|THE HISTORY OF 16 PARACHUTE HEAVY DROP COMPANY - RAOC 1961 - 1976|
16 Parachute Heavy Drop Company was formed on the 16th December 1961 at Arnhem Camp,Watchfield, Berkshire. Prior to 1961 there had been in existence two units which were the forerunners of the present day Heavy Drop Company. The first RAOC unit to be involved in air dropping was the 2nd Air Maintenance Company which was operational during the Suez emergency in 1956. This unit was superceded by 2nd Airborne Company, RAOC. The tasks of 2nd Airborne Company covered both Heavy Drop and Air Maintenance. Those RAOC soldiers involved Air Maintenance dealt mostly with the packing of ammunition and fragile Radio and MT spares. A re-organisation took place when it was realised that it was impracticable to have both tasks carried out by the one unit. 2nd Airborne Company became 16 Parachute Heavy Drop Company under the command of 16 Parachute Brigade whilst the Air Maintenance Platoon became an organic part of the Army Air Supply Organisation. The Heavy Drop Company at this time was organised into a HQ, a HQ Platoon and a Heavy Drop Platoon.
During the period 1961 to August 1965, there were three Heavy Drop units in existence. 16 Parachute Heavy Drop Company based in the United Kingdom, 17 Heavy Drop Platoon based in Bahrain and 18 Parachute Heavy Drop Section which was located in Cyprus. The Officer Commanding was responsible for co-ordinating all the technical activities of the three units.
VIDEO - 16 Parachute Heavy Drop Company - RAOC
On the 1st August 1965 the company was re-organised to meet the changing requirements of the formations it was supporting. 17 Heavy Drop Platoon became the third platoon of 16 Parachute Heavy Drop Company and 18 Section was re-designated to No 6 Section. In August 1967, 3 Platoon was detached to the far east to support FARELF. It was based at Changi, where a platoon remained until 1970 when it returned to Watchfield. On the 19th February 1971, the unit marched into it's present location at Royal Air Force Station, Hullavington. In January 1975 the last remaining element of the company which had by then become known as the Heavy Drop Detachment Cyprus, was brought back to the United Kingdom. Sgt's Farrant and Alden having earned the commendations of the Commander in Chief NEARELF for the work that they and the detachment had done there in the 1974 Emergency.
Since the formation of the Heavy Drop Company members of the unit have served as infantry with elements of 16 Parachute Brigade in a number of operational theatres. In 1964, 17 soldiers served with 3 Para in Bahrain. In May 1964, 17 Heavy Drop Platoon served as infantry in the Radfan whilst in 1965 a platoon was attached to 2 Para in Borneo. More recently 14 men were attached to 1st Parachute Logistic Regiment in 1969 and again in 1972 for service in Northern ireland.
Throughout the life of the Heavy Drop Company the achievements of the unit sports teams have been second to none. The unit has won during the last 15 years, every major UK RAOC competition, except Cricket, and many Army and District events. The Army Cross Country Challenge Cup has been won five times in the last eight years. In 1966 a Platoon from the unit became the first winners of 16 Parachute Brigade Infantry Platoon Competition. Perhaps the achievement which will be remembered longest, is the winning of the coveted Welsh 3000 trophy in June 1975, when the unit beat the much fancied Gurkha and Para Bde teams to set up a record which is likely to stand for many years to come.
There was also the 16 Parachute Ordnance Field Park, which was located in Aldershot, the sister Ordnance Para unit, some Heavy Drop lads served in the OFP prior to Heavy Drop, here are a few photo's compliments of Brian McKay (Mad Mac), Click Here - 16 Para Ordnance Field Park.
Video - 16th Parachute Brigade Drop - Long Valley 1967
My First Day in Heavy Drop Company - Sept 1972
On the monday morning we (pre para Lads) went to hanger 7 and the place was deserted, until we met Sid Pincher the 2 i/c, who screamed at us for being in civvie's, "Don't you report to me for duty dressed in civilian clothes, get away" he chased us through the hanger, I couldn't run for laughing. I found it odd being stationed at RAF Hullavington, but was pleasantly surprised, the job entailed rigging vehicles/trailers to platforms with parachutes, then installing the platforms in the Hercules aircraft at RAF Lyneham 2 - 3 times a week and of course the dreaded DZ recovery, this certainly was different from Bicester and we got to travel a bit too. We (Pre Para) lads got the usual treatment for all newcomers, but got on with it, Bill O'Flaherty took us on pre para, a 2 week grueling training course to make sure we were up to standard to attend P company, we were very fortunate?? that Bill was ex P company training staff, oh lucky us!!. The billets were the old RAF type T blocks with wooden floors, very basic accommodation with no room for privacy. Here's a video gliding over RAF Hullavington.
In the RAOC Corps Gazette Heavy Drop placed the usual entry covering exercises, personnel, promotions etc, however, always at the end of the Company editorial were the words, "We still have plenty of vacancies for those who want piles of work, little sleep, definitely NO LOA, but never a dull moment. A sense of humour is essential, otherwise you just won't stand the pace!!", how true!. Although I'm convinced whoever wrote the Corps Gazette notes weren't in possession of a Calendar, well out of Synch, or just plain forgot.
We (Pre Para lads) went to Aldershot (Nov 1972) to attend P Company staying at Rhine Barracks, day 1 was an eye opener, all ranks treated the same, we looked like escaped POW's with our course numbers on denims/arms and "P" helmet. P company lasted 4 weeks and based in Browning Barracks the Para Training Depot. The first two were training, the third week was a series of tests, the fourth week was in Wales (Cwmgwdi Camp). I was feeling really fit until after the first week. I went out to the flicks, grabbed a wimpey meal on the way back to the block, it was a miserable sunday, drizzling with rain, me and the late Vince Phillips got soaked, next day I felt like death, never had flu before and had spent the next 2 days in bed (thought I was dying), nice way to spend my 20th birthday !.
Claycart Bridge - Basingstoke Canal (Aldershot)
I never recovered from this, and got steadily worse over the next 3 weeks, getting hypothermia in the Brecon Beacons, that was the end for me. So, on returning to Hullavington I was determined to go back to prove I had what it takes to wear the Maroon Beret, I did return in Jan 1973 with the late Jim Finch and Roy Topham and Malcolm Samuels, I passed and went on to RAF Abingdon for the Parachute phase of the course, however, I managed to rupture a disc and spent the next 18 months in pain, all the time I thought it was a just a Prolapsed Disc, (slipped disc). Heavy Drop was not the sort of unit to complain about injuries, so I just put up with it until it got that bad. Eventually I told Doc Mary (The MO) I wanted to see an Osteopath, (Tex Roberts advised me to say that), but could not parachute again due to a Ruptured Disc, (RAF decision), the RAF surgeons sorted that out, maybe somebody was trying to tell me something?. I remember being in ward 5, I was in traction for 3 very painful weeks, however, there was one nurse (Sue Randall) very attractive, she used to give me a bed bath, but first had to undue the corset with traction straps, trouble is as her hands undid the straps starting at the top working her way down to my nether region. Well, I tried very hard to distract myself, thinking to myself who won the FA cup in 1945 ?, who scored ?, god it wasn't working, Sue noticed me getting aroused and said "I think you'd better undue the last straps", trying very hard not to get distracted ?, understatement of the year!!.
I later spent a month at the Joint Services Rehabilitation Centre at RAF Chessington, no, not the zoo, but depending on the wind direction could certainly smell it!!. I got friendly with a local girl, Eve Jones, she was from Kingston, not far from camp, well I suppose I needed some form of physio to help me recover from surgery, it worked too!!, well, until we got caught in the male accommodation by the RSM one night. However, I managed to get fit again and played Football, Squash and Boxed for the unit, (no I didn't volunteer for Boxing). I can honestly say though Heavy Drop was the best unit I ever served in, loved the job, the place even the RAF were friendly? including the WRAF's, but that's another story, we had all sorts of characters, good, bad and some plain crazy. One of the worst punishments was to be posted out.
P Company Jan 1973. 44 Steve Goard - 36 Jim Finch - 37 John Broughton
Just to name a few characters, Sid Pincher, Mick (Urco) Priestly, Jim McConnachie, Bob Ried, Jim Finch, Paul Bunker, Bill Wreyford, Yorkie (the Snake), Jim (shellshock) McClelland, Barney (Perv), Wurz, Paddy Long, Andy Fox and loads more, these guys really made the unit tick, anything after Heavy Drop was an anti climax. Lots of sport (not just drinking), getting up to all sorts of pranks really kept the moral up, even some of the married pads scrounging civilian clothes off the whinging singlies, the pads wives didn't trust their hubby's when working away sometimes, can't think why ??, just plain criminal, wasn't it Barry ?.
