Sunday sayings #14

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My Brain

This was written at the age of about 17, in my “sort of journal”. It probably explains a lot about me, and definitely shows up the early onset of idiocy!

In case some readers do not know what tripe is, you probably don’t want to know, but this is what it looks like:

tripeSeriously, would you eat this?

The harder I try to put my feelings and thoughts into words, the more difficult it becomes.

To write down these words, on paper, is even more difficult, nye impossible. The seeming infinity of the brain’s reasoning functions, and its associated thought patterns, far surpass the ability of man to put these resources to use.

Ever since time began, man’s brain has puzzled even the most brilliant specialists. Looking like a lump of tripe, its intricacy, yet simplicity is still not fully understood and, I think, will remain so until long after I’m dead.

With the brilliant circuits, made up of still more brilliant microscopic electronic components, man has strived to produce an artificial “brain”. However, the powers that made us, obviously did not intend us to know the “elixir of life”, for that’s surely what the brain must be.

Man can artificially produce all components of the body except the brain, and, perhaps, someday he may be granted the knowledge of knowledge. God help us when he is. Just think of the corruption it would bring.

I do not see, however, how such a wonderful collection of matter can possibly understand itself. The mere fact that it is so marvellous makes it unbelievable and, therefore, I think, almost impossible to fathom. I say almost because, in this age, specialists have successfully probed and repaired and, in one case transplanted brain matter.

I could go on for pages and pages but my lump of tripe tells me to stop, and who am I to argue with such wisdom?

Spending time in a prison cell

This is part of a recollection of “Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

This describes a time, in my past, long gone. It recounts details in the male gender only,  because that is how it was at the time. Other genders are now available!

Very early on in a service career you learn all about “duties”!

These are necessary tasks that must be carried out, every day, whilst in barracks. These duties are in addition to normal daily routine work.

At the top of the ladder is the Duty Field Officer, normally a Major, or Captain, who performs this duty for a week. They do not have to remain in barracks, but must be available, at all times, to deal with any situation that cannot be handled by a more junior officer.

Next in line is the Regimental Orderly Officer, normally a Warrant Officer, 2nd Lieutenant, Lieutenant, or Captain. The duty is often given to junior officers as a mild punishment for minor misdemeanours. They carry out the duty for 24 hours, and must remain in barracks for the entire duty so they are instantly available.

Now come the workers.

The Fire Picquet, which normally consists of from 6 to 10 men who are on call 24 hours a day, for a week. They have a couple of practice call outs during the week and have to get to the Guardroom as quickly as possible. Here they are given a fire scenario and have to dash to the point of the fire, hauling a hand drawn cart that contains all the necessary equipment for fire fighting; Hoses, connectors, hydrant keys, nozzles, standing pipes, etc. They then have to spray water on the pretend fire. Job done! It is very tiring, and very wet!

The Regimental Orderly Sergeant organises, and is responsible for, all other duty staff. (Read “normally gets into trouble for anything and everything that goes wrong!”) He parades the Guard at Guard Mount, normally 6pm weekdays, and 9am weekends, and has to perform various other inspections/tasks during the day. For example, he may have to check 6 items of stores in the Cookhouse, 6 rifles in the Armoury, do a stock check of the Corporal’s Mess bar, and visit the Guard, unannounced, a couple of times during the night. It is a long 24 hours where lots can go wrong. He also has to make sure that all bars, on camp, are closed on time and cleared of bodies.

The Orderly Corporal is a general dogsbody. One duty is to be present in the Naafi (Navy, Army, Air Force Institutes) bar at regular intervals throughout its opening hours, and to help the Orderly Sergeant in his duties.

The Guard Commander, normally a Corporal, ensures that the main gate is guarded, that patrols are sent out at irregular intervals, that all buildings are checked for security.

The Guard Second in Command (2 i/c), normally a Lance Corporal, helps the Guard Commander and deputises in any absence.

The Duty Clerk, based in the Headquarters building is there for any administrative tasks required during the night.

The duty driver, used by the Guard Commander for many and varied tasks.

The Guard. Sufficient personnel to ensure that there is cover for gate guards, patrols, and a quick reaction force. They may work 2 hours on 2 hours off, or 2 hours on, 4 hours off, or any other combination, all through the night. They are based in the guardroom and are allowed to sleep during their time off.

