Armoured Farmer - A Tankies Tale

Hi to all of you that I find in this cultural haven!
Site admin has recommended that I start this topic to make you aware of my impending book which, should be available in around 8 weeks assuming my publisher is not a lying weasel!!! It will be paperback with photo's, cartoons and illustrations aplenty! Priced in at RRP£9.95 +P&P.
If any of you have been following the RAC/Armoured Farmers thread prior to it's becoming hidden as an entity and is membership only. Hopefully you may have seen excerpts from my book? People's positive feedback has prompted me to print.
The book is based on my experiences between 1975 and 1990 from Junior Leader to Tank Commander. It is humorous, ribald at times but, all true if a little embellished at times, but, when wouldn't a story be embellished. Interspersed are facts, seen through a soldiers eyes but, true, still humorous but, true.
Either way here is one such chapter on Tank design. Hopefully this will generate interest and plenty of feedback from within your hallowed ranks. Thanks for your time.

Chapter 31

Design what?

While in Paderborn I used to vent my interest in our Regimental history by, helping out occasionally in the small Regimental museum. This was contained in a room in RHQ. It wasn’t a grand affair but held a lot of information on the men and machines of the Regiment through the years. I had, even as a child, a great interest in Tanks. Over the years I’ve spent many hours at the wonderful Tank Museum in Bovington, pondering and investigating Tank development. I said earlier in the book, I’d like to write about this subject, so here we go! These observations are seen from my soldier’s perspective, based on fact but seen through my eyes.

Okay so everyone knows that with WW1 came the advent of trench warfare and the machine gun, that efficient killer of men. This had the boffins at the War office scratching their heads in dismay. The trick of soldiers standing up and walking slowly towards the enemy didn’t work. Why? Well because that was exactly what the Hun expected them to do! “Bugger!” Said one boffin to another, “We’d better try something else!” Dismally that failed too, after all, just because the men now stood up and ran quickly at the Hun, didn’t make an iota of difference. The German machine guns were a hell of a lot quicker than the Infantry. “Bol*ocks!” Exclaimed the boffin; “we’re in trouble if we don’t think of something new, and quick!” he said as he scratched his oversized bald head. His colleague, who had been thinking to himself, resignedly muttered, “ I wish I was as clever as that old t**t Leonardo Da Vinci!” The first boffin looked up and suddenly shouted; “ Bloody bugger! Of course! Didn’t he draw some sort of land machine to protect its crew?” They now scoured their reference library, eventually finding the design they sought. “Shite, we can’t build that, it looks so stupid that we’ll be laughed off the battlefield!” Said one to the other. His colleagues reply came; “I never said we’d build that,” he laughed, “all I want to do is steal the idea, modify the design to modernise it, and then when it’s finished tell the sceptics it was us, and ask who the fcuk was Leonardo da whatsisname any way?”

Having thought carefully about their problem they threw down their pencils in disgust. “Jesus” said one, “how the hell are we going to do this? These flippers we’ve drawn will be as much use as tits on a fish for a land vehicle! We may as well take one of those new fangled American agricultural tractors designed by that fellow.. Holt, with its thingies, oh you know... tracks, that’s them, and use that!” He laughed. “Hey, that’s not such a bad bloody idea,” said his partner scribbling furiously with his pencil. “We’ll cover it in iron or steel plate which we’ll call armour, but what do we call the vehicle?” He intoned as the pair now stood at the urinals. His pal, glancing down nosily at his neighbours appendage laughed; “what you’ve got there is a little Willy!” “Bloody good name that!” retorted the other boffin thoughtfully. “The Boche would never guess what the fcuk it is from that name!” And the first prototype Tank, ‘Little Willy’ was born. When the trials were finished and the Admiralty had accepted the concept of a ‘Little Willy’, they decided that a machine named after a scientist’s penis was a little distasteful. So after due consideration and their knowledge being mainly to do with water, they hit on the name ‘Tank’, after all that’s what it looked like, a huge water tank! So it was, that in due course, the first Mark 1 ‘Mother’ Tanks rolled from the production line onto the French and Belgian battlefields, scaring the shite out of the Germans on the way.

Since the Tanks inception, British ‘men in white coats’ seem to have struggled with the design of Tanks. Okay, we invented it and we built it! The ‘others’ have always ‘copied’ it. So why then, have we continually ‘bodged’ it? Well, we know what the three main characteristics of the Tank are, after all we thought of them! There’s firepower, protection and mobility, when all three are correctly balanced this leads to the ultimate battlefield characteristic of flexibility. To look at some of the fledgling designs that we’ve come up with, you could be forgiven for thinking that we didn’t have a clue!

After the ‘Mother’ had taken to the field, it was quickly modified to increase its trench crossing and steering capabilities by, putting a huge pair of wheels on the back! This only met with limited success, after all, the ferocity of German artillery barrages that met the appearance of Tanks in an attack, soon ripped the wheels off! The boffins drew, modified and thought up all manner of things. Tanks suddenly became ‘Male’ or ‘Female’, the difference being that ‘Males’ had larger pieces of field artillery fitted, ‘Females’ on the other hand were armed with machine guns. Later in the war newer designs were built, the rhomboidal shape of the Tanks was lengthened by adding a ‘Tadpole tail’ which did, successfully increase the Tanks trench crossing ability. Tanks appeared one day, lumbering slowly forward, their ungainly shapes carrying, perched on top, huge bundles of wood. These were known as ‘Fascines’ and when a Tank approached a deep trench, the fascine would be rolled into the trench, and the Tank could drive safely across it. This was, the fore runner of the modern Royal Engineers AVRE with its demolition gun or ‘dustbin chucker’.

The newspaper articles of the time hailed the Tank as ‘The War Winning’ machine! I, as a Tankie, do believe this even though the sceptics say that it was not. Let’s face it, imagine you are a German foot soldier in your trench. The continual barrage one morning lifts and, there before you trundles a huge metal box, heading straight for you spitting fire and lead in every direction, smoke belching from its exhaust. Crap yourself? I should think so! The Tanks may not have been much faster than walking pace but, unlike the Infantry, they couldn’t be stopped by machine gun fire. Then they are on your position, travelling up and down your trench line raking your previously safe haven with, thousands of unstoppable machine gun bullets. Behind them come the enemy Infantry, and there are thousands of them, they’ve come safely through your defences, and having now emerged from behind the cover of the advancing Tanks, they can’t wait to stick their bayonets right up your arse!

Now, while this mayhem was happening all along the front line, where were the Cavalry? Well, with the advent of WW1 they had, in the face of artillery and MG fire, found themselves literally blown from the battlefield. Certainly in many Tank actions, the reason for eventual failure of the attack was, that the cavalry were so sceptical about ‘breakthrough and exploitation’ that, they simply chose to remain undercover. The cavalry officers deemed Tanks as a ‘flash in the pan’, sat as they were, behind a wood out of sight, their officers were heard to say; “Let the Tanks c*** this one up, we’ll rest a while, Rupert pass me another glass of port, there’s a good chap!” The Tanks speed did not match its ‘shock action’. The mechanical technology that existed at the time could not exploit the effect that Tanks could have on the enemy. Not to matter, the boffins were working on the ‘cavalry solution’.

Once more the boffins were stood at the urinals.
“Did you read in the Times, that the bally cavalry were sat on their arses again at the Somme?” asked one of the other, “ Oh yeah, they’re lazy barst*rds all right!” Replied the other guy buttoning up his fly. “What do you say we come up with something that’ll really fcuk up the cavalry’s brains?” queried the first guy wiping his hands on his trousers. “Like what for example, a fast Tank?” Asked his chum. “God, but you are full of absolutely fantastic bloody ideas!” Enthused the first guy. Off they went and started to beaver away at their drawing tables. In due course one stood up from his work. He grabbed the other fellow by the arm pointing at his drawing and said; “Here James, take a look a look at this!” James, confused at the question said, “Oh all right, if I must, whip it out then!” The colleague, also confused now exploded, “WHIPPET! Fcuk me how do you think up these names? It’s perfect for this Tank… fast as a Whippet!” He slapped his pal, who was hurriedly re-buttoning up his fly, hard on the back. “You are great!” He continued, “balls, thought my luck was in!” Was James’ only mumbled comment.

So the Medium A. ‘Whippet’ was born, armed with three machine guns and a top speed faster than a man could run, it was soon seen running ‘rampant’ around the battlefields. The advent of these Tanks created something of a race. The different nations involved in this conflict, not to be outdone by either friend or foe, were busy concocting their own designs. The French came up with vehicles such as the St. Chamond and the Schneider. The Germans spent most of the time repainting captured British Tanks and throwing them back into the fray. But eventually they too came up with an example of Teutonic might in the shape of the A7V. This was a monster of a vehicle, cramming every available inch of space with a huge crew of eighteen men, it sallied forth into the maelstrom. Its future did not bode well, its huge bulk and slow speed made it vulnerable and unreliable. In fact an infantryman with body armour and a peashooter would have achieved more success. Looking at this machine, nobody could have possibly foreseen the massive impact that Germany would, in the future, have on Tank design and tactics! During the latter stages even the Americans, ‘never one to be out done’ had a crack at designing and building Tanks. They mainly copied our designs but, they were bigger of course! The war ended in 1918 with a bit of a fizzle, with it the Tank race petered out too. As I’ve already explained, the Cavalry were now to be found at the War Office plotting the demise of, “ Those * upstarts in the Tank Corps!” even though the King intervened, the huge financial burden levied on the nation meant that our two friendly boffins were, ‘put on the backburner’.

