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Used to work for AVIVA offshoring IT to India.  Now retired through ill health, writing my life story as a series of blogs chronologically from birth to current time.  At www.jw-alifeofsurprises.blogspot.com

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Punch in the Guts never hurt anyone either! - 1982-1983

The pulse in Sergeant Cameron’s temple was visible as he paced up and down the line. He was fuming and we were the cause, in fact he was so angry that the rage almost appeared as a vapour evaporating from him, in much the same way as a dog turd steams when laid in fresh snow on a cold winter’s morning. There were at least ten of us, lined up in one of the dorm rooms, a gathering of our Trained Soldiers Cadre (TSC) looked on as Sgt Cameron vented his spleen and those lined up alongside me, quaked in their boots. One of those looking on had managed to tunnel so far up Sgt Cameron’s arse, that he was still wiping his brown nose whilst we stood there watching, a smirk playing on his lips. He knew, that we knew, who he was and what he had done to ensure we were now lined up facing certain physical retribution.

I admit to two things: - (a) yes I (we) had disobeyed a direct order from Sgt Cameron and (b) I was not in the least bit scared anymore, of him or anyone else. Of the latter, this was because I had been bullied, pounded, beasted, charged to the tune of over half a year’s salary and endured more than 60 days physical punishment during the past two years. The bullying, mainly from NCO’s, who should have known better, like Q Cadre, (see blog “Those are my Nipples you know”) had in fact made me grow up and stand up for myself, so thanks for that, but more over I had developed what the Spaniards term “Cojones” or Balls.

As for disobeying orders, if the reader refers to the blog entitled “To shave or not to shave, that is the question!” you will find reference to the Trained Soldiers Cadre carrying out their “beasting night”. To recap; senior boy soldiers would gather up squads of previously sleeping new intake boy soldiers and march them around camp, covering them in camouflage cream, boot polish and shaving foam. They would be taken to the various messes for inspection by the officers and NCO’s. I had been soundly beasted once or twice and so was firmly of the opinion that a little bit of beasting back was justified. I am not condoning my behaviour by the way, I was an idiot to do it, but at least I took the punishment to come. The “order” Sgt Cameron gave was that under no circumstances was anyone in the TSC, to beast anyone. My brain responded with “eh? What? What did he say? Eh?”

But I should give a little bit more background to Sgt Cameron, as I do not want him to come out as being unfair, as he was far from it. Sgt Cameron was posted to the College as a Drill Sgt and arrived as I was well into my second year. He was very sporty, (as long as the sport was football) and quickly set about forming a team from our company. I was a Goalkeeper through and through, I had tried the right winger role, but felt I was better placed between the sticks and so I tried out for the job. Sgt Cameron formed 2 teams from those trying out and we played a game, in which, although I do say so myself, I pulled off 3 superb saves. One, a flying jump and dive to the top right hand corner, to tip the ball round the goal, was rewarded with the Sgt running over (he was referring the game), hugging me and saying in his Glaswegian drawl, “Anyone who can save a shot like that, is in my team, you’re in son!” I was so pleased that I was distracted enough to allow the opposition to then score 3 goals in succession, one even going through my legs, but he said they were defensive errors and not my fault, so there!

But I had made an impression and so made the team. He was a tough but fair guy and made our TSC fun and a great learning experience. I admired him and respected him right up until the order regards “beasting”, and actually felt I had let him down when lined up with my co-conspirators. He was generous with the smoke breaks we asked for as we were drilled on the square with our rifles (which I really enjoyed). The TSC was all about getting us ready to join the “proper” army, where we would be serving alongside men, not boys and expected to get stuck in should the opportunity arise and be required and it very nearly was, had I been passing through Chepstow a few years earlier.

The “opportunity” that passed me by due to my age was the Falklands War. In actual fact, I was going home on leave during May 1982 and as I travelled between Paddington and Liverpool Street stations in London, I spotted signs and police officers telling all “Regular” Army soldiers’ and members of all the armed forces, to return to their units straight away. I called Chepstow and was told to go on leave, so I did. I do not intend to relate the whole story of the War, merely to say that, I have only the utmost respect for those serving then and now and we are fortunate to have a Military such as ours to protect us.

