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National Service

Last updated: 9 January 2017

Professor Richard Vinen - SOLD OUT

12 January 2017, 12.30pm

Richard Vinen will unpick the myths of the two 'gap years', which all British men who came of age between 1945 and the early 1960s had to fill with National Service.

Important for military reasons, National Service also had a huge impact on British society. Richard will demonstrate how changes from the introduction of comprehensive education to the legalisation of homosexuality owed something to National Service. He will also look at the effects it had on the men (almost 2 million of them) who served.

Richard Vinen is Professor of History at King's College London. His book, 'National Service', published by Penguin, won the Templer Medal and the Wolfson History Prize.


Royal Marsden Education and Conference Centre
Stewart’s Grove
London, SW3 6JJ
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Events are subject to change. Please check the website closer to the date.


John Tomlinson
27 October 2016, 12.26pm

As a regular soldier who

As a regular soldier who joined at 17 I was was a training
I joined the regular army at 17 did an NCOs Cadre after training and became a Training NCO for over 2 years in 1955. The people I met through National Service made a huge difference in my life and I found out over those 2 years how to deal with so many different issues that people have.

Jim Hawkins
17 November 2016, 2.57pm

After leaving the army

After leaving the army Apprentices School at Harrogate I was posted to a National Service squadron at 1 Training Regiment, Royal Signals, Catterick. When I went into the barrack room there wer three corporals sat on a couple of beds chatting. When I dumped my kitbag on an empty bed and went out to collect my bedding, one of them went over and looked at my army number on my kitbag, "My God, Dudley, he's a regular!" They were all instructors who had left Oxford University after getting degrees in electronics and had been called up for National Service. I found that they were mostly OK, unlike some of the uneducated ones who, once they got a stripe were nasty little barstewards! One of the corporals was in the sports store as he used to play Rugby Union for Scotland, 1 TR being a place where all good rugby players were posted to.

Keith Sanders
30 November 2016, 2.26pm

NS volunteered for 3 years

NS volunteered for 3 years REME. After a five year apprenticeship away from home at Gloster Aircraft, one was skint. Past WOSB posted to Easton Hall, accident on frosty morning on assault course. X1 at 5Battalion Arborfield 41 week course. Sgt. Thunderbird fuses. Commissioned to OC LAD 57 Signals Reg. TA direct to NATO just a few weeks to Captain after lunch with deputy CIGS! Held post until 1989. One more year left to retire then, close call?

Robin Ollington
30 November 2016, 3.34pm

As a former 2yr soldier I can

As a former 2yr soldier I can only quote and heartily agree with the late Brian Sewell who said..."What did I learn from National Service? I learned to shoot with a cold accuracy that surprised those that taught me.I learned to ride a motorcycle and drive everything the Army had on wheels.l learned to pitch a tent dig a trench and wriggle at a snakes pace on my belly.I learned if I did not already have them,the habits of
neatness and economy.Most of a lifetime later I am so burdened by moral baggage that I have perhaps lost the ruthlessness the Army taught me but I believe that my two years National Service has done me more good than my three as an undergraduate,my eight at school and 20 on my knees in church"

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