What of Germany? Well, the German army felt that they had been stabbed in the back by their politicians. “Ready to stop fighting the stinking Tommies?” Said a General one evening. “I should think not!” He continued while topping up his and his companions schnapps glasses. His companion, a disenchanted government official said; “What were we doing? The bastards had the Panzers, und we sat with unser thumbs up unser arsches! I will never let this happen again!”
The General responded with; “Fcuk the world, we will schau them! What we need now ist a complete shite to lead uns to world domination!” Listening outside the door stood a diminutive greasy looking fellow, his hair a black oily slick swept over one eye, his moustache, now smaller in size since the shaving accident, a toothbrush sized bush under his nose. His name? Oh do come on! Adolph Hitler of course! He sneered; “Oh yes, we will show the world what a t**t I can be!” In that instant the world’s future was being re-written.

Now, under the terms of the Versailles treaty the allies had sought to ensure that Germany, would never be able to muster enough military might to once more become a threat. In theory this was great, in reality it had holes in it big enough to, strangely enough, drive a Tank through! Hitler’s rise to stardom brought with it money for armaments. His ‘build agricultural tractors’ in Sweden policy should have had us screaming in the stalls! After all, we got the damn ideas from tractors! But did it ring alarm bells? Did it hell. War? Unthinkable in the average British mind of the late 20’s and 30’s. Our men were back home, what was left of them! So, who wanted another war? Not the stupid Hun, we’d right royally whipped their arses in 1918, they wouldn’t be stupid enough to start another one, would they?

It was this totally ignorant and blasé attitude in Britain that ruled the roost. Oh yes everyone acknowledged what an important part the Tanks had played ‘except the cavalry’ of course. But now was a time for singing and dancing and long may it continue. If only it had, who knows what the modern world would now be like? British Tank designers and builders such as Vickers were scratching their heads. James and Frederick, our two WW1 designers were now working for Vickers, their time at the W.O had come to an end. One morning while in the toilet James turned to Fred and said, “I’ve come up with a whizzo idea for a new Tank, it’s got one turret and two engines giving it a top speed of forty mph!” “How big’s the gun?” Enquired Fred. “It’s a 20inch supplemented by two MG’s!” Replied James. “Well, you can forget that as a fcuking idea then, can’t you, the bosses these days are only looking at designs which have a minimum of three turrets, a peashooter being in each one as a gun, an engine driving the Tank at 15mph maximum and NO fcuking machine guns!” Came the response from Fred. Having finished at the urinals they stood facing each other pondering, eventually Fred said; “James, put your fcuking dick away!” James did as asked and they left. “balls!” Mumbled James.. “Thought my luck was in!”

So it was that between the wars we as a nation fell behind in the race which was continuing, unchecked, behind the scenes. We even fell behind in the tactical race, even though our great minds such as Swinton were advocating the shape of things to come. As usual the Germans, in the shape of Generals such as Guderian, were stealing our ideas and seeing how they could fit in with their plans. We were playing on Salisbury plain with great ideas such as radio communication and inter-arm co-operation. The Germans on the other hand, were taking these same ideas and fully integrating them at an alarming speed. We were churning out a bewildering array of different Tank types. We had everything from small two man, Carden ‘Tankettes’ through light and medium Tanks to heavy and even heavier Tanks.

But all were a combination of moderately protected, poorly powered and dreadfully armed vehicles. Our design principles said that the size of the gun is governed by the size of the turret. But we were reluctant to build bigger Tanks to facilitate the larger weapons required for effective shooting of other Tanks. We seemed to concentrate on ‘Infantry support’ Tanks, forgetting the possibility of ‘Tank versus Tank’ combat. Anyway, nobody had anything ‘that we knew about’ to beat us. Of course as the German military build up became blindingly obvious, peoples ideas changed somewhat. Suddenly Fred and James’ life became quite frantic. One morning at the urinals, Fred said to James; “Hells a poppin’, I’ve been told to build something that works! What shall I do?” James instantly replied; “Me too, I’ve come up with the idea of armour plating an Austin seven sticking a 2 pounder out the front and calling it a ‘matilda’!” he said. “Fcuking good idea James, and you’re so full of them too!”responded Fred. “I think I love you!” Crooned James to Fred, but it was too late, the toilet’s swing door was already settling into the doorjamb.

‘Matilda’ was born as a Tank, but it certainly wasn’t based on an Austin Seven, it was a thickly armoured Infantry type Tank. It was impervious to all but the biggest German guns. The Germans actually quite admired it when eventually they came up against it. But as usual, its design was not conceived with Tank combat in mind. When Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, it found itself faced with some stark truths. Firstly our Tank force was woefully under strength for the task ahead. Secondly, our Tanks themselves, with a couple of exceptions were, very inadequate for their allotted jobs. Our tactics were fairly well practised but, not as modern or effective as the German ‘Blitzkrieg’ doctrine. So here we were with our inadequate armour being hurriedly shipped abroad as part of the BEF, to France and to face the advancing, well equipped German army. The history books do say that the German army was possibly not as well equipped as the common belief says. I know it relied still, on large quantities of horse drawn power but, the spearhead, which after all counted most, was mechanised. The British army was deposited into a nearly hopeless attempt to halt the German flow.

3RTR was thrown across the channel at short notice with its Tanks but with very little or, no ammo. Once our Regiment found its way out into the open countryside, due to confusion in the BEF command structure, it found itself isolated and unsure of what was happening. Never the less, once the decision was taken to evacuate the BEF, 3RTR distinguished itself by stemming the German advance, at great sacrifice to itself, and protecting Calais to allow evacuation. The remnants of the Regiment managed to just escape capture leaving its broken Tanks and equipment strewn across the French countryside.

Throughout WW2 the design leaders remained, the Germans with their vast industrial might. The Russians though, had surprised the Germans when, the Blitzkrieg had run into the outstanding Soviet T34 Tank. This was designed to incorporate all the best features of the Tank. It was fast, well armoured and packed a sufficiently potent punch to be able to stop the average German Panzer in its tracks. What’s more, it was simple to build and operate, cheap to build and very reliable. When one considers the vast logistical problems involved with the size of Russia, the Tank was ideal. The Germans quickly realised that they now faced a problem large enough to make them think again. The answer? Capture a T34, ship it to Germany and let the boffins take a look. One day at the Krupps factory, stood two scientists, Jan and Friederich, at a urinal. “ Shite, but ze T34 ve haf ist damn goot!” Exclaimed Jan. “Ja, but ve vill make somethink tvice as gut!” retorted Friedrich. He continued; “It cannot be so very difficult as, ze T34 vas built by stupid communistisch scum!” “But, it can be crewed by ze vomen!” explained Jan. “Ha, who needs ze fcuking vomen!” Sneered Friedrich as he did up his trousers. Jan immediately said; “Ja, I agree, who needs ze fcuking vomen, Friedrich I zink I luf you!” But as he turned it was too late, Friedrich had left, the toilets swinging door already settling in the doorjamb. “Shiiiit!” Was Jan’s only comment.

But in due course the Germans produced the ‘Panther’ and its big brother ‘King Tiger’ to beat the crap out of anything that got in the way, thereby joining the already successful ‘Tiger 1’. Industrial attrition would eventually bring Germany to its knees. It was great having the best Tanks in the world but, you need steel and an economy to build them, and oil, fuel and ammunition to run them. So even though they were the best Tanks of their era, hammering forth and conquering all, there were, in the end, simply not enough of them to alter the course of the war. This was also combined with the Germans knack of ‘over engineering’ everything they touched. They had missed the fact that the T34 was simplicity itself. Consequently both the Panther and King Tiger were slow and expensive to build. I would argue that without doubt, Panther was the outstanding Tank of WW2. Had it been built alone and without a confused Hitler prevaricating about also building King Tiger, it could possibly have turned the war around, if produced in large enough quantities! But it was not to be, and the war’s outcome is confined to the history books. And thank god it ended in our favour!

Britain during the war, had frantically been trying to redress the balance. Relying on the lend-lease Tanks, such as the Sherman, from America, it was desperate to prove it could build a successful Tank. The odds however were not in our favour. The war thus far had taken its toll on our great nation. Some designs in the ‘Cruiser’ class had met with limited success but, also with their share of disaster. Later in the war having learnt lessons against the German Afrika Korps in the desert struggle. We seemed to pull back a little, but still a big failing was our lack of sufficient firepower. Not until we retro fitted the Sherman Tank with a larger gun, renaming it ‘The firefly’, could we attempt to take on the ‘Tiger’ threat with any chance of winning! By the end of the war we had designed some fairly successful Tanks, the ‘Cromwell’ and ‘Comet’ being two noteworthy examples. The Comet actually served into, I believe the early 80’s with the Irish army.

