Day Bren gun blast wrecked my first watch’s innards

SECOND childhood? You bet there is! Else why, after so long without a watch, should I now be dwelling upon getting one? Doubtless you ll recall how, as nippers, having a watch ran second in our ambitions only to driving a train and playing for England.

SECOND childhood? You bet there is! Else why, after so long without a watch, should I now be dwelling upon getting one?

Doubtless you'll recall how, as nippers, having a watch ran second in our ambitions only to driving a train and playing for England.

So, the attraction the windows full of watches have for me of late suggests is it is indeed second-time around days.

That I never got to swank about with a watch as a boy was down to myself. Late in the war a cousin convalesced with us after being injured in a rare Luftwaffe hit-and-run air raid in Belgium. With his RAF uniform Ron wore the red tie common to all wounded servicemen.


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A ground crew corporal, he made no hero claims, but equally wasn't keen for it to get out that he copped his damaged leg when a bomb hit the cinema he sat in at the time.

He ensured my silence on it with the shrewd offer of a watch or a penknife, both from the continent.

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After some agonising, I opted for the latter. With several blades, bottle opener, screwdriver, and a thing for getting stones out of horses' hooves, its swanking possibilities were far the superior.

Despite keeping the knife secured with string to my braces, eventually it somehow went missing. Which, decades later, was also the fate of the last watch I had. Its loss was somewhat traumatic.

Not only was it expensively classy, it also was given to me in the Recorder tradition of marking 25 years in its colours.

It's now almost that long since I managed to lose it in a clumsy head-first slither down too many uncomfortable feet of wet Welsh hillside rock.

Dignity apart there was no real damage, but I guess rather more than a mere watch might conceivably have been grieved over. Subsequent searching was fruitless.

The final hunt, in desperation with a metal-detector, unearthed a couple of bottle tops and a two-bob bit.

Madam said I wasn't worth even that much for being stupid enough to go clambering with the watch on.

At least that one was with me a lot longer than the first I ever had.

As National Service loomed I got plenty of advice from ex-forces Recorder colleagues, including how valuable a watch would be. If nothing else, they said, it would ensure I always got in the NAAFI before all the good wads had gone.

I bought that watch at Samuels, down High Road. At four quid it was twice a week's pay, but was money well spent over the brief time it worked OK.

From day one its luminous hands gave useful early warning of the duty corporal's thunderous, boot-crashing arrival to arouse the billet.

Near the end of square-bashing - old hands by then - we laid on a surprise for that worthy's appearance by all being sat up to rigid attention in our snore-pits,fully dressed, with berets.

The astonished corp', temporarily silenced, got the joke even more when, on recovering himself and barking "stand by your beds", he was treated to us doing so bare footed and trouserless. Not a pretty sight!

But my watch went unserviceable after a session on the range when, for the first time, they let us play with Bren guns instead of Lee Enfields. My cardboard target man was sagging from earlier rounds and, forgetting the RAF Regiment sergeant's instructions, I completed the target's demise with a lengthy burst.

A second later sarge's large hand descended to clamp mine on a painfully hot barrel, and he yelled above other guns' clattering: "I said three rounds at a time, not half the bloody magazine."

A deserved rollicking.

Yet worse followed when my watch, shaken up by the Bren antics, stopped keeping the right time.

Few of the shop window watches I peer at now have one dial.

What their two or three smaller ones are for I can only guess at.

The watch tempting me will, at button touch, give the local time all over the world. There's real swanking for you.

It's highly unlikely I'd ever need such info, of course.

Not, though, as unlikely at my time of life as ever again wrecking a watch innards by letting wildly loose on a Bren gun.

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