13 June, 2021

Mark Tully

Narendra Bisht
Mark Tully

Had I been born a few years earlier, my 18th year would have seen the dawn of freedom for me, because I ended 13 years of incarceration in boarding schools. But there was to be no freedom. In 1954, National Service had still not been abolished in Britain. I still remember thinking, as I walked through the gates of the camp where the Royal Artillery trained raw recruits, “Two more years of incarceration—that’s an eternity.” Time, if my memory serves me right, passes slowly when you are young.

My induction into the army started with kitting out. When an NCO asked me in a broad Scottish accent whether I was a relation of Charlie Tully, I stammered, “I don’t think so.” Hurling a pair of boots at me, he said, “You don’t look like it, you great git.”

It turned out that my namesake was the goalkeeper of the NCO’s favourite football team. That was a very gentle expletive compared with the obscenities bawled at us as we did our square-bashing, quick-marching up and down the parade ground, halting,...

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