As You Were! Audiobook
During my career I held nine ranks in four trades. I served in twelve Corps units and set my uniformed feet on the soil of twenty countries. I held appointments with the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force. There is a story in there somewhere and as memoirs are not the exclusive domain of generals.......
.....this is my story.
.....this is my story.
Link to audio files at bottom of the page
Chapter 1 - Basic Training
It seemed obvious to me that with my surname I would be right at the back of the queue and so, hoping that there would be enough money left for me when it eventually got to be my turn, I stood aside and let the others attempt to sort themselves out. All I would then need to do would be to join the back of the line. Simple. What I had not bargained for was Cpl Moss, with his radar sensors at full power, interpreted my logic as total apathy. He demanded to know, at over a hundred decibels, the initial of my surname, and I told him. Either his knowledge of the alphabet did not stretch to the twenty fifth letter or he just could not believe that a week old recruit would question him.
Chapter 2 - Maritime Army
The first time I did the job and I hooked myself a heavy one I overrode the safe working load devices and carried on lifting. The front of the truck started to paw the air like a begging dog and the front wheels cleared the ground by more than six feet. Total value of crane then, about £25,000. Total weight of vehicle and load, about thiry tons. A heavy and expensive balancing act but it earned me a beer in the NAAFI that night. It seemed a reasonable arrangement.
Chapter 3 - The Far East
Exercise Coral Sands had been a great success by all accounts, but disaster struck our little world when we were finally unloading in Singapore docks. And I was in the thick of it! I was craning out the first Whirlwind helicopter, in the reverse way of lifting and jibbing out simultaneously whilst the crews below pulled the tail down with the ropes, and at the same time other eager freight handlers were manoeuvring the second helicopter close by for the second lift. Suddenly one of the ropes snapped. All of the tension was transferred to the remaining rope and the “tug-of-war” team left holding the broken rope fell flat on their backs. The tail of the aircraft was now being pulled only to one side and it hit the side of the hatchway hard. This impact caused the shackle attaching the helicopter to the hook of my crane to give way and the whole lot crashed down onto the vehicle deck, and the second helicopter.
Chapter 4 - The Royal Marines and the Royal Navy
During the journey back to their hotel Flick Colby really made our day. She explained that as they were not returning to London until the following morning, and the technicians were planning on propping the hotel bar up all night, the dance troupe invited us to have dinner with them that evening at a restaurant of our choosing. Initially those on board when we returned to the Intrepid refused to believe that the six of us were going to dinner with Pans People that night. Eventually their disbelief gave way to downright envy and eventual resignation when they saw us depart in our best Hong Kong suits.
Chapter 5 - Split with Maritime
At the age of twenty four in the office of the 2i/c I very nearly had a heart attack. I could not believe my ears. I refused to believe my ears. I do remember asking him if he was joking which immediately prompted a near fit from the RSM who was lurking just behind my right shoulder, as RSMs do in important interviews. When I realised that he was not joking I ruined several years of hard work by telling him flat that I was not, under any circumstances what so ever, going to be the Officers Mess steward. The RSM did throw a fit then and I was wheeled out into the corridor and treated to a hundred and twenty decibel oration on how to speak and how not to speak to God’s right hand man.
Chapter 6 - The Junior Leaders
The cafe was located on the corner of a small road that joined the main A303 and during our breakfast the awaited milk float came down the side road and instead of stopping it skidded straight across the main road. The miracle that it was not hit from either direction was short lived for it plunged over the bank and into the field scattering milk crates and bottles hither and thither. The milkman salvaged enough unbroken bottles to deliver to the cafe and after the inevitable phone call he joined us for breakfast.
Chapter 7 - Germany
The scene took quite some time to take in. Bearing in mind that it was dark and I stood in an unfamiliar place I was not certain where to look next. It seemed that as this particular Humber pig was trundling through a narrow street in a residential area, with parked cars each side of the road, a german buckaroo driving a black Opel Ascona approached it at speed and tried to pass by when there was insufficient room. The car initially glanced off the front gate like ram fitted to the front of the pig and rebounded into the line of parked cars on its right. After sliding along the outside of two of them, reshaping their bodywork, the Opel driver must have applied a little more right lock and embedded himself, with much destruction into a new Mercedes. Both cars would never move under their own volition again. In the meantime the pig, under the shaky control of a trainee pig pilot, under the even shakier command of Dennis Hewitt also embarked on a campaign of distorting the sides of several parked cars on its nearside before getting a grip of one of them and tossing it aside as it ventured onto the pavement. Although speed must have been diminishing there was still sufficient momentum to ram a prefabricated block of garages which collapsed like a pack of cards on top of the cars therein.
