Dropping short

Platoon Commanders' Battle Course, 2001. Having spent the day on Salisbury Plain practicing calling in Fire Missions onto the tank hulks, we settle down for the "Grand Finale". An Artillery Major breathlessly explains that he will now demonstrate the awesome firepower that an infantry platoon will be able to call down prior to assaulting a position. This will be the full monty he squeaks, HE, smoke the full works.

This being rather good stuff,and enjoying not being cold and wet for a change he does actually have the attention of the whole course. The layout of the land is explained, and we are told to imagine our platoon in the FUP in a small reentrant ready to assault the nearby hill. The bombardment begins and it is very impressive, right up until a neat line of bursts rolls right up the reentrant to gasps of horror from the course. Said Major then bleats that, of course, its an area weapon etc, completely in denial that he has just killed a friendly platoon.

Couple of years later, leading my platoon accross some ground in Canada having just become the assaulting platoon in a Coy Live Fire attack, hear the words STOP STOP STOP! We all take cover as smoke rounds come raining down amongst us, fortunately only 51mm and therefore not white phos.

More recently safety supervising a pl attack in pouring rain closer to home, the ground starts fizzing 2 feet infront of one of the soldiers infront of me, thinking he has fired tracer into the ground I tell him to watch his muzzle clearance. Suddenly smoke from a 51mm bomb comes billowing out of the ground. Another drop short only 2 m infront of me and probably my "closest call" in the army.

Any other close calls?
Not our gunner friends this time but crab armourers!

Late 70s up on Strensall IIRC. Recruit training and only my 2nd or 3rd time on a range.

Walking from the troop shelter to the firing point with a bunch of guys when all of a sudden the grass around us starts jumping about.

Didn't really notice it until one of the guys points it out. Hmm interesting, wonder what is causing that I thought.

Someone then said that he thought it looked like rounds landing, but it had stopped by then so we all just kept on walking and taking the p.ss as one does. Then the grass starts jumping about again. We are all more interested this time (due to the guy with his bullets theory) and one of the guys runs off the path to where he has seen the grass move. Gets to the area, bends down for a look in the grass, then comes sprinting back to us yelling like something out of a very bad spam film. "Incoming incoming". The rest of us promptly bombburst for the troop shelter and the firing trenches.

Some time later after the grownups have finished on the range phone/visits to the wardens office and everthing has calmed down the story came out. Apparently the RAF Armourers were test firing some sort of highspeed aircraft gun or other 2 or 3 ranges over and had decided to use a amoured hull target to aim at. The 'kin rounds were bouncing off the hulk and going all over the place. Don't think anyone got hurt but as a recruit I thought it was a good intro into live firing practices :)
A range somewhere in Germany in the early 90's................my Brave Boys on the mortar line suddenly got v excited and animated as '.......'ere! wot's all this stuff flying about the mortar line?...............' type of talk began.

ACPO despatched to find out WTF is a-going down..................ACPO returns at some speed with news that assorted lumps of Germany are disturbing the sleeping drills of No 3 and 4 mortar crews (we were conducting a training shoot for some potential new MFCs and rate of fire was about 2 rnds per hour as the newbies figured out whether Denmark was North of us or South).

......and the Gentlemen from the Royal Regt were also on the range, playing with AS90...................and, alledgedly, GPS was 'playing up a bit'!

Without a seconds hesitation (except to quickly check the terms of his endowment policy) GOM decides it is now a good idea to practice that old mortaring favourite 'Reaction To Effective Counter Battery Fire'.

For those not of an 81mm persuasion, this involves 1 of 2 standard drills:

1. You lay down VERY quickly.

2. You panic like a tw@t and flee the scene of the crime.

Later, the RA were MOST apologetic.............but why do FOOs always grin when they tell you 'sorry'....................?
On Granby as we moved through the breech into Iraq we (a Sig Sqn) were driving along in convoy. We had a MRLS unit to our left flank and another to our right flank. Every now and again they'd stop and perform some coordinated firing of their weapons - very impressive.

One time they fired off an almighty salvo of the stuff all going that way -> except one which kind of peeled off and started to head in our direction. Emergency halts, hatches down etc as it exploded about 150 metres in front of us in a big billowing mushroom of flame (just like the James Bond moves).

Lots of scaleys laughing nervously!! Certainly the most spectacular near(ish) miss I encountered.
Whiffler on Otterburn, to act as DS 'target-switcher' for (badged & regular) SAS training Captain on CQB range.

Before anyone else turns up the man is chatting away whilst refamiliarising himself with SMG drills. Thought he was a bit casual but he was safe enough until he asked me 'Whiffler, what are the IAs for ..." turning as he did so, and ripping a line in the dirt with a burst of 5 or 6. "Sorry Whiffler". "no problem Sir**" - my nearest death experience, but even the SAS couldn't get me.

Experienced readers will be aware of how many inflections can be put on 'Sir', this had a hint of whimsy but not enough to be mocking ... the man was still armed, afer all.
Macedonia, May 99, ranges outside Skpoje Airport for live firing prep before move across border.