Where do they sleep?

NO, not in the cells!

Most guardrooms have a room set aside for resting personnel. It will normally have 4 beds and a table and chairs so meals can be eaten, and sleep can be grabbed in between periods of duty. Any left over bodies can be found on the floor in various corners!

All guardrooms do have cells, normally 4 or 6. Hopefully there will be no occupants because, if there are any prisoners, it creates extra work, and a huge chance of mistakes being made by the duty personnel.

So, we’ve gone through all this information, and still no mention of my spending time in a prison cell. Well, as long as you promise not to tell anyone, here goes.

The Guard Commander, and 2i/c, after midnight, and after the barracks had quieted down, were allowed to split the rest of the night and take turns to sleep.

There were never enough beds for all off duty personnel, and anyway the dedicated rest room was constantly disturbed as people were woken for shift changes. It was, therefore, usual for the Corporal, and Lance Corporal, to sleep in an empty cell. There was a distinct advantage in that they had sole occupation of a room, the light could be turned off, and the door could be closed.

I spent many (not so happy) hours in prison cells. I must point out that none of them were under arrest, or under sentence!

 

 

 

 

All at sea – Flying through the air, with, and without, the aid of a helicopter.

This is part of a recollection of “Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

Number 2, Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by Jackstay, and 3, Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by helicopter can be recounted together because normally, when you go on a journey, you want to end up back where you started!

When I was posted to Gibraltar we (The Army) often entertained Royal Naval personnel when they had shore leave. We invited them to functions in the various messes (Officers Mess/Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess/Other ranks Mess, and we invited them to dine with us, often arranging a special dinner.

 In return, they reciprocated, and we were often invited on board ship.

 I came to know several of the Petty Officers of HMS Charybdis quite well, during 1976. I was invited to spend time at sea with the ship, in an exchange with a member of the ship’s crew, where we swapped jobs for a few days.

hms charybdis Life on board a Royal Naval vessel is unlike anything you may imagine. Space is at a premium and everything has to be stowed away to maximise space, and to ensure there are no hazards created by loose gear.

 Before departing from any port, the ship must be fully provisioned with fuel, stores, ammunition, food, and a myriad of items you wouldn’t even begin to think of. This is to ensure that, should the vessel be called upon to sail into conflict, or to aid others, it can proceed immediately, without having to stock up first. There is a good deal of manual labour involved in this, and the whole ships company (of 260 in this case) is put to work, less a few essential personnel. It is hard work, and I experienced it!

 Imagine having to stock a freezer so you can retrieve food, to feed 260 hungry people for 2 months, when you can only reach things right at the front. Just where do you put all those potato sacks, carrots, toilet rolls, extra large cans, butter, fat, oil, flour, spices. The list is huge, as is the quantity. You cannot run out.

 I shall not go into disposal of waste, recycling, or what can, under international law, be discharged into the sea. I mention it only because sometimes it flies off the ship!

 Whilst at sea it is sometimes necessary to load, or offload personnel, or materiel.

 This may be for changes in personnel, removal of severely ill, or deceased, replenishment of food, fuel, supplies, and the removal of waste for disposal, or recycling.

 The Royal Navy is supported at sea by Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels.

The RFA is staffed by civilians, and they have a variety of ships that can supply fuel and stores, effect repairs at sea, and even supply hospital facilities. They have a helicopter on board, and also cranes mounted on either side.

 Most modern warships have a helicopter on board, or a helipad that can receive a visiting helicopter so stores can be transferred from one vessel to another by underslung load. However, there is a restriction on how much weight can be carried that way, and it is an expensive method of resupply.

 The alternative method of transfer is by Jackstay, a method of using ropes and pulleys to carry personnel and materiel between vessels.
jackstay trfs

The light jackstay, employing human power, is used for transferring personnel, provisions, and light stores with a maximum load of about 250kg. The hauling end of the jackstay is manned by up to 25 hands. The other end is secured by a grommet strop to slip in the receiving ship. A traveller block is hauled back and forth along the jackstay wire by an in–haul rope in the receiving ship and an out–haul rope in the delivering ship manned by up to six crew in each ship. Working distance limits are normally between 24–61 meters with a normal working distance of about 34 meters.

