelessly countered it by asking, “Which are you?” “Ulster, of course,” she replied. “I’m with you,” said I, “it’s all the same to me so long as I’m there for the show.”
I thoroughly enjoyed that week-end and, of course, joined the Corps. In July of that year we had great fun in the long summer camp at Pirbright.