Ricky Green Beret - an extract

An Extract http://sites.google.com/site/ourladricky/

At about half past midnight, 0030 hrs, I was awoken by the Duty NCO slamming open the bedroom door, switching on all the lights before dragging the bedclothes from us.“Quick Train, Quick Train!” he screamed at us, before rushing out, down to the next room and doing the same. One minute everyone was snoring their heads off, the next there was panic! Everyone leapt from their beds and began to hurriedly get dressed into their Combat Suits, grabbing their webbing and large packs and rushing out the door. I did the same, but hadn’t got a clue about where to go or what to do. As we rushed down the stairs there was a Sgt waiting at the bottom directing us. “You, you and you” he instructed “G1098”. I followed my colleagues down to the cellar where we were ordered to empty the store onto a large three-ton truck that had reversed up to an open window. I had been working helping load the G1098 stores for about quarter of an hour or so when the SSM came along shouting for me by name.

“Houghton, for Christ’s sake, what you doing here?”

“Loading the G1098, Sir” I replied.
“You, or have you forgotten already, are the CO’s bloody Batman, you should report to him!” he shouted at me. “And make it quick!”
I grabbed all my kit and rushed off to the RHQ building and to the CO’s Office. He was sitting at his desk calmly sipping a mug of coffee.

“Good morning, Houghton”, he said.

“Good morning, Sir”, I panted.

“Are you fit and raring to go?” he asked.

“Yes, Sir” I confirmed.

“Where is your weapon?” he enquired.

“My weapon, Sir?” I asked.

“You do have a rifle, I assume?”

“Er . . not yet, Sir” I replied feeling sheepish.

“Well, you go draw out your rifle and come back eh, there’s a good chap!” he instructed. I rushed back to 16 Sqn Block, coming face to face with the SSM outside the armoury.

“I thought I told you to report to the CO?” he bellowed.

“I did, Sir, came back for a gun!” I replied. There was a bit of a queue of people waiting to draw out their rifles.

“What is your Butt number? The armourer wanted to know.

“I haven’t been given a Butt number yet”, I cried miserably.

“Give him anything for now”, the SSM shouted to the armourer, “We haven’t got all day!” Two minutes later, an SMG over my shoulder, I rushed back to the CO. When I got to his office, sweating profusely and gasping for breath, he was sitting reading yesterdays newspaper.

“Are you ready now?” he asked me.

“Yes, Sir” I replied.


“Yes, Sir” I said. The CO dropped the paper in the waste paper basket, picked up his gear and walked out. I followed him. My kit weighed a ton and my SMG kept sliding from my shoulder. He slowed his pace a little to allow me to catch up.

Out on the Parade Ground Landrovers, Scout Cars, Armoured Personnel Carriers, Three and Ten Ton Trucks were being juggled into position, forming up in packets. I had never seen such well organised chaos! We came to a landrover which was towing a small box caravan behind it.

“This is ours, Houghton”, the CO informed me, stow your gear away and we will be off”. I walked to the back of the landrover and threw my large pack and gear into it. For some unexplainable reason I thought I would ride in the front and proceeded around to the passenger side of the vehicle.

“No, Houghton” the CO told me, “You ride in the back, I ride in the front!”

“Yes, Sir”, I replied feeling a bit silly and climbed up into the back of the landrover. Already in the back was a young LCpl manning an A45 radio which was crackling away in the background. With the Drivers Kit, the Radio Operators Kit, my kit, and the CO’s kit all crammed into the back there was very little room. I found myself sitting on top of this pile of kit, my head sideways rammed against the canvas roof of the landrover. We sat about on the Parade Ground for about half an hour, not knowing if we were to be deployed on exercise or stood down.

“It’s a go, Sir” the radio operator shouted to the CO who was still outside watching the progress of his Regiment getting ready to crash out!

“RSM!” bellowed the CO.

“Sir!” came the response from the darkness.

“Ready to move in fifteen minutes!” the CO shouted.

“Right you are, Sir” came back the voice. Then we were off!

Once we were on the move the LCpl signaller introduced himself as Dave.

“The Driver is called “Man, he told me, short for Manfred, but don’t let him hear you calling him Manfred” No sooner had we pulled out of the Barracks Dave was busy on the radio.

“Hello, all stations this is zero[v], radio check, over!” The various Sqn’s replied in turn.

”One zero, ok, out!”

“Two zero, ok, out!” and so it went on.

We drove for about an hour and a half to God only knows where! I was aching all over, pins and needles in my arms and legs and feeling thoroughly worn out! Eventually we pulled up in a forest somewhere. There was just a hint of dawn peeking through the trees. No sooner had we parked up there was a hive of activity everyone bustling about pulling camouflage nets over their vehicles. I really hadn’t got a clue what to do!

