My Army Memories 1978-2000

Arrived at the barrier in Northampton on a cold winters night, showed to my 16 man room then 16 weeks of hell. From a private soldier to a Warrant Officer Class2 in 22 very interesting years. The camera was with me the whole time, in the barracks, out at sea, on the streets of NI to Cyprus Germany to the top of a Volcano in Mexico. The Falklands, Austria to the jungle of Guatemala bordering Belize. I snapped away the whole time, and now at 63 the images will tell of my carreer.

From a baker confectioner of 6 years using only hands to make bread cakes you name it we made it. From 15 I mastered everything there could teach me and before my leaving I would be able to decorate wedding cakes with royal icing. No place for a move up in the chain, I decided to join the forces, Within 4 weeks i would leave home on a train with an old suitcase just with a shirt trousers and my shaving kit.

I had a great send off i walked out the door and my dad just said you wont hack it your a waster, and shut the door so I walked to the station on my own not knowing what was in store for me. Arriving at the barracks on a cold winters night i directed to the guardroom where some old private said your in Anzio platoon the Sergeant is a right bastard if you last 16 weeks you will be lucky. From my Dad to the next man a met really got to me and when i sat down in a 14 man room with strangers I bowed my head and cried.

A lad called Lofty {R.I.P] came over and put his arm round me and said things will be ok, i found my first mate who went through training with but sadly after passing out was killed 2 weeks later in Northern Ireland. He was such a good laugh and used to wake up in the morning and look over at me and say morning Blackie roll us a cigi.

In 1978 there was no media, so what went on behind the barrack perimeter stayed in side, so when an instructor hit you for no reason at all you took it. Your locker and bed had to be to perfection so it took all night for the bed to be measured with a ruler, sheets had to the same size in a square block. Shirts jumpers all had to be made square with bits of cardboard. Most lads were that worried about the inspection that happened every morning for 16 weeks they stayed up till midnight making sure all was ok.

At 5am we would all get up and clean the toilet area corridors and rooms would be waxed on hands and knees then buffed with a heavy bumper with a cloth on the end. You had to see your face in the floor reflection. The sound of Hob Nailed Boots rang out and you heard the lockers start hitting the floor, beds turned upside down and then it was your turn. you stood there while he was shouting in tour face that the locker and bed was a bag of shit. Then he just pulled the locker with one hand and it hit the polished wood floor.

As the last locker hit the floor you were given 2 minutes to get outside on parade, a daily routine that you got used to, and every so often they would just make it a little worse by hitting you in the stomach when you least expecting it. W e started of with 30 recruit soldiers and slowly week after week you lost one or 2 through medical reasons or you were not up to what they threw at you.

I soon realised you had to learn quick and keep your mouth shut, there was no TV or mobiles if you wanted to phone home you waited your turn at the Red Box. From 30 recruits to 21 in just 6 weeks was hard to take as you got to know lads then they would be gone, not even a goodbye, just an empty bed.

Halfway through the 16 week period we would go to a trading camp for a 5 days to stay out in the field in a trench, shell scrape. On arrival we paraded outside but there was one small problem, one of the lads had forgotten his Green Cap. For this we all got punished and were made to go over the assault course in full gear, and not be given lunch. You have to remember then you got one Sausage, one slice bacon, one fried egg, and beans with a slice of toast. So from breakfast that morning using all your energy over the assault course, then to miss dinner was cruel.

That afternoon weaken for a 5 mile run around the countryside with no fuel in the tank it was hard going, we were all young lads. Just to test us more we were ordered to make our way across a river waist deep, then so the instructors could have a laugh we were told to stop halfway across the n told to do pressups in the river.

The first day would get even worse as hunger set in. I was so hungry I started eating toothpaste it felt so good but I had to have food. I made a plan, while I was doing pressups in the river I noticed a open area under the bridge across the river. So after dark me and lofty and one more lad, got some rations and burner and mess tins and made our way to the bridge. Once under we set the cooker a light and got ready for our first food in 24 hours.