Our kit was starting to resemble not only its original state, but an improvement upon that, as the creases were sharper than knives and our bulled boots shone like mirrors, and woe betide you if they didn’t! We were taken to the ranges near Newport to shoot our rifles and then clean the buggers, which as I have said I hated. The great bit was working the range targets in what is called “the butts”, operating mechanical boards, with two targets affixed, when one was raised, the other target lowered, to be marked, pasted with a new target and readied for the next shooter. There was always an urn of piping hot tea in the butts, you could smoke freely, it was sheltered from the elements and you usually ended up having a real laugh.

Sgt Cameron had called us to attention and delivered his order in our final week of the TSC. Under no circumstances was anyone to beast or even look at any new recruits, if anyone was caught, there would be trouble, big trouble. I was left in no doubt, nor was anyone else, that he was serious. A few days later, having had a few beers in the NAAFI and feeling rather relaxed and pleased with ourselves, my co-conspirators and I wandered back to the block, it was not late, around 10pm. The final week of TSC was fairly easy going, we’d done our work and apart from daily drill sessions and kit inspections, we had plenty of time on our hands, to polish our kit and think about home, as we had a few weeks leave prior to going to Minley Manor, Surrey and 3 Training Regiment, where bullying, beasting and brawling, were all part of the daily pleasures coming our way! How ironic!

Whilst we were sitting, smoking, messing with one lads CB radio, drinking tea and telling jokes, someone mentioned (no it was not me) paying a visit to the new guys rooms and saying hello, “what harm could be done getting them to buff the lino on the stairs, wash the loo’s again, run them around a bit, and administer a bit of cam cream to their faces”? “No harm whatsoever”, we all said, although someone may have mentioned Sgt Cameron’s order, we ignored them, dolts! I do not intend to defend myself here; it was a stupid act and deserved punishment. To be honest, it was nothing like the treatment metered out to me and it was over and done with pretty quickly, as it turned out to be boring.

The following morning, we were up and about as normal, then the guy who’d spilt the beans came and told those he knew who were responsible to get down to his ground floor dormitory. I was totally calm as I entered the room, Sgt Cameron pacing about, swearing and pushing each arrival into line. He said we’d let ourselves down and were wanker’s etc. He said that were we not leaving that week, he would have charged the lot of us, but decided the punishment would be for each to take a punch in the guts and if we backed off, there would be more to come for each one who moved. So punishment was more violence, fair enough. I was the last in line and he started with vigour, catching the first guy a beauty, knocking the wind from him and down he went. Everyone looked shocked that he was actually doing it. I stood there and watched as he moved along the line and observed a couple of the guys step back, move and bend forward a bit, only to be shouted at (screamed at) to stand still and given the benefit of a generous pasting.

I resolved to stand my ground, look him in the eye and take it. Fuck it, I had been through worse than this over the last two years, one punch to the midriff was sod all and I was not about to let the dickhead who ran to the Sgt, (the lickspittle), take any pleasure in seeing me bleat or beg or cringe. Fuck it, stand up, shoulders back and take it for once! He moved along with a certain √©lan; “oof”, “argh”, came the noises and I pulled myself straight and looked directly at the twat who’d grassed. I should have stepped out and looked at myself in retrospect; I was there because of my actions not his. As the Sgt moved along the line, some stepped right back and a couple even cowered down, to these he really lashed out, shouting and punching like a dervish and not holding back at all, fuck me!

My turn; I look at Sgt Cameron, he looks disappointed. I stand still, he pulls his arm back, I brace myself and tense my stomach muscles, he paused and said “you fucking idiot, I expected more” and aimed his fist into my gut. I did not flinch, would not give anyone the satisfaction of seeing me move let alone groan. I stood there and stared right back at him, so he did me another one for good measure. I said “Sorry sarge”, he turned away and walked out of the room. I turned to the grass and said...................nothing, what could I say?

