Tag Archives: Funny

ORDERS! ORDERS, SHUN!

In 1979 I was posted to 2(Brigade) Signal Squadron (2(Bde)Sig Sqn) as the Squadron Sergeant Major (SSM). 

Among the duties carried out by SSMs and CSMs is bringing members of the unit up on disciplinary charges. (This is the only picture I have of myself as a WO2 – or Sergeant Major – taken on a course in late 1978)

I had carried out this task a few times over the years as SSgt and WO2 and it was not a particularly difficult thing to do. You just had to make sure that your facts were right and that you framed the charges correctly, using the correct sections of the Defence Act (Military Discipline).

On this occasion though, the accused was a member of the RWS (Rhodesian Womens’ Service) who was posted to the squadron in an administrative post.

She had been late for duty on a few occasions, been absent without leave and been insubordinate. Because she was married and had young children (her husband was also an NCO in Signals), she had been verbally cautioned by myself and the admin officer but now the warnings had run out and if nothing had been done it would have set a very bad precedent in the unit.

Accordingly, charges had been framed and I was to march in the orders party to appear in front of Maj George Galbraith, who was OC of the squadron.

Army readers will probably be familiar with the procedure – the accused has an escort and, if there are witnesses who are equal, or junior in rank, to the accused they too are “marched in”. I think there was one witness and they formed up, standing at ease, in the passage outside the OC’s office facing me – escort on the left, accused and then witness.

In my best (and it used to be quite impressive) SSM voice I called them to attention, turned them to their right and marched them in – this is done, as mentioned, in the stentorian tones of the parade ground and FAST…so:

AWWDUUHZ, AWWDUUHZ, SHUN!
ORDERS…RIGHT TURN-BY THE FRONT-QUICK MARCH –
LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-RIGHT—RIGHT-WHEEYUL (into the office),
RIGHT WHEEL (around the door),
LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-RIGHT-MARK TIME! LEF, RI, LEF, RI, LEF, RI….
AWWDUUHZ, HALT. ORDERS LEFT TURN. (This last to get them facing the OC’s desk).

As I saluted and opened my mouth to announce the orders party and read the charges to the OC, he held up his hand to stop me – and the office filled with sniffles and snot-swallowing and howling and crying…CRYING! ON ORDERS!

“Sar’ major, I think you had better march them out again and let the accused compose herself” he said drily. As my mouth opened to start the reversal of the process the OC signalled for less volume. I almost choked trying to keep the tradition up at less than half volume but I got them out into the passage. After ordering the escort to take the accused to sort herself out and get back in five minutes, I reported back to the OC.

As I closed the door he was chuckling, obviously trying hard NOT to guffaw out loud and be heard in the passage. “Now what, Erik?” he said to me. “Jesus, Sir,” I replied, “I don’t know. How do we deal with this?” (Actually I may have said FORNICATE and not Jesus…!)

After a couple of minutes’ discussion, we came to the conclusion that the relatively mild-mannered SSM she thought she knew, had given her such a fright with the parade voice that she had almost wet herself.

I was compelled to complete the orders parade using what could only be described as a hoarse stage whisper. Expecting the earlier grand performance she cringed at first! There were still some tears and I don’t remember what the OC’s sentence was (probably a fine) but I had to make a point of not catching his eye (or he mine) as we were both trying REALLY HARD not to laugh out loud at the absurdity of it.

I think the only deterrent that worked that day though, was the accused’s fear of being subjected to full volume on orders parade – again!!

If George Galbraith ever reads this, I would be interested in his recollection of it.

FLOT

FLOT –
The acronym stands for Front Line Own Troops and quite literally means the point at which one’s OWN troops are closest to the enemy in an engagement. It is important information for air support so that they do not hit the friendly forces they are trying to help. It is one of the reasons coloured smoke grenades are carried.

This is another of those stories that are legend and there is some doubt around the ACTUAL events but, in the craziness that is war and the characters that emerge, I have no doubt that it is solidly founded in fact (with a smidgeon of embellishment perhaps?).

Anyway the story is that some of our coloured troops were caught up in a contact with terrorists. As mentioned in another story these men were some of the most quick-witted humorists one could ever meet – even in moments of high stress.

While they were pretty much holding their own, the situation was not good and the group of terrorists looked set to get the upper hand.

The patrol called in for assistance and an armed aircraft was diverted to see what could be done.

