Keith Schnaar

Joined 1952

Hither Green Ambulance Cadet Division, London

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A black and white photo showing three white, smiling boys, in front of a dark car with a white marquee in the background. The middle boy looks older and is much taller than the two on either side of him. The boy to the left wears white shirt, pale V-necked jumper and black trousers. The two boys to the right wear grey shirts with striped ties and grey trousers. Across their bodies they have a white haversack.
Keith Schnaar (centre) as a Senior Cadet providing first aid cover at Peter Pan’s Pool in Bromley Road, Catford, 1950s Image courtesy of Keith Schnaar
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I went to Dorset, Durdle Door, and we went in private cars, and I think we broke down about ten times on the way. And we slept in – we was on a farm grounds and you had to take your palliasse [straw mattress] with you. And they took you, and then there was a big bale of straw, and you’d take all the straw out and just stuff it in the palliasse so that was for you to sleep on. There were no sleeping bags in those days. And yeah, that was my first experience. We had to dig a hole in the ground, that was your loo. And it had three bars, one bar to put your feet on, one bar to sit on and one bar to hold, and you all sat in a line to do your business, Adults and Cadets. As I say, it was all boys. That was normal. That was great fun. We had a hole in the ground with a dustbin in it, with a flue behind that, and there’d be a long trench, and the fire would be on there. So the dustbin was full of water, so you had hot water all the time, and the grill would go across that, and all the cooking would be done over the fire. So we always had hot water, yeah.

The other thing we used to do was, we used to have our duties in the morning. So the first thing after you got up, you’d have breakfast. You went back. You tidied up your bed. Then we’d have our badge subject. There was always a badge subject on the camp. And then we would be told, “Right, tent ready for inspection.” Once that was done, we would go off down to the coast, down to the seaside at Bexhill. If anybody wanted to go swimming, we all went swimming together. Then afterwards I’d take all their swimming kit away from them, lock it in the vehicle, and I’d say, “Clear off. I don’t want to see you now till 4 o’clock.” And that’s what they did, they went off and had their own time, and they had a good time, came back with us, and then we went back to the campsite for the evening. And there was always something on in the evening for the Cadets. Good times.

Excerpt courtesy of Keith Schnaar