Twittering Tales #59 – 21 November 2017

It’s time again for Kat Myrman’s wonderful challenge to tax our creative souls. Just take her photo prompt and write a story, inspired by it, in 280 characters or fewer.

hands-1840487_1280 Here is this week’s prompt and my contribution. Check out all the fabulous entries here.

She was only alive because she could play the piano. That much had been made plain.

Her family had all been killed! Her friends too!

She dare not play top C on the keyboard, that would give the game away.

She had removed that string to hang herself.

She would soon join her family!

(278 characters)

Advertisements

We will remember them.

Still a week away from our annual services and parades for Poppy Day but I came across this post from last year and felt compelled to reblog it. I cannot watch it without copious tears but it really is the epitome of poetic Remembrance.

Peter's pondering

A poem in Yorkshire dialect. May be difficult for some to understand but it really is moving. Thanks to Yorkshire Prose.

View original post

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

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!

Twittering Tales #42 – 25 July 2017

It’s time again for Kat Myrman’s wonderful challenge to tax our creative souls. Just take her photo prompt and write a story, inspired by it, in 140 characters or fewer.

img_8539

Here is this week’s prompt and my contribution. Check out all the fabulous entries here.

Reveille sounds at six they said
but who would dare to wake the dead
the bugle call was right on time
and Mary’s ghost arose sublime!

(130 characters)

  • In 1851, the four-story Marshall House was built by Mary Marshall.
  • It served as a hospital for soldiers toward the end of the Civil War, and during two yellow fever epidemics.

A child of the Army of the Rhine

Read all about this young man pointing in the right direction. You will laugh. Money back guarantee!

Broadsides

Viersen. It must have been a small agricultural village at one time. Set in vast acres of open fields of sugar beet and potatoes which ran all the way to the Dutch boarder. It became a satellite village, or a town, to Monchen Gladbach but I suspect it retained its primary agricultural nature until the coming of the railways. A major permanent way was built across the fields to the south east of the village, with sidings and sheds and workshops and a very handsome bahnhof. The rail line ran all the way into Belgium and Holland and North to the industrial Rhur. It was undoubtedly this that attracted the attention of the occupying British forces at the end of the second world war. It became, with its easy rail access to the ports at Antwerp and Ostend, the perfect place to locate a forward supply depot for the Army…

View original post 2,656 more words

The Pleasures of Facebook – A photograph from WWII

This amazing story from Broadsides deserves a read. It stirred memories of my own experiences in Gibraltar.

Broadsides

I belong to this group on Facebook, Gibraltar Old photos 2 it’s called. It a nostalgia group whose members, mostly from Gibraltar,  post old photographs of life on and around and about the Rock. I lived there once and have many happy and treasured memories upon which I once contributed a piece to the site, some years ago, about being a boy in 1950’s Gibraltar. You can read it here. I still contribute to the site now and then, and to that purpose I was searching google for a film poster of a movie, made in Gibraltar in the early ‘60’s, staring Terry Thomas and called “Operation Snatch”. You need to be a bit careful what you type into google at times!

evacuation-happy-to-be-home
In my search I stumbled across this lovely old photograph the caption of which read “Gibraltar families returning to Gibraltar in 1945 after five years of evacuation…

View original post 1,565 more words

My life#11 – The Army – Northern Ireland

“The Army” series, came about through my Niece, Penny, requesting some information on my Army days. She was doing some sort of project that required a “behind the scenes” view of military life, so I started to jot things down.

I got a little carried away!

After my initial burst, as documented  in the previous few “The Army” posts, I was asked about my time in Northern Ireland.

This is the result. It was written in 2011.

For more like this click on the Tag “My Life”.

A bit about our time in Northern Ireland – Omagh, County Tyrone

[This is our particular experience. Procedures were constantly changing depending on the risk at the time, hostile activity, whether families accompanied or not and the length of tour.]

Prior to going we had to register our car with NI plates. This is done via DVLA who have special arrangements to ensure that there is not a “block” of numbers that are all forces!

We were told which ferry to use and numbers of military personnel, per ferry, were restricted.

Military personnel did not acknowledge each other on the ferry, even if they were well known to each other.