By 1945 Britain, having got its act together, had laid down plans for what was to be Centurion. This Tank would prove to be the mainstay of our Royal Armoured Corps until the early to mid sixties. Its reliability and effectiveness becoming the benchmark for the other nations of the world. Too late for service in WW2 it was to prove itself in Korea and conflicts around the world, especially as it was bought by many nations, Israel having been a particular fan. Building on its reputation, Britain in due course decided to modernise and commissioned Chieftain which, even though it was dogged with many problems. The concept of a Main Battle Tank came about as, even during Centurions era, we had experimented with heavy tank technology in the form of Conqueror, which was not a great success. So it was simple, one main Tank with other tasks being carried out by ‘specific to task’ vehicles.

I have during the course of this book, highlighted some of Chieftains problems. But I don’t wish to be unfair to what was essentially, ‘not a bad old bus’. Its problems really only concerned its ability to move from A to B in a military fashion i.e. without breaking down. It always seemed unfair to us that, so much emphasis had been placed on its various systems but not enough on it’s mobility. Fine I understand that our doctrine was based more on ‘stay and fight’. But to stay we first had to get to where we were meant to be staying! Once there the fire control system was superb and, we were led to believe that our protection was second to none. But a chilling thought was that when boffins talk about ‘survivability’ they mean the weapons platform and not the crew inside. We knew we could sit and hit targets at ranges way in excess of our potential Soviet foes maximum range.

We knew also that Russian Tank crewmen were recruited, at a maximum height of 5’ 3’’. We also knew that Russian vehicles that were fitted with Auto-Loaders were unreliable as the machinery couldn’t differentiate between the ammunition and the commanders forearm! Of course, the other thing we knew was that the Soviets had a lot of Tanks, so many in fact that we would have to kill four of theirs before we ourselves were killed. On the bright side we had also learnt that Russian Tank crews had a propensity for drinking their vehicles’ anti-freeze which was alcohol based!

So in the 1970’s the world’s status quo in the Tank stakes was fairly even. Britain’s Chieftain with its technical advances was mechanically, less than reliable but, fantastic at all the other arts of Tank virtue, it’s gun could hit a gnat at 3500 metres using its computerised fire control equipment, its armour was deemed impervious to all known types of ammunition and it’s crews were the best in the world. Germany’s Leopard 1 was adequate in protection, punchy in its firepower(the tried and tested British 105mm gun) and supremely efficient in its mobility, but only because it was the lightest tank of its type. American Tanks came in a vast array of types and sizes but, their mainstay Tank, the M60 was mechanically questionable and the Tank in general was undergoing massive refits to modernise its technology.
Israel with all its experience of relatively modern Tank warfare in the middle east had been very busy. I feel that it is easy to forget the Israeli’s and their contribution to tank warfare. At this time they were operating British Centurions but, decided to fit more efficient diesel powered units. They had modified the American Sherman into what became the ‘Super Sherman’. They also used the Americans M60 and older M48. So as can be seen, Israel was invaluable in testing various designs from different countries and through battlefield experience, modifying the vehicles to optimise their salient features.

But, in a urinal somewhere in Israel, stood two boffins. The first looked at his colleague and said; “David I’m a bit pi*sed off with sorting out the c*** ups of the other countries tank designers!” David replied, “Samuel, I know exactly what you mean, but what can we do? Design our own?” “s***, David! Of course we could, We’ll nick all the best bits off the ones we have and combine them in ours’!” Samuel excitedly replied and then continued; “we’ll change bits round so they don’t guess what we’ve done, like, putting the engine in the front instead of the back. Then in the back we’ll put a compartment for carrying Infantry or wounded”. David now chirped; “but what’ll we call it, all the good names and numbers have been used already!” Samuel now pondered and then; “I know! we’ll call it Merkava, the thick Westerners won’t know it simply means Chariot!” David turned and said “Samuel, do you know how much I’ve always loved you?” It was too late, as the toilet door had already shut as Samuel rushed down the corridor, pencil in hand. “Bugger!” Was David’s only comment. Thus the concept of Israel’s MBT was born, and a very successful tank it is too!

The seventies passed, the eighties dropped onto the Tank world like.. a big... dropping thing! Bang! The Tank race took off again. It was started by NATO’s German, British and American members joining together to develop a joint Tank project. However the project was unsuccessful, apparently everybody concerned felt their own bits were best. The project broke up, each country taking their technology with them. Britain then cruised for awhile until; the Germans launched Leopard 2, shortly followed by the Americans with their M1 Abrams.

At the MOD alarm bells rang. Boffins were seen running in every direction, buttoning their flies and departing hurriedly from the toilets, cries of “Bugger!” screaming through the air. As a throng gathered in the meeting room someone said; “What the fcuk is going on?” The reply came loud and clear, “The fcuking Yanks and Krauts have got the drop on us, brought out new Tanks haven’t they, the b*stards!” “balls!” chorused the gathered crowd. “What will we fcuking do now?” Asked a guy with fifteen pencils balanced behind one of his ears. Another studious looking chap had been rubbing his chin in thought, then he looked up and said; “Well, we could be sneaky! Iran is, as we know a fcuk up! But before the Shah was kicked out he paid us to develop that.. what’s its name.... ah yes... the Shir Tank. I know there’s a job lot of them laying around somewhere!” “Yes! In Leeds!” Interjected someone else. The government ‘think tank’ now buzzed with excitement, many suggestions flying around the room. Eventually one chap jumped up on the table top and calling for silence, made a statement; “We’ll take the Shir and put Chieftains gun kit in the turret, change the number plates, make a few other modifications, paint it green and black and give it a name! What name though? Anyone need a urine?” When the crowd returned from the urinals, a name had been chosen, after much toilet debate and unheard declarations of love for each other. The name? Oh yes, Challenger of course!

Challenger is without doubt the best British Tank ever. It has achieved (not without problems), the nearest balance of characteristics in any British Tank to date (I can’t comment on Challenger 2). The Chieftains, steel being replaced by Chobham composite armour, Horstman suspension being superseded by Hydrogas suspension units and the BL L60 at last in the bin, the engine now being a thoroughbred Rolls Royce CV12 Turbo charged power pack. Of course as I mentioned, the gun control equipment came from Chieftain in which, it had been great. But it had been designed for an MBT that on roads, was pushing it to get to 30mph. The guns stabiliser had only to cope with around 20mph during travel ‘cross country’. Now it sat like a malignant growth in a ‘new generation’ MBT which could achieve around 30mph over bumpy terrain! The result was a mismatch of technology which I’m glad to say has been rectified. The engine and gearbox could now be replaced in well under an hour in battlefield conditions. This is a far cry from Chieftains cumbersome procedures for repairs. But, Chieftain was not yet dead! There was not enough money nor Challengers to replace the Chieftains in service! So back in the MOD toilets, someone came up with the cracking idea of retro fitting the remaining Chieftains with ‘Stillbrew’ supplementary armour. The first time I saw this I laughed. The front of the turret looked as if a YTS welding team had spot welded a huge metal bulge to the front of the turret. Oh dear, not the best of ideas!

Both Challenger and the ‘Stillbrew’ Chieftains were fitted with TOGS (Thermal Observation Gunnery System), now the commander and gunner had TV monitors through which to view the world and its targets. The Thermal sight head was able to read the ambient temperatures of its surroundings building a perfect black and white effect picture in the monitors! This system is impervious to all weathers, darkness, smoke and in some instances the terrain. A vehicle or persons, heat glows like a neon light on the screen. The accuracy of the picture enabling the crew to recognise a comrades or enemies face in the dark at immense distances. Warfare now is no longer dawn to dusk in a Tank, it is literally 24/7 (as the modern terminology expresses it!). This places more strain on the already exhausted men who man our tanks.

The future? Its now 2056, a shout goes out in the halls of the Department of Earth Defence, Whitehall, London; “Bloody fcuk, the Saturnians have got a new Tank!” the reply echoes in the corridor; “Anyone need a p*ss?” Running footsteps are heard on the polished floor!
One response? Got me worried a bit? Theiftaker, thanks mate for your comment. Here's another snippet at your request. Not sure what's happened to the text at the start but hopefully people will enjoy and give feedback.
Either way, soon I'll put a couple of personal experiences on the board.

Chapter 32

The Yanks are yanking their chains?

I’ve separated the American art of tank design into this, it’s own chapter as they’ve made so damn many tanks, and, as with all things American – always bigger and better.