“Come on get your finger out!” shouted Man, he was unrolling camouflage nets from the top of the landrover. They had been placed in such a way that all we had to do was roll them over the vehicle and caravan. Fastened to the side of the landrover were a number of poles which we used to prop up the nets breaking up the outline of the landrover and caravan. The efficiency in which the harbour area[vi] sprung into life amazed me. Within no time at all the cookhouse was up and running, burners noisily building up the heat required to start preparations for the next meal. Several generators chugged into life to provide lighting inside the Office Trucks. My main job in life it seemed was not only to make sure the CO had everything he needed but also to provide tea and coffee to those working in the two Office Trucks which comprised the RHQ in the field.

The day just flew by. Most of the time I was one or other of the Office Trucks watching and listening to the days activities, the keeping of radio logs, updating of maps and the general conduct of the Exercise. It was truly fascinating. “This is where I want to be”, I told myself, “at the hub of the action!” Just as I was about to disappear for my evening meal the CO turned up.

“Ah, Houghton, the very man”, he told me, “I need to be up at six in the morning, give me a shout will you please?” he told me. Man, his driver was with me.

“We best book an early call”, he told me, “make sure we are all up half an hour before!” Dave, Man and I went to the Harbour Sgt Major and requested the Guard call us at 0500 hrs.

After dinner I was exhausted and was grateful to finally crawl into my slug[vii] for a good nights rest. Some hope, twice during that night we had to ‘Stand To’[viii] to repel attacks from the enemy. Each time we took up our firing positions we lay there for a good half an hour before, eventually, being told to ‘Stand Down’. I gave up zipping up into my sleeping bag and slept fully clothed, boots on, ready for anything! All too soon I was awoken by someone tugging at my boots informing me that it was 0530 in the morning, time to get up.

Crawling from my pup tent, rubbing my eyes, scratching my head and generally doing everything I needed to, to ensure I was awake, I half staggered towards the cookhouse. The cooks were up and busy preparing for breakfast, burners roaring, the smell of bacon and sausages filled the air.

“Piss Off! I was told, “Breakfast is not until 0600”

“I need a flask of coffee for the CO”, I told the cook, and “he wants a hot coffee when I wake him up! The cook was not happy about interrupting his preparations for breakfast but at the mention of the CO and his coffee he stopped everything.

“Ahem!” I coughed loudly, “he asked for a Bacon and Egg Sarnie[ix] as well!” I told the cook. Swearing and cursing blue murder, the cook threw several, better than the average, slices of bacon into a pan along with a couple of eggs. The smell was killing me. My stomach was rumbling and my mouth watering.

“Does he want butter?” the cook asked. I shrugged. He expertly threw the sandwich together and wrapped in some greaseproof bread paper.

“There you go!” he told me, “I hope he chokes on it!”

“He has to eat”, I told the cook defensively, “he is leaving at 0600”

“He should have booked an early breakfast then”, the cook told me, “like everyone else has to!” I had not gone more than twenty or so yards from the cookhouse before I un-wrapped the bacon and egg sandwich and scoffed the lot! My, it was delicious. I arrived at the CO’s caravan, flask of coffee at the ready, wiping any tell tale signs of my Bacon and Egg buttie from my lips.

I knocked on the tailboard of the CO’s caravan.

“Sir”, I called out, “It’s nearly 0600!”

“I need some hot water, for a shave”, he informed me, thrusting an aluminium bowl out of the door.

“Hot water?”

“If you don’t mind”. He declared. I trudged back to the cookhouse.

“Hot water?” I asked the Cook. He pointed with his fork in the general direction of two huge boilers. The lids vibrating noisily and oozing enough steam to power a locomotive. I borrowed a couple of cook’s cloths and medium sized saucepan and scooped the boiling water into the aluminium bowl. It was still simmering gently as I walked, very carefully, back to the CO’s caravan.

“I have your water, Sir!” I told him.

“Thank you”, he responded, “just put it down will you?”

I placed the bowl carefully on the ground next to the tailboard of the caravan.

I have your coffee too”. I told him and moved to the side of the landrover and began to pour the steaming coffee into a mug. As I was doing so I saw the CO step from his caravan. He was wearing some Tartan slippers. Too late I realised that he was about to step into his simmering bowl of hot water.

“err . . Sir!” was all I could manage to say. He screamed blue murder as his right foot entered the scalding hot bowl of water. However, because he had one foot on the tailboard and the other in the bowl of scalding water, he could not pull his foot out. The bowl skidded across the muddy ground and he lost his balance falling flat on his back!

