How not to blow something up - Evelyn Waugh, 1942

#1
I just came across this for the first time in a while, and it had me almost wetting myself laughing (again). I had to share it!

Evelyn Waugh writes to his wife Laura, 31 May 1942;

No. 3 Commando was very anxious to be chums with Lord Glasgow, so they offered to blow up an old tree stump for him and he was very grateful and he said don't spoil the plantation of young trees near it because that is the apple of my eye and they said no of course not we can blow a tree down so it falls on a sixpence and Lord Glasgow said goodness how clever and he asked them all for luncheon for the great explosion. So Col. Durnford-Slater DSO said to his subaltern, have you put enough explosive in the tree. Yes sir, 75lb. Is that enough? Yes sir I worked it out by mathematics it is exactly right. Well better put a bit more. Very good sir.

And when Col. D Slater DSO had had his port he sent for the subaltern and said subaltern better put a bit more explosive in that tree. I don't want to disappoint Lord Glasgow. Very good sir.

Then they all went out to see the explosion and Col. DS DSO said you will see that tree fall flat at just that angle where it will hurt no young trees and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever.

So soon they lit the fuse and waited for the explosion and presently the tree, instead of falling quietly sideways, rose 50 feet into the air taking with it 1/2 acre of soil and the whole of the young plantation.

And the subaltern said Sir, I made a mistake, it should have been 7 1/2 lb, not 75. Lord Glasgow was so upset he walked in dead silence back to his castle and when they came to the turn of the drive in sight of his castle what shoud they find but that every pane of glass in the building was broken.

So Lord Glasgow gave a little cry and ran to hide his emotion in the lavatory and there when he pulled the plug the entire ceiling, loosened by the explosion, fell on his head.

This is a true story.

The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes
 
#2
And appears in his collected letters also. It is one of the funniest anecdotes I have ever come across, and also good material for lectures when dealing with the need for accuracy.






(edited once for mong spelling)
 
#3
schweik said:
And appears in his collected letters also. It is one of the funniest anecdotes I have ever come across, and also good material for lectures when deaking with the need for accuracy.
I can't read it without uncontrolled laughter - I had to stop typing twice! :lol:

Although I remember as a young nurse nearly doing something similar - giving a patient 100mg, not 100mcg of some drug or other (your life in their hands!) Luckly one of the old and the bold stopped me when I was seen taking a second box of ampoules out of the cupboard, when all I should have needed was 1/2 an ampoule!
 
#4
sounds like a good unit to be in.

the trouble is that the commandos used to be a fantastic unit.

indeed, the first paras were all commandos

now luck at the *******, ******* useless **** twats who surrender to ******* iranians

well **** me pink
 
#5
hemingway said:
sounds like a good unit to be in.

the trouble is that the commandos used to be a fantastic unit.

indeed, the first paras were all commandos

now luck at the *******, * useless * **** who surrender to * iranians

well * me pink
Were they? I know a chap who was ex RE who would disagree with you...
 
#7
its worth having on a bookshelf. Not all funny, but very good "dipping into" reading. (One to keep near the lavatory!)
 
#9
” Were they? I know a chap who was ex RE who would disagree with you... “

Now there’s a thing, so do I. Actually the one I’m thinking of has been floating around the web for years, tacking gently onto a forum, then chunking out his service story by instalments. Actually, if you miss any you can go to any number of sites and catch-up there.

It’s an interesting perspective, which one of course accepts as true, like……being the first overland to Pegasus Bridge??? Strange because No.6, as stated in relevant War Diaries, were sniped, machine gunned and generally engaged from Sword to the Orne. Just think, all they need do was go as Sappers and they could have waltzed it. No doubt they could also have leaned against the bridge for a smoke when they got there, like a Sapper, impervious to the sniping on the structure which caused casualties among Ox's and Cdos?

The Cdos in Italy could have done with these ‘specials’, like in place of the ones who took so long to lift mines on a mud causeway the Cdos decided to press on through regardless. Then, old sweats often come out with things. Like the time I was listening to a couple of 2 Bde'rs who were answering questions for some youngsters on Greece – very enthusiastically I would add as that area is not among the popular thumbnails. All of a sudden a man walked up and took over the dialogue? They let him finish, then one of the Cdos continued exactly thus:

“You were in Greece then?”
______ “Greece, yes I was in Greece”

“Who were you with?”
_______ “The SAS”

“S..A…………….oh yeah, I remember them………………. You weren’t all that!”
8O :wink:

No.9
 
#10
Sorry No. 9. Chap I was thinking about was a neigbour where I used to live. Don't know if he was ever on the net. He was ex RE turned Para Regiment not Para RE. Mind you, the hole in his leg that was a souvineer of Market Garden was impressive!

I'm afraid I don't really follow your post, otherwise.
 
#11
No.9 said:
” Were they? I know a chap who was ex RE who would disagree with you... “

Now there’s a thing, so do I. Actually the one I’m thinking of has been floating around the web for years, tacking gently onto a forum, then chunking out his service story by instalments. Actually, if you miss any you can go to any number of sites and catch-up there.