As the First World War rolled towards it’s inevitable end. The war had attempted to drain the last of Europe’s youth in the blood baths
of the Western front, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, the
Americans took an interest.
For a year or so they’d been watching as the first tanks lumbered
through the morass of mud guiding the poor infantry onto their
objectives with more than a fair chance of survival. Suddenly in
Washington a little known group of ‘project development analysts’
sat bolt upright and exclaimed, as one, “ boy!!”
They glared at each other and one chap shouted .. “If the president is
gonna send our boys over there, they’ll need some sorta protection!
Otherwise, chickadee chickadoo, our boys’ll be comin a home in
coffins!!” Another analyst now chirped in………..”that’ll not be good
for the president’s re-election, we’s a better be doin’ somethin about
this situation!!!”
They now pulled out various newspapers and sat idly reading and
‘chawin baccy’ the only sound being an occasional hiss followed by a
ding as tobacco laden spittle shot from between their teeth into
strategically placed spitoons around the seating area. One man
suddenly looked up and said…”I know, we’ll round up a bunch of
reds off a reservation and send them over first!!!!! They’ll soften up the hun and our gallant boys’ll have a walkover after them!” This was met by disapproving ‘tuts’ and a flurry of hisses and dings!!!! “hey boy” whispered a colleague to the outspoken racist……… “they’ll be votin before ya knows it…….the president has to think in the future ya knows! Anyhows the limeys and frogs have been doin that for ages now so, it’s gonna be easier for us no matter what!”

One chap who, instead of chewing tobacco, sat pondering the New York Times while chewing his smouldering cheroot suddenly sat up and cleared his throat. “Hrrrmmmmpppphhhhh, hey boys I think our answer just came over the hill!” He now folded his broadsheet and turned it so all could see the picture he’d been studying. There, in all it’s magnificence was a Mk V male pounding down on a trenchline with guns blazing. The reader continued..”Heyll’s a poppin boys, we’s gotta get us one of these…………..then we’ll copy it and just make the sucka bigger!”
Everybody became most animated now jumping up and down hugging each other and dribbling tobacco stained saliva down the backs of each other’s coats in their excitement. One chap even wondered whether anyone would care to join him at a urinal…………”What boy?!” Came the response in unison……..”you think we’s are all homo…sexuells boy?!” And with that, as one they all jumped the poor unfortunate and beat the hell out of him.

So in due course the Yanks arrived in the hell of the Western front being led by their brand new Tanks and yes they were……………..well, a bit bigger but, no better. Either way, the Americans came to Europe and in their parlance…. “Beat the sheeeit out of them jerries!”
So, rid of the German threat of world domination and having ensured that ‘Weeners’ would keep coming from Germany for centuries in the future the American wave receded back stateside and once more the great eagle rested and watched the world.

One day however there was a ‘future prospect of war, senior boffin armoured technology project development analyst’ by the name of Christie who was reading a magazine about German politics. “Sheeeit on a stick!” he suddenly exclaimed jumping from his seat and running out of his office. He ran to the ‘thinktank analysts room’ down the corridor and smashed open the door. “Boys, we got us a problemmmm” he announced. “In this magazine it says Germany is building tractors in Sweden!” One brave bloke having cleared his mouth of mint flavoured ‘chawin baccy’ spittle enquired….. “hey heiny so what’s the big deal? The Versailles treaty only screwed up the Boche economy so they couldn’t have an army or navy, NOT so’s they couldn’t do a little farming!” Christie now continued, “No Chuck, this little feller Hitler is hiding something, probably tanks! I can a feel it in ma water, anyone wanna come to the urinals and check it out?” he now almost died in the face of the fists, boots and spittle accompanied by shouts of “hey ya fcukin queerboy leave us alone!” from his paranoid colleagues.
However in due course Christie got to play with his own design of
tank. He was particularly interested in suspension systems having
examined the dreadful systems employed in WW1. He was convinced that better suspension would increase mobility and higher speeds. So was born Christie suspension. It was radical and lo, he was right, it did the job very nicely. Suddenly tanks could achieve speeds which would raise expectations of shock action like the cavalry had once enjoyed. The American War Department? Oh yes they came to have a look and were even quite impressed then said, as they walked away…. “YEAH Christie, we’ll think about it, there’s a good boy!” and strolled off spitting left and right in a most haphazard fashion covering the poor coloured cotton pickers as they toiled in the adjacent fields!
From seemingly that point on, America threw itself into designing and building a massive array of tank designs, the forecourt competition becoming as confusing as the automotive industry which built the huge and confusing variety of cars in an attempt to keep up with Mr Ford.
THEN……1939 and WWWWOOOOOMMMMMMMPPPPPPHHHHHHH! Up went Europe again, in a cloud of smoke and belching explosions all over it’s land mass.
In Washington meanwhile the President was addressing his defence chiefs……..”Okay boys, this will not, I repeat, will fcuking NOT become an American fcuking war!! But…………..just in case it does……..we’ll give the Limeys a few weapons on like a hire purchase scheme. That way we’re trading for money………..theoretically but………really we’re helping them soften the naaaazi’s ready for if we have to go (he broke briefly into song) ‘over there, over there ..oh the Yanks are comin the Yanks are comin’ aaahhh that song brings back such memories”….. “Mr President?” interjected one of the Generals. “Oh yes Walt, sorry I was just somewhere else a moment,…where was I? Oh yes….send some tanks and planes………..not good ones mind just cheap crap so’s it looks good but is about as much use as tits on a flatfish………okay y’ all?” The response was unanimous………..”Sure is Mr President, crap it certainly will be, and it’s on it’s way!!!”

So with no more to do, the mighty American armaments industry swung into action and spewed forth tanks in their hundreds and in their thousands and.……..they all headed towards blighty………..almost like a potato blight. The British of course were really chuffed to see all these strange machines landing on the docks. Why? You ask, well, in general terms because Britain had fcuk all tanks left, just about everything the British Army had was languishing, courtesy of the British Expeditionary Force, all over the French countryside after Dunkirk. In fact the Germans were busy turning most of it into novelty barbeques, or so rumour had it!

Eitherway, with Britain’s armaments industry struggling and their tank designers having difficulty with the concept of guns bigger than peashooters, the Brits were mighty glad of these things looking like tanks and even having guns on them.
In the desert war against Hitler’s Afrika Korps, some American designs even became popular with the crews, a light tank, the Stuart, even got nicknamed ‘Honey’ by a member of 3RTR, the name stuck as the tank was so popular. It didn’t seem to matter that a shot from a German infanteer’s rifle could almost open one up like a tin of ‘bully beef’. Nor did it matter that it’s fuel consumption alone would, in peacetime have altered an entire nation’s economy. No, it was brilliant. The vaunted Sherman also became quite popular, even though Germans nicknamed them, between huge guffaws ‘Tommy cookers’ and even the Americans called them ‘zippos’ due to their propensity to catch fire…….almost instantly, when hit, roasting the unfortunate crews to their deaths. At this point Britain was becoming wary, the Sherman’s gun? “That may need to be a tad bigger to take on a Tiger!” said one Brit boffin and, upgunned by the Brits it was, to make a version called the ‘firefly’. An apt name because against a King Tiger it would have been exactly like a firefly jabbing its blazing butt up against an elephants arrse…….ineffectually. Only when a bunch of fireflys, a few Shermans, 2 tons of plastic explosive, a minefield and a demolition crew ganged up could a King Tiger really get stung.

Sure enough, one morning in Down Scratchett, a small Wiltshire Hamlet, the tromp of boots accompanied by a rousing chorus of “the Yanks are coming” announced the arrival of America’s finest into World War Two closely followed by male screams of “lock up your daughters or there’ll be a baby boom and we ain’t got enough to feed ourselves let alone anyone else and…………don’t think you can survive on nylons. Cigarettes and chewing gum!!!” From this point on though there were plenty of women who thought you could survive on those essentials.
The entry had also been hastened by the fact that Japan had pasted the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbour. Now that meant an all out assault on Emperor Hirohito’s ally……..Adolph Hitler.
In Washington, the ‘there really is now a real prospect of war, senior boffin armoured technology project development analyst’ department went into overdrive, spittle flew everywhere, one scared guy shouted above the others….” Fcuk boys we’ve been caught sleepin on ma’s porch here! Now our boys are over there fighting in the scrap we sent the Limeys! What are we going to do?” “Fcuk ‘em” came a bourbon soaked reply from a red faced sot laid back in a leather recliner, evidence of his mastery of spit trajectory laying round him on the floor, a whisky glass on his chest. He drawled on…. “who gives a sheeeeit? I don’t! We always think of something and I’m sure we will now………………” He now passed out leaving the others to continue their in consternation over the vexing problem of what they would do about their tanks.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch where, Tonto disguised as a door, got his knob shot off!! D Day was in full swing, all sorts of crap was going on, tanks carrying snorkels and massive skirts, behaving like boats and all sorts. Brave job they did too, in fact D Day was a costly but valuable victory. Most Allied Tank crews however, as they came off the beach, met Herr Achtung Panzer and his rolling storm of armoured death and destruction. The only thing heard coming from behind the closed door in Washington was…… “We’s right in the sheeeeit now guys!”

