‘Righto lads!’ I said as we all assembled
in the RMP storehouse, ‘Make yourselves comfortable. Forget FBO (Full Battle Order), just make up
your bed spaces and dump all that shit at the back of them. All I want is rifle slings as belts,
magazines in pockets and rifles. I want
one GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) per Sangar so get them ready to
move. Why haven’t we got a radio?’
‘We have radios, Sir!’ said the signaler
busy unpacking the VHF sets.
‘Not those sort of radios,’ I said
testily, ‘the kind that play music!’ One
of the lads ran back to the barracks to fetch one. Music while you shoot? This was new for them.
There were only two radio stations in
Belize. The national station, fine if
you loved Bob Marley, and BFBS, the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS Belize while in the very capable hands
of Mr. Marc Tyley was brilliant.
I only want two guys in each Sangar, a gunner and his mate. The rest of you just make yourselves
comfortable. When in the sangars I want
you to smoke, laugh, joke, cough, chat loudly amongst yourselves, shine torches
around, brew fucking tea. If you need a
piss, step out of the sangar and piss up the side of it, I don’t care, just do
anything to prove to the enemy that you are the bored unprofessional soldiers
you really are. I want you to relax and
have a good time.’ Rarely has any order
given by an Army Officer, other than ‘you can all knock off now’, received such
‘FOWO, can I ask you to see that the maps
of the camp are up on the wall, organize the ops desk and see that the comms
network is up and running?
Thankyou. Staff Smith! With only two men per Sangar, we have enough
men for a three shift system, two on four off.
Draw up a duty rosta for me will you?’
Cpl CALLAGHAN! Where are you, you
idle bastard?’ ‘Right behind you Sir!’
he bawled back in my ear making me leap about ten feet in the air. ‘Get me
eleven of our fittest, biggest and meanest blokes and hold them to one
side. This will be your section and none
of them are for sanger duty so be quick about it before Staff Smith grabs
them. I will brief you and them
Every unit, even if filled with misfits
has a few men so dedicated to soldiering, so khaki brained they were born with
dog tags. Cpl Callaghan was such a man
even if he was cocky. It was my custom
to go for an early morning run before breakfast and then knock off at three in
the afternoon and go for another run.
That meant I was covering 70 miles a week for fun. When Callaghan found out, he asked if he could
join me. Having a running partner is
brilliant. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed
the solitude but having someone equally fit pushing you is invigorating. Not long after he said that some of the other
lads wouldn’t mind running along as well.
Pretty soon there were about thirty of us and more being encouraged to
join every week, not just RAOC, but REME, Catering Corps, Signals, HQ Company,
you name it..
I shared an office with the Stores Platoon
Commander, a Captain. As an ex ranker I
really hated the term GOPWO, the really disparaging way Sandhurst trained officers
referred to what some of them considered ‘grossly over promoted Warrant
Officers’. Normally an enlisted man can
do 22 years reckonable service calculated from his eighteenth birthday. After that, aged only forty, he’s on Civvie
Street looking for a new career. It is
within the Queen’s gift, however, to accept the advice of the Army Board and
grant Commissions to outstanding Warrant Officers thereby preventing the Army
from losing such experienced and loyal individuals by extending their service
another fifteen years to age fifty five, the normal retirement age for an
officer. It did wonders for their
pensions. No one would expect a forty
year old to go through the testing rigours of the Standard Military Course at
the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst during which they would all probably keel
over and die, never collecting their pensions, so they were sent instead on
what everyone colloquially referred to as the ‘knife, fork and spoon course’
and were then granted a Quarter Master’s Commission. Quite right too. These chaps (did I say ‘chaps’ again?) had
spent twenty two years running around on behalf of the Army so to expect them
to revert to the rank of Officer Cadet and do recruit training again would not
only be pointless, it would be a bloody insult.