  • Shortly the pilot’s ever-laconic voice was heard calling the patrol: 
  • “47 this is Cyclone 4 how can we assist over”. (it may have been one of the other squadrons of course…)
  • “Where you ouens?” comes the reply from the ground in a slightly surprised, almost defensive, tone.
  • “Approaching your position from the South, over”
  • “Roger, this gooks is in front of us and we can’t move”
  • “Roger that – can you mark your FLOT, over”
  • Something of a pregnant pause…then “What?”
  • “I need you to mark your FLOT, over”
  • Live mic for a few moments with obvious whispering in background, then…”What do you mean? over”
  • “I can’t see you – can you throw smoke, over”

Another longish pause then… “Madison or Kingsgate? over”

Kingsgate and Madison cigarettes (smokes)

 

 

 

 

COMBAT !

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!

Check this out….https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combat!_(TV_series) …and this http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055666/

Bravo Tango Oscar

This story is the stuff of legend and I must confess to having heard it from someone else. If it is not perfectly true then it is certainly EXTREMELY LIKELY to have happened, knowing the nature of the persons involved and their incredibly quick, inventive wit…

If you had ever been in an ops room on a really quiet day – perhaps a weekend – you would remember the desultory reports coming in from the OPs and remote relay stations…

  • “OscarAlphaone, NTR over…”
  • “OscarAlhpathree, NTR over…”

…and so the boring NOTHING TO REPORT, nothing to report, nothing to report communications would roll in.

Typical newly established (day 1) temporary relay on a high, remote point near Kanyemba, Zambezi Valley.

Apart from the occasional observation of traffic on a dirt road or some kraal dwellers ambling across a field there would be very little to break the boredom on days such as this. It should also be remembered that many of these RADIO RELAY stations were purely that – REMOTE – and their remoteness meant that there really was bugger all for them to see – or do – most of the time.

One such relay was being manned by a contingent of RDR (a coloured Regiment) and they were obviously seriously bored…until this exchange of calls took place…

  • “Zero this is Xray Zulu over…”
  • “Zero go…”
  • “XZ Bravo Tango Oscar over…”
  • “Zero say again? over…”
  • “…Bravo Tango Oscar over…”

…..looooong pause, then:

“Xray Zulu this is Zero, we do not have code Bravo Tango Oscar –  explain? over…”

“…Like er, Bachman Turner Overdrive, ek se, us ouens Ain’t seen Nothing Yet, over…”

Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7miRCLeFSJo

 

 

First kill

My friend, John Peirson, with whom I served at HQ 2 Brigade in 1965/66-ish –when I was a Signalman and he a Captain – tells this true story. 


In the early days of Operation Hurricane in the 2 Brigade area (that would probably have been in the early 70s) members of C Squadron, Rhodesian SAS captured a GOOK after a contact (firefight) in the Zambezi Valley.

Looking north over the valley floor that is 1000 feet (440m) below.

The captured man was painfully thin and rather obviously starving and it was decided he should be given some food before they tried to interrogate him.

Accordingly, they gave him a tin of meat from a ration pack and he proceeded to wolf it down greedily, so ravenous was he. So ravenous, in fact, that he proceeded to choke on the food and, in spite of their best efforts to revive him, he died…

Afterwards Major Brian Robinson, the SAS Commanding Officer, sent an official message, through the correct channels, to the Central Ordnance and Supply Depot. The message read: “Congratulations on your first kill!”. 

Actual sign in KGVI barracks, Rhodesia

The Major’s efforts were rewarded with an official rebuke from some humourless cardboard replica of a senior soldier at Army Headquarters.

Bureaucracy

I was still living in South Africa when I found an 87th Precinct book that I had not read. In it I came across this passage that I thought was just so apt in relation to the drama I had recently gone through in order to have some plans registered at my local municipality.

While I did not have to purchase a postal order I DID have to go to the lift, down three floors, go out of that building and through security then walk around the civic centre offices to the rates hall – several hundred metres. There I had to stand in a queue to make my payment and make sure I got a receipt to take back to where I had started. I then had to go down the passage for the second part of this procedure and lo and behold they ALSO needed a payment, and they ALSO were unable to take payment.  I am sure we have all had experiences that this scenario might fit. 


In this city, ten people were necessary to do the job of one person.

What this city did was hire high school dropouts, put them in suits and then teach them how to greet the public with blank stares on their faces.

In this city, if you needed a copy of, say, your birth certificate or your driver’s licence, you stood in line for an hour and half while some nitwit pretended to be operating a computer. When he or she finally located what you were there for, you had to go over to the post office and stand in line for another hour and a half to purchase a money order to pay for it.