2 Platoons traveling in convoy across range to rear of area. 200m front, slight left, large sign suddenly disappears in cloud of smoke and ground that was prviously at base of post is now traveling skywards at a rate of knots. After a de-bus to see WTF just happened, sign 200m off from first sign goes up followed by deep boom from distance.

Shout goes up "Kraut Leopard at 900m 5 O'clock" After checking my watch to see its not 1942, we quickly remove ourselves from the area to safety. turns out, Platoon Comander had not seen red lines on map, not asked what they're for and thought F@@K it! Taking us across live tank range, Knob! He later recieved a little debrief, finding himself on Norgy duty!!
Colchester ranges regt skill at arms meeting stood between two legeneds in my unit chap on my left ex Rhodesian Light Infantry chating away to me as we wait for the range staff do something with the targets like get them to work i think we are already bombed up i am stood to the rear of the fire trench guy i am talking to is in front of his now at this point we dont have our weapons loaded so its a bit of a suprise when there is a burst of automatic fire from my right and the gravel explodeds in front of RLI chap 8O i dive in to the trench head first RLI bloke just glares at the other bloke who was to say the least not the cleverest bloke in nato never did find out what he was doing with his weapon loaded made ready and on automatic and i needed to change my undercrackers
Unfortunatly this is from the days of being a cadet, many moons ago. When we still had the bren!

Cadet in trench on the range, loaded for bear, had already burnt a couple of mags off on burst, I'm behind observing the drills. Said cadet starts on 3rd mag, when he is letting off a long burst, i lok down to realise that he is no longer holding the gun and it is infact bouncing around. The sear had stuck/broken and aparrently the bren has a tendancy to jump foward and as it started to tun and everybody is flapping and imagining mass slaughter i thank god that it only has a mag of thirty rounds and not a belt. It was one of those moments where everything slows right down and you can see things really clearly - In reality the gun only jumped forward a bit and swung about 45 degrees, but i remember being very young, about 15 and also very, very scared!

Doing a Recce at Otterburn in 97. We arrived at the bottom of a CQB range (runs up a nice littel re-entrant, wooded and very nice really if you know it) to find Northumbrian Police special yellow glasses and tight black overalls team prepping to go up the range.

Luckily the Bratty / Butty wagon is parked at the bottom of the range so we all bought our Teas, pulled up our sandbags and generally started to take the piss. They were different days back then so even though we had one chap with us who in fairness did look a bit foreign I thought that in all probability they wouldn't off him.

So up comes number one onto the point with a very business like looking HK and a 9mm on his hip (complete with twisty cord thing - very special). Behind him are the range warden with the target putter-upper machine and the instructor with clipboard.

We watch with studied disdain as he goes up five metres and UP goes the Target, CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! goes the plod, down goes the Target and AROUND SWINGS THE BARRELL as plod turns round 180 degrees fast as if to find cover - eyes wide with killing frenzy......

Plod now has the Range warden, instructor, car park and us all in his 90s. Our immediate action is to create a smoke screen that composed of spat tea and bacon sandwiches in fine mist and drop fast.

The coolest man on the range was Billy the butty man who must have seen it all before.
La Courtaine, France, 1997. Platoon training on a frog training area. I was in my FFR running the safety net when we saw some frog 120mm mortars setting up. Our LO/Interpretor went over for a chat and quickly returned. The mortars were to to land amongst our lads. The frogs refused to believe that the training area was double booked and carried on prepping and undoing shed loads of HE ready for firing.

As luck would have it comms broke down, so we sped off to get closer to our platoon all the time trying to re-establish comms. We got through about ten minutes after driving off, and waited for a reply. We heard the reports of the mortars being fired and helf our breath.

A few minutes later an out of breath PC came up on the air to tell us that they were in sight of the safety barrier when the first bombs started to rip the countryside apart. The French conscripts on the gate were amazed that someone was on the training area and stood stock still as the platoon sprinted by and collapsed in a heap on the safe side.
GrumpyOldMan said:
......but why do FOOs always grin when they tell you 'sorry'....................?
Because unlike the No1, the FOO tends to keep his job if it goes wrong...

Anyway artillery is an area weapon and better a few casualties from your own guns than many from the enemy.....

Seriously there can be ammunition or drill faults. For e.g. unless the M109 was correctly rammed (and the test was a primative wooden depth guage) it could occasionally fire short. This explanation for a BATUS short round was the source of a long and acrimonious debate between the Senior IG at BATUS who wanted to change what he thought was an unsafe drill and an unpleasent CRA who wanted to hang the No1.

There are occasional dodgy moments. I recall spotting the fall of shot for HMS Liverpool in the Falklands. I could see the ship and the map reading was dead easy and lots of open space to see the fall of shot. First round - heard the gun fire and a muffled explosion. Nothing. Hmm maybe it was over the big ridge. Drop 800 and another series of BIG corrections 1600 L & R. Zilch. Then a message from the ship. OOOPPPPPS 20 degree error in the alignment of the ships systems. Fiungers pointing at the Navigating officer. Fortunaterly for their nautical embarrassment this wasn't an official NGFS shoot and didn't spoil their gunnery stats.
On exercise in the Ukraine a few years ago.
Company live firing attack with all assets supporting; GPMG blatting off bergans full of ammo, Mortars lobbing bombs down the range, Milan...

