His Story, His Words Part Five

Barrackpore Continues.........A Typical Day

Life was not as strict in India as it was in England, we would get up roundabout six o'clock in the morning. We would have Physical Training and after that there was not much to do. For breakfast we would usually have porridge which was prepared by Indian cooks, these were called bobajees, they used to cook for us and we had proper meals, we had both English and Indian food, curry and I loved that. I loved it the way they cooked it, it was proper curry, there was what was called tops and bottoms, the bottoms was the meat and the tops was the curry soup, I always went for the curry bottoms, practically all the men had curry which would be eaten at lunchtime.

It was quite an easy life here, we would do a bit of training, we did mostly guard mounting. I won twice what was called the stick. First of all you were detailed for guard duties, we wore shorts, a helmet and a leather belt with two pouches for ammunition and we had our rifle. Everything had to be spick and span, I have a picture of how we were dressed.

Typical Dress.  Private Fearon, Taken At Ishapore

I worked with the quartermaster called Ozzie Pearson, he was formerly the Regimental Sergeant Major, he was strict, real strict, he was an ex miner and spoke with a real Geordie accent. We would start guard mounting by lining up and being inspected by the officer who was on duty that day, the smartest soldier would be picked out, he would have to fix and unfix bayonets and he would then remain standing while the others marched off to do the guard mounting, which was two hours on guard and four hours off guard, it was a twenty four hour guard. The smartest soldier known as the stick man would got to the battalion headquarters carrying a thick stick and he would run messages for the CO and others but the main thing was you had a night in bed. There was a lot of competition to win this.

I remember a chap called Chalky White, he was in Inkerman squad and he was only as tall as me, in those days we could go down into the town to Calcutta and them places wearing what you call white patrol uniforms. At certain times of the day the visiting rounds would come round which was the officer for the duty of the day, when the guard on duty saw the visiting rounds he would say "HALT who goes there" "visiting rounds" "advance visiting rounds and be recognised, stand fast visiting rounds" "guard turn out" and the guard would turn out. Well Chalky had gone out and he had had a few drinks, he was dressed in his white patrols and the chap on guard could not recognise Chalky, he was told to halt, Chalky said he was visiting rounds but he wasn't he was only a private soldier and he turned the guard out, I think he got fifty six days in the can for that.

As in England we did a little bit of training, not a lot because in the afternoon it was very hot. We listened to gramophone records or played Majong, this was a popular Chinese game in our battalion, we did play for money but we were not supposed to. Many times the regimental police would come and nab some of the lads. There were tales of chaps who had been drinking in the wet canteen being tripped up by the police and saying they were drunk so they had to do the odd jobs around the barracks.

In the hot afternoons we went to bed, except if you were on guard of course, they had to stick it out or there may have been other small jobs that were going on. It was just to hot to do anything, we used to lie on our beds with nothing on, stark naked and the punkas would be going. I did not feel the heat to be much of a problem to me. We would lie down for the whole of the afternoon, we got used to it being idle. When we got up we would just have a walk around the barracks, there were not many military duties.


In the evening we played football or hockey when it was cooler. Different companies used to go to different places outside of Barrackpore. I played both of these as well as cricket. Different battalions used to play football with one and other and the battalions also used to box, we had boxing champions. I have a picture of my mate who lives in Wolverhampton, he was in the King Shropshire Light Regiment, Mick Dunn his his name, I met him in 1935 in Bombay, this year the All India Boxing Champions was held in Bombay.

I played for the company football team and I boxed as well, the first time I did any boxing was in a place called Lebong in Assam Darjeeling, we were stationed up there near to the big tea plantations. There were another two regiments in that area and I was picked. The first person I fought I knocked him out, I had never knocked a fellow out in my life and then I had to meet another fellow and he was taller than me, he had seen me knock this other chap out from another regiment, he kept away from me, it's funny and I'm not bragging, I beat him and I got a little medal, I loved boxing.

The sports were voluntary, some people did not go in for it. If I was not playing a sport I might go into the billiard hall and play snooker. The game of snooker was invented in India by Chamberlain's father. Look what the game is like now, they play for millions.

We would go to the canteen, there were two types. a dry one and a wet one, in the dry one you could get sandwiches and cups of tea, I might pop in with the lads and have a cup of tea or some lemonade or other cold drinks. I occasionally went to the wet canteen but I was not a boozer. we used to just pop in when we felt like it, the lads would say "come on Dusty and have a drink".

False Riot

There was just not much to do but once an alarm went off about 3 o'clock in the morning, there was supposed to be a riot in Calcutta, we all got ready as fast as we could, put everything on, we did not take any machine guns, we took our rifles, I left my Webley back in the barracks. We had to march to Calcutta which was ten miles away at 3 o'clock in the morning and you went to sleep marching, I landed up with another company, "A Company" I think it was, Going to Calcutta we had two rests I think of about ten minutes, there was no real riot though it was just to get you up and march. In the end there was this big load of sand and when we stopped I just flopped down on it and went to sleep. When we woke up I could not find my rifle, with me lying on it and turning over, the rifle had gone into the sand and I found it, I would have been court marshalled if i had lost it. I found it, it was covered in sand but I cleaned it up. The bullet would not have blinded anyone it would have been the sand in the barrel (laughing).

Going Out

We were allowed out into Barrackpore but you had to be back at a certain time, in fact I still have my pass from them days. If we went into Barrackpore there was not much to do, it was only a village. Most of the lads used to go to Calcutta, we would have to get a taxi there, we used to go to the markets and by a vest or something like that. We did get stationed in Calcutta at Fort William.