Imagine a Warrant Officer 1st Class being beasted by a Colour
I was commissioned from the ranks but went
through a different system. I was only a
young Corporal when I attracted someone’s attention and a Unit Selection Board
was convened. I passed and went up to
the Army Officer Selection Board at Westbury which I also passed. Unbeknown to me, I was then discharged from
the Regular Army and reenlisted in the rank of Officer Cadet. For one day, I had been a civilian and no
longer subject to military law. Had I
known, I would have driven to JHQ Rheindahlen and punched the first military
policeman I saw. Instead I went to
Sandhurst and slogged my way through basic training a second time. Afterwards, even though technically an ex
ranker, I was considered by my fellow Sandhurst trained officers a ‘bit of a
lad’ but ‘Sandhurst’ nevertheless.
As a Corporal I was oblivious to such
prejudice. As far as I was concerned, if
a man had pips or crowns mounted upon his epaulettes, he could make my life a
misery. If he had pips AND crowns, I was
especially well behaved and made an excellent cup of tea. Mind you, Regimental Sergeant Majors were
pretty bloody scary too.
My first inkling of the social strata in
the Officer’s Mess came with our first company smoker to which I invited a
delicious young lady who earned her crust as an air hostess for an exotic
regional airline. Paying her all the
attention a chap does when he is trying to climb inside her knickers, I was
interrupted by Captain Gopwo who took it upon himself to give this young
officer some fatherly advice, in front of my young lady guest, concluding with
the statement, ‘After all, you couldn’t possibly take HER into the Mess.’ I, an undefeated Sandhurst light middleweight
boxer, was across the table so fast and only a nano-second away from a court
martial when I was expertly rugby tackled in midair by Captain Bowles, RCT who,
living up to his moniker, bowled me over and out of the restaurant. ‘You have to understand, Tom,’ he said concluding
his little fireside round-the-back-of-the-restaurant chat, ‘the man is not
I had to share an office with this guy and
I hated him. He was a GOPWO. One day I watched while he pulled out a
stores requisition from F Company and, frothing with indignation, waved it in
front of my face screaming, ‘FUD 2! FUD 2!
For fucking paint brushes!’ before screwing the requisition up and
dumping it into his waste paper basket.
I wasn’t a storeman, I was just doing the regimental duty I needed to get
under my belt before going back to the Army School of Ammunition to change my
qualification from Ammunition Technician to Ammunition Technical Officer. All through officer training and the time
since being commissioned I had been allowed to wear my medal ribbons but I had
to remove my AT badge from my uniform.
The badge is basically a black circle surrounded by flames, supposedly
to represent an exploding bomb. I wasn’t
interested in his parochial bloody stores issues. I wasn’t a fat blanket stacker like him. All I wanted was my Flaming Arsehole back.
As a result of this disinterest, I can’t
explain to you what FUD means. All I
knew was that the lower the number, the more importance the man filling it out,
or the unit sending it, were attaching to the requisition and the faster the
demands of the requisition should be fulfilled by the stores platoon commanded
by the man sitting in front of me who had just screwed a FUD 2 request up and
tossed into his bin. FUD 2 is as high as
you can go in peacetime and it wasn’t as if this was a request from the
catering corps worried about applying an even egg wash to the Brigadier’s steak
and kidney pie, this was F Company. So
when he reminded me it was time to go back to the Officer’s Mess for lunch, I
declined. After he had gone I reached
into his bin and smoothed out the requisition on my desk. Sure enough, it was a FUD 2 for paint
brushes. Outrageous. FUD 2’s are for ammunition, fuel, rations and
other mission critical items, not bloody paintbrushes. The whole camp was connected by a telephone
network so I thought I would try and use it to call F Company. Someone answered on the third ring.
‘We are really fucked,’ confessed the guy candidly
on the other end of the phone after I explained what I was calling about, ‘the
RAF have delayed a Puma so if we can get the brushes onto it and down to Punta
Gorda we should be OK’.
‘Why do you need paint brushes so
urgently?’ I asked out of intense curiosity.
‘Because we have broken our fucking ribs!’
came the irritated reply, ‘and you shiny arses couldn’t give a toss!’
I’d had a few bust ribs in my time and I knew they’re bloody painful but
there was no need for that! Now that I
knew F Company were writhing about on the ground in agony unable to breathe, of
course I gave a toss.