Well, Milan managing to loose off a missile that hit the exact spot where my section was getting a breather in a lull in the battle about 2 mins before! Had the DS not kicked our asses back into the fight, we'd probably still have been there...

Apparently the missile malfunctioned... I'm no Milan guru, but I've heard someone mention a lack of pre-arming/aiming?
Battlesbury Bowl 19??. An overexcited Cpl manged to spray the tank park at the top of the hill with GPMG fire. Luckily it was a weekend and nobody was working there apart from us poor souls preparing for the Firepower demo.

On the subject of which, how cross did those Gunners get when their target plane was not only shot down, but continued to get sustained fire even when it was on the ground!
Never got near Artillery, but first time ever firing an SLR, 30m range at Arborfield. Mag of 20, prone, squeeze trigger & release. Weapon firing, weapon firing, weapon firing.......

By about round 10 they were over the top of the wall, by the end of the mag god knows where they were landing, but it was somewhere "up & right" :roll: . Duty screw comes up behind me, passes me ANOTHER full mag and tells me to stop fcuking about. I get as far as "But Corp'r...." before his boot connects with my side, so shut up, load and repeat. At least this time I guess what's gonna happen and manage to keep the rounds somewhere on the range. Full screw then loads up a mag of 5, takes my gat & tries for himself 8O

Spent the rest of basics drawing random butt no's cos they never did get that one fixed. Have always wanted to know what the fcuk would turn a self LOADING rifle into a self FIRING rifle - ie: full auto, even when you let go of the trigger - but never did get an explanation :(

Edited for hung-over grammar :oops:
Not quite as intreasting but.......

Whilst running section in defence night shoot at warcop with recruits, i had a Platoon Sgt, who decided to bed in a 51mm with a smoke bomb in the tube.............the rest you can imagine....


Wainwright in 86 and the 105 battery proceeds to drop smoke in C Coy FUP, fortunately the 2 rounds that came close were spaced correctly to fall either side of the riflemen. I did see a lot of shot up bergans during COP contact drills till the little lads got the hang of the LMG off the hip. When we repeated the drills for the CO and RSM at Hythe I never knew they could run like that, Im sure OC COP didnt warn them!
Saw plenty of funnies and heard of a few more, Killer copping a sp[ent 7.62 to the back of the bonce on Onion mtn, Goo Goo overcompensating with a milan as it did the saturn V impersonation, error chasing eh! The two new lads stitched up to fire the 84mm dropping sgort with the first round and 2 & 3 getting nowhere near!
Trumpet Dance '88 Yakima Firing Area (As the Spams like to call it)
milan night shoot, Spams lent us a moving target. A fancy train thing with big fcuk off thermal target attached, unlike the good old MTT. Comms went baps up, let’s use a system of torch lights to indicate when it’s safe to engage the target. Also chuck into the mix the conducting officer wasn't Milan trained, just a company commander! I fired and hit the target, change over My No2 Fired and hit the target, he Just missed 3 bods who'd run up to the train thingy to put into reverse. Could have been one big fecking mess if had have been HEAT Rds, Lucky it was the last of the chalk PRAC Rds

wg100 said:
Apparently the missile malfunctioned... I'm no Milan guru, but I've heard someone mention a lack of pre-arming/aiming?
Pre-Aim then re-aim, if the Missile rouged, the Safety staff should have "Cut" the Connection in-between the Missile and the Firing post
A boss I had was wartime SAS and had done lots of the in and out quick raids into Norway. Big bloke. Dark complexion. Wouldn't know a joke if it came up and bit him. Did sometimes mention going on in Norway and afterwards ahead of main body in Germany. BUT - he was totally non-officer in almost every way. Didn't like other officers and didn't mix with them. Put it to him one day and asked why. He said he never really wanted to be one. Had been on Guards cadre course about 1936 on exercise in Egypt. Crossing a large open area when umpire told their group that they were under fire from machine gun to their front. Their group was under commsand of an Ensign - some sort of half-way officer. This guy looked around, sucked his pencil and shouted "Charge". My boss said that if his life was to depend on an idiot like that, he wanted to be out of the way as an officer.
Range safety in BATUS on Safety 25, my task was to stay with the Squadron Leader, on this day I had put him at red check fire (barrel in air but still loaded) and moved forward to check his next area, suddenly lound bang and blast as a DS/T round wings by, turn round to see said Squadron Leaders gun barrel with cloud of smoke at the end of it, politley asked him why he had fired without having red chack fire cancelled, it turns out that the safety staff Capt in RTR had cleared him down as it was not good for officers to be at red check fire while the troop were shooting at all and sundry. We spoke later that night and I thought I was very restrained!!!
Little Jack H said:
Spent the rest of basics drawing random butt no's cos they never did get that one fixed. Have always wanted to know what the fcuk would turn a self LOADING rifle into a self FIRING rifle - ie: full auto, even when you let go of the trigger - but never did get an explanation :(
Obviously one of those that went missing after Bloody Sunday! They were like that.

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