The Ukranian Pickpockets-Lessons From the Vietnam War

After reading Ranger Conners accounts of his exploits in Vietnam LINK, I felt inspired. This was the way to go.

The first problem was, what kind of foreign criminals should we call ourselves? Some of the suggestions were interesting; 'The Columbian Drug Barons' had a bit of a ring to it, as did 'The Kenyan Benefit Fraudsters', but as one of the lads had just lost his wallet at the weekend we opted for 'The Ukranian Pickpockets'.

Next was our appearance. DPM was out, as we don't want anyone spotting us to know that we're TA. Looking again to Mr. Conners for inspiration, I rang round to all the lads in the platoon and told them the new dress code; black pyjamas, or tiger stripes. Personally I followed Mr Conners to the letter, and wore my father's old uniform.

Tuesday night I turned up at the TAC early to get everything ready. Unfortunately the first person I met was our PSI, WO2 McGivern.

"What in the name of fcuk are you wearing Sergeant Terrier?"
"It's my father's old uniform" I replied. "I'm proud of my Dad, and I don't care what anyone says, he was the best driver British Rail ever had"
After a few moments of silence he replied "Don't ever let me see you dressed like that here again" and walked off muttering under his breath.

He won't, The Ukranian Pickpockets are trained to be almost invisible.....
As the lads started to trickle in, I could see that they'd had some problems with the pyjamas. It seems that BHS only had a few pairs, and none in black.

One lad, Ukranian Pickpocket 3, had used his initiative and borrowed his girlfriend's Winnie the Pooh nightdress, which even combined with assault boots and helmet didn't look even slightly like it was army issue.

Ukranian Pickpocket 6 had borrowed his wife's leopard skin tights, which surpised me somewhat, as I didn't know he was married to Bett Lynch. Perhaps it wasn't tiger stripe, but it was close.......ish.

Slowly the platoon stores started to fill up with blokes (I thought we'd better keep away from the PSI), when suddely I realised something was wrong, and it wasn't just the red and white striped pyjamas. If watching 'The Deer Hunter' had taught me anything, it was the value of headbands.

Luckily, it was the work of but a few minutes to swipe a box of no.2 ties while our QMs back was turned, so before long we were good to go.
Time was getting on, it was nearly quarter past seven, and the bar opens at nine thirty! We had to put our new methods into practice in the field........or rather on the waste ground behind the TAC.

I had tried to follow Mr. Conners advice by carrying a pistol instead of a rifle, but the armourer was having none of it.

Luckily I had forseen this slight hiccup, and had been up in the loft earlier to find my trustly old Webley Tempest; calibre .177. I had killed many a cola can with this in my youth, so I felt that by carrying the Webley as well as the stout walking stick recommended by Mr. Conner, I was armed, and prepared to meet any dangers we might face. Before we left I had another surprise for the lads though.

During my expedition to the loft, I had found a box of old compo. This was a Godsend, as it held the solution to another part of our preparation. In Vietnam, the Chinese Bandits added fishheads to their excrement, in order to convince anyone finding it that it was Vietnamese sh1t. I didn't have any fish heads. I did however have pilchards!

Rather than risk that in an emergency we wouldn't have time to add the pilchards to our pile, I suggested that each Ukranian Pickpocket inserted one pilchard anally prior to setting out on a mission. This would also help ensure the elusive Vietnamese odour that we aspired to.
Finally outside the TAC we could start using our new patrolling techniques.

It was a nice sunny evening, and there were a few people out walking their dogs. I could see that they seemed to be taking a bit more notice in us than they usually would.

I suppose it's not every day that 25 men in varying hues of pyjamas and leopard/tiger skin printed garments, one in a Winnie the Pooh nightie, and one dressed as an Engine Driver are to be seen patrolling along carrying assault rifles, so to a certain extent I can understand their interest.

Suddenly Ukranian Pickpocket 5 (our lead scout) dropped down on one knee, and took a pair of binoculars from his webbing. In an instant we were all out of sight, well..........almost. It's really difficult to look like a bush in stripey blue pyjamas.
There was something on the trail up ahead.
"What is it Pickpocket 5?" I asked.
"I'm not sure Serg.....Ukranian Pickpocket 13" he replied.
I began to realise that perhaps some sort of abbreviated form of address might be a good idea for next time.

Slowly, stealthily, we crawled towards the object.

"Good call, Ukranian Pickpocket 5, this'll give me a chance to use my super new Chinese Bandit style luminous ruler"
"Hmmm....18 inches? God it is a big one."
"Erm......turn it over Ukranian Pickpocket 13"

He was right, only seven inches, but still it was quite big. I prodded it gently with my walking stick.