That was because in this city, municipal employees weren’t allowed to accept cash, personal cheques or credit cards. This was because the city fathers knew the calibre of the people who were featherbedding throughout the entire system, knew that cash would disappear in a wink, knew that credit cards would be cloned, knew that personal cheques would somehow end up in private bank accounts hither and yon.

That’s why all those people behind municipal counters gave you such hostile stares.

They were angry at the system because they couldn’t steal from it. Or maybe they were pissed off because they couldn’t qualify for more lucrative jobs like security officers at any of the city’s jails, where an ambitious man could earn a goodly amount of unreportable cash by smuggling in dope to the inmates.

Quoted from The Last Dance by Ed McBain – an 87th Precinct novel
Ed McBain is a pen name used by Evan Hunter (The Blackboard Jungle, Privileged Conversation)

Beard coming…

There seems to be quite a fascination for beards here, where I now live – particularly among young men, and I mean YOUNG men!

Thing is, many of these beards just look so odd.

There’s this beard coming towards me. A huge, luxuriant brown handsome beard and I notice that the beard has this skinny little guy attached to it.

The beard turns so that it can look at someone and you observe a rather attractive young thing in animated conversation with the bush on legs. The beard turns to the front and continues its approach and then one sees the cap and a pair of eyes glittering behind the foliage, under the deep shadow of the cap brim.

This chap is so proud of his beard but it is TOTALLY out of proportion to the little fellow that it, the beard, is wearing.

Another time and another beard heaves into view. This luxuriant, reddish monster is forked. Each fork is about twenty centimetres long and the distance apart at the ends is probably also twenty centimetres. From the centre of the fork to the moustache is probably the same distance. As it gets nearer one notices a nose and a pair of eyes peering over the shrubbery. Once again the face is shadowed by the bill of one of those omnipresent baseball caps.

Below and behind this forked growth is a youngster of perhaps 20-22 years with the build and innocent-seeming eyes of a child. He looks up at something and the beard levers away from his chest to a position horizontal to the ground, weirdly reminding me of the bonnet of a car being opened!

Now there is nothing wrong with a beard – I myself have sported one since 1980 – but somehow these slightly built, young guys just look so incongruous with these luxuriant facial jungles that are so out of proportion to their stature.

I’m sure that out in the woods somewhere there are great big lumberjacks who would LOVE to have such magnificent growths as I see strolling around with these waif-like fellows attached!

Then again of course there are blokes who are in in charge of some truly smart beards that are perfectly balanced to their faces and frames. Where the man dominates and the beard knows its place!

I suppose it is like body art – to each their own…and I must add that some of these slight, magnificently bearded, fellows seem to have no problem with the chicks! Perhaps there is a lesson in that – but we won’t go there.

About CROCS – and bullies

A while ago I read an article by some smart fellows who were giving forth on sartorial dos and don’ts.

Right at the end of the article we, all of us – men and women, are exhorted to never, ever, under any circumstances and NO MATTER HOW COMFORTABLE they may be, wear CROCS©.

I remember a theatre nurse wearing CROCS© many years ago and I questioned her about them. She told me that irrespective of the lack of elegance and adverse comment about them they were the most comfortable and easy to clean footwear for someone who has to be on their feet all day and pretty much all her colleagues were wearing them at work. I went out and bought a pair of black CROCS© clogs.

Now the sight of skinny legs ending in those clumpy TRAINERS or running shoes while wearing little hide away non-socks, making said legs look like upside down lollipops, seems to escape comment from the stylistas…but, wear CROCS©!

CROCS© stay on your feet, are comfortable to drive or walk in, are as inelegant as hobnailed boots on a fashion catwalk…and make you a pariah. People will cross the street to avoid associating with you. Non-U does not even approach the disapproval the fashion police will heap upon you.

Comment or advice around the subject of CROCS© is usually offered in the most disparaging and derogatory of terms. Can terms that clearly reference one’s sanity and sense of community really be termed advice? Actually it is a superiorlookingdownthenose form of BULLYING!

However, having reached my three score and ten years, comfort rules, really it does. If I am casually dressed why are slops OK but CROCS© are not? After major surgery on my knees I wore Crocs© all the time during my rehab and walked miles in them with no discomfort.

With this in mind I had a little badge made, with an acronym that I shamelessly cribbed from Kevin Bloody Wilson, the irreverent Aussie comic. The badge blatantly reads DILLIGAF which, loosely translated, means:

Do I Look Like I Give A Flying damn

There is certainly nothing elegant about CROCS©, no matter what colour they are, but they are extremely comfortable and practical so at my age – DILLIGAF!

NB: where I grew up FLIP-FLOPS were always called SLIP SLOPS hence, SLOPS.