We were warned about VD and brothels but I never went to one, when chaps used to go out they used to give them condoms or French Letters as they were known in our day but it never bothered me, there was too much VD, there was an awful lot.  When we left Bombay to go to Khartoum there was a regiment from Hong Kong that took over and half the battalion had VD, there was hell on about it, that was in 1935/36.

Getting on with the Locals

We had our own Indians, I have pictures of them, we called them followers, they used to do all the work like sweeping up, cleaning up, washing. I had my own servant when I was in the stores, he used to make me a cup of tea, being in the stores I had my own little cabin. Not everyone had a servant. I used to give mine a rupee every week, we treated them well. There was one case where a char waller was kicked in the stomach because he wouldn't pay his debt, the char waller accused this fellow of bashing him about, he was all cut and bruised. What would really happen is the Indian would get his mates to cut him up, it was really the lads fault, if you got caught you got a court martial.


We would turn in about 10 o'clock at night, sleeping with hardly anything on from ten till six in the morning, there was not much to do. Because there was so little to do one could go doolally tap (camp fever), some did and one lad committed suicide by drowning himself on a purpose, I forget his name now but he did round about 1934 it must have been.

When we moved from Barrackpore to go to Bombay, Deolali wasn't very far away. Our company, "D Company" went to Doelali. Doelali was a recuperation station for anybody that was ill, there was a Parsi Burning Temple there, I have photos of that, the Parsees they are the richest people in India, they come from Persia originally, they were very rich and well educated. When they died they were placed on buildings where the vultures would eat the dead bodies.

Parsi Burning Temple In Doelali

Doelali Camp

Washing Day At Doelali

The Deolali Tap was say a hundred years ago in the days of Clive Of India, when soldiers were leaving to go home, any that were ill or looked ill were kept back for treatment, they were not allowed home. A colour sergeant would have some tar in a bucket and a long stick with something like cotton wool on the end and any soldier who was embarking for home if he looked ill he got a tap on the shoulder with the tar to say he was ill and had to be kept back, that's is the Deolali Tap. Nothing to do with going round the bend.

We stayed at various places in India, Barrackpore, Ishapore, Midnapore. There was a rifle factory at Ishapore, companies would go there to guard the rifle factory. It was very frightening there it was pitch dark at night time and you were on your own there. Every little noise made you jump and the monkeys would drop things on you. Then the visiting rounds used to come round. There were Indian guards too and every now and again they would shout "Twelve o'clock and all's well". There was also a place called Jaffapore and I often wondered why we went to some of these places.

I was in "S" Company at this time which was a support company, I was always ,up till I finished my soldering, I was a machine gunner. I was a store keeper too, it's all in my records.

Unlucky Wallas Ishapore

Part Of Rifle Factory Guard At Ishapore

Sea Plane At Ishapore

Water Tower At Ishapore

Daily Bath At Jaffapore

Guards At Midnapore

Other Places - Lebong And Darjeeling

We were stationed in Lebong, it is near Darjeeling, Assam. We used to get up there with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, I have pictures of this as well. The railway used to go round and round up the mountain, it was a glorious site up into The Himalayas, near Mount Kangchenjunga, there was snow there, oh! it was fantastic. The railway was designed by a woman many years ago and a chap used to sit in front of the engine throwing sand on the line so the wheels could get a grip, when it was going up sometimes the back carriage would be underneath the engine. The whole company would go up there.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Single Loop At Ghoom

Ghoom Railway Station

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Engine

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Engine

There was a racecourse at Lebong, it was built into the mountains, they used to get top jockey's riding little ponies, there was a tote there as well. Sir John Anderson, the one who built the Anderson Shelters, he was up there, he was Governer General of Bengal then, he was up in Lebong with his two daughters, he was watching the races with his aide, an Indian came up and fired a shot at him trying to kill him but he was such a bad shot that he hit the Governer's Aid in the ankle. Then the bugles sounded and the alarms, everybody was dashing all over the place.

We used to go to Darjeeling for a night out, it was great, there was a cinema there, Darjeeling was very nice, the tea planters, the tales I heard were that they were white coloured men, they weren't allowed to marry but they could have a woman and if a child was born then that child was taken to St. Joseph's College in Darjeeling to be brought up. It was like an orphanage place but they were looked after. The tea planters used to signal us lot and ask for news on a heliograph.

On a Friday it was what you called buggin' night, we had to take our beds out and get rid of the bugs, some of them bugs went to The Sudan in the bottom of kit bags. These bugs were terrible, they used to suck your blood, they were bed bugs.

Lebong Barracks

View Of Mount Everest

Mount Kangchenjunga

Storm Over Mount Kangchenjunga

Darjeeling With Mount Kangchenjunga In The Backgroud

General View Of Darjeeling

Tea pickers In Darjeeling

Other Places - Fort William

We went to Fort William because the King's Royal Rifle Corps were on manoeuvres and our company had to take the barracks over, Clive (Of India) was there, they were his barracks in Calcutta.  We laid our beds out one night, nice white sheets and we went out for the night, when we came back,  we only had oil lamps on and I looked at my bed and it was black, so I said "who has been messing around here then?", when I put my hand on the bed, there were bugs, the heat of the lamp had but all the bugs out, there were terrible bugs in India, they were dropping from the rafters.

Here is where the Black Hole Of Calcutta was, it is a post office with a plaque on the wall.

Part Six