Friends

by Dreaded

Tags: True Story, Military,

Desc: Historical Story: Obituary for my best mate

This story is dedicated to Dawn and Amanda...

The Trials and Tribulation of a friendship lasting over 40 years...

I did didly squat at school and left under a little cloud after dragging the headmaster across his desk and getting ready to pummel his brains out ... Due to the noise the Deputy head (Monty) stormed in and separated me from the dickhead ... I really liked the deputy head so when he grabbed me I settled down and shut my mouth ... Monty hauled me into his office and asked me for my story ... I filled him in on the background and he paled a little knowing that I had the goods to the the bald headed dickhead fired ... Monty suggested that I go home and relax so he could sort the shit out ... I was still fuming and wanting to beat the asshole into a pulp ... I went to the school secretary, smiled at her (she was a lovely lady with a really beautiful daughter), dumped my books on her counter and said, “I am out of here” ... She stopped me and asked where I was going and I just told her that I was finished with school and had no intention of ever even visiting this institution again...

Now what does a 17 year old school boy, who likes to live life flat out, do with life ... I was now facing call up to national service so I thought that I might as well serve a few years in the army for a few years and then settle down in a trade ... My uncle who was a Colonel in the army sat me down and talked to me ... He convinced me to go to cram college and get at least my GCE O Level (UK English exams written in all the colonies except SA) ... So for 6 months I crammed like hell and passed my O Levels allowing me to attend the Officer selection board in Gwelo at the school of infantry ... O boy was that place an education ... To cover their arse we were all signed up and attested into the army on 10 year contracts ... The reason for this was to cover death and injury liability ... In other words the army now had my arse...

Officer selection was probably the most fun I had up until then ... They taught us how to map read, which I knew how to do already from working with the Parks board during school holidays doing game counts, they taught us basic weapon handling, again I was good as no one wanders around a game reserve without some form of weapon, and they taught us the basics of living in the bush, done that already ... This was all crammed in to a week of fun with no real army discipline showing ... Remember we were all a bunch of school boys ... Then the testing began ... We did assault courses, aptitude tests, leadership tests and PT tests ... This was fun and easy for a guy that played first team rugby, Junior provincial squash and was in the local water ski team ... At 5ft10in and 195lbs I was well built and fit even though I smoked...

The last phase of officer selection was a 3 day survival walk in a nearby national park (remember I mentioned working for NPB during the holidays) ... The one instructor told us not to get to broken in the pub that night as we would be sent off early ... Now me and a party are like a duck and water, we go together ... I packed my kit up nicely and headed in to the pub where we had a rip roaring bash ... Now remember we were being constantly monitored by a group of Officers and NCO’s at all times to observe our behaviour and how we interacted with each other ... I would hate to see what they wrote about me!!!

We were hauled out the pub at 2330 and told to load up on the trucks parked outside training wing ... I was as pissed as anything but remembered to pick up my kit and jump on the Bedford RL that had a canvas covered frame on the back so we could not see out ... Not feeling good I wrapped myself in a blanket and curled up under the bench seat and passed out cold ... Hours later, it was still bloody dark, I was woken up to a lot of screaming and shouting ... Bloody army had started its shit!!! Eight of us were selected and along with an officer were dumped in the middle of nowhere in the dark ... The officer selected on guy as leader, handed him a note with a grid reference and told him to lead us to that position by 1500 ... I just curled up under a bush and went to sleep again ... the new leader wasn’t to impressed with me as he said I must be involved in the planning ... Bad mistake on his part as I then tore him a new arsehole and told him to wake me up at first light which was another 2 hours away and went to sleep ... I will never forget that guy as we got to know each other well over the years. Chris ended up as one of the better officers that served with distinction in the RAR...

AAAH first light and a hangover ... Shit, Shit, Shit!!!!!!!! I had a pounder of a hangover and I could barely see straight ... Our monitoring officer could barely keep the smile off his face ... Trev D Fountain walked away and I could hear him laughing his arse off at a distance ... The first drop out happened then as the dork did not load any kit at all as was like a lost puppy – now we were 7 ... Chris was as lost as a fart in a perfume factory ... he had that, O shit I am fucked, look on his face ... I was starting to feel better as by this time the sun was just peaking over the mountain tops and I had brewed up a nice strong, sweet cup of tea ... I looked around me and burst out laughing ... I knew exactly where we were ... Ngesi Park ... I was there in my last school holidays helping with a game count ... Shit it was funny watching Chris’s face and Trev our monitor thought I had gone nuts ... I asked for the map and showed him where we were and asked him where we had to go ... The sneaky bastards had put the destination one map over so that the unsuspecting would only look at that map to try and plot their position ... We were actually given 6 maps, 2 of which were not even in our area but of the eastern highlands some 300kms away ... As I said, sneaky bastads...