A voice said come out you little shits, get out hear or we will drag you out. Our plan had failed but what happened next was horrible. There was the Sgt a big fat driver and one more staff member. We were made to lie down on our bellies and our legs and arms were bent up and tied with rope. The one st a time the driver would ask who give you the food, Lofty failed to answer so was hit in the face by the driver. My turn came and I got hit. Hit again they new we would not talk so we were stripped down to our boxers and tied to the bridge facing the cold Jauary chilled wind. Not having food inside us made it ten times worse. They left us there for 2 hours and we were on the verge of hyperthermia, before they came and got us

I wanted to give up and asked to leave but was told to get on with it man up.

Week 12 came real live excerise where I was put in charge of the platoon defending a house from the enemy getting into the building. They started by calling a Chemical attack which meant getting into IPE. With Respirator.

I went into a rage and just made out a member of staff coming towards me, quickly I turn my Rifle around and struck him across the chest with it, it was then he realised that I was covered in blood and injured. The Medics came rushing in and put me on a stretcher and carried me out of the building, and as I got to the door an Officer struck me over the head with his Officer type of truncheon made of wood. He knocked me out cold.

Off to the hospital i went and was stiched up and back to barracks in the sick bay for a night. Next day I returned to my room but no words were spoken about what went on. I was just asked if was OK to carry on training and made me Troop leader for the remainder of my training.

Training hard gained me the Best Recruit and Best PT and I was awarded 2 Silver Trophies on Pasding Out Day. Our tune we marched to wad Brown Girl In The Ring by Bonny M.

Posted to Bicester I would have a choice of what job I wanted to do for getting best recruit so I decide i wanted to be a Clerk in the Orderly Room. I soon regretted the choice joined the lads as we ventured off to a place called Belize off the Caribbean coast.

Belize Tour 1979

Tour’s were full of humour, something that was new to me, daily parades started outside the Nissan hut our accommodation for 6 months. Made of metal and holding 30 NCO and Private soldiers all sweating in the 90 percent humidity and 40 degree temperatures.

6am we stood ready for PT a 3 mile run before breakfast Monday to Friday. Parade strated with our Sgt a Irish man so when we stood waiting we heard a voice coming from the tress, it was a Yellow Headed Amazon Parrot. Green all over with a lovely yellow head, what character he was, the Sgt marched out and stood in front of us and we just heard Paddy is a Badtard, then deadly silence for a few seconds the a Roat of laughter.

I love birds so the Amazon became my buddy , a lovely friendship that would last for 6 months. He would sit on my shoulder and we would chat about silly things that only me and him could relate to. He would come and find me in my bedspace, he would take the top of my bottle of Fanta and play with the top. He made us laugh everyday shouting obscene words at us but how it made our day. Laughter is a big part in my life from a giggling to stomach renching cramps its crucial to my well-being.

Humour is funny sometimes but once while I was having my breakfast, sat with lads all sweating I looked across to the area where you filled your mug up with Compo tea

They say they put Bromide in it to stop the male sexual genital from becoming excited. It never did me. Anyway I looked over at the man lying on the floor underneath the tea urn, he didn’t look well and what I couldn’t understand is that no-one bothered to go over to help him, lads walked round him filling their mugs stepping over him. Then i heard he is tying to pull a sicky so he can get Medivac back to the UK. So I just carried on eating my breakfast swimming in grease in 40 degree heat.

The Gurkha regiment arrived on the RAF 111 plane, the coach pulled up and they came off looking as smart as they would be for a State parade. Boots Bulled to the highest gloss shine, trousers with creases that sharp you could cut yourself on them. They moved in next door to us and I became friendly with these loyal lads you would do anything for Our Queen.

While talking on my bed with one, he explain the recruitment policy for Gurhka recruitment. You walked for 2 days maybe more to get to the camp where selection was done. You had to be the right size and shape to be selected, to me they all looked similar other for facial definition, but they could all fit into the same size uniform. If you were not selected you walked back home sometimes 4 to 5 days he told me depending on where you lived.

My weekends were spent

To be cont.