The Passing Out Parade involved lots of marching to the band, past the Camp Commandant, Colonel W.M Addison RE, who took the salute and inspected the parade. None of my family made it there, but many parents and friends of the others did and it was a well attended day. The next time we would meet was at Minley Manor in a few weeks. Prior to the Parade, we were informed of where we would end up once our Combat Engineering Training was completed. The process was one similar to many parents choosing schools for their kids, three preferences in order and you’d usually end up with the one you least wished for.

A couple of real examples; I asked to be posted to either: Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire, Tidworth in Wiltshire or Ripon in Yorkshire, as these were Combat Engineer Strategic Reserve regiments, meaning you would invariably travel overseas quite a bit, to varied locations. I got Neinburg Weser, 21 Engineer Regiment in Germany, near Hannover. Meanwhile, Rick Manning asked for 28 Engineer Regiment in Hameln as his brother was there or any other German base and he got Tidworth, stunning! Mind you the benefits for me would be that Mark Cameron was based in Neinburg and Mick Hayes a mate from my company at Chepstow was also posted there with me, so a few familiar faces would be about.

One of the final acts was to sign on when you reached the age of 18 years old. This meant you were a “man” and therefore ready to sign again on the dotted line. You could sign for 3, 6 or 9 years; the Company Corporal always had 9 years written down against your name. I said I would sign for 6 years, to which he said, “They don’t do that anymore mate”. So I said “3 years then”, to which he started swearing saying, “why join up for only 3 years you prick, do you want to be an Engineer or not?” etc. I am sure he was earning bonuses linked to the number he got to sign on for 9 years. In the end I signed for 6 years. It was all smoke and mirrors anyway. I just felt that to sign for 9 years was too much, but as it happened, my actual length of service was to be taken out of my hands anyway by circumstances way beyond my control, circumstances that were to have repercussions on my life to this very day.

It was quite strange leaving Chepstow; I had survived in spite of myself, (my family had expected me home within 6 weeks apparently) and I had grown up, dramatically. I had made a lasting friendship with the guy who was supposed to kick the crap out of me, (yea right!) and had lost my inhibitions, my cherry and my temper. I had moved on from drinking Cider, Cider and Blackcurrant, Lager and Blackcurrant, Pernod and Blackcurrant and variations on the theme of Blackcurrant and was drinking simple pints of Lager, with the occasional splash of lime or lemonade top. I looked forward to the training to come (as I was totally unaware of the aggravation it involved) and headed home on leave to spend my money (what little I had left) and to relax.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Stupidity, Strippers and Sign Writing - 1982

The famous philosopher Forrest Gump once posited that “Stupid is as stupid does”. During my lifetime I’ve seen, I’ve done, some stupid things. Whilst at Chepstow, I witnessed possibly one of the more extreme examples of stupidity that, were YouTube around, would have been ranked up there for hits with “Charlie Bit Me”! The winter of 1982/3 down in south Wales was a beauty, loads of snow and really cold. Our military leaders saw this as a chance for us to experience Arctic Warfare, by taking us up to Sennybridge in the Brecon Beacons and force marching us around for a few days. Our kit was not the most waterproof and thus we suffered from horribly cracked feet and cold aches as the gear was never going to dry out under a tarpaulin overnight. The exercise resembled orienteering, in so far as we were given maps and compasses and sent on our way to locate various items placed about the moors. It was not that bad actually, not until we arrived at the SAS Training assault course, whose obstacles were located in a series of ditches and ponds and consisted of long concrete tunnels half or fully submerged in water, through which we had to go. I was a little claustrophobic but not excessively so and made my way through these gamely.

It was the snow and ice, freezing wind and desperate cold that pissed me off. I am and always have been a summer man, hate the winter, love the summer, rather too hot than cold me! We completed the exercise and headed back to Chepstow, only to find that the camp was some feet under a blanket of snow. Fair enough, I like a bit of snow, in fact the more the better, as the odd flake or two tends to turn to slush too soon and is crap, so if its got to be winter, then bloody snow properly or don’t bother. My brothers in arms were ecstatic and did not hesitate to get involved in snowball fights and the like. One evening, with a gale blowing outside, the snow was banking up against the rear of our building. Our block was three stories high and the back of it looked across a small grass area, which then dropped away through trees towards the River Wye and the trade shops. Two blocks were on our side of the quadrangle, end on end and the grassy area was level with the buildings, then banked up some 10 feet out and then flattened out again as it approached the trees.