We were given a choice of 2 routes to use within NI and were not allowed to deviate. This ensured that the routes could be swept by military personnel at all times. (Panel vans were often used with one way vision rear windows). We had a specific time in which to complete the journey.

If we encountered any military check point, at any time, I had to show my ID card below the window line such that it could be seen by the soldier but not by anyone else.

On entering the barracks, all cars proceeded through a chicane of blast walls so that any risk was minimised. (Omagh barracks had a car bomb driven in and detonated shortly before we arrived!) We were checked by a single soldier close by with a second soldier covering him from a distance.

Once into Lisanelly Barracks we were given the keys to our house and, later that day, our belongings and furniture arrived.

Some houses, on one particular side of the camp, were left empty, because they had been damaged by fire bombs thrown over the perimeter wall. These were probably incidents performed by youngsters. Nice thought!

I had to regularly go into town to the bank, often carrying large sums of money. I wore civilian clothes and always tried to be discrete and to talk as little as possible. That’s fine until one of the cashiers says, at the top of her voice, “Are you from the Barracks then?”

When parking the car, I tried to ensure that I could view it from a distance with as few obstructions as possible. This helped when it came to returning to it. I could check for anything suspicious whilst approaching and I became very adept at tying my shoelaces and doing press-ups very quickly without too many people noticing. It became routine to do this and to check under the seats before getting in. I still check round my car but now for tyres and bumps!

One year Claire was due to fly in, from school, on 12th July. Because this is the day for Orange Marches, to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne, we had to get special permission to leave the barracks to collect her from the airport. On the way we found that the motorway was closed because of a security alert and we were diverted onto side roads. Unfortunately, we ended up in the middle of an Orangemen convoy of cars with no way of avoiding them. We were stuck in the middle for some considerable time. Very unsettling! If you have ever heard of the saying “sixpence, half a crown” this was definitely such a time. (Ask a friend!)

watermark-php

We were able to travel within specific areas. Other areas were a definite no go. Armagh for example was, and is, a hot bed IRA area. Our main operational area (I was with 2nd Battalion Royal Green Jackets) was the Strabane/Castelderg area on the border with Eire.

We sometimes went to Gortin glen, a really lovely area close to Omagh, and we felt almost normal at such times and were able to almost forget the circumstances of our restricted life. We also enjoyed going to the North coast and blew away the cobwebs at the Devils Causeway.

Always, at the back of our minds, were the unspoken thoughts and concerns that lots of people, who looked and behaved exactly as everyone else, would quite like to kill us or anyone else who did not fit in to their ways.

We were warned on arrival that opposite the entrance to the barracks was an office block which was constantly manned with people who were taking photographs and notes of all arrivals and departures. I suppose that intelligence gathering is a vital part of any war!

Erica “signed on” in NI and was given a fictitious address to use. However, she found it very difficult to cope with friendly ladies asking what she had been doing, where she lived, what she wanted to do. She met a young man on several visits and he appeared to realise she was a soldiers wife, she believed he was an ex policeman but neither could be open and honest.

During our time there Erica had to go to hospital in Belfast. Belfast was not a nice place to visit. She was driven by a young lady driver, was a little disturbed by the pistol on the seat beside her, and not entirely happy with all of the road blocks and paramilitary types between her and the hospital. Belfast had bunkers on the tops of blocks of flats. Most were IRA bunkers!

Our House was alongside the Helipad – a very large area where the helicopters were stored, serviced, took off and landed, apart from the Chinooks. They landed on the sports fields. Consequently, we were always aware if something big was happening. We saw the bomb disposal teams coming and going, the stores being loaded and unloaded. One night, a particularly low flying heli lifted our garden shed and deposited it 3 gardens down!

WO2

As a Warrant Officer I had to take turns to man the Operations room during the night. This involved handling communications by radio, telephone and teleprinter and acting as the link between the barracks and all patrols. It was stressful at times, especially if there was “contact” with any hostiles. You could detect the edginess, the fear and the adrenaline over the radio but felt almost helpless in that you were unable to see or hear what was happening because the radio procedure on contact was “Contact. Wait out”………………………… What the hell was happening, they were too occupied to let you know!

A lot of the equipment that is used by soldiers is dangerous. Guns, explosives, helicopters, large vehicles, bayonets, heavy objects.