The two main married quarters area's were Hanson Place, just a 100 yards away and Wellington Place across the other side of the airfield, not much fun for those with Hay fever!!, some of the married personnel (Married Pads) went out early picking Mushrooms on the airfield, they were in abundance, some selfish sods picked the whole stem, which couldn't re grow.
The RAF had some strange habits which were quickly exploited, evading the Mod Plods when making clandestine visits to the WRAF block, or "educating" newly arrived WRAF's in the pig's bar of the Wyvern Club (Zulu Warrior Dance), the RAF don't say NAAFI, it's the Wyvern Club, not Cookhouse, but Airmen's mess. Below are some of the many fond memories that made Heavy Drop so memorable.
Roy Topham an Royal Engineers (Chippy - Carpenter) attached to heavy drop was quite mad (still is probably), him and Jim McClelland (Shellshock) used to have regular "knees up" in their little workshop Friday afternoons, then emerge some time later in the airmen's mess feeling very happy. Some of the lads decided to raid the WRAF block, when someone shouted "Snowdrops" (RAF Police), that was a windup, the snowdrops were replaced by the MOD Police some time before. So Roy hastily climbed out of the upstairs window on to a fragile asbestos roof, guess what?, Roy dropped straight through, well it was heavy drop company!!. Roy was having a Liaison with one of the naafi staff (married naturally) her hubby was RAF. Another time Roy decided to pour a pint of best bitter into Allison Boyd's (WRAF) handbag, only after he'd filtered it through his kidneys first!. Allison was the mother hen figure to all newly arrived WRAF's "Watch him, don't trust any of the Heavy Drop lads, they're all the same, one tracked minds" so she got her just deserts. The final straw came when Roy (Pis*ed) was in the sticky bun bar waiting in line behind Hazel, he thought it would be fun to lick his index finger and put it where the sun doesn't shine, Hazel was surprised and Roy was posted.
Jim (Shellshock) was mad too, one night he decided that the WRAF block needed better air conditioning and used his fists to smash every ground floor window (bottom left side panes only), but got a bit miffed when he couldn't break the glass with wire reinforced. He then came back into Hawker block where due to re decoration, everyone was living downstairs, Julian Novak and Scouse Hornby were arguing who was the senior L/Cpl to deal with their little problem, Jim's eye's were glazed, on another planet (but which one?), he sobered up sharpish at RAF Wroughton hospital and the doctor refused to give anaesthetic when locating the severed nerves/tendons in Jim's arm, such a pane!! (pain).
Sometime later Jim went on leave near Greenock where he was arrested for chasing some bloke whilst waving a shotgun, Jim returned to Hullavington, then promptly went back home again (Guess Jim really didn't like this guy), he was arrested again, back to the big H, where it was decided to medically discharge Jim. However, after discharge Jim came back, he came into the crew room and ordered a tea, looked around and growled, then left, never to be seen again, (Phew). I also remember on one occasion Jim asking Ian (Babyface) Smith for a razor blade, the response was unremarkable (something to do with fine wine!! Blackadder). Bill O'Flaherty who took the Pre Para was very fit and let everybody know it, he never smiled and seemed unhappy, he was in charge of the Heavy Drop detachment in Cyprus for 6 months, he decided to have block inspections and lots of bull, this really pleased the troops until Bill messed with the wrong man, Mani Ratini, a big Fijian lad who was normally quiet, but even Bill managed to get Mani's goat. Mani then snapped and threatened Bill "I give you one punch, then I kill you, you irish crap hat c***" before dropping Bill.
Bill never seemed to learn there's always someone bigger around, as when he was with P Company training staff, Bill upset the applecart until 6' 5" Scouse Deering (Para Regiment) dropped Billy boy. Bill realised later when Taff Pascoe, Geoff Edwards and "Monster Man" Mick Priestly came to the unit, he should wind his neck in for obvious reason's. I Wonder how Bill would've got on with "Voc" Vocetaki??, I did meet Voc at 3 BAD (he was a Fijian Prince), he was as big as people say, never a problem closing the Naafi when he was guard commander. Voc decided he didn't like using 1937 pattern webbing (Dad's Army Kit), so he purchased 58 pattern from Silverman's, the following week 3 BAD got this kit issued, Voc was well pissed off. Voc decided sometime in 1977 to apply for redundancy, he was relocating back to Fiji, only snag was he couldn't take more than £300 out of the UK under the then rules, again not a happy teddy, absolute mountain of a man, but very pleasant.
The nearest towns were Chippenham, Bath & Swindon, in all the time I was at hullavington I never once got to see the Roman Baths, it was closed due to pollution, some of the lads decided go to Chippenham on a Friday afternoon for a session, well, they got a bit carried away and some ended up being thrown in the local river, unfortunately Sid Pincher was passing through on his way home (Ray Avery driving), Sid noticed the lads performing so Ray honked his horn, whereabouts the lads saluted (2 finger type), but Sid came back!!.
We were unfortunate to have a bloke called CLINT posted in from Bicester, a complete knobhead, but HE thought he was the ladies man, constantly trying (and Failing) to chat up the WRAF's. We were at RAF Lyneham installing heavy drop platforms into C130's, usually the civilian Condec operator was called forward to transfer the loads from the 10 ton trucks (Tenny's) to the aircraft, the Condec would line up behind the tenny whereby we would undo the restraining chains and roll the load onto the Condec. However, Clint had a cunning plan!! and thought it would be a good idea to save time and undo the chains beforehand resulting in the platform (A 5111 Landrover & Trailer) rolling off the back of the tenny truck crashing to the ground, but leaning at an awkward angle, we had to arrange for a crane to lift to a safer position then cancelling that drop. Clint's next move was to pack his kit (posted), what a waste of space.
2 Days After PSF was Destroyed by Arson 3rd Jan 1993
One of the least favorite jobs was to be nominated to Dufalite (Expanding honeycombe cardboard) and Mandrel Bashing (That's bashing Mandrels, nothing else!!) soul destroying jobs, other than sweeping out the hangers. On camp was a cinema "The Astra" I think ?, it only ever showed cowboy films care of SKC (Now SSVC) with the usual scramble for the exits before the national anthem was played. When it was closed down a few of the lads/lasses had their own private viewing (other Activities!! if you know what I mean) X rated naturally. Brian McKay a corporal on the MT section was Brian was crazy, he would unexpectedly leap on someone grappling them in some weird hold, then asking them to get out of it. However, he picked on the wrong bloke, Ken Hollows, Brian asked Ken karate kick him and he would attempt a block it, so Ken obliged breaking Brian's arm. Ken was a quiet lad but very fit (7th Dan Black Belt) so not many took the pi*s out of him.
The Billetts were built in 1937, very spartan with old wooden floors, very basic, when big Mick arrived he decided to be more regimental, our bed spaces had to be 7' 6" wide, packed in like sardines. When Pete Fairhurst voiced our concerns to big Mick, he said tough!!, however, when the Brigade Commander inspected he ordered Mick to reverse his decision, Mick wasn't best pleased.
Bob Porter had been with the unit for some time (old hand), and had a very limited sense of humour especially with any grotty individual in Hawker block, he found that some unknown grot had left his skiddies/socks soaking in one the sinks in the washroom, so Bob removed some and left an obvious trail to the outside bin and waited for the response, Keith (Lungs) Smith came in complaining that someone had dumped his socks / skiddies in the bin, so Bob was happy to fill Keith in (Metaphorically speaking) "So your the grotty bastard", it never happened again, yuk, I made sure the sink was clean next time I shaved. Not long after I arrived at hullavington we were in the airmen's mess for lunch, when these two RAF lads (Racists) decided to attack Bob, Bill Farrant & Paul Bunker with chairs, then run off, most of the heavy drop lads were later seen walking round with very long shock strutts looking for payback, unfortunately these two were arrested and locked up in RAF Lyneham guardroom never to be seen again, a very wise move.