The snow was drifting and laying very thickly between the building and the banking and presented an opportunity that one of our number found hard to resist. A Scottish lad from Glasgow had decided that it would be a “clever” idea to leap from the secondary storey window into the snow drift. The first we knew of it was a loud cheer reverberating around the block as he landed successfully and headed back in for another try. Not to be outdone, a few others had a go and were successful, insofar as they did not hurt themselves. The Scot then decided he would leap from the third storey and we gathered at windows alongside and below as he summoned the courage to leap, egged on both those behind. Off he went and through some miracle landed again in a deep drift.

By now, the block next to ours had woken up to the commotion and one or two of them had come into our block to watch, with one of them leaping out after the Scottish lad from the third floor. He then returned to his own block and tried the same feat from their third floor, only to find upon landing that there wasn’t a drift below him, the ground was flat and he snapped both femurs quite nicely. So nicely, that they were compound fractures. Amid the fracas that followed as the guard was called out, ambulances ordered and the poor sod whisked off to Newport Hospital, the evening's stuntmen skulked off, assuming they had escaped sanction, but the following morning their names were called and they were all charged.

Stupidity amongst young men with too much time on their hands is one thing, but the ineptitude of leaders to foresee the impact of poor decision making is quite another.

The Saturday night disco’s were always popular with the lads and the NAAFI, in partnership with the camp had a committee, which organised events such as movie nights, the disco’s and matches between our Pool and Darts Teams and local Public Houses and Clubs. Our Apprentice Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), the most senior ranking apprentice, was on the committee, as were other apprentices and “grown up” Sergeants and Officers. They had all obviously had a combined brain fart during one meeting, as in their “wisdom” they decided the apprentices would enjoy an evening of “adult” entertainment. They went ahead and booked a “blue” comedian and a selection of strippers and sold tickets to the evening, which I believe was held on a week night.

Due to my ongoing battle with authority, I was without the funds required, i.e. I was skint through being fined; and so did not go. But, as with all such things, where things go wrong and unplanned events take place, the grapevine shall provide and so it was that the following morning, stories circulated around the camp as to what happened that evening. Instead of the expected "subtle titillation" and gentle banter that accompanies such evenings, the strippers were rather too enthusiastic and fellated a young apprentice right in front of everyone else.  Then continued to enter into the swing of things providing "hand shandy's" to any youngster brave enough to drop his grots and take to the stage (and there were quite a few takers apparently). It was even muted that a couple of lads got to park their bikes backstage after the show.

Now all this might be seen (and could have been taken) as mere boisterousness, to be dealt with by the Leadership with a quick slap behind the ear and a “think about it lad”, had not the strippers decided that the story presented an opportunity to earn additional £’s by selling their stories to the Sun Newspaper (the UK’s biggest selling daily paper). So a few days later the front page (no less!) carried a headline along the lines of, “Army pays strippers to service boy soldiers” and went on to tell of the nights events from the strippers point of view, embellished with tales of young, randy soldiers, “forcing” the women to perform “lewd and disgraceful acts” in front of a howling mob, baying for more! All true I promise you, and it carried on into the weekend’s papers as well, with questions raised at the highest levels as to the appropriateness of such “entertainment”.

The fallout meant that the Apprentice RSM was sadly demoted to Apprentice CSM, another CSM promoted to RSM in his place. The sad thing was that as App RSM, you lead the Passing Out Parade for your intake group which is an immensely proud moment for those in that position. I think a few others got a slapped wrist, but the App RSM took the brunt of it.

So, there are two examples of stupidity for you, to go along with my own, just by way of checks and balances.

