On Friday 7th Feb we moved to Knook Camp to prepare our equipment and continue some training. We had our first Anthrax jab, made more fraught by all the legal paperwork and opt-outs surrounding it following the 'Gulf War Syndrome' scare from last time round.
The camp is dreadful; the sleeping accomodation is alright, but the toilets are foul (basically a barn with cubicals down one side) - one has been closed as there was a dead rat in the middle of the floor. Although presumably the one with the dead rats is preferable to the ones with live ones...
There's a mesmirising flock of starlings that forms every day, that flies around just like those computer flocking models. Very well defined outer edges to the flock, continuously morphing. Streams of incoming or outgoing starlings form streamers, and once the whole flock tried to land in a tiny tree. It was like watching it suck them up in a never filling vortex. Unfortunately any area underneath them was continuously being shat on, and some of the vehicles were at the end of the park where they regularly formed.
Don't worry, it will be issued in theatre.
Sat & Sun 8-9th Feb We have been donated some 'Wolf' Land Rovers, which have faster engines and better suspension (amongst other things) than our old ones. This meant 'raping' the old ones of all their kit, and doing our best to fit out our newer ones for months of living in. The anthrax jabs are making themselves felt; snotty noses, stiff joints (esp the injected arm), lethargic and forgetful. Combined with the contortions required to bolt and rebolt all the various bits of radio gear, losing bolts and nuts down the backs of the seats, made the kitting out a lot less fun than it could have been.
Home Sweet Home
Look at all those shiny radios! I've got three! and a battery charger! And look at all those wires and cables and leads and little fiddly things just crying out to be fiddled with. An extra dexion rail was added to hold all the support bits. The crew box (top right) was extremely useful for monitoring two sets at once. There's still more to do - put in a cupboard, remote crew boxes, lighting, secure voice encoder, library and a urinal. Seriously.
At this point the crew was me, Kevin and Hitash, as stores HQ. Hitash is busy all over the place with the unit's gear. Kevin's had to do his LCpl bit and tell me what to do as I'm being the usual nonce re army stuff. One whole should be a pleasant enough team.
Clockwise from top left: Patrol packs containing NBC suit, warm gear (or water), 1/2 days rations, ammo, spare grenades, etc. Helmet and assault vest containing combat-order: ammo, grenades, torch, water, etc. Gasmask handbag (or 'Respirator Haversack') containing gas mask, spare cannister, NBC 'detector paper', immediate decontamination dust, atropine pens, etc. SA80 rifle. Body armour (with ceramic plates - these were taken away later). Combat jacket containing miscellenous other goodies (spare glasses, gloves, hat, sweets, first field dressing (bandage), compass, etc). Total weight around 20kg.
Knook Camp; Butlins-like. This being the army, we carry a rifle when stagging on. But we don't get any ammunition. So we also carry a big stick.
A few portraits. You know who you are.
NBC Command Task. How do you get a large pole into Anthony's trousers?
1 Troop Decon
Mon 10th Finally got sigs kit sorted out. Ed went on a shopping run to buy stuff, including toolkits so we could do the stuff we needed to the vehicles! Similarly I wanted an inflatable jack, as the standard bottle ones will be useless in sand. Ed is keen on his cigars, much to the amusement of the loggies ("We've got tabs too"). During his driving assessment his phone rang; so he answered it, and then asked his assessor (Short Shouty Man) to change gear for him...
Tues 11th Mostly stagging on. Monday evening, Tues morning, Tues night...
Wed 12th ....and turned up this morning for another one to find I wasn't needed; so a fair tab to catch up with the main bunch who were off into the hills for a bit of training. First session was bayonet practice; 1/2 hour 'warmup' and lots of beastings. 'Bertie' - a target on the hillside - had to be 'met' several times. The whole drill is very monty python: aggressive walking (don't run with knives), aggressive stabbing, then roll your eyes back down and check your bayonet is OK. Someone in another group let out a laugh and the whole lot were off for another visit to Bertie...
This was followed by attack drills, then range stew for lunch which went down fast, bounced off my stomach and back out again. I had some fruit. Afternoon mine awareness and sentry duties, all standard stuff. A late finish with a large helping of shambles as we had to redo our small arms tests (already done at Grantham) for range tomorrow. The short notice pissed off the instructors (but shit happens), there was no control over breaking down into groups, no rooms to teach in and someone had moved the armoury.
First one in the NAAFI; no one else here from those who've been out training. No stamina these regulars. When we were stabs we got a lot more in...
Thu 13th & Fri 14th Out on the ranges. Absolutely freezing cold, though the ground wasn't actually frozen which of course made it worse. Rifle wasn't zeroed so a bit of hunting around the target before getting the right aim off. Paul managed 37 hits on a mag of 30... The night shoot was heavily safetied, with short-lived shamoolies, but got livelier when one of them lost its parachute and shot down at speed.
Friday morning concurrent activity for me was Wolf and minibus 'conversion', including a bit of off roading. Would have been fun if I'd not been micromanaged by Staff D ("2nd gear now, speed up, slow down, now 1st, faster" etc). Minor revenge on the muddy hillstart though; the ground was in the shade and still icy (which he hadn't noticed) and when following the given procedure (I can't remember it, I've been taught better ones) the landie slid sideways and back rather than forwards. A quick correction and restart and we were off, but there was now a tremour in his voice...
Excellent argument on the way back with SSM T about orders and blind obedience and responsibility, though I think Staff D may have misunderstood it as he was jumping all over me as soon as we got back. Interesting article in British Army Review about what the top folks call 'New War' (essentially asymmetric war) where the conflicts are based around small groups in both electronic and physical space, rather than massed armour warfare.
Has anyone got a spare cocking handle?
We're getting evenings off, so we often walk down to The Eagle nearby and grab some lovely food and lovely beer.
Sat 15th A day off in Salisbury. [TheKnookEmail]. A bit of shopping, a bit of drinking. Had a late indian with Pete & Jenny, Rob, Chris and some local friends of theirs. Got back at 23:59:30, just in time, with Jake waiting in the guardroom checking his watch...
Sun 16th Sigs training at some barracks somewhere. SHQ is enourmous, we have and need lots of Liason Officers but still. Worked on secure speech harness, Kipling and 321s (HF - so can get AM radio!). Relaxed but very cold
Went out for a run with Ed, Brook and Jay H; had to catch up at the beginning by which stage I was knackered, and I certainly couldn't keep the pace once we'd gone up a hillside the length of England and as high as Everest. Well, nearly. But J came back for me which was nice of her to look after me. Spent a pleasant evening with them in The Angel;
Mon 17th NBC. Not as bad as I was expecting; must be getting used to it. 30 minutes of Vehicle Recognition in 4 Romeo (and a wierdo Sgt instructor who'd inserted gory pictures).
Sue came up to visit which was great, but the evening must have been a bit dull what with all the gossip, private jokes, etc.
We were given a few days leave from Wednesday, then called back slightly early.
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