We had a bit of a shock one day (pay day), Major Cossin's (Retired) came into the crew room at tea break looking for 2 escorts to accompany him to the bank, Bob Porter & Mick Gannon said "ok sir, be with you when we've finished our tea" Cossin's wasn't impressed, "If I was still in the army you'd both be in jail by now", he had no sense of humour, don't think Nitrus Oxide (Laughing gas) was available in them days!. Sometime later that morning one of the lads said Cossin's was dead, apparently (ironically) as Cossin's, his driver and escorts were passing near the medical centre. Cossin's had a massive heart attack. what?? it's pay day, not believing any of it until Tom Currie came by and confirmed it. Well, as Cossin's wasn't the most popular bloke, most of the guys were more concerned about being paid, we were paid sometime later by Sid Pincher. The OC Major Grant was seen crying, the ex Heavy Drop lads in 1 Para Logistics Regiment (Aldershot) were in hysterics, "The old Bastard tried to take the money with him". There was the usual collection afterwards, but the junior ranks gave that a miss, however, all senior ranks / officers were "encouraged" to donate £5 each. Jim McConnachie was also a Pall Bearer, saying "Cossins was always on my back", very subtle Jim lol.
Bob Hughes got promoted to Sergeant, one Wednesday afternoon when the troops were on Sports the senior NCO's decided on a session in the mess, Bob was worse for wear, he decided to sleep it off in his car, but the boot was full, so found a convenient 4 Ton truck to sleep it off. However, a few hours later he woke up in Aldershot!!. Bob rang Heavy drop, John Edwards answered the phone, Bob asked for Jim McConnachie, John said who's speaking, Bob said in a bad mood "Never mind who's speaking, I want to speak to Staff Sergeant McConnachie", Jim answered, "Jim I'm in the sh*t" can someone pick me up, Bob got away with that one, good lad.
It was decided that the swan neck cranes had passed their sell by date and were replaced by the new Iron Fairy type, so heavy drop got 3 of these monstrosities, all the MT section were in hanger 7 for the grand display of their new toys (Boys with Toys). The first display went well, the crane lifted up on all 4 legs, great, well, no so great, apparently when the operator tried to retract the legs the crane conked out and was stranded like a beached whale, red faces all round, needless to say all the heavy drop platoon guys were in bits, £19,000 worth of junk cluttering the place up, don't think the MT lads got over the humiliation, so much for Cole's cranes, and we all know what happened to them, they went bust too. I remember Keith (Lungs) Smith returning from Devizes driving an iron fairy, his air brakes malfunctioned, so he lowered the rear legs to slow himself down, what a show, SPARK-ling performance downhill to Chippenham.
Sometime a few months later Keith, Brummie Devine, Vic Bennett and a few other lads were in the Bear Hotel (Chippenham) having a drink and got into a fight with some of the locals and came 2nd, so later big Mick went down there and waited till one of the local hard men went for a leak, Mick said "You have any trouble with the local squaddies?" the civvie replied "Yeah, but we gave em a good kicking" Mick dropped the bloke there and then, no further problems arose, yes it was definitely going to hurt in the morning for this unfortunate lad. Brummie had the last laugh, when he went to court to give evidence he "claimed" he lost out financially, i.e. unable to work and losing Parachute pay, Brummie never did a parachute course, just wonder which officer backed up his claim in writing, maybe someone with a similar dialect ???, no names, no pack drill.
The Medium Stress Platforms (MSP's) were the MK 2 system, but were replaced by the M3 Reef Mains, trouble is this meant lowering the drop height to approx 550', this caused quite a few problems as the load would oscilate a lot resulting in damaged vehicles/trailers until some bright spark decided to add an anti swing chute. Part of the Prarie Track resembled a scrap yard, 11 vehicles with axels bent, some platforms came down so hard the restraints and chains snapped, talk about automatic de rigging, expensive lesson.
Whenever it was someone's birthday or leaving they were usually given a free swimming lesson in the static water tank, this was always full of moss, leaves, grunge and other stuff!. We gave Steve Goad his surprise splash, but this was on the other side of the airfield, none of us realised, unlike the other tanks, this one was 12' deep and Steve couldn't swim, oops, don't panic!!. One young officer (not sure of his name - Carruthers !, his old man was some high ranking knob) he was a snobby little so and so, thought we were going to lynch him until he realised what was going on, then tried to be clever by standing on the wire fence and diving in head first, except this tank (near hanger 7) was only 3' deep, result one broken nose, another officer said it couldn't have happened to a nicer chap. Paddy Mackay the CSM was walking round the hanger when we confronted him outside the REME workshop, he clicked on straight away and said "OK lads let's get on with it" we were disappointed and asked him to go out in style, so he put up some resistance by kicking and punching, a tough man. sadly no longer with us due to cancer. Can't remember Geoff Edwards ever being thrown in the tank???, now that would have been suicidal. Carruthers later joined the Parachute Regiment, but not for long!!
Ziv Ziverts was a good lad, he was posted in from 1 Parachute Logistic Regiment our sister unit within 16 Parachute Brigade, the single guys were as usual last to go to lunch after the bloody civvies and RAF, some of us went early one day, but as luck would have it big Mick saw us and ordered Jonna (Cpl Jones) to take all our names an put the list on his desk. Ziv & me went back to work early to avert a bollicking, Ziv had a brainwave, he asked me to keep a lookout whilst he nicked the list from Urco's desk, we got away with it as well. Staff Sergeant John Kearney was a bloody pain in the a*se at times, his vehicle was a Renault (not sure of the model) but had one of those daft golf club type gear sticks, well he must have really p*ssed somebody off this time, he came back to hanger 7 and found his car turned on it's side all dented and scratched, Ziv never batted an eyelid, one cool cucumber.
Big Mick decided we in Hawker Block could use the transit room as a Television room, so, first we had to clear all the beds from that upstairs room, Julian Nowak however thought it would be quicker instead of carting the beds downstairs, why not just throw them out the window!!, good idea, except later the Duty NCO Mick Gannon came by and said the RAF guard had reported a RIOT in Hawker Block??, the boys in blue always did over react lol.
Mick had two nicknames, Urco from planet of the apes (Don't ask) and Monster man?? think Barry Day thought that one up, he said "you can always tell when everyone's happy co's Monster Man's away", Mick didn't like Barry very much either (hence no xmas cards), the feeling was mutual after Mick jailed Barry for not carrying out his drill correctly and answering back on parade, Barry had just had an appendix operation!!. When Sid found out he went beserk and got Barry out of the guardroom, then bollicked Mick "I'm the only one who jails people here", Mick tossed his dummy, picked up his hat, briefcase, pace stick and belt then stormed off home "I've had enough of this F**king unit" Sid ordered Mick back to camp to support the unit footy team. Sid may have been the 2nd in command, but he sure as hell was a still sergeant major at heart, and greatly respected too.
Big Mick went on to be RSM at 16 Battalion COD Bicester, bet they didn't know what hit them. Some of the lads went to Gibraltar attached to the Parachute Guards Independent Company, Julian Nowak didn't trust any of the Heavy Drop lads to look after his car, so he left it in the safe care of one of the WRAF girls, or so he thought?, the girl (name forgotten) had been to the Queens Head in Hullavington village for a few drinks, she and some others had sensibly taken a taxi there and back. However, when they got back to camp suddenly felt peckish and decided to use their temporary mode of transport, but the responsible driver was a bit worse for wear and pranged another car on the main square (car park) right in front of the MOD Police office, well, we were all very upset, really choked up for Julian, like hell we were!!.
We had some violent thunderstorms one weekend and all the power was out, barrack blocks flooded as were the hanger offices, we singlie's as usual were the first to get "Rubber Dicked" not literally but volunteer'd to clean up the mess in the flooded offices. We had to move the wet carpets into the hanger, then in their wisdom Mr Cyril, Bob (the Cat) Chapman and the rest of us decided to p*ss in Urco's office to our relief, big Mick couldn't understand the other reason why people avoided his office. Paddy Killeen was a very quiet lad worked in the orderly room, however, he was fanatical about Tangerine Dream and their keyboard wizardry?, some weird and wonderful heavy metal band but couldn't play his music loud in the block, so he had a brainstorm, why not take his poncho, liquid refreshments and music box and go to the middle of the airfield, brilliant idea, at midnight!!!.
The RAF had some strange rules on camp, big Mick got a call from the Station Warrant officer complaining about the troops walking on grassed area's, Mick was even confused, saying "Yes we play footy, rugby, cricket and everything else on grass, but we can't walk on it"!!, the RAF even spray painted worn grassed area's for VIP visits, talk about BS!!!. I remember Jim Finch being confronted by the Station Warrant Officer, "Did you make those burn marks on the grass ?", (Landrover Wheels) "Those marks sir ?", "Yes, those burn marks", Jim was taking the pi**, Jim, what a lad.