Back home, Mum was getting along a little better and she and my sister were sending me regular food parcels! Very kind of them to, although I think they thought I was serving in a war zone judging by the amount of food and goodies sent to me, which always included a box of Chocolate Cupcakes, which were then, a firm favourite of mine. In the summer of 1982, a few months before I left Chepstow, there was an Open Day, with the local civilian population, parents and families of apprentices coming from all over the UK as well. My Mum, Sister and brother Julian decided they would come down from Norwich, so I booked them into the Castle Hotel in Chepstow, as it looked half decent, was bang in the town centre and on the bus route to camp. They travelled down the day before and amid torrential rain, found their way to the hotel. The hotel had some rooms with Bay windows which looked out onto the main street.

During the evening, the rain came into their room in a line between the bay window and the main room, much like a waterfall only not where you’d want a waterfall. The room was cold and soaking wet, but there was nowhere else to go, so they stuck it out until morning, but I heard all about it the next day and the Hotel staff behaved as if this was the norm and that just made them feel all the more terrible. I was really pleased that they had travelled down to see the world I was working and living in, my only real memory of it though is that I had to salute one of the officers as we walked together through the camp, down to the trade shops.

More Stupidity –
The final few months at Chepstow proved very eventful as John Steed, Rick Manning and I were firmly of the mind that there had to be an easy way to gain a qualification in Painting and Decorating and set about investigating the possibilities. The last module involved sign-writing and was a culmination of all we had learned to date. We were given a board, one inch thick, six feet high and four feet wide. On one side was a false door frame and window frame, to be painted, against a colour scheme of our own design. On the reverse was a smooth panel, which had to be prepared to a glass like finish, and then have sign written on it the words, “Army Apprentices College” and “Royal Engineers”. The sign writing had to be designed by hand, had to reflect specific styles and required hours of work, using tracing paper and various other materials to transfer the design from paper onto the panel. An old example of this work was stood in the corner of the room and it seemed the most natural thing to trace the old version onto paper and transfer it on to our boards. In other words, cheat.
Besides, I was busy of an evening, as were the others, smoking and drinking tea, dancing at the disco etc.

The strange thing is that it did not occur to my simplistic mind, that it was cheating, and so I never felt I was doing anything underhand at all. That’s me being a numbnuts again. One has to consider that the final article had to be spot on; we still had to prepare the piece, paint it and show all the skills our colleagues showed, except we did not have the design elements. Come the marking, Sgt Honess looked at mine and the others and held my tracing paper against first my work, then Ricks and then John’s, and guess what? They each matched my trace and that of the example board. When asked why I had done it, I offered the explanation that I was using my “engineer’s initiative” (a watch word in the regiment). It was a glib and immediately regretted remark and showed no respect for the regiment nor those who had worked so hard for their qualification.

Looking back, I should have been (we should have been) made an example of, but, for some reason, we were marked fairly and passed, with the design elements marks not included. We were all charged and I served the last 4 days Restriction of Privileges of my 69 days in total and was fined £60. We also got a smack in the mouth from Q Cadre for our troubles.

So, I was about to enter that last few weeks of my time at Chepstow. We had a new Drill Sergeant, Sgt Cameron, to lead us through and lead us he did. The last few weeks would finally make me grow up, stand up and mature, again through an act of ignoring an order.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

To sleep, perchance to dream? - 1982

My apprenticeship was going well, my fitness was improving, and to top it off the Brunette from Oxford, (the one on the train to Glasgow) had written to say she was going to be in Bristol on a Thursday night coming up and did I want to meet up? Too right I did, and I planned my excursion, coercing my roommates into covering for me in case I was late back. I organised a late night pass (statutory requirement) and via train made my way over to Bristol.

You may wonder where Angie figured in all of this chicanery, and you would be right to ask. I was after all still going out with her at this time, it’s just that I was back then, not the most loyal of boyfriends and in fact would go as far to say as I was downright devious if I thought there was mileage in pursuing a pretty girl for a shag. I was and remain a flirt, (not lecherous or nasty), after all, I was aiming to achieve world renown as a commentator and admirer, on and of, the female form. So Angie figured in so much as she lived in Bristol and I ran the risk of being caught with my trousers down, if you get my meaning!

