Mark and I would both approach our respective sergeants on a Friday afternoon, and request that we be allowed to sign out early. After some months of being asked the same questions every Friday, they simply nodded as opposed to firing back a series of questions as to why we wanted to leave early. We managed to co-ordinate our preparations and would arrive at the guardroom to sign out within minutes of one another, this was pre mobile phones.
For some while Mark had been going to a town called Wunstorf, a very quaint little market town between Neinburg and Hannover. Mark had a girlfriend called Tina and I was introduced to her friend Monika. For a few months our forays to Wunstorf at weekends would usually result in our crashing at Monika’s in her parent’s cellar. Monika had her own lounge cum bedroom, (a number of mattress’ on the floor) and we’d all (at least 5 couples) dive under duvets and commence banging away like a fiddlers elbow. On one occasion her father, a rather austere looking bloke, walked into the room and started shouting at Monika. We thought we were shit out and expected to see a shotgun materialise from behind his back, turned out he was merely enquiring as to what time we’d be up for breakfast.
Our afternoons would be spent either at one of our girlfriends houses, or in town, sat outside a bar and our evenings would be spent at Formel Ein’s nightclub. On route, we would call into a little bar (the name escapes me), where the barman stood in the centre of the room and the bar itself circled around the room, with only enough room to get a stool and probably one person stood behind it. The great thing about this was that you looked directly across the bar to the other people there and could more or less scan the entire place from your perch at the bar, and that was where I spotted Heidi. From that moment onwards, Monika was an ex-girlfriend, heartless bastard? Yes.
Heidi was stunning. A brunette, with looks not dissimilar to Angelina Jolie’s (if I say so myself and I am hardly going to fancy a minger am I?). At the time Heidi was seeing a squaddie called Sid, that was not his real name but he looked a punk rocker of sorts so was named after Sid Vicious. Sid was not particularly attentive and any opportunity I got, I was round the other side of the bar talking to her. Eventually, she ditched Sid and we started seeing each other. Heidi lived at that time with her parents; her father was Iranian (Persian) and her mother German. She was 18 years old, could speak Persian, German (of course), English, French and Italian. I was something of the cunning linguist myself, a perfect match.
We’d all move on from that bar to Formel Ein’s and proceed to dance the night away, drinking Blue Bols and Orange Juice (Laubfrach (sic). It was neither highly alcoholic nor particularly nice, but was the fashion in that bar and we all drank it, along with lager. After some weeks, Heidi moved out of her parents and lodged with a German academic scientist chap. Deiter was going through a divorce, knew Heidi well and gave her a room in his apartment in Wunstorf. I spent many an evening exploring Heidi in that apartment and explore her I did. She was an adventurous girl who liked to experiment and I was in my element.
Mark’s squadron was posted to the Falklands garrison in 1983 and during his absence I teamed up with Paul Evans and Andrew Cruickshank (in my squadron) – Paul had a Volkswagen Golf. I also made friends of Ginge Anderson and Ginge Rothwell ...who also had cars. I had a tracked vehicle licence (an H licence) but not a car licence, (funny how I could drive a 16 ton tank but not a 1 ton car), but that did not stop me borrowing theirs and spinning over to Wunstorf to be with Heidi. One of the girls from Neinburg, who liked squaddies (if you know what I mean), was called Sylvia. She quickly became known as Syphilis Sylvia for obvious reasons, but Ginge Rothwell saw something in her that others didn’t (plenty of antibiotics) and married her.
With Mark away in the Falklands, apart from regular trips to Wunstorf, I spent more time in camp and Neinburg. One weekday evening after a series of departures from our dorm, (Royal Engineers get new postings on an individual basis, as opposed to other corps and regiments, who move on mass to new postings), I found myself with more bed space and a large piece of furniture that comprised a bookcase and cupboard. I acquired some white gloss paint and started painting the thing. Titch Winder appeared and asked me along with a few others if we fancied a saunter down to Treff Punkt for lagers with a side order of frauleins. I declined, given my ongoing painting and with Heidi waiting for me in Wunstorf!