"I'd say German Shepherd, probably today, no earlier than yesterday" I surmised.
"That one over there perhaps?" asked Ukranian Pickpocket 5, pointing at a fat woman and her dog no more than 50 yards away.

The fat woman seemed to be talking excitedly into her mobile, and kept shooting us nervous glances. Suspicious behaviour I thought.

"Keep an eye on her Ukranian Pickpocket 5"

Come on give us a bit of feedback before I post the final few installments.

Do you all think that I've finally lost it?

Or is there anyone out there who wants to find out what happens next?
Keep going fella, Im interested to see how the field tests of "Nightie, Pooh, Winnie the" 1 off, pan out. If it all goes well I might ask the boss if I can wear one to work.
Presently the fat woman finished her call and hurried off, glancing back at us every now and then.

As soon as she was out of sight we resumed our patrol. ,

After a few minutes we passed an old pile of builders sand. Just then, I remembered something else about the Chinese Bandits.

"Right lads. Throw away your cleaning kits, we don't need them any more" I ordered.
To be perfectly honest, one or two of the Ukranian Pickpockets seemed reluctant to do so, but after I loaded a dart into the Webley there were no problems. We soon had a pile of cleaning kits next to the sand.
I then instructed that each Ukranian Pickpocket filled one of his map pockets with sand. Since the best way to clean our weapons was with sand and water only, that's what we would do too.

There was a small copse up ahead (there where the glue-sniffers usually hang out), we would call a short halt there for weapon maintenance. Our scouts (Ukranian Pickpocket 5 & 7) recce'd on ahead while we maintained all round defence.

Watching the scouts moving tactically was a joy. I was pleased by the way they melted into the undergrowth like a Tesco bag in a hedgerow. When our platoon commander came back from his leave, he couldn't help but be impressed by the changes that I had wrought.

Once safely in the shelter of the trees, I ordered that the Ukranian Pickpockets should clean their weapons. As per SOPs, one man in each buddy team pulled security while the other pulled back the working parts on his rifle and dropped in a handful of sand, followed by a cupful of water.
Soon all our weapons were thoroughly cleaned 'Chinese Bandit style'.
You are quite entertaining but i must confess.
I do not know what is wrong with you, but it must be very hard to spell, i bet that even your doctor would have trouble writing that one down.
So what happens next.............

I looked at my Timex Stealth Youth Sports watch (okay it's not quite an Omega Seamaster like Mr. Conners', but it says 'Stainless China' on the back so it must be nearly as good). It was 20 to 9. We had to get a move on, but first I had another surpise for the lads.

According to Mr Conners, it was very important that the lads were full of 'piss and vinegar'. Well, I'd brought a bottle of Sarson's Malt Vinegar with me, so we were half-way there. I nipped behind a tree with an empty waterbottle to do the rest of the preparation.

It took a good bit of persuading, (the stout walking stick was useful here), but soon all the Ukranian Pickpockets had at least some 'piss and vinegar' in them, and we were ready to resume our patrol.

We had only covered around 100 yards from the copse, when Ukranian Pickpocket spotted something, and passed a message back to me.
"The copse" whispered Ukranian Pickpocket 8 who was dressed in a rather fetching pair of blue paisley patterned flannel pyjamas.
"Yes, I know we've just left it. What about it?" I replied tersely.

After a short but enjoyable game of 'Chinese whispers' or rather 'Ukranian whispers', I discovered that we had company.

The police had arrived.....
Taking Ukranian Pickpocket 6 with me, I went over to speak to the policemen.

They seemed to be in good spirits, and kept giggling to themselves as we approached. I began to suspect they had been drinking.

"Right then Postman Pat, are you in charge of that lot?" the taller of the two policemen asked, leaning back against the side of the police car.

Either he really was drunk, or he was an imbecile. Any fool could see that it was a British Rail uniform I was wearing.

"Yes, I am. Why do you ask?" I replied as calmly as I could.

"We've had some reports of strange people walking around with guns, and I've got to say that you lot seem to fit the description" He looked pointedly at Ukranian Pickpocket 6's leopardskin patterned tights as he spoke.

"Are you from the TA centre? Is it fancy dress night tonight, or what?" he asked.

Before I could answer, Ukranian Pickpocket 6 proudly declared "We're the Ukranian Pickpockets"

Seemingly this was the wrong thing to say......
One of the policemen started talking excitedly into his radio. I heard him mention "Eastern European gang" and "heavily armed".

