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My Sandhurst Accolade

My Sandhurst Accolade by Guy Martyr

During my first days at Sandhurst, in 1979, on a ‘Standard Military Course’ - six months, non-graduate, British army officer training - we were instructed in various domestic skills by our kind, fearsome, strict and forgiving platoon Colour Sergeant, of the Irish Guards, of fond memory, amongst which: ironing shirts (still employed today) (worth joining the army for alone), bulling boots (see elsewhere in this blog), washing white parade gloves (easier than you would imagine) and . . . mattress care!

“Turn it over every two weeks, to prevent dust collecting in the tufts” – a spurious reasoning? but probably more about discipline. “If you don’t, you will be charged for cleaning the mattress at the end of your course” he warned, during one of the instructional episodes, when we crowded into a cell-like bedroom on the platoon corridor to watch his demonstration. The explanation seemed implausible, but dutifully I carried out this task, at the allotted intervals, removing all the bedding, flipping the mattress over side-to-side and end-to-end, and on with the show . . .

Six months later, our dear Colour Sergeant conducted his final inspection of the rooms. My turn came: the mattress’ turn came . . . I removed my bedding; he inspected the upper surface; clear; then flipped it over like a French pancake; the under surface, clear.

“Well done, Mr Martyr, no cleaning charge.”

“Thank you Colour”.

His inspections went on along the platoon corridor, room by room:

“Charged for mattress cleaning” “Cleaning charge” he intoned one after another.

At the conclusion of the inspection the Colour Sergeant deemed it worthwhile to come back down to my room to impart to me: “Congratulations, Mr Martyr, you were the only one in the platoon who had no cleaning charge. How did you do it?”

“I just turned it every two weeks as you said, Colour.”

“Really?” He was somewhat incredulous.


And so it was I achieved that most rare of Sandhurst accolades: no mattress cleaning charge.

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