So off I went, a plan safely stashed in my hip pocket that would see me delivered to the Brunettes her door and her bed and returned to my door and my bed, well before daybreak and not suffering too much as a consequence. As it was to turn out I was beyond help already, but of course did not know it. Once trade shops had finished, I dashed into my room, changed and was on the bus to the train station. I was in Bristol by 7pm and we met in her hotel bar. A quick meal, a few beers and we were back to her room for some serious shenanigans. Me being me, I totally ignored the clock in the room and my watch and rose from my exertions far too late for the bus or train back to Chepstow that night. I was also very short of the cab fare back from Bristol to Beachley Barracks; I was in the shit, big time!

In my haste to provide her with as thorough a service(ing) as possible, I had spent more on drinks than I intended and despite having my Lloyds Bank Cash point card to hand, did not have enough in my account to help. Thus, I decided to seek help from various nightwalkers, the cabbie, the truck driver, the motorist. The cabbie looked at my meagre offering and request as to how far the few pounds I had left would get me, “not worth me starting the car mate” he said. The distance to camp was near on 30 miles, it was past midnight and so I started jogging. I headed out of Bristol and kept on going, thumb out as soon as any vehicle came along and pretty sparse was the traffic; I was some way into the run, before I secured my only lift of the night, one that took me from Avonmouth to Aust services at the Severn Bridge. That was a fair chunk out of the trip, but by now it was getting on for 04:00 and I was pretty knackered already. There was only one Severn Bridge then and it ran straight over the camp, the Assault Course was actually underneath the bridge and running alongside that assault course was a line of trees, high trees, trees with substantial limbs that reached tantalisingly close to the bridge.

I jogged along the pavement over the bridge and reached the point where the closest tree stretched her arms invitingly towards me. I had heard tales of guys who had made the leap into the tree, and dropped safely into camp. I had also heard tales of those who had not been so lucky, who had met with broken legs and arms as the dropped through the branches, bouncing Rambo style down onto the grass, but unlike Rambo, requiring a hospital bed after the fall through the trees. I don’t know how long I contemplated that leap; but it was longer than I should have.

I actually climbed over the barriers and stood, wrong side, judging the distance and leaning out as if by doing so, it would give me confidence to leap. But sense, along with thoughts of being seen as a total dickhead and worse still, dead, saw me back over the barrier and jogging towards the end of the bridge. The journey into Chepstow has changed over the years, back then; it was uphill into town, downhill towards the town centre and bridge over the River Wye, then uphill again until the turn down hill towards the camp. It could have been a really nice run that morning, in fact at times I quite enjoyed it, greeting the Milkmen and paperboys, smelling the fresh air and the scents from the farms. I ran the whole way from the Severn Bridge to camp and as I approached the gates, the sun was rising and I was totally done in.

I slowed to a walk and entered camp, showing my ID card at the gate at just after 07:00 and walked towards the block, which took me past the guardroom. There, cleaning their rifles, were my platoon and as I passed, shouts of “you’re in the shit” met my ears. I was called over by a Sergeant and advised to “run” to the company offices and wait outside the Company Sergeant Majors (CSM) office. I ran until out of sight and wandered into the offices, where the Company Admin Corporal asked me what I wanted. I told him what was happening and with a grin, he sent me down the corridor to wait for the CSM, who turned up not much later. I marched in and told him I had missed weapons parade as I was just back from Bristol, why I had gone to Bristol and what my journey back had entailed. He looked at me and asked”did you shag her”? I told him I had. “Who were you thinking of when you shagged her” he asked, “I was thinking of you, Sir” I said. “Good, now fuck off and get changed into your kit”. So, a right result, a tale to tell and all’s well that ends well. Only, I was not to be that lucky, oh no, not me, I had to make it through the day ahead yet and as I made my way down to the trade shops I was feeling a touch too smug for my own good.

