My life#6 – The Army -First days

Today is 55 years since I left home to join the Army. Would I do it again?
You bet!

Peter's pondering

This, and subsequent “The Army” entries, came about through my Niece 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 suppose that this became the precursor to my blog, so I have Penny to thank for that!

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.


I joined the Army in 1964, at the age of 16. As I was under the age of majority I had to have my parents’ permission to do so.

Despite the image of the Swinging Sixties you must remember that the majority of youth was unsophisticated, untraveled and, despite what they believed, very naïve. We had not benefitted, or…

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Song Lyric Sunday Theme for 17/02/2019

img_1345-3Jim Adams continues to look after Song Lyric Sunday, giving us the chance to share lots of favourites, and some not so familiar songs.

The theme for this week is Hill/Mountain and you can find all the great entries here.

Because I was pipped at the post by THIS THAT AND THE OTHER with my choice this week, I am offering another “Hill” tune for your delight (or not). You will find this at the bottom and it morphs my SLS entry into a personal history lesson too!

Anyone who has followed my SLS entries for a while will know that my mind often goes to Beatles songs to try to find a suitable offering to present. I’m not always successful!

What I found this week is a song off the Magical Mystery Tour album. After the success of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles wanted to create a psychedelically themed film, and Magical Mystery Tour was the result. It was designed as an unscripted television special and featured 6 new songs.

It was never meant to be an LP, but the producers added existing singles to make up the numbers! It worked out pretty well.

Here, for your enjoyment, is “The Fool on the Hill”.

The Fool on the Hill

The Beatles

Day after day, alone on a hill
The man with the foolish grin is sitting perfectly still
Nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
But he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

His head in a cloud
The man with a foolish grin is talking perfectly loud
But nobody wants to hear him
They can see that he’s just a fool
But he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
But he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney

The Fool on the Hill lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Here is the extra!

This is not a song, has no lyrics, and is unlikely to have been heard by anyone reading this blog. It is, however, special to me, and is amongst the music that MAY be played at my funeral/celebration of life/throwing on the local scrap heap!

It is “High on a Hill” by the Band and Bugles of The Royal Green Jackets

I had the honour to serve with The 2ndBattalion The Royal Green Jackets, in Dover, and Omagh, Northern Ireland. I can honestly say that they were the most professional and dedicated soldiers I have ever served with. This was the one and only time I served with a Light Infantry unit and It was a real eye opener. They are different! An example is that they march at 140 paces per minute, rather than usual 116, or 120. Examples can be seen below.

Imagine doing that for any length of time, AND carrying and playing an instrument!

St Kilda – Island on the edge of the world.

Anyone who saunters through my blog will very soon find that I was, for over 28 years, an Army man, a soldier, a squaddie!

This involved living in all sorts of weird places, in peculiar circumstances, and doing all sorts of things that the average joe doesn’t get to experience.

One of the places I lived was on the remote island of Hirta, in the archipelago of St Kilda. In all I spent over 8 months there, normally on a rotational basis of 6 weeks on, 12 weeks off. You can read a little about it here, and here.

During my time there I don’t think that I ever experienced the superb 4 day block of good weather that Angus Mackie and his group of kayakers did for their trip that is shown here.

This post is not about me but it does show a place that is dear to my heart, and to anyone who has ever been lucky enough to experience it.

Just as anyone who has experienced a true desert will know  what “desert fever” feels like, those who’ve been to Kilda will be forever drawn back there, even if it is only in memories!

This expedition report is rather lengthy, and will be hastily skipped through by some, but for a few it will be of great interest. The link at the bottom will take you to a marvellous set of photos and videos. It takes a while to load as they are high resolution, and lots of interactive 360˚ shots. I hope you have time to enjoy them.

A link to a newly updated blog post of “A Superlative St Kilda Sea Kayaking Expedition with Skyak Adventures.”

St Kilda is a place of superlatives!

The remote island archipelago of St Kilda lies some 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides and not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site but it has the highest sea cliffs in the UK, the largest seabird colony in northern Europe and a quarter of the world’s gannet population.

It’s also an amazing place for sea kayaking…!!

 

I’m Angus Mackie, a professional forester and photographer, based just north of Inverness on the beautiful Black Isle.  I’m on the North Coast 500 and am well placed to discover most of the Highlands.  The iconic scenery of Glen Affric and the Cairngorms are close by whilst many of the wild and dramatic locations on the west coast are within easy reach.

Mountains, landscapes, coastlines….  As a landscape and panoramic photographer who specialises in 360° photography, I enjoy exploring Scotland and its wild and remote places and have discovered some of the best photography locations in the Highlands over the last 35 years of living up here.  With a broad and wide ranging knowledge of the Highlands, I still enjoy finding new locations and fresh perspectives for my photography.  The use of natural light to capture stunning scenery at spectacular locations is very much a key factor for my photography.

I’m a qualified Summer Mountain Leader, a Sea Kayak Leader and a UKCC Level 2 Sea Kayaking coach, with many years experience of leading and guiding.  I am also a longstanding member of Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team.

Copyright © 2018 Scotland360° and Angus Mackie.

https://www.scotland360.co.uk/Blog_St_Kilda_July_2014.html?fbclid=IwAR0jolFavOHKug8o9RkHNk_oxkkAcyjGYtSI-heTlQk7dehf9o-Xyo-xans

Remember: not just Who and When, but also understand Why — babbitman

This makes so much sense to me. I hope it may make you think beyond the ceremony of remembrance!