I rushed over to his aid apologising profusely! He ripped off his Tartan slipper and steaming sock to reveal a very pink foot from big toe to ankle.

“Are you alright, Sir” I kept asking him, “are you alright!” His foot looked very sore!

“I am fine, Houghton!” he told me, “I am fine, but, please, next time, put the bloody bowl where I can see it!” His back was also covered with mud, leaves sticking to his shirt.

“Yes, Sir, Yes, Sir, I will Sir” I reassured him.

“Like on the bonnet of the landrover or on a tree stump, anywhere but below the tailboard!” he instructed.

“I will have to get changed again”, he informed me.

“Yes, Sir”

“Would you do me a favour” he sighed, Please?”

“Yes, Sir” I replied.

“Could you tell the cook I have to shoot off?”

“Yes, Sir” I responded.

“And ask him if he would be kind enough to do me a Bacon and Egg buttie?”

“A Bacon and Egg buttie, Sir?”

“If you don’t mind!” he said. I trudged back to the cookhouse, the same Cook, a Corporal, was slaving away preparing to serve a hundred or more starving soldiers in about twenty minutes!

“Ahem!” I told him.

“What do you want now?” he demanded to know.

“The CO said would you be kind enough to do him another Bacon & Egg buttie?”

“Another one!” he shouted, throwing his spatchuler into the frying pan in disgust, who the bloody hell does he think he is?”

“The CO?” I ventured.

“I haven’t got enough eggs as it is!” moaned the cook, “without having to give double rations to flaming Officers”. I shrugged. To add to the Cooks woes, Man, the CO’s Driver, and Dave, his Signaller both turned up for an early breakfast that they had booked the previous night.

“Mine is not to reason why!” I told the Cook as he thrust the sandwich into my hands. Within minutes I was back at the caravan with the CO’s sandwich.

“Brilliant”, he told me, “You cannot beat a Bacon & Egg buttie!”

“By the way, Houghton”, the CO told me, “Got a problem with the caravan, they are going to collect it sometime later and I won’t get it back until tomorrow!”

“Yes, Sir!” I said.

“The RSM is going to have a tent put up for me, would you make sure I have a camp bed etc; for tonight”.

“Yes, Sir”, I said again. Wondering what ‘etc’ might mean

“And move everything from my caravan into the tent!”

“Yes, Sir!”

“Good Lad!” He told me, then jumped into his landrover and was gone.

Not being backward in going forward, the minute he left, I picked up my Mess Tins and rushed off to the cookhouse for breakfast. I still had time.

“You again!” said the Cpl Cook.

“I haven’t had my breakfast yet!” I told him petulantly.

“Breakfast finished five minutes ago” he told me.

“That’s not fair!” I told him, “I have been up at the crack of dawn as well you know, just like you lot, slaving my guts out for the Officers, and now I am going to miss breakfast!”

“My heart bleeds for you”, he told me. But nevertheless threw half a dozen slices of bacon into a pan with a couple of eggs”.

“Any chance of some fried bread to go with it?” I asked him. He threw in a slice of bread along side the bacon.

“Thank you” I told him.

“Don’t push your luck!” he replied.

About mid morning the REME came to collect the CO’s caravan. The RSM had, as the CO had said, had a large tent erected close to where the caravan had been. I went to the RQMS and signed for a camp bed to put in the tent.

“Does he want a lamp?” the RQMS asked me.

“A lamp?”

“A kerosene Lamp, how the hell will he see if he is coming back in the middle of the night?”

“OK, I will have a lamp too”, I told him.

I took great pains to ensure that all the CO’s kit was nicely laid out in his tent. I put up his camp bed and arranged his sleeping bag on top together with a blanket for good measure. I even took care to hand the Kerosene lamp from the apex of the tent so he could light it if he needed to. After the problems with his hot water this morning I did not want any more mishaps. Before going to bed I booked an early call, and an early breakfast, for 0530 the next morning.
I have had a similar experience only in the H/Cav we called the setup Zero Hotel (0H)
Once we became part of 5AB though we had to ditch the napkins and table cloths and play like proper soldiers.

Nice bit of writing though.
Feck me days, I enjoyed that. I liked the bit where he asks for another egg banjo.....you wouldn't have got a second one out of our lot.

Reminded me of Bn HQ on ex in BAOR in the 1950s.

Good on you. :wink:
I'm reading 'Ricky Green Beret' at the moment. Great stuff as usual Mick.

I recommend the 'Ricky' books to all ... go on buy them!
excellent, ten tonners.......... the roar of the chef's burners the fine tang of camm nets at dawn,

That took me back :D
vvaannmmaann said:
Quite dusty in here.
That'll be the dust blowing in from Telford cement works.

BTW, a good read.

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