 The heavy Jackstay, uses steel ropes for transfer of heavier loads, or to support feed pipes during transfer of fuel or water. Normally a powered winch is used.

 The ropes are passed from one ship to the other by first firing a thin twine by rifle and pulling this across, with increasing thickness of twine, then cord, then rope.

 Ships are unstable platforms when stopped in most seas and it is extremely dangerous to bring two ships directly alongside one another. All transfers are therefore done with the ships steaming side by side, in to the wind, at a distance determined by the state of the seas. It is a hazardous operation and constant adjustment is needed to ensure identical speed, and to ensure the distance between vessels does nor vary. The procedure needs to be practiced often to ensure the crew knows exactly what to do when the need arises. It is the ultimate in team work!

 This is how I came to “volunteer” for my first, and only, experience of transfer at sea by Jackstay, and return by helicopter. I was one of a dozen.

 Having watched others being hauled across from Charybdis to another visiting Frigate, it was soon my turn. Apart from a little dampness from sea spray I arrived safely on the other ship and was hurried along to the stern to jump into the helicopter for the return trip. This was only my second flight in a helicopter. The whole procedure took less than 30 minutes, but was very exhilarating!

 Flights by small helicopter are normally from, and to, a stable surface, and the take off pattern is normally a vertical lift into the air, transferring into forward flight whilst gaining height. Larger helicopters use a running takeoff and landing whenever possible.

 Taking off from, and landing on, a ship at sea, entails a helipad moving at quite a speed, often with buffeting wind, and large chunks of solid metal very close by. It is a very specialised skill!

 On take off, the aircraft has to rise off the pad and move to the left, or right, immediately moving away from the vessel.

 Landing is the more difficult skill. The helicopter must approach the vessel from the rear and then fly, at the speed of the ship, slightly to the left or right of the helipad. It then has to move slowly across so that it is hovering above the pad, but is, in fact, still flying forwards at the speed of the vessel. It must then drop down on to the moving deck, immediately ceasing forward flight.

 Naval pilots, I salute you!

 To the crews of both vessels, Thank you for not getting me wet!charybdis.jpg

 

HMS Charybdis was affectionately  called “The Cherry B.” Hence the cherry tree on the ship’s plaque.

 

 

 

Light Jackstay information courtesy of: MacFarlane, John M. (2013) Jackstay Transfer (Replenishment) at Sea. Nauticapedia.ca 2013. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Jackstay_Transfer.php

Travelling down the Rhine on a duck

In the Summer of 1962, at the age of 14, I travelled to Germany, with the Combined Cadet Force from my school, for a Summer Camp.

It was quite an adventure to get there. We travelled by military steam train, with the carriages being loaded onto the ferry for the channel crossing. It must have been very nearly the last such journey.

We eventually arrived at 2 Division Signal Regiment, in Bünde, West Germany, a Regiment I was later to be posted to as a regular soldier.

2 div.png

The Crossed Keys of 2 Division

 

 

There were still National Servicemen who had been conscripted into the forces for 2 years. These were the last of a dying breed as the last National Servicemen left the armed forces in May 1963.

I well remember that the soldiers took great delight in plying us with beer, probably at our own expense. That Summer, far from home, was the first time that I became extremely drunk, and extremely unwell.

We obviously overdid the cigarettes too. When I returned home I suffered, for a few days, with what was diagnosed as nicotine poisoning!

During our 10 days there we went out on exercise with the Regiment and did all sorts of, what was to us young boys, very exciting things. We helped camouflage vehicles, laid large capacity cables, helped put up radio masts, slept in abandoned barns and spent a day with the German Army.

It was during this “exchange day” that I encountered the DUKW (duck) that was to transport us down the river. (For the technically minded, more information here)

Ten very excited teenagers squeezed into the restricted space at the back and were driven down a ramp, into the water, where we progressed at a very sedate pace for 20 minutes or so, driving back up another ramp to dry land.

dukw

To be honest it was a bit disappointing, certainly not as exciting as the next half hour when we were transported at some considerable speed back up river, sirens wailing, in a fast patrol craft.