Wars kill people. They devastate families. Wars should be a politician’s absolute last resort and they are an admission that they have failed their people.

via Remember: not just Who and When, but also understand Why — babbitman

Sunday “not sayings”

For the past year I have been posting a “Sunday saying” and, before that, a “Sunday sentiment”. Two years worth of not missing a Sunday post is good for me!

However, most of those posts have been “borrowed” from other sources, often from “Brainy Quotes,” although I have added my own comments it has not really been all that creative.

Also, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but, Sundays are busy days for posts. I suppose that, for some, it is the only day they have that is not full on because of work, school runs, social activities etcetera.

In addition, Facebook reminded that on 15th September 1964 I travelled to Harrogate, in Yorkshire, to join The Army Apprentices College at the start of my Army career. Just how the hell can that be? 54 years ago!

This got me thinking.

I really ought to do something a little bit creative, something that I enjoy, and something that you might enjoy too.

From tomorrow I shall offer you a “Lundi Limerick”.

I used to enter a weekly Limerick challenge, and really enjoyed it. So, look out for a little bit of silliness. That’s me:

The start of a new line of posts.

They may have some ghoulies and ghosts.

I’m sure there’ll be curses

in some of the verses

but hopefully won’t include boasts.

 

 

Take a tip from Honey

31949396_1767087253337256_2449846145887764480_nMy niece lives on the Scottish coast, close to Edinburgh. She’s into ultra running, coaches and lectures on women’s health and fitness, and borrows this beautiful hound to accompany her on her runs. She served in the Army Reserve and did a tour in Afghanistan. I thought I would share the view, and her positive thought below.

Honey doesn’t give a shit if you missed your gym workout today, or even if you haven’t been for the last 2 weeks.
She’s waiting for you to make the next move, right now.
The only thing she’s concerned about is what’s happening right now, in this moment.
I think we can all learn something from Honey 😁🐾

A Corkman dies on the Somme

John McGuiggan, on his site Broadsides, writes brilliantly on all sorts of matters. History, reviews, interesting tales about life in general, and his life in particular. Born into a military family, serving in the army, then transforming into a union organiser, he then somehow ended up as a barrister. He has tales to tell, funny ones, sad ones, reflective ones, but always interesting ones. Do read, and enjoy!

Broadsides - A collection of bits and pieces

The Pencil portrait of Private Christopher Coleman, from Cobh, County Cork, made by his wife.

The first week of September 1916 and the 16th Irish Division are engaged in the bloody advance across theSomme. At the village of Guillemont , men of the 7th Leinster Regiment manage to pass through the shattered village and secure and hold enemy trenches on the far side, but at terrible cost, losing some fifty percent of the soldiers engaged in the advance.  But in the bizarre ethics of war, it was a victory

Following the ‘victorious’ advance, non-combatant labour battalions are sent into the killing fields to clear up the mess left by the fighting soldiers. They clear away abandoned trenching tools, wire cutters, discarded equipment and bits and pieces of dead soldiers. It is gruesome and arduous work.

Among their number is an Englishman, Private George Wiles of the Royal Engineers. As…

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Song Lyric Sunday Theme for 25/02/18 – Letters

SLSHelen’s theme for this week is letters.

As I left home at the tender age of 16, to join the Army, letters were very important to me. I must admit I wasn’t very good at writing them but I did so love to receive them.

In later years I wrote to my fiancé, less than I should have, and managed to avoid direct involvement in arrangements for our wedding, as I was overseas. Letters were thus very important in the process. (Younger readers please note – no mobile phones,  no dedicated landline phone, and very expensive call charges!)

My Mum kept all the letters I wrote, for many years afterwards. Unfortunately, they were eventually disposed of so they are just a fond memory.

Letters to Mum, military service, and being parted by continents, leads to my choice of music for this week, Letters from War. I hope you enjoy it.

Letters From War

Mark Schultz

She walked to the mailbox
On that bright summer's day
Found a letter from her son
In a war far away

He spoke of the weather
And good friends that he'd made
Said I've been thinkin' bout dad
And the life that he had
That's why I'm here today

Then at the end he said
You are what I'm fighting for
It was the first of his
Letters from war

She started writing you're good
And you're brave
What a father that
You'll be someday
Make it home
Make it safe

She wrote every night as she prayed

Late in December 
A day she'll not forget
Oh her tears stained the paper
With every word that she read

It said, I was up on a hill
I was out there alone
When the shots all rang out
And bombs were exploding
And that's when I saw him
He came back for me
And though he was captured 
A man set me free

And that man was your son
He asked me to write to you
I told him I would
Oh I swore
It was the last of the letters from war

And she prayed he was living
She kept on believing
And wrote every night just so say

You are good 
And you're brave 
What a father that you'll be someday
Make it home 
Make it safe

Still she kept writing each day

And then two years later
Autumn leaves all around
A car pulled in the driveway
And she fell to the ground

And out stepped a Captain
Where her boy used to stand
He said mom I'm following orders
From all of your letters
And I've come home again

He ran into hold her
He dropped all his bags 
On the floor
Holding all of her letters from war

Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home

Holding all of her letters from war

Songwriters: Cindy Morgan / Cindy Lavonne Morgan / Mark Schultz / Mark Mitchell Schultz

Letters From War lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

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