On the weekend where we celebrate 100 years of the Royal Corps Of Signals, I reflect on the 10% of that time I served among her ranks.
We crouched in silence in the shadows, in the darkness on the remote ridge above a small country village. Soon the sound we were hoping for started to grow louder as a helicopter approached. This was our lift home and a rare commodity in these parts. As the helicopter made it’s final descent towards us we were blasted in the powerful downdraft from the rotars. I lost my balance and fell over. Then my backpack blew away down the hill. I got up and chased down the hill after it. Suddenly everyone was scattering in all directions and the helicopter promptly lifted off and disappeared. The area my backpack and I were heading towards was mined. The irony is that the mines were there to protect us. This was one of my final actions in the Signals. I think they were glad to be rid of me.
I didn’t join the Signals. I joined the Royal Corps of Transport but after just 5 hours behind the wheel of a vehicle I was banned from ever driving anything and shipped out to the Signals in Catterick Garrison. There was a recommendation to issue me a truck as a weapon of mass destruction.
There were only a few times I found myself facing disciplinary action and they were all for losing things. My ID Card and my Arms Card and then there was the time on exercise when, in the space of 5 minutes, I lost everything except the clothes I stood up in.
I’d been lying in a shell scrape in the woods in the dark. A truck pulled up and we were all told to take our backpacks and load them into it. I decided to leave what’s called my fighting order, or webbing, in the shell scrape. This was against the rules but I figured no one would notice in the dark. On my way towards the truck I heard someone else being screamed at for doing the same so I put my backpack down and headed back to my shell scrape to get my webbing. I couldn’t find my shell scrape. I went back for my backpack but couldn’t find it either. In the end up the entire Platoon had to search the woods for my gear.
As to driving, although I was banned, it didn’t stop me. In Northern Ireland we had been working all night and the guy I was working with was driving tired so he asked if I was able to drive. I said yes though still a learner. We swapped seats and he went to sleep. A short time later he was awoken by me screaming, “How do I f’ng slow down?!” as we screamed towards an Army Checkpoint. I don’t think he was able to sleep for about a month after that.
Then there was the time I did the shower run on Exercise in Norway. This time I did manage to stop but the Rover skidded and nudged the corner of the shower tent. As terrified people ran for their lives I had created the worst possible scenario. Wet naked soldiers running about in the snow in the Arctic.
I also crashed a 2 Man Sailing Boat on Lake Chimsee in Germany (West Germany at that time). Due to my inexperience at sailing I’d been told to drop my sails and row into the harbour. Instead I went in under full sail at very high speed from the centre of the lake. The last thing I saw before impact with the harbour wall was a wee guy screaming, “Achtung!” at me and waving frantically. The impact launched several of his paddle boats right out of the water.
I’ll just finish with a story I’m often reminded of when I meet the guys I served with at 7 Sigs in West Germany. I had been training for a Boxing Competition at the time which involved about 6 weeks of constant training and significant dieting. The OC Squadron decided to give the team a pep talk in the last few hours before the competition but I was absent. As soon as I had got off the scales from the final weigh in I made a B-Line for downtown and was in a local Schnel Imbis cramming in some Gyros and Chips before the fight.
I wish all the best to everyone who’s served past and present. The very nature of the job meant there were dark times and scary times but there were so many good times. I count my decade in the Signals as one of the best of my life and those who served with me as family. I’m proud to have served even if it was possibly a safer place after I left.
Click here to see other posts and videos about my imaginary girlfriend, how I managed to fall out of the window whilst Self Isolating and the giant vagina I thought I’d found in The Louvre.
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