But in the end the allies biggest winning factor over the Germans was moral courage, stalwart determination, the crumbling and inadequate German armament industry and a shite load of fighter bombers to support the swarming mass of tanks and other vehicles crawling over Europe towards Berlin like an army of ants. The Americans always said, “they’s don’t have to be great just build sheeeeit loads of ‘em!”

So the Second World War took it’s place in history. The world looked forward to a more peaceful future. America, decided that, it should however, remain in touch with the tank race. It had improved it’s designs with examples such as the Pershing , okay it was the size of an aircraft carrier but only so it would be ‘bigger and better’ than anything else.
One morning the door to the office of the ‘there really was a real prospect of war and we won it anyway but there won’t be another, armoured technology project development analysts’ burst open with such force that it caused a massive involuntary multiple hiss and ear bending DINGGGGGGG as 20 mouths spat huge wads of brown spittle across the room. An excited chap rushed in and asked all assembled “Boys, you heard we’ve gone into Korea!!!” “Sheeeeit!” was the chorus that greeted him, a lone voice continuing…..”what’d we go and do that for?”
“Anybody need the lavatory?” came a voice at this moment. “Find that barrstard and pile on!!” came a shout as the poor unfortunate disappeared under the mass of flailing arms and even the odd chair as it crashed down amid screams of “queer” and “faggott”.

They got away with Korea without having to do much development as technically the war didn’t last too long and Britain with it’s mighty Centurion stood solidly at America’s side pounding the enemy with shot and HE. America’s foreign policy has, since then, been build em and then build some more. Since the 60’s they have however, calmed slightly choosing to build slightly less variety and more of one type. The world has now seen the M48 and M60 both also having been exported round the world. Then, up with the ill fated MBT 80 project between the NATO powers including Uncle Sam, unfortunately he couldn’t make the appointment so the ‘there really was a real war or two, we won anyway so there won’t be another war…yet….but that doesn’t matter cos we don’t give a damn armoured technology project development analysts’
Department made the appointment, then everybody fell out with each other and, hoped, as they ran away, that the bits they’d stolen were the best bits.

The Germans and the Americans quite quickly developed and launched the Leopard 2 and M1 Abrams respectively and built them almost at the same time. In Washington, Chuck was putting together (spitting ferociously) a plan on how to beat ‘the hun’ to first tank produced. Someone however pointed out a slight problem………… “Chuck, the * gun is still the one off the Limey’s centurion…’s small and old. The Germans are sticking a 120mm smoothbore gun on this Leopard and it then outguns the sheeeeeit out of us!!!” “It’s okay Ricky” replied Chuck then continued…. “I’ve got it all worked out! We’ll wait till we get a good idea of what it’s like then…………………..steal the fcuking plans then say we had it all along after that stinking MBT 80 project!!!”
He then added, "the engine’s gonna be sheeeeit hot on the M1 cos I’ve made it from a jet engine!!!!!!” Ricky now chirped up “Fcuk man, it’ll drink so much gas it won’t be cost effective!!!!!” Chuck was however, undaunted….. “Sheeeeit, not a fcuking problem pal, we’ll arrange to invade Kuwait or Iraq, cap their oil wells, syphon off and no American will complain, their gas prices will be so darned cheap they wouldn’t dare, you can suck my dick if it ain’t so!!!!”
Chuck was, shortly afterwards, found dead in the toilets, he displayed strange marks on his body that looked as if he’d been beaten to death by a mob. The only clue to be found was, daubed in red paint across his back, the word……..FAG!!!!!!

Soon after, one day the Tanks moved swiftly into Kuwait!………………..
Looks good to me A3B, i'll definately buy a copy when it is published.

I was following the 3RTR thread for some time until it was "privatised" and enjoyed the stories, banter and pictures you all threw up.

Although never attached to the 3rd i did spend 5 years attached to the 1st.......


I'm sure there is LOADS of interest in your forthcoming book, but threads in this forum can get overlooked. Have you put links to this thread in more popular forums?


Like ArmySurplusSpecial I enjoyed the 3RTR thread until it vanished, it was great seeing all those photos. Any chance of 3RTR through your own eyes? Should be good if that thread is anything to go by.
Well then, we have a little more interest eh?
Thanks for the positive feedback, may I ask a favour, if you are on another thread, please pass the word for the lads(and lasses) to come here and have a read to generate interest. I would be very grateful friends.
I promised an extract from my personal archive. Here is a 'snippet' from Chapter 2 where, as a Junior Leader I get my first real 'touch' of a Chieftain Tank, hope you all like?

'He slapped his hand onto the front of the vehicle, “this my lads is the glacis plate, no it hasn’t got bugger all to do with mints and polar bears, it is in fact the thickest piece of armour on the vehicle. It protects the front section of the hull, which is the name for the main body of the tank. Why, I hear you ask is it so important to protect the front? Well it’s because we, in British tanks do not, I repeat DO NOT show our fcuking arses to the enemy at any time, well, other than if we’re doing a moony, but not while we’re in a tank! The hole you can see in the glacis plate is the drivers hatch”.
Well that sealed it; I would be a driver then. The safest seat in the vehicle, just my cup of tea. I mean, come on, self preservation has to be the greatest natural human instinct, hasn’t it?
“Right then, one at a time into the drivers seat and I’ll show.........”
Stupid bloke, there was no way he was ever going to finish that sentence as we stormed over him as one, all trying to get onto the tank first.

He quickly recouped, “AAAARGH, you bunch of barrstards, off the tank NOW and give me fifty pushups!”
Having duly exercised our biceps, we all stood up and cautiously waited our turn to descend into the depths of the drivers cab.
At last it was my turn, I lowered my legs followed by my torso through the opening until I came to rest on the seat. As my eyes became accustomed to the gloom I realised that the drivers cab was in fact fairly cramped. The instructor’s hand came in next to my face and began pointing out various features.
“On the left is the control panel for the Generator unit engine which powers the vehicle’s electrics. On the right is the control panel for the main engine which gives us our automotive power”.
Yes, things were becoming clear, clear as mud anyway!
“Down by your knees”, the instructor continued, “That long panel shows you engine revs, speed and a variety of warning lights and gauges”.
This really was becoming confusing.... pushbike to tank was a pretty big jump for a young country lad.
“On the floor you’ll see three pedals, right is the accelerator, centre is the brake and on the left the gear change”.
“Gear change?” I said.
“Yeah, look, up a bit, in the corner, yes that’s it, looks like a motorbike pedal. You hook your toes under it and flick up to change up a gear and put your foot on top of it and push down to change down a gear”.
“Oh, I get it”, I replied, “But where’s the clutch?” My thought was that this snippet of mechanical knowledge would impress him, but of course it didn’t.
“What fcuking clutch? This is a semi-automatic gearbox, so you don’t need a bloody clutch you knobhead!”.

How stupid of me, I should have known better. The rest of the troop clustered on the outside of the tank obviously did know better by the way they sniggered loudly at my blatant stupidity.
“Okay, on either side of you is a long stick, these are your steering levers or tillers as we call them. To go left pull the left one and vice versa for right. On the left on the floor is the handbrake”.
So far everything seemed fairly straightforward, and of course it was all new and exciting.
“As you are sat now is how the driver sits when driving ‘opened up’ he explained.
“ In battle we close all the hatches of course as we don’t want to die, now do we?” Much vigorous shaking of heads from all assembled ensued as the words ‘we’ and ‘dead’ sailed through the air.
“ The driver has to change his position so that he can close his hatch. He does this by activating these levers on his seat”. With that he reached in and pulled on a lever by my side and my backrest shot backwards at the same time as the seat dropped and I smacked the back of my head on the hatch rim as I collapsed with the seat. The result of course (apart from my sore head) was a massive guffaw from the assembled throng.
The instructor regained control of the group and continued relentlessly with his explanations.
“Look behind you monkey face, can you see a headrest flopped down behind you? Good!” Came his reply to his own question.
“ Now adjust it upwards until your head is supported by it and you can comfortably see out of the drivers sight above you.”
His words had become quite muffled now as I lay in the dark depths of the tank’s hull. I fumbled with the headrest and having grazed my head on some protuberance I managed to achieve the required position.
As I peered out of the periscopic sight in front of me, I could clearly see the instructor’s head and shoulders as he peered down into the hatch at the area now occupied by my groin.
“ Please Sarge, no blow jobs!” Came my witty remark, immediately followed by my witty scream as he punched me straight in my testicles!
“ Think you’re funny do you lad? Right lets have you out and give me a hundred push ups!”


stameen_s said:
Like ArmySurplusSpecial I enjoyed the 3RTR thread until it vanished, it was great seeing all those photos. Any chance of 3RTR through your own eyes? Should be good if that thread is anything to go by.