‘Do you want me to call the medics?’ I
asked, by now very concerned.
‘I’m going to find you, you smart bastard,
and I’m going to poke yer eyes out. GIVE
US SOME FUCKING PAINT BRUSHES!’ said the calm voice at the other end of the
‘I can do you some paint brushes, we must
have loads in the stores somewhere but are you absolutely sure you don’t want a
medic as well?’
Good Lord, with all of F Company gasping
their last with broken ribs, no wonder the requisition was FUD 2. There was no time for paperwork. I was alone in the stores. I had to make a decision or men would die
horribly gurgling under an unforgiving tropical sun. I couldn’t make the
connection between broken ribs and paintbrushes but I was only a bullet
mechanic and newly commissioned officer, they were Special Forces so obviously
had their own way of dealing with things like a mass outbreak of broken ribs.
‘Can you send someone round to the stores
right now to collect what you need?’ I said.
Five minutes later there was a Landrover, minus roof and windscreen
parked round the back of the stores.
‘Where’s the paintbrushes?’ asked the
first and particularly healthy looking guy to leap out of the vehicle.
‘I have no idea,’ I confessed. The stores were huge, we even had tank
engines on the shelves. How the hell was
I supposed to know where we kept the paintbrushes? Still, I was badged RAOC and these were
technically our clients so I tried to do my best. ‘Perhaps if you all split up
and had a bit of a root around?’ I suggested in a Sergeant Wilson sort of voice. They all rushed off into the stores and
helped themselves, all bar one. Now I
don’t want to bore you with descriptions of chiseled jaws and ice cold blue
eyes but I am sure you get the picture. As
his men loaded the Landrover up with a lot more than just paintbrushes I had to
ask him, ‘How do you fix broken ribs with a paintbrush?’
‘Easy,’ he said, ‘you just use Tratoplas,
a two part adhesive; brush it onto the rib skin, apply a rubber patch, let it
cure and then re-inflate. We can fix
most of our ribs like that’
I’d been through basic training twice now and we had learnt all about
dealing with sucking chest wounds but this was a new one for me. Blimey, these blokes were hard.
‘Look,’ he said, ‘Sorry I bawled you out
on the phone, this is really decent of you. Now that we’ve got the Chopper, any
chance of some two stroke oil? We’re
always short of that, in fact we are desperate for everything!’
‘Two stroke oil?’
‘Yes, for the ribs.’
‘You’re talking boats, aren’t you?’ I said
in a Benny-from-Crossroads voice as the penny finally dropped.
‘Yes, rigid Inflatable boats, RIBs’
‘Ah well’ I said, ‘in that case, come and
have a look at these shelves.’ They were
loaded with brand new outboard engines gathering dust. I had asked Captain Gopwo for permission to
re-engine the two Force ski boats with them so I could take the lads out water skiing
or fishing but had been refused on the grounds that these were reserved for F
Company. So fuck him, I’d give them to F
Company. It would take him months to
realize they’d gone. He’d then order a
complete stock take, the Special Investigations Branch of the Military Police
would run round like headless chickens for a couple of weeks without any result
and write off any discrepancy to theft by the locals and Store Company’s
accounts would balance once more. It
wasn’t like I was nicking them for personal gain, I just could not believe the
attitude of Captain Gopwo, ‘Stores are for Storing, if they were for Issues,
they’d be called Issues’. Here was a
unit performing a vital role its success only impaired by being strangled
through lack of supplies by their own side.
Stores Company was as bad as the bloody military Police, I decided.
The attitude here reminded me of the
battle of Isandlwana during which absent Commander, Lord Chelmsford occasioned
through a combination of arrogance and incompetence (qualities I recognized in
my immediate superiour),
the worst defeat the British Army ever
suffered at the hands of a bunch of natives.