Some of us were volunteered to rig up a platform at Southend Museum over a weekend, it was the older MK 2 system, we were staying in a local B&B, arriving late Friday afternoon we quickly sorted out the priorities, first our rooms then get ready to hit the town nightlife. The landlord seemed very pleased, well, until we arrived back late in dribs/drabs, having to be woken up at all hours to let the lads back in, Bill Farrant accidentally?? got locked out of his room by Jock Morrison, Bill was bitching about it all the next day, good old Jock. Ken and me got quite merry in the local disco, Ken once mentioned that he was aware that most of the single living in lads would quite often fancy some of the pads wives i.e. "I wouldn't mind giving her one" or words to that affect, he said "Geordie, does any of the singlie's fancy my missus?" Nervously I told ken the truth, "No Mate, never heard a thing" Ken was a bit disappointed, I wouldn't have said otherwise anyway, I'm not suicidal!!. Ken's now living in sunny Spain (Deina ?), as is Alan Simpkin (Benidorm I think?).
Then there was Barney, not Rubble, but trouble!, as he was usually in it. Barney worked in the expense store where he looked after all the kit needed for the heavy drop platoon and making up toolboxes for the installation teams. He wore his uniform as issued, he looked like something from national service, not the best advert for a para unit. Anyway, early one monday morning (6 am) we had to get into his store, the toolboxes were short of expense, the troops being troops checked everywhere for goodies (typical), on looking in the desk drawers one lad found naturist magazines (Nudists) and some letters written by a "Lady" from the Philippines (Marcia or other) and a half written letter from Barney to her. "Dear Barney I'm such a friendly girl with the boys and love having liquid all over my chest, I'm not a virgin", (You don't say!!). In his reply he said "I would like to go to the toilet with you for some fun too" (can't write exactly what he wrote, too disgusting). On returning from RAF Lyneham one of the lads asked Barney who his lady friend in the Philippines was, Barney went beetroot. However, the same thing happened on the following wednesday, where Barney had placed a huge chain / padlock around his desk, he never realised we only had to slide the desktop to gain access again, such joy!!. Vic Bennett came into the crew room at tea break, Barney's misses asked where Barney was, Vic said "Probably writing letters to that bird in the Philippines", Vic kept well clear for the next three weeks, asking other lads to get him a tea/coffee/cola at break times, nice one Vic, very diplomatic.
Another time Barney hired the unit mini bus but only had a provisional license, so there was he driving through Hullavington Village enjoying the scenery, sun shining, birds singing, aaaahhhhh, then CRASH BANG WALLOP!!! WTF was that?, oh only the civilian post box, so as a responsible person what did he do, why take the mail home for safekeeping of course, Outstanding!!.
Always save the best for last, Barney and his RAF neighbour decided to host a combined party/disco, the RAF lad's sister had a bit of a temper, so when gobbing off about N. Ireland, Geoff Edwards (Bad Lads Army) wasn't too impressed and said so. Then in comes the RAF lad who makes the big mistake of challenging Geoff, who promptly gave the airmen his first flying lesson through the nearest window, resulting in Geoff needing medical attention for a cut forearm. Geoff never did find out who drew a cartoon of him with a cut arm and a broken window, written underneath the words "Welsh 3000 team captain, Ugh Ugh Ugh". Later big Mick Priestly had Barney in his office reference Barney's little adventures, Mick started reading some of Barney's letters "I would like to be sat on the toilet and do this and that, Cpl Barnes your a Fuc***g lunatic, you should be locked up" meanwhile Bob Hughes was outside guarding the door quite unable to control his bladder. Personally I think Barney was good for moral, that's what I say, well done Barney, Cheers mate!.
Operation Market Garden - September 1944 - Compliments of Brian McKay
Jock Auld was a bit of a character (ex para regt - I think ?), anyway, Jock liked his drink, a group of us went to Famagusta when we were stationed in Dhekelia Cyprus, we'd been to Smokey Jo's restaurant in Varosha, then to the nearest bar. Varosha is a Town Held Hostage after the Turkish Invasion July 20th 1974, it is part of Famagusta (Sunken in the Sand) Click to see Video's & Pics Jock drank like a fish, Paul Callaghan and I weren't used to the local brew (Keo), that last thing I and Paul could remember was going back to camp in a taxi. On another occasion Jock had been out on the p*ss with a group of lads, the trick was to get a taxi back to camp, stop short (approx 100 meters) and make a break for it through the bondu (rough bracken bushes), however, these non paying customers made well their escape except for you know who (Jimmy Boy), as Jock staggered away (he thought he was home free!) he dropped his wallet (ID card - money - the works), the driver just laughed. He'd seen this all before and knew the guys anyway, the taxi driver went to the SBA police and only asked for the fare money, nothing more, as sooner or later they would all meet up again and joke about it. But all was not done, oh no, the guard came round the barracks looking for Jock, nobody knew where our wayward hardnut wanderer was, it turned out that Jimmy boy was in the right bed, right room, but wrong floor!! (Well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad) bet the guy who slept there got a shock when he discovered Goldilocks snoring merrily away.
On one night exercise in the Troulli Military Training area we had to avoid the hunter force, (The DS Staff Shock!!), Jock Auld was i/c of our patrol, we had to make the final checkpoint, well, talk about map reading ?,we got slightly disorientated (Lost!). So, we yomped for a few hours trying to find a way back to camp, however, after hours of getting nowhere fast decided to get our heads down for an hour, two hours later made our way past some Greek Cypriot store (Closed), but couldn't resist a few ripe water melons (Free of charge). The store owner came by, we offered to pay, but on seeing our weapons he decided not to bother. We finally found a taxi on the outskirts of Larnaca (Surprise Surprise!), but made sure the driver dropped us off approx 200 meters from the main gate to Alexandra Barracks, didn't want to look like we had cheated, the very thought!.
Some of us went down with food poisoning, a local choggie waller came to the ranges selling 7 Up and cheese banjo's (Rolls), Babyface, myself and several others were really sick with Sickness & Runs (can't spell Diarrhoea), when the guy next came onto the ranges the lads chased him away, his honda 50 just made it, otherwise our lads would've lynched him, not the best way to celebrate my 21st birthday!. Back at the big H Jock was promoted to Sergeant, Heavy Drop had a habit of promoting on Friday's. So after a session in then mess Jimmy boy heads off home and decides to play Partick Roulette, frying chips when your p*ssed, the kitchen had a new (Carbonised) decor and jimmy boy was soon back to corporal, well it saved him having to fork out for a mess dress uniform didn't it.
In Dhekelia some of us used to go to the SKC (Military Cinema) when not in George Club / Cessacs, there was always a greek cypriot kebab van waiting outside after the show, Wurz hadn't enough money for scoff, but that didn't stop him buying a free one. Wurz ordered his kebab and placed a load of lose change (Cyp Mills) on the counter, then quickly moving behind the van for a very quick getaway, the kebab guy cursing Wurz, needless to say that was the last time he saw wurz. The choggi shop on camp was handy, but some of the lads did hurl abuse at the shop owner and his son, as well as empty 7 UP bottles!!, we even had civvy guys coming round the billets selling fruit, but a drunken Scoz, Wurz and Babyface hurling empty bottles at them, they must have thought we were mad. The choggi wallers did allow credit, but they had minds like a computer, they never forget who owed what.
Although some weekends on camp was like a ghost town, I sometimes hopped on a train Friday afternoon to spend a weekend in London (Union Jack Club), well, we all need a break now and again. Usually went sightseeing, maybe take in a footy match / cinema, then returning late Sunday afternoon. I remember some odd sights in the capital, on the train back to Chippenham I noticed some weird looking creep offering leaflets out to the troops on the train, (well we did stand out like sore thumbs), quickly followed by the Royal Military Police, apparently the weirdo was handing out Troops Out Movement leaflets, T.O.M was an organisation encouraging the withdrawl of troops from Northern Ireland, their HQ was based in neutral Sweden, quite funny watching the RMP's frog march this weirdo off the train.
There was one bloke who wanted shot of his misses and retain custody of his kids, so, he told his betrothed he was going away on a 3 day exercise, but, and here's the but, he booked himself in for a vasectomy. He at a later date went on the p*ss with a very close "Friend", Jock pretended to be the worse for wear when they got back to his married quarter, so off to bed he went, knowing his mate!! would be "chatting" with his misses as they too were friends (as in just good!). About a month or so later his misses with a slight weight problem said "I've got a surprise for you dear, we're expecting company" he replied "Who's WE?? We're not!, I've got an even bigger surprise for you too dear" SNIP-pedy do daa SNIP-pedy ahy, outstanding!. A well thought out plan with military precision, or should that be incision??.