Postscript: NO-ONE turns a hair when I wear these particular CROCS©!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Risky laughter

In the army one attended many courses and this incident happened on my Operators Radio and Line Class III signals course.

We learned many things besides radio operating in the Corps of Signals and on this course, in addition to the expected Morse code (yes, in 1966 it was still in use), voice and morse operating procedures and antenna theory and practical we learned basics of electricity and electronics, batteries and charging and, covering several slightly unexpected things, the LINE part of the course.

This included laying field telephone lines, line termination and repairs, connecting up the field exchanges, basic maintenance of the field telephones and SWITCHBOARD operating procedures. (I was to use one of the LINE lessons I learned about twenty years later when a tree I was pruning for a client snapped a Telkom telephone line and my temporary line repair, as per army training, remained in full view for several years afterwards).

Switchboards could be multiple line Field & Fortress installations where up to fifty lines at a time (or more if needed) may be terminated – mostly however we used the ten-line field telephone switchboard known by its official nomenclature as: Switchboard magneto 10-line. This was generally adequate for most field deployments at brigade level or below.

The PROCEDURE for connecting a call was twofold – there was the actual connecting of the call and the spoken procedure to be employed as a call was received and connected.

The spoken part was easy enough: (not sure how accurate I am being but near enough)

Exchange, sir, who can I connect you with?
Ops room, please (some officers/callers actually said, please)
One moment please, sir.

(you then connected yourself to the ops room and announced a call from whoever had called)

Ops room, I have a call from Provost, sir.
Put it through….
Now you connected them while remaining connected yourself and announced: You are through to ops room, sir.
Listen for a moment to ensure that they are connected and talking then disconnected yourself. Simple enough – although the subscribers were supposed to RING OFF many did not and after a time you had to plug in and ask – and sometimes get an earful for your temerity.

The physical PLUGGING THROUGH of these calls, while quite
straightforward, is where the hilarity commenced for Brian – because of the terminology.

While it is easy to say that the operator plugs himself through to the calling line and then partly connects the called party to the caller’s line while getting through to the called party etc, etc the use of the correct instructional terminology is where it fell apart for Brian.

The switchboard has ten sockets and under each one is a cable with a plug. Above each socket is a little label that can be numbered or otherwise marked and this drops (it is, surprisingly, called a drop indicator) when a call is received so that there is no doubt as to which line is calling (or called first as the case may be).

The SOCKETS are called JACKS – the correct term is jack socket while the matching PLUG is really a jack plug. Now, if you read this aloud you may understand why it tickled Brian so much. (Never mind the chat previously described that also had to take place)

This is, with reasonable accuracy, how the instruction was given:

On receipt of a call the calling line drop-indicator will fall.
The operator will take his own plug and plug it into the caller’s jack.
The operator will then take the called party’s line and, after removing his plug from the caller’s jack he will put the called party’s plug partly into the caller’s jack.
Plugging his own plug into the called party’s jack he will ring that extension.
After getting a response that the call is accepted and to complete the call…
…the operator now pushes the called party’s plug fully into the calling party’s jack and….
…announces to both parties that they are connected and then…
…after listening to ensure that two subscribers are connected (talking) he will remove his plug from the called party’s jack.

Brian started to snigger quite early in the above description and by the time it got halfway he was shaking – paroxysms of laughter that he was DESPERATELY trying to suppress. Of course once you are in that situation you just CANNOT suppress it. Every time you try, the reason for your laughter kicks in and you burst out again.

“LEGG” yelled Staff Sergeant Sager, “what is so fucking funny?”

“Nothing, Staff” he gasped, unsuccessfully stifling another bubbling, rocking gale of laughter that was entirely at odds with the look of horrified fear on his face.

“Well what are you bloody well laughing at?”

“Nothing, Staff!” all the time snorting and gasping to suppress the laughter that just WOULD NOT go away.

The rest of us were, by this time, wholly amused while trying not to show it – or WE would also get a share of the Staff’s anger. Laughter is infectious and I think I remember a slight smirk on the Staff Sergeant’s face – quickly wiped off – as he once again demanded to know what Brian was finding so damned funny.

Staff Sergeant Sager, our course NCO, had a reputation as something of a martinet in the lecture room and was renowned for his often harsh punishment of those who crossed him – which explains the look of horror on Brian’s face as he laughed uncontrollably. He must have felt he was digging his own grave.

I cannot remember if Brian was punished or if we were punished as a group (there were nine of us on the course) by being CB – Confined to Barracks – for the weekend or whether we all got away with it (I think Brian took some stick though).