Echoes of the past: Spot the awkward squad

Smith House Estate Childrens Treat 1954 - this is the Awkward Squad -  Back Riow L to R: J. Rawnsley, D. Collins, S,Rhodes. Front Row: A.Wood, B. Holdsworth, A. Marhiney and ? Owen
Smith House Estate Childrens Treat 1954 - this is the Awkward Squad - Back Riow L to R: J. Rawnsley, D. Collins, S,Rhodes. Front Row: A.Wood, B. Holdsworth, A. Marhiney and ? Owen

‘Stand by your beds’ - I wonder how many readers can remember those words from their National Service days.

They were the words the sergeant would scream out as the NCO was about to enter your billet. At this point you would all jump to attention as though your very life depended on it.

Whilst the phrase is used today as more of a joke, it was certainly no joke to those of you who served your national service two years and the sergeant screamed out ‘Stand by your beds’

Another saying those who served will remember is the term ‘awkward squad’, often associated with those in an organisation or structure and not just the military service who resisted or obstructed change either through incompetence or by deliberate intention.

I am sure many will be surprised to hear that the term is not something that was conjured during the national service years, but goes back even further, much further. It has been sited that before the death of Robert Burns in 1796 he uttered the words ‘Don’t let the awkward squad fire over me’ Even in those far off days it was a reference to a group of military recruits who seemed incapable of understanding discipline or had not yet been trained up enough to carry out their duties properly.

In this featured photograph from 1954 we have the Smith House Estate ‘awkward squad’ and looking at their outfits it is plainly a joke. The event was the estate children’s treat of that year and the members of this motley crew (there we have done it again another term from the past - so what is a motley crew? The Oxford dictionary says it is an informal expression for a roughly organised assembly of characters of various backgrounds, appearance, and character) who are: Back row (left to right): J Rawnsley, D Collins, Sam Rhodes. Front Row: A Wood, B Holdsworth, A Marhiney and ? Owen.

The lads posed for this photograph just over 60 years ago - may be some members of this squad are still around and can recall those annual events on the estate.