Chapter 8 - Master Driver
Was this not the same person that spent weeks in a Whirlwind during Operation Burlap of East Pakistan ten years previously. Would I ever. However, it seemed that I would have to earn my flight by acting as a casualty for the crew to rescue from the cliffs near Brislington. I flew the left hand seat to the training area and when we landed I had to put myself into a typical location for a rescue to take place. I have to confess to not being terribly fond of high cliff edges and I do not think Bob Danes and his pilot realised just how near to the real thing my “rescue” was!
Chapter 9 - Germany Again
the cook sergeant quietly drew alongside me and asked if he could have a word. He discreetly whispered that he had a problem. What was it I enquired. The cooling fans in the kitchen had packed up he told me. Open the windows I told him back and added that a cook sergeant ought to be able to make those sort of decisions for himself. I did not understand he purred. When the fans pack up, then so do the ovens and hot plates and all the other things electrical that cooks use to cook with. I quietly and confidently excused myself from the RSM and his guest the CO, who by then was Lt Col George Vaughan, and slipped out to the back with the cook sergeant, and panicked. Can it be fixed and quick was my first reaction. No, of course not, things like that never can, can they. So the long and the short of it was that anyone who was anyone in 2 Armoured Div Transport Regiment RCT was about to sit down that night in the beautifully decked out dining room, festooned with silver table candelabra, trophies and goblets...... with nothing to eat.
Chapter 10 - Cyprus
Still, there I was just approaching the cross roads where my journey would start the descent, and the road surface had become very slippery. Not snow covered but icy like a skating rink. The rear wheel drive Cortina is dreadful to control well in those conditions and wheel spin became the feared reality. I chose to continue, after stopping at the intersection of all roads down for a look at the general lay of the land, and as I moved off I regretted it. At less than walking pace, in first gear, the sheer weight of the car overcame any chance of traction being maintained and I took on all the attributes of a sledge. Even breathing on the brakes would have meant certain suicide as the completely unguarded drop to the right on the slight left bend was sheer for hundreds of feet, despite the attractiveness of the snow covered trees holding out their branches to catch me. Steering seemed to have very little effect no matter how I employed all the experience of a senior Master Driver. And that was really the biggest problem right then for I knew I had made a completely wrong decision to continue and I should have known better. What was more, I had no witnesses. There was not another soul to be seen anywhere, which was quite normal anyway up there, and fate had now taken total control of my progress. I did briefly contemplate leaping out whilst I was sliding at a relatively low speed but all I would have achieved then was to hurl my self over the edge before the car. That was out for I had hoped to live longer than my transport at least.
Chapter 11 - The Final Tour
The Landrover actually contained the WO2 Master Driver from 27 Regt RCT and a WRAC Lt who turned out to be their assistant adjutant. They were dragged out of the ‘rover and into the back of the van whilst several enemy got into the Landrover to drive it away. I instructed Sutcliffe to let off several rounds of blanks from his SLR as I drew my pistol and leapt forward to the driver’s door of the ‘rover, opened and dragged the driver out and down before he knew what was happening. In exercise agreed procedure I told him that they were surrounded and my prisoners. As it happened, the one I had overpowered, with the benefit of total surprise, was the leader of the gang and he told everyone else to give up their arms and surrender.
Chapter 12 - One More Tour
Was I homeless and in a refuge of some sort? Was I a hostage? Was I dreaming? As my senses and awareness eventually sharpened I realised that I was luxuriating in the world of the commissioned officer on exercise. It was the start of my second day as a captain and I was in the depths of an underground bunker somewhere in England. It seemed that I had twenty minutes to be up, breakfasted on a sausage sandwich and mug of tea before attending the Chief of Staff’s operational brief for the exercise that was about to begin. I remember thinking that I had truly arrived at the peak of my career, as I crawled out between the legs of a Lt Col brushing his teeth.
Which also means, so is this story over too. Of course I have left out far more than I have written. I have undoubtedly forgotten already more than I can remember and it goes without saying that the greater part of my service life was routine and uneventful and not really worth boring myself with, never mind someone else. But what I have written is, as far as I can be sure, accurate and honest. Many people touched my life during those years, some I have cheerfully forgotten about while the company of others I very much enjoyed.
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