It’s an interesting perspective, which one of course accepts as true, like……being the first overland to Pegasus Bridge??? Strange because No.6, as stated in relevant War Diaries, were sniped, machine gunned and generally engaged from Sword to the Orne. Just think, all they need do was go as Sappers and they could have waltzed it. No doubt they could also have leaned against the bridge for a smoke when they got there, like a Sapper, impervious to the sniping on the structure which caused casualties among Ox's and Cdos?

The Cdos in Italy could have done with these ‘specials’, like in place of the ones who took so long to lift mines on a mud causeway the Cdos decided to press on through regardless. Then, old sweats often come out with things. Like the time I was listening to a couple of 2 Bde'rs who were answering questions for some youngsters on Greece – very enthusiastically I would add as that area is not among the popular thumbnails. All of a sudden a man walked up and took over the dialogue? They let him finish, then one of the Cdos continued exactly thus:

“You were in Greece then?”
______ “Greece, yes I was in Greece”

“Who were you with?”
_______ “The SAS”

“S..A…………….oh yeah, I remember them………………. You weren’t all that!”
8O :wink:

No.9
I don't get your post either No 9? were there not sappers in every glider?!

Linky

P.S. I do believe Capt Cheeky here on ARRSE will have something to say about the 30 Sappers involvement in the Battle for Pegasus Bridge...
 
#12
Did a similar thing on a course a few years ago. Making the improvised claymore, ammo tin, bag of nails etc. Instructor says, "Use half a stick of PE4". B0llocks, thinks I, two sticks'll do it.

Dutifully place ammo tin on bank, arrange Figure 11s around in enemy poses, retire to firing point and press button. On return, bank is now GBFO hole 12 feet across, Figure 11s still artfully arranged, completely undamaged and with slight grins, I'm sure.

Young Angular firmly reminded of his place in the Universe by aforementioned Instructor. :oops:
 
#14
Gundulph said:
12' or 1.2' Angular?! 8)
Well, from where I'm sitting now, 12 foot of course. :D

It was certainly far too big, compared to the total lack of damage to the targets.

Edited to add: Maybe that's why they made me an officer...put me somewhere where I couldn't cause any significant damage :wink:
 
#15
angular said:
Gundulph said:
12' or 1.2' Angular?! 8)
Well, from where I'm sitting now, 12 foot of course. :D

It was certainly far too big, compared to the total lack of damage to the targets.

Edited to add: Maybe that's why they made me an officer...put me somewhere where I couldn't cause any significant damage :wink:

:D Understood Angular... It's a bit like asking an 'Angler' about the size of fish caught - the story just wouldn't have the same effect if said 'Angler' came out with Oh! all of approx: 0.46kg in weight :wink:
 
#16
Waugh series of book "men at arms" is in the same vein and hilarious most of the time.

Col Durnford-Slater DSO (and Bar may I add) tells of the same anecdot in his book "Commando"
 
#17
Seems a series of misinterpretation flamingo. You commented on hemingway’s observation that ”the first paras were all commandos” which, if taken in the context I imagined, is perfectly true. The first British paras were No.2 Cdo, that being their special role among the new Cdo formation in June 1940. However, as this limited their establishment to @ 500 – being the initial establishment for all the first Cdo units – when it was finally rubber stamped that Paras should number 5’000 or more, this number did not sit in the Cdo mix which itself initially was to be 5’000 – 10 Battalions of 500 men each. The Para Cdos were hived off and established in their own right and evolved into the Para Reg, and No.2 Cdo was restored in the main and in which, like the other Battalions, they did rather well, e.g. St.Nazaire, Salerno, Vis, Comacchio.

Re you taking about your neighbour, that’s a bit too …err…esoteric for me to latch onto? I took it as a reference to a poster on this site who is somewhat prone to slighting Cdos. If your reference doesn’t apply, neither does mine.

Gundulph – ”I don't get your post either No 9? were there not sappers in every glider?!”

In context of the above, the person I had in mind claims some Sappers were the first to drive from Sword to the Orne, and one leant against the bridge having a fag while watching the Cdos arrive – OVERLAND. I have discussed this with him at length on another site and saw no point in repeating that here. Previous however, we did establish that he personally was not among that party and this was something he was told by comrades. It’s hearsay. This is nothing to do with Sappers being on the gliders, or Medics, Sigs, Chaplains etc whether they were Ox’s establishment or attached.

No.9
 
#19
The Commandos, apparently, did not particularly care for Waugh, especially Lord Lovat.

The Sword of Honour trilogy is good reading though.
 
#20
No.9 said:
Re you taking about your neighbour, that’s a bit too …err…esoteric for me to latch onto? I took it as a reference to a poster on this site who is somewhat prone to slighting Cdos. If your reference doesn’t apply, neither does mine.
No.9
Sorry, I had a neigbour a few years ago who claimed to have transferred from RE into the Parachute Regiment, and was one of the first to do so (regimental number 3, etc. - just joking, before someone latches onto that). He had been there, maybe he just was swinging a lamp a bit.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the anecodote! :D
 

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