Chris was delighted with me and then started plotting his route ... I quickly stopped him as he was doing what all officers do ... not reading the map properly – he would have had us marching up and down bloody mountains ... Well he did become an officer – point proved!!!! I showed him the route we should take and for me it was a nice 26km walk through the Park ... Trevor got me off to one side and grilled me making me admit to knowing the area ... I was then told to shut up and walk at the back with Trev and not say a word ... Well we started walking and as most people know walking with a hangover is not fun at all ... About 10 o’clock I was feeling human again and started taking note of where and what we were at ... I stopped Trev and told him that I had twisted my ankle and was going to rest for a while ... He gave me a strange look and sent the other guys on telling them we would see them at the afternoon RV ... Chis was really concerned and offered to carry me as this would mean for me to drop out of selection ... I told him that Shit happens and that I would see him later ... After the group left Trev asked me what was going on and when I told him he laughed so much I thought he was going to piss himself ... You see, Chris was walking in circles; he had only gained about 5km on line to the RV ... I sat down and made Trev and I a mug of tea, typical bloody officer all he had was a water bottle ... About an hour later we watched the patrol of very weary walkers come past us ... Trev stopped them and Chris was gobsmacked that we had got in front of him and did I know of a short cut or did we get a lift ... Trev gave him the hot and bubbly and the poor guy nearly collapsed as he now thought he had ended his military career ... I was asked to lead us to the RV which I did and we got in a couple of hours late ... One team didn’t even make it till the next morning...

I didn’t pass selection as I was told I was too immature and to come back next year and try again ... It was called a Fail/watch ... That selection proved to me that you didn’t have to have any map reading skills to be an officer, a point that I used to rag on my officers continually ... The selection was tough and I have left a lot out ... Not many guys made the grade physically and most had the wrong attitude to leadership ... Those that did pass became some of the finest Officers I ever had the pleasure of serving with and being friends with...

I opted to join the RLI at Cranborne Barracks in Salisbury and serve out my time with them ... This was a good decision as I joined one of the greatest fighting units ever developed ... RLI was in those early days still an all regular army unit ... That means we had no national service guys and we mostly had long time career soldiers ... most were ok, some were good but the balance of the troops were really rough around the edges ... After training I was posted straight to Support Group Tracking troop due to my experience with the Parks board guys ... Normally you only got into Support as a L/cpl after spending time in the commandos to gain experience ... The reasons for this were that we were specialists in heavy weapons, Tracking and demolitions ... I must admit that the guys we had were amazing, mostly Cpl’s and Sgt’s that were very well trained ... Our trackers were the best in the army and were all bushman of a high order...

Those first few months were a zoo and I have written elsewhere about those early days ... Support Group quietly nearly disintegrated as just about the whole of tracking troop deserted to serve with their old RSM in the new Selous Scouts unit that was born ... Tracking troop was left with a Sgt, 2 Cpl’s and me, a troopy ... We also lost a few guys from mortar troop ... We were that short on guys that we had more vehicles in our pen than we had members of the Group including the OC and CSM ... Our bush convoy was only 6 Bedford RL’s long with the other 20 left in the pen ... We could only scrape up 3 sticks for the new Fire Force which we were just starting in Mt Darwin ... Mind you there were only 3 G Kars (Allouette 3 carring a stick of 4, Pilot and Gunner/Tech) and a K Kar in Darwin anyway so at least we could mount the first wave ... I have written many stories of those first years in Darwin so wont dwell on them here but leap forward to when we started getting allocated N/S (national Service) guys to bolster our ranks ... I was promoted to L/Cpl and sent off to training troop as an instructor to select and lead these new volunteer NS and regular recruits in their training ... What a pain in the arse ... I discovered that OSB were correct in not accepting me as I was now confronted with 40 schoolboys who knew fuck all about anything and were woefully unfit ... I nearly killed them on the first morning run ... I don’t think there was one that was not puking ... And that was before I handed them over to the PT instructor ... At least they hated him more than me!!!! ... I didn’t really get to know this bunch of guys as for the first 3 weeks you have to ride them hard and get them fit and in the right mind frame ... I managed to escape training troop with my 2nd stripe after 4 weeks of hating it as much as the recruits hated it ... I ducked back to the bush as they were desperately short of trackers and resumed my normal nomadic way of life ... Sounds silly but tracking troop often sent 2 or 3 guys out to different units to track for them so we seldom saw our boss and CSM ... I was really pissed off when I was found 6 weeks later and told to report to training troop to ease the passing out recruit’s passage from training troop in to Sp Gp ... We now had a new boss that was full steam ahead on converting Sp Gp to full Commando status ... Pat was the youngest Captain in the army and then the youngest Major ... Helps if your girlfriend is the Generals Daughter... (I am Kidding Pat & May)...