We then experienced a German Army lunch, for many, the first ever taste of “foreign” food. Tepid cabbage soup, cold würst, sauerkraut, black bread, and a strange pudding of yogurt. A new experience that was not repeated until it became more commonplace in the UK.

Postscript

In fact the river in question may not have been the Rhine. Memory being what it is, it could have been the Mösel, or even the Wëser. I have travelled on all of these, but, at the time, it seemed to be a very wide, and busy, river.

Part of the series Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t!

Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

I had this random thought that I have done a few things in my life that the average person will never experience.  I thought I would write a post entitled:

“Ten things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.” It developed a little like this:

Ten Eleven Twelve Thirteen Fourteen Fifteen Sixteen Seventeen Eighteen Nineteen Twenty things I’ve done that you probably haven’t

I arranged them in reverse alphabetical order, just for the sake of it! Then I thought of an added one, or four. So, here we have:

Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t

  1. Travelled down the Rhine on a Duck
  2. Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by Jackstay
  3. Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by helicopter
  4. Spent time in a prison cell
  5. Sat in a Harrier Jump Jet
  6. Rowed in a coxed 4 at sea
  7. Regularly travelled to work by helicopter
  8. Qualified as a helicopter handling marshall
  9. Played bugle and drums in a Cadet Force band
  10. Helped to spy on Russian spies
  11. Helped to open a Playboy Club, with no women, in Bahrain
  12. Handled, and repaired Enigma machines
  13. Gassed hundreds of people, some several times
  14. Fallen out of the top of an oak tree
  15. Driven a tank
  16. Crawled under the Queen’s bed
  17. Crash landed a glider
  18. Been underwater in a submarine
  19. Been inside a radome
  20. Been in the impact area of High explosive shells
  21. Been an unpaid tourist guide
  22. Been totally alone on an island
  23. Been a sound engineer for The Gibraltar Song Festival
  24. Been a cave guide

All of these were achieved before the age of 40 but, if you have a large outstanding bucket list, do not despair, it is never too late!

I must admit that there is an amount of poetic licence involved, but where that is will only be revealed as I expand on each tale.

No state secrets will be revealed during the making of these blogs.

You may be waiting a while!

In Our Differences

A perfect monologue on diversity. On my morning walk I talk to, and look at, everyone I encounter. Some speak, some avoid my gaze. THIS is why I do it. I just do not have the wise words of Colleen to explain.

The Chatter Blog

Sometimes I find myself staring at…you.

In our differences I find something to look at.  To ask questions about.  To be intrigued about.

Is it rude?  To be intrigued?  To see and notice our differences?

Is it considered discrimination if I recognize that you don’t look like I do?   Or act like I do?  Or think like I do?

Should I be ashamed that because you are different than I am, I want to look, see, learn and understand.  And appreciate.

Will your skin color make me look at you?   Maybe.

Will piercings in your face make me look at you?  Maybe.

Will the shape of your eyes make me look at you?  Maybe.

Will your age make me look at you?  Maybe.

Will the people you are with make me look at you?  Maybe.

Will the clothing you wear make me look at you?  Maybe.

I don’t…

View original post 235 more words

Spitting image

This morning I was talking to my brother in law about my time in the army. It’s not a thing I do very often. When I do, I recall all sorts of odd facts that have been filed in the back of my memory bank.

This afternoon I saw a youth spitting on the pavement, a filthy, dirty habit I abhor, BUT, it did remind me of something I witnessed as a very young trainee soldier, at the age of 16 or 17.

A couple of lads were marching (we were not allowed to walk!) past the drill square (you stepped onto it at your peril, unless undertaking drill practice). One of them spat onto the square.

Immediately there was a terrifying roar of the Regimental Sergeant Major’s stentorian voice.

“You there! PICK THAT UP.”

And he did!

 

From that idle thought this poem popped

 

My mouth is full of spittle and I care no jot or tittle

I am going to spit it out upon the floor.

As my juices flow I find my spittle starts to grow

and, as time passes there is more and more

I know not why it is but my spittle starts to fizz

It is spilling from my mouth and from my nose

So beware if passing by for I’ll spit right in your eye

as I’m covered all in spit from head to toes!