You to can always contact our Mod soprano54 who is responsable for letting people under the cam net. He normaly welcomes one and all.
Another little appetiser

As we motored down the road I sensed that Nick was having problems with the steering. This was easy to sense as every time we approached a bend the Tank started to jolt and lurch in an alarming manner. This was caused by nick ‘pumping’ the steering tillers in an attempt to get a response from the steering. ‘Charlie’ had adopted his ‘usual’ commanders position of pumping the commanders seat into the fully raised position, effectively jamming him into the commanders ‘head out’ position. So all you could see was ‘Charlie’s’ head and shoulders with his arms outside the hatch. This combined with his heavy parka to ward off the early morning cold meant that he was immobilised from the armpits upwards. He could move his head and put his microphone to his mouth, and just about read his map but nothing more. I thought this strange, as we had no gunner to control the turret with the gun over the front of the Tank as we motored along. Still he was the commander so who was I to question the sanity of this?
Realising that Nick was having problems I spoke to him on the IC;
“What the fcuk’s up Nick?” I inquired.
A muffled crackling reply came back;
“Fuc......’s fcuk.... gone!”
Right, okay the steering’s up the creek I surmised from the broken message I’d received. I then said to Nick;
“Pull over mate, I’ll have a look in the decks and see what’s up.” ‘Charlie’ was nodding in agreement. By the way the Tank stopped suddenly I assumed that Nick had understood. I released the ‘snap’ connector on my radio gear and clambered onto the engine decks, joined shortly after by Nick. We opened the decks covering the gearbox and, using a torch (it was still four in the morning) inspected the gearbox for damage. It was immediately clear what our problem was, everything was covered in a thick coating of gearbox oil. The steering was achieved by the tillers, when pulled applying hydraulic pressure to brake pads which pushed onto a large disc each side of the gearbox. This braked the disc forcing the sprocket wheel driving the track on that side to slow down, the other side going faster effectively made the Tank corner. I can’t really explain it any simpler than that. Now, as everything was covered in oil, the pads weren’t able to bring enough pressure to bear on either steering disc, hence Nick’s problem. By now the rest of the Squadron had long overtaken us, so we would have to catch them up! My last advice to Nick as a relatively inexperienced driver was;
“Right mate, seen it before, if you stay in a lower gear and keep your revs up then pump like fcuk on the tiller the pads will apply more pressure, and ‘burn’ themselves into the disc!”
“Righty fcuking ho!” Came Nick's reply.
I wasn’t unduly worried as I clambered back in the turret and plugged myself into the radio system. I lifted a headset on ‘Charlie’s’ head and bellowed the result of our investigation in his ear. ‘Charlie’ nodded and gave me the thumbs up.
“Okay Nick clear to pull out,” I said into my mic’ and promptly nearly fell down into the turret with the force of Nicks lightning acceleration. I listened with horror as the Tank burbled, clanked and roared its way up through the gearbox into sixth(top) gear. Had Nick understood my advice I wondered, or did he have some sort of death wish? No, Nick was just an enthusiastic, mad, speed demon in a Tank who thought he knew better than everyone else. So here we were at four thirty in the morning, hammering down a quiet main road through the German countryside. Little did the poor village before us suspect of the carnage that was about to befall it.
As we entered the outskirts of the village I could see a long sweeping bend to the right, my immediate thought being one of fear. Nick was still in sixth gear bearing down hard on the street before him. I looked across at ‘Charlie’ and noticed in the light from the passing street lamps that his eyebrows were raised way above the rims of his spectacles. By now I was screaming down my mic’;
“Stop Nick, you fcuking Looney!” But to no avail, Nick quite obviously had the bit between his teeth.
We then hit the bend which by now had taken on its true form which was considerably sharper than it had at first seemed.
As we entered the bend a whole myriad of things happened at once.
I could see that we weren’t going to corner, as our gun was looming towards the houses on the opposite side of the street. I looked at ‘Charlie’ to find he had obviously identified the danger because his head and shoulders were frantically bobbing about as he tried, unsuccessfully to un-jam himself from the hatch so he could operate his turret controls.

Mr Happy

bovvyblonde said:
I'm sure there is LOADS of interest in your forthcoming book, but threads in this forum can get overlooked. Have you put links to this thread in more popular forums?

What a bitch, that comment right hurt my feelings that did...
Does anyone need reminding of Soltau?

Soltau itself had been so overworked by British ‘scheming’ that it was hard if not impossible to find a blade of grass in some sections. These areas consisted of the region’s sandy mud with pine trees stuck up like some sort of distraction to the mud. Even under the trees there was no grass, just firm layers of decomposing pine needles and cones. The earth had even taken on a form similar to the ocean. It seriously looked like the sea with a heavy swell. I’ve never worked out how these ripples in the land occurred. I can only assume that the constant heavy traffic and its motion, have exaggerated the lands natural contours into this form. To travel along in a Chieftain over this terrain was tortuous in the extreme. No matter how hard our drivers tried to compensate, by hitting the ripples at angles to allow the tracks and suspension to absorb the effect, we still felt seasick. The constant drone of the engine up and down as we rose and fell would quickly become monotonous. Practising ‘fire and movement’ could be, in some areas, classed as little more than a joke. But in true Tankie style we used to make the best of a bad thing.
The area was also interspersed with plantations and was marked as such on the map. These, as the name implies, were where new fir trees were planted, fenced off with red and white posts and made ‘out of bounds’ to everyone. The plantations also made movement difficult at times. Many was the Squadron or Troop Leader who, while planning some grand assault, had his way barred by a small clump of saplings. The other area of note was the Schwindebeck. This was a large area of marshland with designated transit routes through it. Stray from the route and you could be seriously ‘for it’. Not only was it a form of nature reserve in places (which was guaranteed to make the OC mad should you stray), but also physically your Tank could become ‘bogged’ rapidly. It was also, for some reason quite hard to navigate due to the myriad of tracks, which seemingly bore no relationship to the map. I remember as a commander at night ‘swanning’ through this area only to find my driver throwing us in a ditch. The real problem was that the ditch contained a freshly laid pipe. By the time we’d extricated ourselves, we’d ripped out about 700 metres of the pipe, oops!
Troop Training.....always a laugh.

When I arrived I reported to my crew who were Frank, the Troop Sergeant, ‘Jud’, the driver and ‘Pep’ the gunner. My first task was to prepare a meal so I went to the storage bin where all crews keep their rations known as the ‘compo bin’ as the tinned composite rations were simply known as ‘compo’, it was only logical to name this storage space as the ‘compo bin’. Every individual Tank has a common storage plan so that when, as in my case a fresh crewman joins the crew he can easily identify where everything is stowed. Having opened the bin I was dismayed to find nothing in it except an opened * packet of mashed potato powder. Apparently Frank’s crew weren’t very good at regulating their eating habits. An empty bin and we wouldn’t be replenished (replened) until the next evening. I did however breathe a sigh of relief as quite frankly I didn’t yet know if I could cook for a crew. I returned to where the crew were seated and reported to Frank that we had no rations.
“Fcuking what” he seethed. His beady eyes glared from behind his spectacles, he looked at ‘Jud’, then ‘pep’ and then proceeded to shout at them.
“Begger me, I thought we’d been eating well, what have you two been doing with the bloody rations?” Silence was all he received in return to this question. Luckily next day we managed to beg some extra rations from the SQMS.

I quickly found out about my new crew. Frank it seemed, was a bit inept at most of the tasks that a Tank Commander should find simple. ‘Jud’ was a large chap who while loving driving, found it quite difficult to accept orders from Frank. ‘Pep’ was a quiet lad who befriended me but had an almost schizophrenic tendency to violence when provoked. So this then was my crew and I was their buttie and brew maker, loader and radio operator.

And so it was that 11 Troop with us in Callsign 33A sallied forth into the actual Troop Tests. As we started the tests we found that each test would, this year be marked only by individual crew. The results would be totalled by Troop, but each crew would be tested on its own merits. I vividly remember the tactics stand that year. We were required to advance up a hill and adopt a ‘hull down’ position which meant that the ‘enemy’ on the far side of said hill would only be able to see top of our turret above the crest. The ‘enemy’ in this case was the Regimental 2ic in his Landrover. As we neared the top of the hill Frank announced on the intercom (IC) that control of ‘Jud’ was now in ‘Peps’ hands. The idea of this was that when the gunner, looking through his sight, could observe the target he would tell the driver to halt, the Tank now being in the perfect ‘hull down’ firing position.
As I sat in the gloom of the operator’s position I could clearly hear ‘Pep’ passing instructions to ‘Jud’ over the IC.
“OK Jud just a bit more, slow down or we’ll go too far” the Tank continued its advance not seeming to slow down at all. Suddenly ‘Pep’ started bellowing.
“Jud you fat fcuking t**t, where the fcuk are you going?” There was still no reply from the cab or automotive systems and suddenly I could sense that we had gone over the top of the hill and were if anything, picking up speed. So here we were like the Light Brigade at Balaclava running headlong into the muzzles of the enemy guns.
Frank now stopped studying his map and attempted to take control of the situation.
“ Shite, fcuk, begger” crackled in my headset, followed rapidly by,
“ Jud you fcuking goon, what the fcuk are you doing?” these words were becoming drowned now by the wail of the engine as the vehicles tempo increased. Still nothing from the cab, Frank shouted “traverse left” to ‘Pep’ who duly started to turn the turret to the left. As the turret rotated Frank pointed and waved to me, indicating that I should look down into the back of the cab as it appeared below the turret. We were now quite literally hammering down towards the 2ic who could be seen frantically trying to move his Landrover out of the way.
stameen_s said:
Bloody cliffhanger endings!!!! Why do you tease us?!

