Soldier’s Pay

Were any of the local pubs out of bounds?

'No, as long as you had the money you could go to the pubs. I used to draw ten bob a week. Ten shillings, that's what we used to get on Friday, payday. We had half a crown a day, which was 15 bob a week.'

So you would have been making a lot more as a bricklayer?

'Phew! A lot more. I was making three or four pounds a week. I was earning more than that at Middleton St George. There I was earning about five or six pounds a week, which was a fortune! We were working half past seven till half past seven every day, five days. Eight o'clock till four on a Saturday and eight o'clock till four on a Sunday and that was every week.

‘Why aye, I had a few quid saved up. You know you were making that much money you didn't have time to spend it. Working that long. Oh, I had a few quid when I went in the Army.'

How much was a pint?

'A tanner. A pound would buy you 40 pints of beer. Yeah, 40!'

And cigarettes?

'A tanner for ten, 11½d for 20. Mickey Hubbard and me and a bloke from Ferry Hill, a big tall bloke, we used to go up to Willington and we used to drink up there and walk back.' That involved passing the big mirror outside the camp. 'Oh aye, the guardhouse. Used to have to go there, look in the mirror and he'd see if you were properly dressed, the guard commander--a sergeant or a corporal--before you went out.'

How many men would have been under training in the camp at that time?

'There were hundreds. There were intakes every so often. They used to go out and another one used to come in. There might have been two or three hundred men at a time, maybe, because it was a big camp.'

And after the 14 weeks?

'You used to go to a battalion, get posted. You'd get split up. Some would go to one battalion, some would go to another.’

So by the March of 1942 you'd all be posted?

'No, I went on an MT course. They wanted to give me a tape and stay on on NCOs' cadre, but I said 'I want to be on MT.' I wanted to be a driver so I had another six weeks at Brancepeth. I went up to the MT lines at the top of the camp, moved up there and did six weeks. On trucks, Bedfords, driving around Durham. I passed my test in Durham. I was through the bugger about four times, backwards, forwards, different ways.’ And meanwhile, most of the others had gone.

'They all went to the 16th, or the 14th. Because our battalion had just been formed in 1940. Anyway what was left of us got posted. I had to go down to the 16th Battalion, that was at Rye on the South Coast, I went down there.'

Pte Tom Tunney was part of a draft of 80 Other Ranks who were posted to the 16th DLI on April 10th 1942.

To continue his story in 1942 Winchelsea, click here

More on Brancepeth: a 1945 Article on Recruit Training

A post war photograph of the Middleton St George aerodrome control tower. One of Tom Tunney’s friends and workmates here in 1940 was Kevin Boulger, of Wheatley Hill, who later joined the RAF and was killed in action as a Lancaster bomber crewman in 1944.
Brancepeth Castle
The Great Hall Brancepeth Castle

Above is an evocative view of the Castle at Brancepeth and below a postwar view of the Great Hall, with the Colours of the First Battalion DLI on display.