Another Jock lad (Rocky) was having problems at home with his other half, she was quite attractive and worked part time as a cleaner, she used to walk through the hanger knowing the guys were letching at her. Saw her and another woman in the Wyvern Club (Naafi) disco, not the done thing for married soldiers wives. One day when most of the lads were out on a run round the airfield I was working with Rocky in the hanger and out of the blue he said to me "You can go to bed with my misses" well, I was stunned, didn't know how to respond so just said "Don't be daft" I knew a lot of the lads would have jumped at the chance (No pun intended). I had a feeling he'd been getting ideas from the his mate mentioned above.
At weekends the camp was sometimes like a morgue, very thin on the ground, I asked one of the engineer lads if he fancied going to Bailey's nightclub in Bristol, we were joined by Ziv Ziverts & Jeff Edwards, so after bribing him (Whiskey vouchers £10) off we went, had a great time getting back approx 1 am, however in all the excitement I lost my locker keys. The padlock was solid brass so had to beg, borrow & steal spare kit prior to going on parade, needless to say I looked like a bag of shi*e, much to big Mick's displeasure, I realised later I only had to unscrew the back off the locker to get access to my spare keys Duh!!. Some of the heavy drop lads used to get their WRAF girlfriends to do their Dobbie (Laundry), the washing lines behind the Wraf block had more Army clothing than Hawker block. Some of the lads used to take some of the not so respectable girls to C sites (Certainly SEE!! some sights lol) sightseeing (intimate fun? more like DOGGING).
Quite often some of the lads tried to make do with DIY haircuts or just a neck shave, I made the mistake of asking my mate Marty Moorehouse to use one of those new at the time fangled trimmers that you had to put razor blades in, wet the hair and comb away. I said "Marty it's got new blades in so go easy" just as I said that, whoooosh, too late Marty was a bit heavy handed and trimmed right down to my scalp, he paused, it went very quiet then he said "Sorry Geordie" holding a large clump of my hair then handing the comb plus hair back to me as if somehow I could stick it back on, I could have killed him, needless to say I avoided going to the Wyvern for a few weeks. Mick Gannon as always was very quick calling Marty the new Sweeny Todd, but I have the last laugh, looking at the Para reunion photo's (2008) Marty (Figaro) Moorehouse is nearly bald whilst I still have a full head of hair. I remember Marty trying to get me to do a balloon jump one weekend, I wasn't even para trained at that time, so apart from trying to take my scalp Marty also tried to DROP! me in it, Marty had a very dry sense of humour. We did meet up again at 3 BAD along with Ken Hollows, Jack Frost, Ian Crawford, Alex Boyd (He was a bit of a lad too!!), and the worst fate of all Posh Jock (Nesbit) or Shylock as the rugby lads nick-named him (Mad Major). I only found out recently that the Balloon Operations team (RAF) were once located at RAF Cardington, that's where my Dad was stationed, I kept that very quiet from the troops, for obvious reason's!!.
The new OC major Nesbit took over from major Grant, what a difference! Posh Jock didn't seem interested in the troops or the unit, he had an aggressive attitude (FUBAR), his wife was on another planet too especially when visiting the wives (she was secretary of the wives club) "You are all expected to attend the wives club" well that immediately piss*d most of them off. She even chose the colour of the new curtains for the single soldiers accommodation in Hawker block (Bright Yellow!), we were all very unimpressed. Nesbit had been the first Ordnance Officer in charge of P Company in Aldershot, but his idea of physical training was sheer boredom. One day he rang the MT section demanding that vehicle number XYZ (Tenny) be taken to the LAD workshops immediately, whereupon the NCO said "But sir that vehicle has no engine" "I want it there now!!!" so the NCO asked Nesbit if he knew who he was speaking to? Nesbit replied "NO" so our lad from Salford told him to "Fu*k Off".
Our local boozer (other than the Wyvern) was the Queens Head in Hullavington village, trouble is it was across the other side of the airfiled, so a long walk or taxi was in order, they for some unknown reason always played the Carpenters music, can't think why, or when piss*d allowed some of the lads / lasses take the microphone and sing (godawful) Jim McConnachi and Mary McCloud were good though, all scottish songs (Surprise Surprise). Pete Strutt of PSF (Pete Strutt's Factory) was always there selling raffle tickets for cheap / nasty prizes, i.e cheap bottle of plonk, box choccies or a joint of beef which for some strange reason was usually won by the singlies. Sadly the Queens Head is now closed, so the other village boozer "The Star Inn" gets all the business nowadays.
Ken Hollows was very fit and was a 7th dan black belt karate, on a Friday afternoons we usually had a happy hour, big Mick Priestly said to Ken, "Come on young Hollows do something in Karate" so Ken asked Mick to hold a beer barrel horizontally, whereupon Ken turns away then back kicking the barrel and Mick, both went flying, "Hollows, I'll ****ing kill you", Ken immediately decided to take up an urgent appointment elsewhere. A few days later, big Mick had just returned from the Sgt's mess after lunch, it was normal for everyone to be somewhere else when Mick came back (Liquid Lunch), however, Ken made the mistake of being in view. "Aah, young Hollows, fancy a bit of gentle sparring?", (I knew that boxing ring in the hanger would come in handy someday) come on, nothing heavy (Really?), Mick launched a haymaker at ken breaking his nose, "no one takes the **ss out of me and gets away with it". Also Ken sometimes didn't wear socks so as to harden his feet, this was all very well till Ken was on Show parade for some misdemeanour, when Mick decided to have a foot inspection, well there was ken in No 2's and bare feet, Jock Henderson wetting himself laughing, but not for long.
Neil Slater & Brian Cramp were ardent Man United supporters from Salford, they asked Malcolm Bowering and myself if we fancied a trip to Southampton to see them play United in a relegation match, so off we went making good time, however, when we got to the Dell we couldn't get in as the ground was full. So, after looking for a place to knock in (Sneak in), we found a convenient block of flats where some united supporters were on the top floor chanting away, but we were stopped entering by a plain clothes cop, as it turned out this block of flats was a Nun's Convent!!, the going rate for trespass was £70, well sod that, so we made our way back to Hullavington, all in all a lovely day out NOT!!. Two of the lads Len Robertson & Eric Blunn were keen sailors and managed to team up with Chay Blyth for the round the world yacht race, we regularly received post cards from the lads stopping off in exotic locations, of course we weren't envious!, just plain bloody jealous.
Bob Ried was my boss, a short stocky Scot who expected everyone to shine at work, do your job and all was well, if you didn't then watch out! even the seniors had to show their worth, he would sometimes ask me what I was doing, then said "squash court in ten minutes", usually just before lunch/tea, as Bob was not a bloke to argue with I had no say in the matter. He was a good player and difficult to compete with, he dominated the T, if he said the ball was on or above the line, it was!!, no argument. He was only in Heavy Drop 18 months but was one of the best bosses I ever worked for. When he left no one dared trying throwing him in the static water tank, I did see him again at the corps athletics (Travers Clarke) in Aldershot with his team from Kineton, they pulled us ragged.
Heavy Drop spent a few weeks at Fremmington Training Camp, this would usually consist of military & adventurous training, so we skipped the boring bit and just concentrated on having fun canoeing, walking (Pub crawl), Scuba diving, water skiing and generally having fun (Pub crawling). I was with the advance party, Chris our cook and me were informed not to leave camp until the rest of the unit arrived, so like all good soldiers we went straight out on the p*iss in Barnstable, we couldn't get a taxi back and didn't fancy walking, but as luck would have it, we found a decent push bike which had been abandoned in the middle of the town, I cycled whilst Chris rode shotgun until we hit a bump in the road we both somersaulted going ar*e over tit. The next night we went to Bideford for a social night out and met these two girls, they were on holiday and were looking for some fun, well Chris and I were only too willing to assist, we were well in here, they had a car (never drink & drive!!). We made a pit stop when Chris suggests he and his new friend go for a gentle walk in the nearby woods, they were some time, chris was easy going and never rushed things, when they re appeared both smiling we set off for camp, oh, nearly forgot Chris was married. Later I managed to smuggle our new mode of transport (Bike) back to Hullavington where I sold it to Vince Philips for £12 (Ker-ching!), he used to cycle all the way home to Swindon. It was a bit ironic, we had to return to Hullavington to go straight onto block leave, what a sensible unit.
A few of the lads used to moonlight at a local slaughterhouse in Malmesbury, just down the road from camp. Graham Peters, Ray Avery, Paul Bunker, Barry Day and Colin Watson used to work late returning to camp at some daft hour around midnight, dressed in wellies and brown boiler suit covered in chicken blood/feathers. Paul decided that it would be a good idea to remove the engine block from a supposedly abandoned car on the square right under the noses of the MOD Police. Paul & Jim Finch took a liking to wood pigeons, often catching them, feet tied together for a tethered flight around the hanger, those two were quite mad, (Paul & Jim - not the wood pigeons) and that's putting it mildly.