Dear friends
I don't want to give it all away - nobody will want to by my book!!!!LMAO.
Okay a full chapter albeit one of the shorter one's. Escape and evasion anyone?

Picking our Winkles.

When serving in BAOR, for us the mere mention of ‘Winklepicker’ could fill our hearts with dread. Earlier I mentioned escape and evasion exercises during my Cadre course. Well, ‘Exercise Winklepicker’ was normally an annual event, if other regimental commitments didn’t prohibit its execution. Our Regiment deemed survival as a high priority for its crews and the great idea of ‘Winklepicker’ was born.

With the early 80’s swing in tactical doctrine towards armour-spearheaded thrusts, this increased the chances of Tank units becoming ‘marooned’ behind enemy lines. I believe it was always calculated that the ‘Eastern bloc’ could rapidly roll through Western Europe, albeit they may not be able to effectively ‘hold’ ground. This would mean encirclement of any pockets of NATO forces while the main thrust continued. It would be fair to surmise that they wouldn’t have it all their own way as, all bridges in their way would be demolished in what would amount to a ‘scorched earth’ policy by us. Therefore the Russians developed a massive amphibious and engineering capability to counteract this threat. Many of their vehicles from utility to armour were fitted with schnorkelling devices. Our own Chieftains were also supposedly ‘amphibious capable’ but I wouldn’t have liked to risk it, at least not by the way that rain poured in through every orifice.

So as the Russians advanced, the likelihood of our becoming detached from friendly forces would increase. Therefore the art of escaping from, and evading the enemy would be very important. Part of a Tank crewman’s life was always ‘Baleout’ drill. This was normally always trained and tested on Troop training. It would involve evacuating the crew in the quickest time possible, including any casualties. The casualty was invariably the gunner, buried in the depths of the turret. As the crew baled out of the Tank, the gunner’s job would be to dismount the commander’s machine gun and the box of ammo to take with us. The operator would in the meantime be, passing out the turret crews SMG’s, magazines of 9mm ammo, the ground conversion MG butt for the commanders MG and maybe spare ammo for that, then wrestling the webbing equipment from the exterior turret basket for the crew, only then jumping from the Tank to escape. The driver meanwhile would grab his gear and gun and exit the cab. The Commander would grab any maps and coding documents, the signal flare pistol and then stand on the turret top. In the time all this had just taken he would now only have time to grab his SMG, beat off the advancing Mongolian tribesmen from the turret top, and protect the operator who, would still be wrestling with the overcrowded turret basket. Or at least this was my vision of baling out; it was a lengthy process if done ‘by the book’. Our experience taught us short cuts; such as the webbing harnesses were stored on the exterior of the turret, hooked onto projecting bin work. Therefore as the crew departed they simply snatched their equipment and jumped. SMG magazines were in fact stored in their pouches clipped to the webbing. Webbing consisted of a belt and body harness, attached to which were your Field dressing, respirator, ammo and back pouches and your waterbottle. This was known as CEFO (Central European fighting Order) and was designed for speed and mobility. In our uniform pockets we would carry our ‘home made’ survival packs contained normally in tobacco tins. In here would be wet and dry matches, fishing hook with line, plasters, pins, a garrotting wire (for snaring animal and human life forms) and anything else that was of use and could fit.

Of course Exercise Winklepicker was ‘by the book’ so, we had all the equipment to carry and to top it off, our backpacks and ‘slugs’. Were we to try removing our sleeping bags from the Tank ‘for real’, it would have been very difficult. We used to stow our ‘slugs’ in the rear bins next to the engine decks. This used to dry them out with the engines heat and keep them warm for the following night. But, fitting them into the bins was hard work; so getting them out was no fast job. The reality of baling out would have probably been our guns, our webbing, little more and us. But ‘for the purposes of this exercise’ it was everything but the kitchen sink. So there we were with more equipment to carry than the comic character ‘Union Jack Jackson’ with the prospect of normally sixty or so miles to walk. We would normally be dropped off from vehicles without knowing where we were, simulating the sudden ‘knocking out’ of our Tanks. We would then make our way through a series of checkpoints (simulating a resistance or special forces network) on our way back to friendly lines. We were only given the map grid reference of the first checkpoint. When we reached the checkpoint we would then be given the ‘grid’ for the next checkpoint and so on. The allotted time limit to complete the exercise varied but was normally three days. The ‘enemy’ was provided by either; non-involved members of our regiment or by other units of Infantry. The Army Air Corps also provided helicopters for spotting our poor escapees. The exercise was usually run by Tank crew but in a couple of cases we acted as entire Troops. In the following sections this will become apparent. The ‘teams’ were also marked on a point’s basis. ‘Enemy’ capture being rewarded by point’s deductions; a memorable occasion was ‘Nosher’ Cadman’s team who were found asleep in a wooden ‘hut’ bus shelter. The ‘enemy’ simply found a note pinned on the front saying;
Fair cop mates!
Please deduct points from below!
Luv Nosher.
Or at least words to that effect. I think he had had enough on that occasion! I remember that exercise well because the weather was dreadful. At that time I was in Command Troop and we were participating as enemy. A mate of mine Kim Telfer and I ‘volunteered’ early that morning to ascend in a Gazelle helicopter of the AAC to act as spotters. As we climbed into the rear seats of this Perspex bubbled contraption the pilot was already firing up the engine. Once it had reached the required engine speed and, Kim and I were shaking in a suitably aviator fashion, the pilot engaged the rotors. As they increased speed the whole aircraft started to vibrate in a quite alarming manner. Outside the woodland surrounding us was difficult to see because of the weather conditions. However we could see the trees bending in the high wind. The rain that was beating down on our Perspex shell was being blown into tiny droplets as it was forced down by the rotors’ down draught. Our headsets which we had been given, were buzzing with life as the two figures in front cackled through the pre flight checks. The pilot then said;
“* weather’s murder, oh well let’s see if we can get her up!”
With that we lurched off the ground suddenly swinging violently to one side. My stomach didn’t know which way to go, one second down the next, off in the opposite direction to our swing.
“Ho ho, there she goes!” came the response from our pilot.
“Fecking hell!” chorused Kim and I.
Then with an increase in noise we rose upwards, and then the nose dipped and away we went out of the hover, gaining forward momentum. I looked at Kim and he was already looking green, I’m sure he saw a reflection in my face.
So we grimaced sickly and experienced the most uncomfortable helicopter ride of our lives. At one point we were skimming along when Kim suddenly announced;
“I could have sworn I saw a team down there”
“Where?” queried the pilot.
“Back there on the right” explained Kim.
I suddenly felt as though my torso had been removed from my limbs as, we executed a gut wrenching turn towards where Kim was pointing. My response to this was grabbing Kim’s arm and shouting above the noise with the mic’ turned off.
“DO NOT EVER FECKING DO THAT AGAIN!” I could instantly see by the look of horror and sickness on his face that Kim wouldn’t!
Later we found ourselves hovering high above a village, trying in vain to spot our prey through the rain. With an air of resignation the pilot said, “not a * chance of seeing anything in this” and the helicopter dipped forward to get moving again. Dipped? I looked over the shoulder of the navigator in front of me, and still remember the vision I saw. Chimney pots! And we were diving straight down them. Suddenly, just as it seemed we’d reached the point of no return, the pilot yanked on his stick and we frisbee’d across the roof tops of the houses below. Just as I was about to say, “screw this for a laugh, can we go back?” The pilot announced that this was now his plan of action. It was with joy and relief that we greeted our return to the ground, thankful that we weren’t being removed in carrier bags from some ones chimney.

On another ‘Winklepicker’ I was part of a 12-troop crew with my friend Sergeant ‘Gorgeous’ George Brighty as commander, me as operator and ‘Zippy’ Wellington (unfortunate, that long scar down the back of his neck!). We were also joined by ‘Babbsy’ Babbs from the SQMS’ stores. This was because we were short one man to make up the crew. ‘Babbsy’ turned up with a massive display of knives strapped to his legs and the little ‘Action’ war comics you could buy. One of the titles was quite apt, ‘Fighting to live’ it read. Well, bugger me, we thought this was a little extreme. We were escaping and evading our ‘enemy’ the Green Jackets, not, fighting the fecking Afrika Korps for Tobruk! Anyway having been lumbered with the GPMG because of, ‘Zippy’s’ scar and ‘Babbsy’ being hardly able to walk due to his iron mongery, George nominated me. By the end of the third day my neck had a ridge across the back, from the guns weight on the sling.

