IT IS 60 years since the last men entered National Service in the UK.

Peacetime conscription was introduced in 1947 for all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 30. They initially served for 18 months, but in 1950, during the Korean War (1950-53), this was increased to two years.

Between 1949 - when the National Service Act came into force - and 1963, when the last National Serviceman was demobbed, more than two million men were conscripted to the British Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force.

Alistair Wallace was 19 when he was conscripted in 1958. At the time, he lived in Uddingston and worked as a clerk for Wills cigarette factory in Glasgow.

“I wanted the RAF, I thought I could learn a trade,” he recalls. “The letter duly arrived and instead, it was infantry 1st Battalion, the Cameronians at Winston Barracks.

“I felt afraid, apprehensive – me, a clerk from Uddingston, an introvert, not street wise - how would I fare?”

Alistair, who is now 81, recalls training included ‘route marches, assault courses, lots of drill – no problem to an ex-BB boy” and weapons instruction.

“The 303 Rifle, later replaced by the Belgium FN; rocket launcher, hand grenades, Bren gun, sten gun,” he rhymes off.

“Care and cleanliness of your personal rifle was paramount. They were examined every time you paraded with them and if they were dirty you got some form of punishment.

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“You were responsible for your own kit, which was checked every week – everything laid out neatly on your bed, your locker open, and if anything was missing you had to pay for it.”

Alistair laughs: “And of course, ‘bulling’ your boots – getting a shine you could see your face in. It took ages to master the art and everyone had different ways of doing it.”

He adds: “Gradually, you got to know the rest of the guys and you adapted as best you could.

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Training lasted for 12 weeks and the young conscripts were not allowed out during that time.

“There were fights, disagreements. One of the guys did something wrong and he had to jog around the football pitch with a backpack filled with stones. The Provost Corporal forgot about him and the lad had to do it for ages.”

After training, Alistair was assigned to Bravo Company and posted to Jordan, where he became the company clerk responsible for recordkeeping. He spent time in the Holy Lands and Petra and organised a climb up Kilimanjaro.

“That was a real highlight,” he says. “I was proud of surviving National Service, and of doing a good job – and later, I took great satisfaction in knowing that my father was proud of me.”

There were lowpoints too, not least having dysentery while on the hills surrounding Amman in Jordan.

“Most of us had it and it was not pleasant at all,” says Alistair, wincing at the memory.

“I also had to learn how to box in basic training – I had never done it in my life and was up against a lad who was an amateur boxer. My jaw was sore at the end of the three rounds.”

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After National Service, Alistair found it hard to return to life as a clerk and eventually, in 1961, decided to join the police.

“What did I learn during my two years? How to temper criticism with positivity, how to encourage by example , how to treat the men with respect and listen to their requirements,” he says.

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There was no option to avoid National Service, says Alistair. “In truth, I would be a poorer person not having had the experience,” he says.

“The first few days were daunting but there was so much going on you barely had time to digest it all. Happiness is not a thing you experience but one you look back on.”

*Did you do National Service? What are your memories of that time? Email your stories and photos to