Another time the living in lads got very happy (P*ssed) on a sunny Sunday afternoon, they started to trash the block, the RAF reported a riot in Hawker block, whereupon the Station Warrant Officer (Harry Palmer) got us all out in front of the block in 3 ranks, swaying in unison with the tree's. The SWO pointed his pace stick at Wurz, "Your one of the ringleaders aren't you?" whereupon Wurz tried to bite the end of his stick, pure magic Steve. In the MT section there were 3 Smith's, Keith (lungs), Ian (Babyface) and Smudge (Shakey), Keith liked to waffle on a bit but was a good lad, babyface was a poser and aptly named, thought he was god's gift to women and to a certain degree was successful, Shakey however, came back to the block one night after being out with his girlfriend, one of the lads asked him if he'd been fighting? (blood on mouth), he checked in the mirror then cursed "The Dirty Fu**ing Bitch" it wasn't ketchup!!. Ian (Babyface) Smith was getting a bit bored with life at Hulllavington, as most of the WRAF's got wise to him, so he went to see big Mick, "Sir, I'd like a posting to Northern Ireland to see some action" big mick bollocked him and said something unmentionable, "You stupid Boy".
Another MT lad Charlie McGlaughlin, what a likeable numpty, Brian *****, Charlie & me were on duty, Charlie decides to bring his girlfriend to the duty bunk along with 2 other local girls, handy having 3 beds in the bunk!!, Brian nips out for some "protection", Charlie's busy getting intimate with his g/friend, Heather was from a local village, trouble is she's very popular, even babyface had her in Jim Finch's bunk, so didn't fancy getting a STD or similar, a week or 2 later she comes into the Wyvern on disco night, but I gave her a miss. Charlie came out of the main entrance to hanger 7 for monday morning parade, he must have thought it was strange seeing no one in the hanger, until he came outside seeing us all just finishing parade, so he immediately looked shocked (Eyes like organ stops) as he checked his watch in amazement, we all just howled as big Mick said "My office now" what a lad.
Andy Fox was a likeable lad but never took anything seriously and managed to upset the most tolerant guys in the unit, he did get into trouble easy enough with Nigel Simson smashing some pictures in the naafi tv rooms over someone's head, they are then put in open arrest by Staff Sgt Kearney (pratt) he tried to make Nige & Andy work and that was illegal on Open Arrest. So our superhero's decide to fill up the duty vehicle and go AWOL, however a few days later when our intrepid explorers returned there was a bomb scare. Mick Priestly gave them what for, saying they probably made hoax telephone calls, both Andy & Nige got free B&B at MCTC (28 days nick - Glasshouse). Later Andy was posted to 1 Para Log Regiment in Aldershot for obvious reason's, but a few weeks later he was back rigging in hanger 7, sporting two black eyes, guess Andy managed to P*ss the Para Log guys right off (effortlessly), a great character, good old Andy. Andy later transfered to the Army Physical Training Corps.
The RAF decided to host an It's a knockout competition on the rugby pitch, big Mick said remember it's just a fun day, but I want us to win, he got me to get some smoke grenades, later we trashed all the opposition's chariots and their spirits. Each year we had the honour of the RAF Cadets visiting Hullavington, 100 a week for 6 weeks, the little darlings were very keen, except the usual little tricks like emptying the salt cellars into the sugar bowls in the airmen's mess, after they'd been to breakfast the mess looked like a hoard of Locust's had trashed the place, there was naff all left except all bran, yummy, great with salty sugar, little brat's. They finished their week's fun by parading on the main square (car park) early Sunday morning at 0730 am!! Boom! Boom! Boom! went the band, "P*ss off screamed the WRAF's", after receiving their early morning call, disturbing their beauty sleep and not looking their best, Steve McGuire leaned out the upstairs window "Fu** Off!!).
On exercise Deep Furrow (Turkey) I was with the advance party, on the day of the main drop we watched as 2 Para, the yanks and turks all lobbed in over the DZ, one of our landrovers piled in, in spectacular style, however, sadly a lad from 2 Para candled in, this caused a big argument as to the drop height, so not long after this was raised from 650' back to 800'. We had some time off and went to the beach where we all had a swim (Skinny dipping), but then discovered we were surrounded by jellyfish!, not wanting to get our valuable bits burnt with acid we got out very quickly, olympic records were broken that day, how many I'm not too sure. Later some of us went downtown (Turkadad ?) we met some local cops (Keystone type) they invited us to their HQ. This was an old building with no roof, these lads were keen to know more about us, but Dave Easton had other things on his mind, "I'm not here sightseeing, I want my Fuc*ing end away" whilst bending his forearm upwards (must be international signal for sex). The cops laughed and took Dave across the road and told these very young school kids what Dave had in mind, they looked dosed up, that was my que to leave very quickly. Sid Pincher had booked rooms in the airport hotel, not anything fancy, just basic, this was located more or less on the surrounding track around the airfield, but Ricky Ginn (Platoon Commander) wouldn't let us use the rooms, we had to sleep in the heavy drop chutes outside (done that a few times).
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We were warned of the foot and mouth outbreak in the DZ area, we had to report any new sightings of cow droppings, not long afterwards Rawhide decided to come over the hill, crap everywhere. Mick Priestly flew out for a flying visit (not for Duty Free's surely??) he came on the DZ and saw Dick Carr who hadn't shaved, Mick expressed his displeasure, it had been a very long hot day and Dick not knowing who Mick was told him to "Fu*k Off". Before flying back to the UK we had to step into trays of insecticide as we boarded the C130, reversing the process at Lyneham, I went flying (pun intended), good job the pilot and loadmaster caught me. A week or so later we're all on parade back at the big H, guess who's the new Company Sergeant Major??, Dick was sh*tting bricks. I was still puzzled as to how mozzies appeared in Hawker block, bloody things.
One night the company was due to do a night jump, but the weather was bad and the drop was cancelled, so, Sid in his wisdom decided why not march back to Hullavington? (Brilliant, the troops loved the idea) so off we went really looking forward to the 9 miles of sheer fun singing in the rain. But as luck would have it there was a pub in Sutton Benger, well, we couldn't pass that one up, apparently Jim McConnachie had a vote and with his overall majority of one, motion passed, so after our liquid refreshment we set off for home, even the yank attached to us was highly impressed, I think??.
A bloke called Petit a driver was a prolific tea leaf, he ran an organised gang stealing cars (London Based), one night he was babysitting for another lad, and said he's just popped out for a couple of beers from the Queens Head and on returning someone had nicked the lads tele and best suit. Another time some of the lads were in Sharja on exercise, they'd sustained a few injuries parachuting onto what they'd thought was a soft DZ, however, later when Petit visited the lads in hospital he asked if there was anything they needed, so foolishly they told him where all there goodies / money were in their lockers (a very bad move), well Petit couldn't resist the temptation and nicked the lot. I tried to imagine the scene with all these injured lads chasing Petit, he was flown back to UK the next day!. At that time a young subaltern Lt Max Kearly was in charge and managed to get himself and the troops Disorientated (Officer jargon for getting hopelesly lost!), the lads were well piss** off with him, his map reading was not too clever, I met him later at 3 BAD, he was an ATO there.
I remember working at RAF Lyneham for 4 days staying at the Route Hotel (transit) overnight, some of us singlies had to get back to Hullavington to get paid by a very much alive Pay Officer!, well after all we might be frequenting the Pegasus club, might'n we, so I thought it might be beneficial to pop into Hawker block for some civvies for obvious reasons. Anyway, it's disco night, all spruced up ready for the WRAF's, however, I manage to trap off with a civvy girl from Swindon, we danced, drank and chatted but she declined a guided tour of the Route Hotel, so only one thing for it, off we went by taxi back to her place, for a chat and cocoa!. The next morning I had to make sure I was back at Lyneham for 8:30 am, Hhmm, I quickly made my way to the M4 to thumb a lift back to Hullavington (Luckily camp was just off the M4 motorway - junction 17) to catch the duty driver who hopefully would give me a lift back to Lyneham. Walking back into the Route Hotel I got some odd looks as the other guys were getting washed/shaved, said I'd got lost last night in the hotel there being all sorts of similar corridors and crashed out in the nearest room. I don't think my boss Jim McConnachie believed me anyway, "Load of boll**ks" I think he said?. I realised after a few weeks that my new girlfriend was married, but separated from her husband an RAF sergeant working at Lyneham, of all places!!!, a very short lived romance. I was seeing her during the week and Eve Jones (Kingston) at weekends, until I got their names mixed up, tricky one that, well, it had to happen sooner or later, so back to the drawing board, however, my back injury was well and truly on the mend. I found out later that one of the other heavy drop lads had met my "friend" from Swindon, he told her his name was Bowden of 1 Para, this of course was pure unadulterated bollo**s, I have a feeling I know who it was lol.