The first night found us somewhat lost due to thick dense fog. Never the less we found some concrete by the light of a dim street lamp, and settled down for some sleep. Next morning we were woken by a short fellow wearing a trilby and farm workers clothes. I had a conversation with him in German and yes, he was a farmer. In fact the farmer who’s barn door we were blocking. He had however, parked a tractor in front of us making us nigh on invisible to
passers-by. His wife appeared and brought us a platter full of cold meats, bread rolls and butter. She also carried a large flask of steaming, sweet coffee. We proceeded to gorge ourselves, thankfully, on this feast. Meanwhile George was trying to find out on his map where we were. The farmer suddenly grabbed the map in his enthusiasm to be of assistance. He started stabbing his grubby fore digit at the map and then at the ground. I translated that to mean that this point was where we were. Later he even loaded us into his tractor, trailer ‘combo’ and took us to the top of a hill. Having said our farewells, we trudged off, only shortly afterwards to be spotted by an ‘enemy’ detachment.
“balls, lets get out of here, fecking move it!” Shouted George as he heard the grunts running towards us. We ran like the wind, all except ‘Babbsy’ when one of his knives worked loose and promptly impaled his fore leg. We were now vaulting low, wire fences like Springboks in our desperation to get away. The grunts were gaining as they carried only guns. We on the other hand, must have looked like lumbering great lumps of camouflaged rags and equipment as we evaded capture. Luckily we made it to a nearby tree line and slipped away into its depths. The grunts for some reason didn’t follow.
Later that day the rain absolutely thrashed down on us, the only wet gear we had was the issued poncho. I must have resembled the sail on a clipper, with my poncho stuck out each side due to the length of the GPMG. But undeterred I bashed on until, having tried to negotiate an extremely high anti-deer fence, I managed to catch my foot in the top wire and found myself hanging upside down with the GPMG and sling like a noose around my neck. The other lads managed to free me and, after some deep breathing exercises, I found myself underway again. Georges only comment was “fecking hell Arthur, all the noise you were making, wonder we weren’t caught!” yeah, thanks a lot George.
That night we were walking down a woodland track when suddenly, from the darkness a voice said, “Wer da?” We all stopped short. George switched on his torch, and swung it into my face, effectively blinding me with its light. “Are you taking the p*ss with your German?” he enquired. “Am I feck as like!” I replied. George swung back round shining his torch to see if he could identify where the noise may have emanated from. As he did so he nearly smashed it into the face of a German paratrooper sentry. I quickly explained who we were and what we were doing, and we were allowed to pass. We had walked straight into the middle of a German exercise. We then spent the rest of our journey leaping off the road for cover. This was because the Germans were using little Quad bikes, which sounded like Landrover engines. One over enthusiastic leap took me some fifteen feet, headfirst down a bank, as I was towed by the weight of the GPMG.

My last recollection of ‘Winklepicker’ was when I was nominated as 9 troops Sergeant. On this occasion we were dropped as a troop from a Chinook helicopter, at night, from ten feet up as the crew had misjudged their height in the dark. Having picked ourselves up, we headed for a light we could see through some trees. The troop leader, an officer, led us into a woodland restaurant and, covered in mud we lay his map out in the reception area. Having identified where we were, he promptly rang a cab company to pick us up. Long story cut short, we found ourselves in a nightclub. Disaster, as the German speaker people bought me way too many beers. Result, next morning I found myself lying under a propane tank nearby. The troop had laid me there that night. Troop? Where the feck was the troop? Nowhere in fecking sight was where the troop was. Having waited for an hour, and deciding I had been deserted, I removed the ‘just in case’ map from my pocket and set off. The next two days were a nightmare. I walked some 100 kms back to the base camp which was the final destination, there being no checkpoints on this occasion. But, I decided to play it by the book and avoid capture. (I did manage to hitch a lift with a passing 13/18th replen packet, for about 800 yards, travelling in the front of a pod MK which, ran into the back of the SQMS' landrover no less than 4 times in that short distance. This was mainly to do with the fact that the RCT driver was bladdered on scotch!)It must have been a strange sight, a lone soldier dashing about the German countryside, diving for cover at the faintest sound of a ‘chopper’ or Landrover. When I came to cross the river Weser I opted to avoid bridges. Instead I made my way to a ferry shown on the map, once aboard, I stood in the middle of an empty deck, legs splayed and hands on hips. I reminded myself of a picture of a General as he crossed the Rhine in WW2. I eventually made it to my destination, there sat the troop asking where I’d been? Where I’d been? What about where they’d fecking been? But that’s another story. So endeth the ‘Winklepicker’ lesson.
Frightened of flying? Na, no need for that at all.............................

The flights could be quite eventful, flying out to Canada; I mentioned the refuelling at Iceland. When approaching the island, we always seemed to approach from the wrong direction this then involved a fairly low level fly past out to sea followed by a gut wrenching 180 degree turn to come back in to land. On one occasion we arrived at Iceland in a gale force storm. Undeterred the pilot swept out to sea and performed his usual ‘stand the ‘kite’ on its wingtips’ manoeuvre, leaving our stomachs miles behind us in the slipstream. We all swore later that the breakers from the stormy waves below were touching the wing tip. As he quickly descended on our approach, the chaps on one side realised that the crosswind was so severe that they could clearly see the fast ascending runway in front of their eyes. An instant before touchdown the pilot straightened the aircraft and with a bang followed by bouncing thuds, we arrived at our destination. Without exception, we all rushed from the plane to the bar and rapidly had a drink. As we watched the standing area through muggy, damp lounge windows we saw the aircrew come towards us. I assumed the one with
the handlebar moustache and glint in his eye was the pilot. ‘Fcuk me, he looks like he’s come straight from the ‘Dambusters’ raid!” I exclaimed. This only resulted in more frantic drinking from all present. As we waited to be called back on board our ‘flight to hell’ we all thought that we might be grounded. The weather had deteriorated to a truly alarming level. But no, we were called out to the plane only minutes later. We all sat down and pulled our seatbelts as tight as was humanly possible, “after all”, thought I, “the RAF have never lost a VC10 yet!” As if reading my thoughts, Lucy, sitting next to me said, “Ha fcuking Ha there’s always a first time for everything!” Oh how very fcuking comforting. Anyway we got under way and before long, were soaring above the weather front that had so very nearly brought me to tears.

On another occasion we were on a flight home, we had all fallen asleep as we’d left at night, and after about two hours of the flight had passed, we were awoken by a bell ringing. We all assumed that, for some obscure reason, someone had packed an alarm clock in his hand baggage. Much shouting ensued with people verbally assaulting the culprit with;
“Shut that fcuking alarm clock off!”
A steward went forward and the bell was silenced. We relaxed again and fell back into our slumber. Around an hour later we were roused once more, this time by the captain announcing that;
“ We’ll be landing at Calgary international airport in approximately one hour”.
“Fcuking ‘ey? We left there three hours ago!” exclaimed I to my neighbour.
Our questions of; “what the fcuk is going on?” Were dealt with quickly by the stewards, who answered simply that we had ‘ a slight technical problem’. Later after landing we found that the ‘slight technical problem’ had in fact been an engine with sixteen feet of flame shooting out the back. Due to safety regulations, we were not allowed to fly over the sea with less than full engine power! Oh, how comforting. We had now assumed we would simply arrive, be put in a terminal and await the next flight out. But no, we were put on buses and driven back to BATUS, once there we were told to rest until the next flight. This we did... for about twenty-five minutes, then with an announcement that the next flight was awaiting us, we got back on the buses and away we went to the airport. Upon arrival at the airport, we waited on the bus until called to the plane. We sat and watched the ministering of the engineers as they prepared the ‘Vicky 10’ for its return journey.
“What the hell are they doing?” Someone said. The attention of everyone was now drawn to a team of blue overall clad workers on top of a wing. They were stamping on something with their feet.
“Oh my fcuking god, they’re sticking something down!” Someone said. And so they were, they were in fact using thick adhesive tape and sticking it over the air brake flaps on top of the wing surface. An RAF ‘Bod’ came to the bus and informed us;
“We’ve had a fault with the airbrakes on the port wing and we’re unable to fix it here. So we’ve disconnected both wings and are sticking the flaps down to secure them, no need to panic guys, we’ll be perfectly safe”. With that he quickly departed to rejoin his colleagues ‘Morris dancing’ on the wing. I wasn’t sure that I liked his suggestion that ‘we’ would all be safe as, he quite clearly was ground crew so wouldn’t in fact be on the plane. As we climbed the steps to the planes door, we looked at the wing with a Tankies eye, as if we could assure ourselves that the ‘bodge’ had been carried out to the best of ‘our’ ability not the RAF’s. The wing simply looked as if it had been ‘band aided’ all across the wings surface. In due course we took off and by the time we reached our cruising altitude of thirty two thousand feet, the tape was quite happily flapping in the wind with the brake flaps threatening to break free. To say the flight wasn’t comfortable would be an understatement. But, after another quick first aid repair at Iceland we duly arrived safely in Europe.

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