In my tour of Northern Ireland more soldiers were killed and injured by accidents than by hostile action. This is probably true of all deaths in NI but don’t quote me on that.

We had a major helicopter crash  where, miraculously, only one soldier was killed. One poor young lad was very seriously injured and burned. He crawled away from the crash site and was not found immediately. Amongst other horrific injuries he lost his sight and has been a resident of St Dunstans ever since.

One young Corporal was married to an absolutely stunningly pretty and highly intelligent girl. They were a lovely couple. He became insecure and could not understand why she had chosen to marry him. He attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He survived and appeared to recover fully. However, the second time round he made sure and shot himself through the roof of his mouth. What a tragic waste.

Despite all this, life went on. People got married, children were born, relatives died, gardens were created and thrived, church, shopping, parties, all of life carried on.

Whilst writing this I am brought to tears! What a tragic waste of life but how privileged I am to have experienced what the majority cannot even contemplate and how fortunate I am to have had Erica beside me.

Pause for thought

What is the difference between a bunch of lads, noisy, brash, slightly offensive, standing on a street corner and a troop of lads patrolling the streets in NI or Afghanistan?

Google facts
  • There is an almost even split between the number of British troops killed in combat situations and the number killed in non-combat situations – that is, in accidents, friendly fire incidents or from natural causes.
  • The IRA killed almost twice the number of British soldiers in one year (1972) as Iraqi insurgents have killed over more than three years.

My life#9 – The Army – (A précis of 28 years)

“The Army” series, came about through my Niece, Penny, requesting some information on my Army days. She was doing some sort of project that required a “behind the scenes” view of military life, so I started to jot things down.

I got a little carried away!

I am offering these jottings exactly as originally presented, the only changes being the introduction of badges, where appropriate, and occasional comments, shown in blue.

For more like this click on the Tag “My Life”.

 

And so Penny, in no particular order, some points that I consider may be pertinent to your project and my apologies for anything you consider in too bad taste.

The Army have always had a call out procedure for rapid deployment. In Germany, during The Cold War, we always had to have our kit packed and ready to go at a moments notice. There were regular tests of this and no thought was given to what effect this had on families (quite naturally as the Russians would not have given notice!). We were called out and did not know where we were going or for how long. Rumours were rife amongst the families and they soon got to know of any injury or death that occurred. (No mobile phones, no iPads, Laptops, WiFi then)

Exercises, training, and detachments away from home are always difficult. It is fairly easy for most soldiers as they change into squaddie mode, get on with the job, and do not do a great deal of thinking, if any, about what they’ve left behind. For the families it is quite different. They are abandoned, in a foreign country, with strange money, strange language etc even though the “powers that be” set up Wives Clubs and the like.

I remember, vividly, taking Claire to the airport at the start of her second term at boarding school. I had to push her, crying, into the departure lounge and watch her disappear in tears. My natural inclination was to hug her and take her back home. It still hurts!

Many more boarding school memories. All of them painful. However, Claire’s education would have been so disjointed had she not decided to attend Ockbrook.

Boarding Schools tend to be very class based establishments and it was only the fact that I was in the highest paid trade group that enabled us to afford to send Claire. She would have experienced quite a large amount of “us and them” as youngsters can be worse than adults in that respect! The majority of non commissioned service families had to accept education at Service schools and a move of school every time their father was posted.

There were a lot of mistaken beliefs that Army families had all sorts of freebies and benefits. In fact, there was quite a bit of hardship, especially amongst the lower ranks. At one stage, in Germany, all Corporals and below were on benefits because they were so poorly paid. If you imagine a young wife, in a foreign country, often with young children, no family nearby, no mobile phones, not even a home phone, no computers, no English language television (Claire used to watch Sesame Street in German!), no credit cards, husband away on exercise, you may begin to understand how difficult it could be.

When we first married the means of getting personal possessions around the world was called MFO (Military Freight Organisation). Everything had to fit into standard size boxes, 1m x 05 x 0.5. We started off with 5 boxes. The quarter (house or flat) at that stage came with everything you needed to live. Furniture, bedding, crockery, cutlery, kitchen ware, brushes, mops etc. You had one room with a square of carpet, and a few mats. In later years you were given 2 carpets and, later still, they started to fit carpets. If you were a Warrant Officer, or Officer, you had a bookcase! We had to store away anything that we did not wish to use and, very much later we could stipulate that we have an unfurnished quarter that came with carpets and cooker.