It seemed like a prudent time for a tactical withdrawal on our part.

"Run Ukranian Pickpocket 6!" I shouted "I'll cover you".

I drew my trusty Webley, and loaded my last dart. If the policeman made one wrong move, he was mine......

Ukranian Pickpocket 6 stopped, and threw himself down, inadvertedly putting a hole in his wife's tights as he did so. "Go Ukranian Pickpocket 13!" he shouted.

I ran past before throwing myself down. As I lay there aiming my air pistol at the police car, I started to realise that we might not make it back to the TAC in time for the bar opening after all.
By the time we'd pepper-potted back to rest of the platoon, things were starting to seem more, and more 'Nam-like. The 'woppa-woppa' of rotor blades filled the air, as did the distinctive Vietnamese smell mentioned by Ranger Conners (we found out later that this mostly because Ukranian Pickpocket 11 had had an 'accident'). This all helped keep us focused on emulating our heroes, the 'Chinese Bandits'.

To be perfectly honest, even though it was vile, the smell of pilchard enriched excrement was a refreshing change for me. Whilst forcing one of the more 'reluctant' Ukranian Pickpockets to drink his 'piss and vinegar' I had spilt a good deal of the mixture on my jacket, and therefore smelt a bit like a tramp in a chip shop.

It looked as if action was both imminent, and unavoidable, so I got the Ukranian Pickpockets to check that their weapons were functioning as they should. Curiously though, very few of them seemed to work, and those that did made strange and alarming noises as the action was worked.

I decided that we hadn't cleaned them well enough, and that more sand, and more water was required. Perhaps if we mixed it together first, then poured it in, we'd get better results. Soon one man out of two was mixing sand and water in his mess tin ready to clean his rifle in the time honoured Chinese Bandit fashion.
Unfortunately pouring the liquid mud directly into the rifles didn't help.

We now only had one functioning weapon apart from the Webley, and that was Ukranian Pickpocket 12's. He'd misunderstood my orders, and had filled his magazines with sand instead.

I was starting to worry now.........seriously. The police helicopter was circling our position and shining a searchlight on us. On the bright side though, was the fact that Strathclyde Police don't have helicopter gunships at their disposal.

Our chances of making a fighting withdrawal were somewhat limited though, and the bar would be opening in less than 15 minutes.

It was panic time.....
We had no option but to try and make our escape. The 'Chinese Bandits' didn't give up and neither would we.

If watching numerous Vietnam films had taught me anything, apart from the value of headbands, it was that rolling a massive joint was the perfect preparation for a dangerous mission. So I did.

Soon, everything was melllow and chilled. Nothing was a problem. All we had to do was walk back to the TAC, and have a quiet beer. If the pigs wanted to fly around in their 'helicopters', it was like their problem man.......

I stood up "Hey guys, follow me, let's go back to the TAC and get some pork scratchings, I'm feeling kinda hungry".
Actually I was ravenous.

The Ukranian Pickpockets stood up as one man and set off after me. At this the police began to close in in a pincer movement.

As the first police Range Rover got closer, I noticed something unusual. Everything was bathed in a strange green light, and an unearthly pulsating, throbbing sound filled the air..........
The green light got brighter and brighter, and the noise got louder. I looked up, and to my disbelief saw a large cigar shaped spaceship. It was green in colour and had gold stipes along the sides. There was some writing too, it spelled Chinese Bandits.

Just then beams of green light shot out from the spaceship. It seemed that all the policemen were caught in the beams. Slowly, but surely the beams drew them up to the strange craft.

As soon as it had taken all the policemen, the ship began to rise further and further up into the sky, before it disappeared completely from sight.

Within minutes we were alone again, and all was well. Now for the biggest challenge of the night, getting to the bar first.

Back at the TAC, we really impressed the armourer with the state of our weapons. It was the first time I've ever seen him speechless. I left him standing stock still, staring at our rifles and headed for the bar.

After buying a round for the platoon to celebrate the formation, and successful first training mission of the Ukranian Pickpockets, I stood and reflected on the evenings events.

It hadn't been bad, perhaps a bit more exciting than I'd have liked for our first outing, but in general it had been a pretty good night.

Best of all was the fact that we'd been saved by the Chinese Bandits, I felt that we'd been accepted, and welcomed as brothers by our heroes. Truly a high accolade.

As to the fate of the policemen, I presume they were probed mercilessly.
It serves them right, no-one messes with the Ukranian Pickpockets.
outstanding. are there any further training exercises planned for the Ukrainan Pickpockets? i particularly like the sound of this #5 chappie.
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