Short Stories

We were saddled up and ready to go.(This was for about the third or fourth time I may add). But this time it was it. The real thing. I was attached to company main. Captain Chris Dent was in overall charge, and a man I came to respect straight away. Which was a first for me, especially working with someone that I had never met before.

He had halted the party as soon as we had started to move forward of the positions on top of Sussex mountains. The same positions that for the last couple of days we had been moving up and down like jack rabbits from (always returning to the same hole in the ground after fucking around for a couple of hours). He approached me personally and asked if the pace was too brisk. That if I preferred, he could slow it down a bit. After all he added, I was carrying the heaviest load.

Me. I was totally dumbfounded. Nobody but nobody, had in all my time in the regiment never mind the army had asked me if the pace was too fast. I was the FOO’s signaller, he led and I followed. It was as simple as that. When he looked over his shoulder I was there. No question about it, pack mule and gopher, that was me. I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion.

In the old days of the A41 & A42 radio’s, I was at times literally dragged across Salisbury Plain. By officers who were talking on the handsets, which were attached to the radio set on my back. I didn’t have an honest answer to an honest question. So I said it was fine by me ,I had no problems with the current pace. Go for it. By fuck boy did we go for it.

It was a night move. For most of it, a case of follow the leader. After the initial few hundred meters that got us off the reverse slope it was all down hill. That and on your arse. At first you tried to tab normally and follow the bloke in front. The standard battalion snake scenario. But it was not to be.

The grass hummocks that went for miles, due to the erosion of the soil and the eating habits of the islands sheep. Caused maximum confusion. That, and lots of pain.

You just couldn’t get in a flow that was the problem. Every couple of steps you tried a different method of coping with the terrain. We might have exercised on the sheep filled hills of Wales, but apart from that, and the actual comparison in sizes. There were fuck all similarities. The pace took its toll.

We shuffled between the hummocks or tussocks, which ever you prefer. But it tended to take you out of the snake and give the impression that you were walking further than necessary. You then tried to keep directly behind the guy in front. This caused you at times to jump from tussock to tussock. Making the Bergen/radio on your back bounce up and down thoroughly pissing you off after every step. Making you use more energy than necessary.

You could miss time your jump and land between the clumps. Ending on your arse. Or land on the tussock and slide off it, still ending up on your arse. It was a no win situation. Apparently the best way to travel was by helicopter, or motor bike. Funny how we all knew that, but the buggers who planned our break out from the beachhead didn’t. Still, I suppose that’s what war is all about. Confusion.

Well, we lost a few to ankle and foot/leg related injuries. But the momentum carried on and now the war machine was at last moving up a gear. It was proving hard to keep up with the sense of urgency.

Mind you when we did manage to stop for a break, we tended to doze like all good soldiers do. The trouble was that when you woke up you couldn’t quite remember where you were. I tended to think I was in the middle of Salisbury Plain on exercise.

Due to our position within the battalion snake. Feed back was relatively slow. We were still working under radio silence and my headset was totally dead. So when they had the slight altercation with the occupants of Camilla Creek House. I didn’t know we had taken any prisoner’s until well into the next afternoon.

As we approached the out buildings of the settlement the lads from Patrol Company were directing us to LUP’s. Now we might have been a bit pissed off with all the stop starts over the last few days. But it didn’t touch one little bit on how patrols had been fucked about since we had got on the island.

They had been royally fucked about I can tell you. They had helped gather the intelligence for the battalion and paint a overall picture for the whole of the British forces involved in the campaign. They had been constantly carrying out probing patrols from the top of Sussex Mountains and down into enemy held territory.

Each time we had been prepared to move it had been as a result of intelligence gathered by the recce section or patrols. These blokes were constantly at work. Most of the people who were in patrol company usually graduated to trying for selection at Hereford.

Even as we finally completed the tortuous march to Camilla Creek, the patrols Company were moving off towards Goose Green and providing a thin screen of defence. The word settlement conjured up grand aspirations. Reality was a kick in the balls.

There was one main building and three outbuildings (one of which was the shithouse). But at least they had roofs on them and provided a bit of shelter from the bone chilling wind. ‘A’ coy had been given the barn. I’ve seen garden sheds bigger than the so-called barn. It also turned out that there was a scant possibility that some kind of advanced technology was being used.

We had arrived with Company main and to this end were near the rear of the overall three other companies during the move. The group dwindled as people disappeared into the night. As the elements split from company main and reverted back to their main parent unit or rest of their platoon etc. We meanwhile arrived at the double doors of this greyish white garden shed (I forgot, barn). Much to the irritation of the bemused sentry standing outside.

A normal company usually comprises 120 men plus whatever support elements it has attached to it. Artillery, REME, Cooks, Medics the list goes on. We were the last of the last. 8 totally knackered and pissed off pack mules. Looking for that bale of hay and warm stall in the stable (I keep forgetting, "barn"). The sentry had a sense of humour he told us all in stage type whispers to wipe our feet before entering. That should have given the game away from the offset.