The Paint Shop was made up of classrooms, a spray shop and a couple of rooms that held replica walls and doors and boards on which we practised and displayed our work. The classrooms were always warm and it was not unknown for the odd head to nod during the day, especially after a heavy lunch and a pint in the NAAFI. That morning we had a theory lesson with Mr Pope, a genial Welshman, who was fair minded and open to more smoke break requests being asked for and agreed to than the other instructors. After morning break we sat listening to him and my head gently lowered as his soft lilting voice described the wonders of varnish or gloss, or some such bollocks. I slept until prodded by a colleague and blinked as I opened my eyes, Mr Pope standing over me and scowling. I said sorry and we moved on, nothing was said then and I thought I had dealt with that pretty well all told, you know, apologising nicely. We marched back up to the blocks for lunch and paraded outside again ready to march back down for the afternoons lessons. Sgt Hume, a stocky, shaven headed, bull necked Drill Sgt called my name and asked me to step out of the group. “Mr Weaver here decided to fall asleep during Mr Pope’s class today, so I intend to wake him up on the way down to trade this afternoon” he said, “oh shit” I thought. I looked across to the offices and the CSM was looking out of his window, shaking his head, I smile back weakly, fearing and expecting the worst Sgt Hume could throw at me.

Tic Toc marching is the same as any normal marching, except that you march twice, even three times faster. Try saying the words “left, right, left, right” continually, as fast as you can, without tripping over yourself and that is the speed of Tic Toc. You may wonder how the Sgt keeps up as you speed away at a great rate of knots, simple, he orders “Mark Time”, which means marching on the spot until ordered to “Quick March” again, once has had ambled up to where you are beating a hole in the roadway with your boots.

It was around 400 metres from block to trade shop, direct route. I can only assume that Sgt Hume decided he wanted to see more of the camp that day, as we took in an interesting route via the NAAFI, Corporals Mess, Cookhouse, Gym, other accommodation blocks, the Assault Course, Sports fields, Sgt’s Mess and Drill Square, all in 15 minutes. By this time I was nicely shattered and had learned my lesson, but hell hath no fury like a bored drill Sgt with an attitude, so we progressed nicely along to the Guardroom, where whilst I marked time outside, Sgt Hume collected a rifle. The 7.62mm Self Loading Rifle, unloaded (no bullets or magazine), weighs 4.337kg (9.5 pounds), (not a swot, I looked it up). Not too heavy I grant you, but Sgt Hume’s methods of carrying the gun soon convinced me otherwise. I had to lift the gun over my head, arms straight up and off we went again, back to the square.

Sgt Hume lit a smoke and standing in the drill shed, watched as I jogged round the drill square, some 600 metres or so. I soon fashioned a way of carrying the rifle to ease the strain, which was to grasp the end of the barrel and the end of the shoulder rest (or Butt) and lock my arms at the elbow. This worked for a time, but eventually, the weight and the distance started to take their toll and slowly, inexorably, I started to flag and the gun got lower and lower. “Lift that fucking gun up, or I will shove it up your arse” or supportive type comments such as that, came from Sgt Hume. His drill boots smacked on the square as he marched out into the centre, all the better to keep an eye on me.

Commentary such as “This will teach you to fall asleep in Mr Popes class, you sack of shit” kept me interested as I tripped and stumbled my way around the square and eventually tripped right over. “Get the fuck up! If you bleed on that square, I’ll fuck you with that rifle, you.............(you get the picture)”. By this time, tears streaming down my face, I was more in need of a kip, than I was that morning; the irony was not lost on me nor him! We returned the rifle and continued our tour of camp, eventually, an hour and a half after departure, arriving at the Paint Shop. “Keep marking time, whilst I go and get Mr Pope, and if you stop, I’ll fucking know” he said, as he went in.

I did stop, briefly, to dry my eyes and sort myself out a bit, as there was no way that civvie sheep shagger was going to see me crying, just because his feelings got hurt as I'd slept through his class, the fuckwit. Sgt Hume and Mr Pope came out of the office, and I was told to apologise to Mr Pope, which I did. Mr Pope went back in and Sgt Hume came up real close to my face and said something along the lines of “don’t do it again”! It worked.

I completed that day’s work and headed back to my bed as soon as I could and for a while entertained my roommates with my tales, but eventually, retired to my pit. The only trouble being that a group of sweaty blokes aren’t that keen on keeping the noise down early doors, but I was so shattered, I was out like a light and slept the sleep of the beaten.

(Sorry for the lapse between the last blog and this one, normal service is now resumed).