After a year and a half we moved with 10 boxes. Next time 22. White goods had to be crated and normally ended up being damaged. The process of packing up was extra stressful. One room of the flat or house gradually filled with boxes and you had fewer and fewer things to live your life. Meanwhile the house had to be prepared for “march out” where it was inspected and had to be handed over in perfect condition. Any deviation from perfect had to be paid for – decoration needed, stains on carpets, bedding, damages of any kind. (Imagine trying to restore your cooker/hob to pristine condition. Not only did we try, we succeeded.)

Meanwhile, back with the mother and child (ren). The family had to move. If there was no quarter available in the new post then there were 2 options. Either, the soldier moved to his new post and family stayed in old quarter until one was available, or, family went to mother’s until new quarter available. More stressful separation!

Moving a family by plane, boat or car, with sufficient clothes and supplies to last until you have set up home again is no mean feat. Babies and small children do not find travel exciting and stress ensues. Feeds, nappies, wipes, prams, pushchairs, clothes, drinks, all have to be catered for. A customs official wanting to look in every case, bag, and box whilst your baby turns purple, being desperately in need of a nappy change, and having endured a bumpy landing, is not the way to start a new posting! (We know from bitter experience. First in to customs, last out……with a 6 week old baby.)

Army humour is unique and tends to stem from the unspoken thought that you may not be around long and that you have to make the most of what you have now. The classic story that lots of individuals claim to have witnessed, or said, following an explosion.

“Help me, I’ve lost my leg!”

“No you haven’t mate, it’s over there………”

A regular question from one to another when an exercise or tour of duty away from home is coming to an end.

“What’s the second thing you’re going to do when you get home?”

The answer, of course, is “Take my boots off”

The transition back from squaddie to husband and father is not always a smooth one. The smelly, dirty individual, arriving at the front door is intent on getting clean, getting fed and getting to bed. The child (ren) want to tell Daddy all about what they’ve done, how they’ve grown, stories to be told. The wife wants to tell her husband all about what has happened while he’s been away, she needs a few odd jobs sorted and does not appreciate all the dirty washing and dirty stains on carpets, seats etc.

While away, even for a short time, each partner moves into a solitary lifestyle and copes as best they can. Back together, they must re learn, each time, how to live as a family again. Apart, the wife may be a very effective head of family, taking independent decisions, sorting out problems, coping with crises. Together she takes on the role of allowing the husband to take those decisions, sort those problems and handle the crises. This can often create very real resentment that their own life has been yet again disturbed. This is not a mould for everyone because everyone handles their own situation in their own particular way.

We always made a home as soon as possible after arriving in a house. We put up pictures, we used our own possessions right from the start. We even carried a huge carpet around a few homes. We made a garden whenever we could, nearly always from scratch. We spent a deal of money over the years on these and on curtains, nets, cushions, furniture that fitted one house but not the next, anything to make our nest more homely.

 

I think it is probably time to call a halt now. I’m sure that there is lots more I could say. I consider myself extremely fortunate that, not only did I have an interesting, fulfilling, and at times, exciting career, I had, and have, a supportive wife and daughter to help me along.

 

General thoughts:

 

  • Army life is often an unreal existence. Soldiers are trained to react instantly without questioning and consequences are left for later
  • Mental health problems, alcohol problems, violent behaviour, are all more prevalent amongst service personnel, particularly army
  • A lot of young (and older) men and women see, and experience, things in army life that they would prefer not to
  • Winston Churchill suffered from “black dog” bouts of depression. Could it be as a result of all the horrors he witnessed as a soldier in India, the Sudan and South Africa and as a correspondent in warfare?
  • Is modern reporting a help or hindrance to modern soldiering? We have a Rambo type hero worship and exposure of extremely vulnerable young people. Perhaps we do need more exposure so that more people can see the futility of fighting!
  • As a nation we hide death away and we have tended to pretend that disability and mutilation do not really exist. We are now (I originally wrote “being confronted with”) being reminded daily that limbless and disfigured individuals are part of life, as are mental health problems, abuse problems and the like, and that death is very much a part of life. (Though we are still not very good at it!)