The next night we worked all through the night and finished at approx 2 pm the next day, then off to bed, up for tea at 4 pm, back to bed then up again 7 pm, wash / shave, guess what, it was down to the Pegasus Club again!. We got sloshed again, but were woken up in the wee small hours by Tom Currie, 2 of the hercules aircraft couldn't find the DZ, so we would have to uninstall 2 loads, we all had hangovers and death seemed more preferable, Barry Crook and Dick Carr had been scavenging about earlier for food from the hotel kitchen, not into eating raw steak myself though. Joe Bodham was operating the swan neck crane, it was swaying too like the rest of us, Jim Finch giving Joe lots of grief. The RAF were having an Internal Security drill and refused entry to Paddy Byrne / Paddy Long, seeing 2 Paddy's together in the same landrover was a bit suspect for them, but Jim McConnachie, rifted the RAF guard, such fun times. Sometimes we had delayed drops due to poor weather, so we'd often make our way to the Pegasus club snooker room, some like Jim McConnachie often went to Lyneham lanes (Bowling Alley), Jim said "All the delays are costing me a fortune" he wasn't talking about bowling!, it wouldn't just be the balls rolling about later!!.
Sid Pincher was a Heavy Drop man through and through as a former CSM of the unit he was still the main man in control, he rarely lost his temper, but when he did, stand well clear, I remember him boll***ing Taff Pascoe for causing alarm & despondency, "L/Cpl's I've Sh*t em", more like exploding. Paddy O'Keefe was late back from the weekend and failed to account for his absence, Sid had a real good go at him on parade, "Your not airborne, you lot, (us) turn round and look at him (Paddy), he's not airborne", not long after that Paddy was posted.
Sid told us we all needed extra fitness training and he would lead by example by walking home with a full bergen, the thing was as he walked past Jim McConnachie's office we all laughed as the snow was heaving it down, Sid looked up at the snow, then his watch, the look on his face said it all, maybe a change of heart, still not sure if Sid detoured to the mess or the taxi rank outside camp. I remember we were out on a run round the airfield, when big Mick was demonstrating self defence, he was describing close combat using Sid as an attacker and said "your not going to p*ss about" whilst slapping Sid across the face twice!, "You want to kick the F*ck out of him" well, Sid's face was a picture, not impressed at all, priceless. Mick loved his boxing, he even had a boxing ring put up in the far end of our hanger, so when we'd been out running he would line us all up, shortest on the right, tallest on the left, 1st man would fight against 2nd man and so on, this wasn't boxing but milling, bashing the crap out of each other. The first time this happened I remember Pete Fairhurst was due to fight Vic Bennett, Pete said I'm not into all this lark, so he and Vic slithered out of the hanger doors, Rockeyyyyyyy Rockeeeeeyyyyyyyyy!!.
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As fate would have it, Pip Pittaway and myself gave each other a good hiding (Milling), but we were also due to fly to Norway that night on exercise with 45 Commando (Arbroath), we (Pip / Me) stayed at RAF Rygge a Norwegian camp. Not too bad, full of conscripts, one of these weekend warriors asked Pip how long he's been in the army, Pip said "9 years", this long haired scroat replied, "I too am a corporal, only been in 9 months" this guy never knew how close he'd come to being hospitalised, Pip had a short fuse sometimes. Mealtimes were fun, we went to this huge alpine type hut, this was an all ranks diner, snag is you had to pay at the front desk, well Pip and I just bluffed our way past and scoffed away, we got some very dark looks, as if that bothered us?, mind you, the menu wasn't exactly al a carte, fish/fish/fish more bloody fish, cheese/cheese, well, you can guess the rest, we managed to claim for food expenses later (£44 Ker-ching)!. Later on my favourite SNCO Alden came out to give a hand, but never got his hands dirty, big girls blouse, never liked him, don't think any one in the company did, he applied for a commission but got rejected, nice to know he got his just rewards!!.
Exercise Bold Guard was held in Germany in the Keil area northern central part of the country, there was two main drops, day & night, the RAF load masters (Loady's) were a bit worried about the close proximity of the aircraft when the drop went in. I saw at least two who were seriously thinking about not flying, that was a real boost for us, NOT!!. I had only been back for a few weeks recovering from surgery, so could only fly with the heavy drop aircraft, I was with Pat "Where's me shirt" Long, the sight of all those Hercules' aircraft was amazing, the locals must have thought we were invading some place. The flight went ok, but for some reason known only to themselves the RAF decided to fly at an angle to the drop zones, (Night Drop) what a bloody cock up, heavy drop platforms landing in trees and the keil canal, click here to see evidence Photo 1 & Photo 2. We could see flares being fired by the ground safety crew aborting the drop, but it went ahead anyway, to top it all the Canalmeister got his timings wrong, i.e. the time difference with local & UK time. One lad who landed in the canal was killed as a ship came through, apparently propellers can be hazardous to your health, a few heavy drop lads did also end up in the canal but got out ok, the following week the Canalmaister committed suicide. There were quite a few injuries and sadly more deaths (15 Para Scotland). That same year (1974) 216 Squadron officers were caught watching porny movies by the RAF Police (Snowdrops), later some numbty at Lyneham made bogus calls to other RAF stations (Bomb Hoax's), so a bad year all round for our RAF friends at Lyneham, now sadly closed.
Jim McConnachie was fond of the odd tipple now and then (well quite a lot actually), he turned up on parade one day and as usual stood next to the flagpoles with a big cheesy grin on his face, Tom Currie the other Staff Sergeant told us NOT to take any notice of Jim as he was swaying in tune with the flags above, as if we hadn't noticed. Another time Jim was stood near the duty bunk in full mess dress unable to get changed and cursing, the duty lads trying to assist but getting nowhere quickly, Jim didn't give a monkey's, great laugh.
Wurz was as usual in trouble, well, he got drunk in the Pigs Bar and had a go at one of the RAF lads, but as Wurz was the worse for wear got battered by the Blue job, we didn't let Wurz forget and gave him a hard time. The following week Wurz, Paul Callaghan, his girlfriend Nina and myself had been to the Queens Head in Hullavington village and when driving back through the main gate, guess who's on the duty ?, yes the RAF lad, he recognised us and waived us through, we each went back to the block and to bed, or so some of us thought. Wurz apparently climbed out of his window, ran over to the gate and smacked the lad on the gate, next morning the MOD police, RAF guard and Military Police were taking statements reference the assault, big Mick interviewed us all, Wurz had kept us all in the dark, but got 28 days free board & lodgings (Minus pay) at MCTC Colchester for his troubles. He was conned by the SIB Military Police, they said a women recognised his photo as she was a witness, if Wurz didn't own up he'd go down for a longer stretch, it was very dark with poor street lighting, he bottled it and owned up. Another time we used to have guys attached to heavy drop to help out, there was a REME lad who was unfortunate to be sleeping opposite Wurz, he was awoken by Wurz firing an airgun at him, then wurz attached a knife and bayonet charged this poor lad. The lad had enough, packed his kit and legged it out of the gate back to Bordon (Hampshire).
Roger Cole had been with Heavy Drop some years beforehand, he spent 6 years with the SAS, when he came back to Heavy Drop (Hullavington) he popped into the Pig's Bar (Wyvern Club), where Wurz, the worse for wear, started slagging off Roger (Big Mistake!), Roger said nothing, he just waited till Wurz went to the toilet. Wurz got a good hiding, he never made that mistake again lol, some of the lads asked Wurz where he got his bruises, "Just been doing some Boxing Training" and lost!. Roger recently brought out a book "Operation Storm" about the battle of Mirbat in 1972, see his two interviews with the BBC & BFBS TV, BFBS TV Click Here also here, BBC Interview - Click here.
