A FORMER Army corporal from Blackwood, who served in the same camp as Hollywood star Oliver Reed, is hoping to track down more than 100 of his former companions.

Keith Richards, 78, undertook two years of national service between 1956 and 1958. He was 19 when he left his job as a miner at Oakdale Colliery to register at the Royal Army Medical Corps at Crookham, on the outskirts of Aldershot.

Having only previously travelled as far as Swindon, Mr Richards soon found himself alongside 50 other new recruits from across the UK in an intensive 12-week training programme.

Working alongside 500 other medics, the new recruits quickly learnt about army drills, physical training, injections, route marches and, of course, Army food.

Mr Richards served in C Company at Crookham while Mr Reed, who would go on to star in The Trap, Oliver!, and Women in Love a decade later, served in D Company.

Mr Richards, now of Cwmbran, said: “Ollie was to become a lance corporal in the training wing and his persona, and massive presence, was apparent to all.

“He was quite a character and was recommended for office of training because he had a big education.

“By all accounts, Oliver was a good non-commissioned officer (NCO).

“He already had a family background in film-making and his uncle, Carol Reed, was the director of The Third Man. But, it would be another eight to ten years before he made his mark.”

Once his training had finished, Mr Richards volunteered with the 23 Parachute Field Ambulance in Aldershot for four weeks.

Having suffered a rib injury while training there, he was posted to 6 Field Ambulance, which was located at Thornwood Camp on the outskirts of Epping in Essex, in July 1956. He was on standby for the Suez Campaign in 1956 but, ultimately, did not leave the UK.

Nearly 60 years later, Mr Richards has sought to track down his beloved colleagues. Currently, of the 150 or so he served with in Epping, he has traced 52. Of those 52 comrades, 31 are still alive.

He said: “I formed the 6 Field Ambulance Veterans’ Association with the motto of re-uniting old friends in 2011.

“I started by writing to the features editors of dozens of provincial newspapers, magazines, and journals – making use of telephone directories where I had remembered where my friends had lived before their service.

“Old friends telephoned from all over the country — from Plymouth to Scotland and Liverpool to London.

“Every time I unearth another old friend, I feel energised to find another.”

If you have any information about Mr Richards’ fellow soldiers, call 01633 774205 or email: keithrichards1937@yahoo.co.uk.