From 1965 to about 1967 while I was stationed at HQ 2 Bde, Old Cranborne Barracks, we did a lot of Brigade exercises.
The entire Brigade Headquarters would deploy to the bush for up to a week at a time to practice everyone in the duties of a conventional war scenario – with an African twist of course.
We would generally deploy to an area within a reasonable distance of Salisbury although on a few occasions we did exercises a few hundred kilometres into the bush.
We would get into the area and form either a circular (irreverently called a dog’s ball) configuration or a linear HQ configuration. We would set up communications, workshops, messes and kitchens even a bush bar.
On occasion we would have been settled in nicely for about two days when we would be told to move and the entire setup had to be taken down, all the vehicles formed up in convoy and off we would go to a new location to set up again.
After a few of these exercises they became rather boring and, apart from a couple of memorable BIG exercises against 1 Bde, the routine was frankly irritating because we felt we were playing soldiers and nothing was going to happen.
A few years later of course all the brigades would have headquarters elements deployed in the field – none of them remotely like the ones we had sweated at practicing!
After one exercise, having been playing conventional warfare for a week with brigade headquarters, I was walking home wearing bush kit with my webbing on and with my pack on my back. Attached to the pack was my steel NATO pattern helmet.
It was a bit of a hike to where I lived and I was on the last stretch across a little park where some small boys were playing. As I passed the children one of them stopped to look at me. He grabbed his friends and, pointing at me, he said to his mates, “Look, look, just like COMBAT !“
I was tired but not too tired to smile at this rather flattering comment!