Readers Mail

In lockdown and isolation and needing a haircut

Readers mail….
Richard Chamberlain….

In these days of “lockdown” and not being able to get to the hairdressers or barbers, it reminded me of the time I was stationed in the army in Cyprus in 1954.

My twin brother and I used to cut each others hair before we went in the army, because in those days, there were all sorts of “Film Star” styles, like Tony Curtis and something called “D/A” (Ducks Arse!). So when we had to do our National Service when we were 18 years old, I took my hair clippers in the army with me. 

When my twin brother and I were posted to Cyprus, it was ideal because we could still cut each others hair how we liked it instead of how the army barber did it. One day, I was cutting his hair in the “billet” where we slept, when the other soldiers in the room, said if you can just trim hair instead of the way the army camp barber does it, will you cut mine?

So I said certainly. But it will cost you 6d. The army barber charged 1/- shilling!

Just at that time, the regimental “post orderly” (postman) was sent back to the UK, so I was offered his job. I jumped at it because I was allowed my own room, and I could carry on my hair cutting in relative privacy. The “business” soon took off, because the soldiers really wanted to keep long hair and only wanted a “trim” up the back. And when they went on parade and were told to “Get your hair cut”, they came to me. Although I only charged 6d (in old English money), I made enough every week to not have to take my army wages, which were 28/- shillings per week.

One day, I was cutting hair in the post room, with several men sitting waiting to have their hair done, like a proper barber, when in charged the regimental Sergeant Major. He was a big bully of a man. He shouted at me, “what the bloody hell do you think you are doing Chamberlain?“. I jumped to attention, and said “Cutting Hair SIR!”, He said we have a camp barber to do that. You are taking the food out of that man’s mouth!

He then said to all the men sitting around, “You lot, get down to the camp barber, and get your hair cut“. The man in the chair had half the army Cyprus hair cut, and had to walk through the camp to the camp barber to get it finished off.

The Sergeant Major said “I don’t want to see you doing that again, Chamberlain“, so of course I said “No Sir“.

I thought my business was finished until about 3 days later, a Corporal knocked on my window at 6 o’clock in the morning and said “I need a trim up”, I am on parade in 15 minutes. I said I am sorry, but I have been “warned off” by the Sergeant Major. He said to me if I didn’t do it, he would put me on a charge. So he came into the post room and I trimmed his hair.

After that, I thought that if it is good enough for him, I would start if off again to see how it goes. I think the Sergeant Major knew I was doing it again but decided to turn a blind eye. So the soldiers were happy getting the trim that they liked, and I was happy making money.