Titch moaned and whined for a while, went off to find anyone else who would go, then came back and whined some more. Eventually I agreed to go, but it would not be a late one. I changed and off we walked, down the road towards the bar. When we walked in, there were a few people gathered around the tall tables by the windows, a few at the bar and some girls dancing at the back of the room. We got some beers and wandered over to the girls (as you do) and started chatting to them and dancing when required, as Titch felt he was definitely in with a chance with one of them.
The evening went on, more beer, more chatting with Titch becoming increasingly hormonal and me becoming increasingly bored and after a few hours of this, I decided it was time to leave and told Titch I was going back to camp. Titch, assuming that it was probably a lost cause agreed and we walked around the bar towards the door, passing between the tall tables in front of the glass windows and the bar itself. I looked across to Tony (the owner) waved and glanced to my left at a group of men stood at one of the tables.
The feeling when I was struck by the cosh was odd in that it did not hurt. I probably said something like “fucker” and put my hand up to the side of my head, then looking at the blood on my palm, before being struck again with even more force in the same place and staggering towards the door, where I turned to see Titch looking at me open mouthed and this German guy in a black leather coat with two others beside him, walking towards me. It later transpired that Titch was chatting to a girl he fancied, but as I had looked at him on the way out, I was to take the beating. He proceeded to rain blows onto my head whilst Tony and a few others (no bouncers back then) tried to get him off. Titch ran outside, opened a cab door (most cabs in Germany were Mercedes) and ran back to drag me into the back of the car.
My new friend with the cosh was obviously not finished and decided to pull one of the tall tables off its base and threw it through the plate glass windows of the bar and clambering through the doorway he created, climbed into the back of the cab after me. The driver took a look at the demented German, decided he’d seen enough and got out. I was pulling myself across the rear seat, claret going everywhere and Titch was opening the other passenger door and trying to pull me out the other side of the cab, whilst I took a series of blows from Boris. I did not lose consciousness throughout this time and remember the sounds of police sirens and ambulances as Boris finally decided enough was enough and disappeared into the night. Just as I was getting pissed off and was going to have a right go at the bastard as well!
I was laid out in the street, bleeding and bruised, with Titch running around whimpering that it was his fault entirely as he had convinced me to go out that night, too bloody right it was. I was scooped (mopped) up and put in the ambulance and we departed for the Krankenhaus (hospital), Titch by my side (still whimpering) and me offering him sympathy for his poor decision making capabilities. I entered the hospital and was x-rayed, prodded and poked by various people, ending up in critical care, with a series of hairline skull fractures and being put to sleep for my own good. Titch went back to camp with a tail to tell.
I do not know how long I was in the hospital for; I remember various visitors and sleeping for quite some time and being awoken by a sadist doctor who tested my reflexes by running his pen up the sole of my foot, very hard, to which he was told to take his pen and shove it (or words to that effect). I was discharged and returned to camp on light duties (whenever someone is ill, they report to the camp Doctor, who can prescribe light duties or not) and used the time to recuperate. Titch was still apologising mind you and I had to tell him to shut up as I was over it by then.
I was still seeing Heidi, who had no idea what had happened and assumed I had gone on an exercise, fat chance. Ginge Anderson and I, (he was on light duties as well for being fat I think) were given a 4 tonne truck and spent the later part of the summer driving back and forth between Army and RAF camps in northern Germany, picking up and dropping off post, equipment and people and generally getting as much time out of camp as possible. Mark Cameron eventually returned from the Falklands with stories to tell and he and I started visiting Hannover far more. Mark had met a girl called Lydia (Lulu) and along with Heidi, we spent our time visiting various beds and when able to stand, wading through tables of cakes, baked at home by their friends Mums and then more time at either Heidi’s or Lulu’s eating pie!