Yorkie was a lad and a half, always popular with the ladies, whether in Thetford with some of the local ladies or, as admin staff for the unit Welsh 3000 team, the lads were in Brecon frequenting the wheatsheaf pub, they were chatting away to some local girls when Yorkie barged his way in taking over, so when he went to the toilet, the lads told the girls that Yorkie had a non specific urinary infection (NSU), on his return Yorkie couldn't understand the girls sudden lack of interest in him, the swines. Also when we did DZ recovery in Thetford we always had a liberty run downtown to the local village, Yorky persuaded a couple of the local girls to come to a "group therapy" session where we were encamped, they were well up for it, but bottled out as we couldn't provide transport back, however, Yorky spent the night on the tiles rolling onto the DZ at 6 am via taxi staggering all the way to our location, he slept for quite a while. The next day the weather was very bad (Poor Visibility) so the drop was cancelled, we got up for breakfast provided by Souse Hornby, back to bed, well (Dossbag), up for lunch, bed, then up again for tea, very tiring all that sleep!!. Watching scouse light the pressure cooking stove was an occupational hazard, he pressurized and turned on the cooker, then hid behind the nearest tree, threw a lighted newspaper and took cover. After a much needed rest from a hard days dossing, we got cleaned up and went downtown on the liberty truck.
We had our vehicles parked close by, as I was trying (struggling) to get my bergen (backpack) out of one of the tenny's I accidentally knocked the handbrake off, well, I tried to re apply the handbrake but couldn't, the tenny was rolling downhill, Titch the driver saw that the vehicle was driverless with me stationary, Wurz was in bits laughing as Titch panicked chasing the tenny, he did manage to halt the truck but only just, stopping a few feet in front of a tree.
Sometime early in the morning Dick Carr & Barry Day decided for some strange reason to cut the legs off some dead sheep they'd buried earlier that day, (Ran Over), they tried to cook the legs and start selling them to the sleepy troops, barnpots or what?. On the way back to hullavington we always (by pure chance) happened to stop overnight at Bicester, nothing to do with the fact it was a disco night or there were WRAC girls there??, Titch, a driver attached to us was negotiating his tenny and trailer around the back of the cookhouse (parade square turning was too tight), but as we came back down his air brakes failed, when this little warning arm popped up saying "Empty", this was squeaky bum time, I had visions of going down the steps to the parade square and ending up in the pay office.
Outside big Mick's office was a large notice board, reference parachuting, 2 light bulbs, 1 red/1 green i.e. parachuting is on/off, Colin Pratt enquired when the red one is on Mick is in his office and the green one when he's in the Sh**house, unbeknown to CP Ratt (as Brad called him) Mick was stood behind him, "Got nothing better to do Cpl Pratt?" very nearly in the smelly stuff, oooops RED on!!!
Vic, me and some others got volunteer'd along with some RAF guys to act as simulated casualties in the decontamination centre (CASEVAC), Paul Frostick was the instructor, I had gunshot wounds whilst Vic was the blind man. Paul tried to make the place look like a disaster site by letting off a powder fire extinguisher but it wouldn't work, he lost his rag and threw it away cursing "Fuc*ing thing" it hit the floor and exploded, we all made a dash for the exit, you'll never guess who was first out? it was Vic, the blind man!!. Reminded me of when we had gas mask drills seeing Wurz kicking open the door of the gas chamber, gasmask going one way and him the other, eyes bulging and hacking his lungs up with the effects of CS gas "K'nell", the guys waiting to go in were looking very nervous whilst those who'd been in resembled ghosts and having a laugh, the gas chamber door had many boot marks. The only one's looking forward to the gas chamber were the instructors, sadists all of them.
Heavy Drop had a 6 month detachment in Cyprus (Akrotiri), which was a swan job really, just had to make sure the the rig (Landrover) never had any mishaps as this was their Liberty vehicle into town. The lads certainly made their presence in more ways than one, i.e. Geoff, Bill and a few others ?,. My 2nd trip to Cyprus (March 1974) was on detachment for 2 weeks assisting the lads already there, Old man Crawford, Bill Wreyford, Vince Philips, Pat Long, Jim McConnachie, Capt Pinder & the OC Major Grant were there, the troops were accommodated in the transit block. Pat Long was feeling bored and decided to have a food fight with all oranges and shampoo!!, a few of us had the dreaded Cyprus Gut (Diarrhoea), so weren't too fussed about the oranges, the rest were donated to a very grateful Arthur Grant. Jim Finch was his usual self (Crazy), performing his Zulu Warrior impersonation, stripping for the ladies??, certainly brightened up a dull evening in the Penn Club (Penninsular club), Jim was barking anyway lol. Jim used to bait the Greek Cypriot NAAFI guy, who, give him his due always responded in kind, "tell your friend Finch, I have 2 tickets for the nuthouse". Some of the lads went down town (Limassol Square) for a meal, Bill Wreyford kept asking for more bread to go with his soup, the waiter got wise and angry after Bill's 4th time of asking, apparently Bill had been stuffing the bread down his shirt until it all fell out causing a bit of a do (Fight), Old Man wanted to join in but Pat Long tactfully grabbed him and said "Eat your Fuc**ing soup, it's not OUR problem".
I personally never got on that six month detachment, just a month in Castle Dillon House in Northern Ireland with 9 Independent Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers, wow, gripping stuff. I spent most of the time in resources bored out of my mind, other times in the armoury, on my days off (Sundays) I managed to get out, but as escort for someone or other. This unit was famed throughout the shot (Aldershot) for it's toughness and certainly had it's fair share of nutters (I worked with Psycho). Xmas 1974 the scene, the dining rooms, where all the usual was laid out on the tables (condiments/oranges/nuts/etc), some of the guys wore their P helmets for a good reason, (well best be prepared). When the Officers/Senior NCO's came in to serve the troops, well, WW3 kicked off, Plates, chairs, cutlery, fruit, nuts were all flying that day, I took cover under a table, only safe place to eat my dinner, apple sauce was decorating the walls too. Andy Caps Commandos (Army Catering Corps) were well pi**ed off, all their efforts wasted in minutes preparing the xmas dinner, although the decor had improved somewhat. There was a captain (EOD) who came to the armoury to sign out a remmington shotgun, he was testing the wheelbarrow down by the lake, so when firing the weapon the guard rushed past me and started shooting at this forgetful officer, apparently he told the Op's room about his plans but not the guard commander, he came back to the armoury looking very pale and stupid. So much for the use of the green card, (ROE) Rules of Engagement, what rules??.
There's One Girl whom I fancied for a while, decent, respectable, attractive and had a great sense of humour (at my expense), she keeps taking the P out of Geordie B, just not too sure if she was interested (thought she was maybe?). We gave each other lots of stick, but if I did have any chance with her I blew it, by not making my feelings known and failing to take her to the Heavy Drop Company party (she was waiting in the Wyvern, looked stunning in that black dress!), I bottled it, maybe she thought I wasn't interested, can't blame her for that. I did have a bad experience at Hullavington with someone I really trusted, that made me apprehensive about getting involved again. Cathy later went out with another army lad, so that was it, I regret not making a move for a girl who I wanted to be with at that time, she is now divorced, a real shame. She never knew how I felt about her, fate sure has a strange ways of showing itself. Due to the location of Hullavington quite a few relationships developed, my own view on this was that as our location was fairly isolated / insular, some people got involved in relationships they wouldn't normally bother with, some fell through more or less straight away, others got married and moved on, but as part and parcel of military life and it's effects on family life some resulted in marriage breakup's, albeit some years if not many years later, well that's my opinion anyway.
I did get involved again in 1975 then I was posted to 3 BAD, got married in march 1976. Not many of us appreciated what a special unit Heavy Drop was, However, I wasn't the only one who felt that way, a lot of the lads I met later said they would go back tomorrow, but just fond memories now. Recently Tony (Cyril) Dandy visited the former RAF Station Hullavington and took these photographs, (Click the Banner just below the Tankard) he couldn't resist, thanks again Cyril.
Click RAF Plaque to see Hullavington Today
The PSF Fire 1993
Other memorable moments :-
The arrival of Posh Jock Nesbit (Shylock)
Julian Nowak losing his expensive watch on Everleigh DZ
Paddy Long's face when leaving Cyprus at 4 am, Captain Pinder forgot to get Paddy's Flight ticket, priceless
Being volunteer'd for the unit boxing team - No Relation I think?? See this Jack Broughton 3rd Champion of England
On exercise in Cyprus/Turkey/Norway
Leaving the best unit in the British Army -16 Parachute Heavy Drop Company (December 1975) posted to 3 Base Ammunition Depot (Bracht) West Germany
Heavy Drop was disbanded on the 1st September 1976 - Select Heavy Drop Logo (Top of this page) to see Unit Photographs
16 Parachute Brigade Disbandment Video's & Photo's
To absent friends R.I.P Paul Bunker, Jim Finch and Ray Avery
Next Posting - Click here to go to 3 Base Ammunition Depot
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