My name is Nobby Clarke, or Robert Michael Clarke. I was born in St Chads, and then we moved to Corbett Street in Smethwick. From there we moved to the steel houses on Robert Lane, which were 32 houses on Kenrick Avenue and Bradford Place. I live there from when I was about four years old until I left and joined the boy service on December 7th, 1962. I was in the bad snow of 1963 on Dartmoor. I was with the Royal Signals and spent two years there and then went to Singapore.
I joined the army because my father was an ex-army. My brothers were also in the army. So I was following in the family's footsteps. I was just drawn to it. I did look for other jobs, I did work on the dairy for a bit but it wasn’t for me, I don't think I fitted in. My future life was in the army.
Everybody was solid in the army. There was a brotherhood in the army. You have got mates, you've got friends and you’ve got acquaintances. And without them, even today, you know, it's close as a family that you've got. We are all one big brotherhood. As of today, it's still the same. We're still connected through technology, whether by phone or by email.
I left on the 12th January 1987 after serving for 24 Years and 37 days. I handed in all my kit and my ID card. I drove out of the camp in Sutton Coldfield. I stopped at the old hospital and broke down and cried because I was so lonely. And I drove home thinking, “that's it, I have finished that life.”
In the army I was what they called a ‘cypher operator’ or a cryptographer. As you go through your service the main thing is that you do your duty. You took it as it come. You got your mates and every penny was shared together. Even when I got married and you went into my quarters, we all shared things with our neighbours. We were one big family. Whether it was on exercise, or out on manoeuvres, you shared things together. And that was part of your life. Nobody was left behind. Even the children there were born into the army. Even today, the what we call squaddie kids, they still miss it. I know my children miss it.
When I was in the Army, I hated running. I would do the ‘ten-mile bash’, where we would run with all the kit on our back - we carried all our gear. But when I left the army, somebody says, “are you going to do a marathon?” So I said yes, and I went in for the London Marathon. And my friend says, “you will never do it.” But I did, and I completed my first marathon in four or five hours. I did my last marathon eight years ago. I really enjoyed it. I danced all the way around. I had a team of women and I had to take men helping me out. At the end of it, you were tired, but you knew that you were going to get back. It was all about getting these tins filled to help good causes.
It was the same when we did the Pyrenees. You start off with a great big rucksack on your back. You climbed up and up, it was cold and it was hard. But it was great. You know, you push on through and after a while, you don’t even notice the difficulty, you just get it done. And at the end, it raised a lot of money for other people. This was for the Royal British Legion. The reason for all this is the giving. I have had good times and I’ve had bad times, but if you collect that money and getting in the donations, it’s that good feeling that you have done something for them, and that you have done something good.
There are just two really important words in life. They are: Thank You. They are the biggest words in life you can ever have. It's not a drink. It's not a slice of cake. A thank you is the biggest thing in life you can have.
Life in the army was about sharing. The old days in Bradford Place were about sharing because of the second world war. And it will go on today because of what’s going on across the water in Ukraine.
Now we get to help the community. They can ring me 24hrs a day, seven days a week. Whatever people want, if I can help, I will help. I know a lot of people who can also help if I can’t.
The commonwealth is important, different people being together. We have a different suntan, but if you cut your arm, the blood comes out and it comes out and it's red.
The only difference is what you wear and how you talk. In the end, we all have to share and help each other.