I arrived back at the commando and cleaned up nicely ... You know, shave the beard off, haircut and a decent meal ... My batman had clean #4’s for me with my boots at a high Gloss ... I dressed and went across to training troop to report to the CSM, a Bull of a man called Moose, and ease my way into my squad of guys who were now 4 days away from their passing out parade ... Moose welcomed me and we had a cup of tea while the guys were on the parade square with their instructors ... Moose may have intimidated many people but I loved that man ... He was the epitome of a CSM, a Giant of a man that knew military law better than most and could make officers run in the opposite direction ... Captain Tar, the OC was also the ex Batalion RSM so you knew that training was done properly...

The guys had settled down into a reasonable squad but were very raw still ... All the training in the world does not prepare you for actually getting shot at ... I had a couple of boy soldiers given to me to look after ... Boy soldiers you might ask ... yes they were only 16 and even though they had passed their recruits course they were not allowed on Ops until they turned 17 ... The 2 I got were right royal pains in the arse ... Shit they could whine with the best of them ... Glen and Tony reminded me of me although Tony was a slice short of a full Sarmie ... I must admit that they made my life a lot easier as I now had Gobies to do the donkey work ... I left the now commando and went on a Mortar instructors course ... O well back to the School of Infancy for another 5 weeks ... I get back from that course and guess what, dumped back in training troop to take intake 150 yellow squad for their training ... Fuck that for a joke as camp and me were not friends at all, just put me back in the bush and then I am happy ... My mother even told my boss to send me back to the bush as I was safer there than in camp ... You see I had developed an addiction over the years to motocross and my mom and dad only watched me race once then refused to go again as they claimed I was totally insane on a motorbike ... O well shit, it happens...

I managed to snivel out of training troop after a few weeks and joined my guys in the bush ... I got the boy soldiers as I was now running mortar troop and we were supposedly mainly in camp defence ... It was not long that I had Glen and Tony in my stick on Ops and O boy did I battle with them ... I can’t remember how many times I pulled Glen out of the line of fire ... one time the dirt was kicking up at his feet and the stupid Dork was looking around him with that lost puppy look ... How and why the little shit didn’t get shot I don’t know ... He was a bloody bullet magnet of note ... I was summoned back to training troop some months later and was handed our allocation of now newly qualified NS soldiers ... The poor guys didn’t know what hit them ... they got Saturday night off and on Sunday we flew to Bloem to do our Para course in SA ... As senior Cpl I was put in charge of the guys and we were sent with an Artillery Major as the officer as had none ... My boy soldiers, now growing up and becoming men, joined us in Bloem ... The poor South African army didn’t know what had hit them!!!!!

We travelled in our civies with only 1 set of number 4’s out to New Sarum, our Air force base outside Salisbury, where we were met with Jocks sanctions busting DC7 antique ... This was our transport to SA ... We climbed on board and guess what??? Not one bloody seat to be seen ... Ever seen the fllor of a transport aircraft? It is full of holes and hooks and about the most unappealing place to sit in the world ... I sent my Boy soldiers and a couple of other guys to hunt up some cardboard boxes ... They came back in a Land Rover a few minutes later loaded up with boxes and a few minutes later by air force security wanting to lock Glen up for theft of their landy ... I loaded my guys and asked the pilots to get us the hell out of there as fast as possible ... We landed in Bloem late afternoon and were loaded on a nice bus and taken to Tempe barracks where we were allocated a nice Barrack room with nicely made beds and empty lockers ... Of course no one thought to bring padlocks so the Major with us, who was given a pile of discretionary funds, commandeered a staff car and an MP at the main gate and went and bought a box of padlocks for us,,, a Sunday afternoon Nog all ... Those that were hungry got a bus in to town that evening to what then became our graze hall for our stay, the local Wimpey ... The food at Tempe was bloody disgusting and I doubt my dog would have eaten it ... I know that I never ate in the camp again after attempting one of their meals...

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Story tagged with:
True Story / Military /