Monday, 2 January 2012

Tales from the Academy - Spurs and Eyesight Tests

Swan Neck Spurs
The day an officer cadet is commissioned is a proud one indeed. First there is Sovereign’s Parade in front of exalted guests and proud friends and family. Stirring music is played as young men – and for several years now, young women – march in perfect order, saluting the Guest of Honour.

After the excitement of the day comes the Commissioning Ball when young officers don the mess kit of the regiment or corps into which they have been commissioned. I understand that they now keep their rank badges covered until midnight when the 2nd Lieutenant’s pips are revealed in all their pristine glory. This was not the case in the 1960s.

Those going into cavalry regiments or units associated with cavalry had to put on spurs. These pushed into a spur trap or box and jingled pleasingly as the wearer walked, a different note to each spur. Rather, they should have jingled. 

One young officer, maybe dressing in haste or with his mind on other matters, had great difficulty walking in his spurs. Indeed, rather than ringing clearly as others were, they were making an unpleasant scraping sound and causing the wearer to skid and slide. Onlookers might have been forgiven for thinking that the young man (now a respected magistrate somewhere in England) had taken up figure skating, such was his progress across the polished floor. In fact he had inserted his spurs upside down. This caused much hilarity.

This same young man was determined to join the Parachute Regiment, following in his father’s footsteps, who had parachuted into Arnhem in WWII. Unfortunately, his eyesight was not good but, undeterred, he learnt the eyesight chart by heart and confidently rattled it off to the examining doctor.
File:Snellen chart.svg
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The doctor was impressed and congratulated him but told him that regrettably the chart had been changed and bore no relation to what he apparently had just read. The best-laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley!


  1. A year ago at this time I was in San Diego watching my son and many other young men celebrating their official graduation into the U.S. Marine Corps. It was quite a sight, a wonderful experience!

  2. Without my glasses I can only read down to the red line... Is that bad? lol :)

  3. Maybe that's why his spurs were on wrong- bad eyesight! He had a lot of gumption though.

  4. I would have to memorize the eye chart, too (other than the E at top).

  5. A very quick visit to say hello;o)
    I hope you had a wonderful time with family and friends and I wish you all the best for the new year.

    ♥ღ♥ღ♥ღ♥HAPPY NEW YEAR♥ღ♥ღ♥ღ♥

  6. Thank you, folks.
    @Cildemer - what a lovely flower, thank you:-)


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