a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Performing in The Alchemist in front of Alec Guinness


My experience of national service
Quentin Blake Artist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

It was a was culture shock indeed. You know, I was 19, or something like that. And the army was completely, a completely alien world, and I can remember for instant going to… I think I started off in Oswestry, in… is that Herefordshire? Shropshire, I think, and I can sort of have some pictures of… I can see myself, as it were, from a distance, as though in some dreadful film in… because one was issued with kit, and I've a sort of vision of myself staggering along, you know, way behind everybody else, carrying this stuff.  Also, when they gave it out, they gave you a jacket, sort of battledress jacket, and I thought, but I've got two jackets already they've just given me, I couldn't understand that. And then after a bit I realised they were shirts, but they weren't the sort of thing, shirts that I was used to wearing, and I think I was sort of shell-shocked really, having to get up at five o'clock in the morning, and go off and learn to fire cannons, and things of that kind. But… I then went… that was three months basic training, and I then went into the Royal Army Education Corps and I did I think it was 12 weeks’ training, in Beaconsfield, in Buckinghamshire. There was a big white house there, which was the sort of headquarters, but we all lived in Nissen huts, and it's very strange because there were three companies, so that they trained you on a sort of rotation system. And the company I was in, I think it was K Company, and it was run by a man called Archie Wavell, who was a major, and he was the son of Field Marshal Wavell who'd been the Viceroy of India, and so on, so he was really a completely professional soldier, but very interesting. And in some ways, I did more things there, in that 12 weeks, it was… because the other people were there, the sort of people that one was going to meet later on at university, and in a sense I was less inhibited about doing things then than I was later.

Quentin Blake, well loved British writer and illustrator, is perhaps best known for bringing Roald Dahl's characters to life with his vibrant illustrations, and for becoming the first ever UK Children's Laureate. He has also written and illustrated his own books including Mr Magnolia which won the Kate Greenaway Medal.

Listeners: Ghislaine Kenyon

Ghislaine Kenyon is a freelance arts education consultant. She previously worked in gallery education including as Head of Learning at the Joint Education Department at Somerset House and Deputy Head of Education at the National Gallery’s Education Department. As well as directing the programme for schools there, she curated exhibitions such as the highly successful Tell Me a Picture with Quentin Blake, with whom she also co-curated an exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris in 2005. At the National Gallery she was responsible for many initiatives such as Take Art, a programme working with 14 London hospitals, and the national Take One Picture scheme with primary schools. She has also put on several series of exhibition-related concerts. Ghislaine writes, broadcasts and lectures on the arts, arts education and the movement for arts in health. She is also a Board Member of the Museum of Illustration, the Handel House Museum and the Britten-Pears Foundation.

Tags: Oswestry, Herefordshire, Shropshire, the Royal Army Education Corps, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, Nissen huts, K Company, Viceroy of India, national service, Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, Archibald Wavell

Duration: 2 minutes, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008