He let us enter 2 at a time. As the door closed and I wiped my feet in the ankle deep mud inside I paused for thought. It just couldn’t get any worse, could it? It did. My eyes slowly adjusted to the gloomy interior. As I loosened my helmet and let the headset dangle around my neck. The hissing of a thousand snakes filled the void and silence that I had been privy to in my role as signaller. It filled my being and totally confused me. Literally swamping my brain with noise.

Spread before us, covering every inch of available space was A Company. The phrase "able to fall asleep on a washing line", came to mind straight away. Bodies were piled on top of each other and any piece of farm machinery or barrel, box that was there. The hissing did baffle me for a little while but when I slid on one the bodies as I tried to step over him I realised that everyone was wearing their water proof clothing. The nylon material rubbing against another wearer created the hissing noises.

I tried to go to sleep on the top of a hay gathering machine. But it didn’t matter how tired I was it was not working for me. I ended up sitting on my Bergen by the inside of the door trying to sleep. Getting kicked by every tom, dick and harry that left or entered during the course of the night. The seething mass of bodies did amaze me for quite a while though. I was truly fascinated by the rippling flesh as it rocked and heaved during the passage of the night.

In the morning I was sent over to the main building and was really pissed off. The house had been taken over by battalion HQ and elements of A coy HQ. It was like stepping into the Albert Hall. Blokes were sitting in little groups cooking with Hexi and sitting on dry floorboards with so much space around them (the barn was just a nightmare not worth mentioning to them). I decided to explore as there was supposed to be a briefing going on first and the boss would speak to me after it. I should have stayed still and sat on my arse. But I didn’t.

The kitchen was in a bit of a state and there were tins of half eaten Argy rations lying all about the place. There wasn’t really any furniture of great account. It was all painted a horrible green colour anyway. I spied a door by some stairs. I thought it might lead to a cellar and some food.

Wrong. It was the door that led to the inside shit house. And it was currently in use. ‘H’ was in the middle of having a crap, and told me in some uncertain terms to get out. Well. Having ensured that I had put the Commanding officer in a good mood. I swiftly fucked off. All the while hoping that I had sufficient cam cream on, so that he might not recognise me again.

The next bit of news that was passed to H when he finally surfaced. Just put the icing on the cake. The lads had been tuning into the BBC with the H.F. radio sets. (Its amazing what the British tom can achieve when he’s bored and left to his own devices). Any way it had been reported by the beeb just moments before, that 2 Para were at a settlement to the north and currently advancing towards Goose Green and Darwin settlements. ‘H’ went ballistic.

Panic now ensued amongst the troops. We were told to vacate the building and dig in. As we were likely to be attacked by aircraft from Goose Green. Now that the sun had come up and the message had been passed. I watched the barn that I had been in the night before, open it’s doors. It was like a scene from Doctor Who. Except the barn was now the Tardis. With the size of the building and the amount of troops pouring out of it .You would have thought that they were going in around the back and then coming out the front again.

We left the main building with ‘H’ threatening, that if he ever got hold of the idiotic reporter. Anyway I’m sure you get the drift. We stumbled off to dig our trench and prepare for hordes of attacking Argentinean troops. Once again we were exposed to the cutting wind and the bowling green surfaces of this fucked up country. We decided to dig a T shaped trench. Mainly due to the fact there were three of us and we only had one SLR and two SMG’s. So much for the long range sniper and area weapon shit.

Once we had nearly finished our trench we stopped for a break and take stock of our position. It was at this point we realised that although we were a safe enough distance from any of the buildings. Target reference points for the enemy. Which would have been recorded as a target somewhere along the line. After all we had thebuildings marked as likely enemy positions and artillery were trained on them all the while we had advanced there.

It was during this discussion that we realised that we were actually facing the opposite direction from where we should expect the enemy to attack from. Putting it down to a mere technical point, of little consequence, we carried on with the trench. We were bolloxed, and at this stage a fucked up trench was better than no fucking trench at all. We were just sorting out our gear when the first "Air Warning Red" was sounded. Everything went into the trench followed by us.

I believe a lone enemy aircraft did over fly the settlement. But we had strict instructions not to open fire or attract its attention in any way. We had once again disappeared into the night like thieves.

By the time Puccaras were sent to attack our positions, we were half way to Darwin and Goose Green. It would be the Commandos from 8 Alma Battery, (who had flown in three 105 mms to be used in the support of 2 Paras advance), that would be attacked.

Camilla Creek may have got us our first prisoners. But we were now advancing towards an enemy who we had hoped to find asleep or at least who would be caught with his pants down. Now thanks to the advance publicity by the man from the Beeb, things would be vastly different.

Somebody said that the Argy’s probably never even heard the broadcast. I know they were being depicted as stupid, but not that fucking  stupid please.

During WW2 everybody listened to the BBC. Forty years later it was still the same. Except there were no resistance receiving coded messages  to blow up railway lines. When we got back we were all going to go to Broadcasting House and kick the crap out of as many of the staff as we  could get hold of. It was a thought that gave you a warm glow in your heart.

You can imagine where we were going to stuff their T.V. licenses.


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