It was said that the firing line facing the Zulu Impis collapsed and was
over run through lack of ammunition, the Quarter Master apparently deaf to the entreaties
of the ammunition bearers as he ensured his accounting procedures were
followed, right down to reconciling every last brass screw securing the lids of
the wooden ammunition boxes. This was
all bollocks of course. They didn’t
issue every bloody soldier in the British Army of the time with a screw driver
so he could carefully open an ammunition box under fire before distributing the
much needed ammunition to his mates and returning screwdriver and screws to his
pocket. The poor old Quartermaster, who
was killed in the action, was probably shoveling the ammunition boxes off his
horse drawn carts as fast as he could and the soldiers were opening them in the
way they were designed to be opened in a hurry, a smart oblique tap on the edge
of the lid with the butt of a Martini Henry rifle. Chelmsford cocked it all up by
underestimating his enemy and trying to defend too long a perimeter. He lost his army, over a thousand blokes, yet
a few hours later, 120 Welsh Guardsmen successfully defended themselves against
4,000 Zulu at Rorke’s Drift by standing shoulder to shoulder three ranks deep
behind upturned carts and gunny sacks in a tight perimeter. It was all too easy for an embarrassed
Government to accept Chelmsford’s report blaming an overly efficient Quarter
Master for the disaster at Isandlwana and then lash out loads of Victoria
Crosses for the heroic defenders of Rorke’s Drift who proved to the
satisfaction of the Times newspaper and all its readers that despite the odds,
the Empire was still invincible.
had better take a good supply of filters and spark plugs as well,’ I said, ‘and
if you request any other parts through the system, use the serial numbers of
your old engines, not those belonging to these, they’re all the same make and
model so they’ll fit.’ By ‘these’ of
course, I was referring to the two brand new engines they had dumped into the
back of their Landrover on top of all the other kit they’d nicked. ‘Oh, before
you go,’ I called dragging a brand new tarpaulin off a shelf, ‘cover it all
with this, will you? It won’t take a
rocket scientist to figure out where it all came from if someone sees you
driving through camp like that. And
another thing!’ I added as they were leaving, ‘Please make sure it ALL goes
onto the helicopter to PG.’
Gopwo was so anal, he personally controlled the issue of things as trivial as pens
and pencils to other units. I kid you
not. He also hated the RAF which meant
they generally got bugger all. In order
to make things more efficient, and I am sure the spit ran backwards in many a
Group Captain’s throat, some technocrat had decided that it would be more
efficient if the RAF were supplied all their non-technical requirements through
the Army’s logistic system. If they
needed to swap out a Harrier engine, they could fly a replacement in on one of
their Hercules aircraft but would have to come to us, the Army, to beg a pencil
to fill in the requisition form to get it loaded in UK in the first place. One evening I was working my way through the
Playboy book of cocktails at the officer’s mess well stocked and staffed bar
when an RAF officer pitched up in front of me and stuck three biros in front of
know what this is?’ he demanded.
nonplussed by his use of the singular I tentatively ventured, ‘A set of biros?’
he said, drawing out the N sound and clipping the O so together it sounded like
a mosquito straining to break the sound barrier. ‘This,’ he declared with a
manic gleam in his eye, ‘is one month’s allocation by the RAOC of pens for the
RAF!’ He slapped the pens together with
the original requisition form on the bar, turned his back on me and ordered
himself a drink. I took a peek at the
requisition. The RAF had asked for fifty
blue pens, fifty red pens and fifty black pens.
A line had been drawn across the document and scrawled on the back, in
Captain Gopwo’s handwriting, was written: ‘Sorry, no pens in stock, can spare
you three’ as if he was doing them an enormous favour. The thing is, he was lying. We had shelves full of them.
was ridiculous. How could a grossly over
promoted Warrant Officer prejudiced against desperately willing Puerto Rican
Air Hostesses and Brylcreem Boys ground Belize’s Air Defences by denying his
RAF colleagues a biro? I fancifully
thought we were all on the same side.
Good job he didn’t live in the mess.
I could almost guarantee that since he was so universally despised, no
one from any other arm or service would sit next to him at dinner so Corps
loyalty would require me to, a thought sufficient to give the bravest man
down the bar and pushed the requisition in front of the RAF officer. ‘Do you think,’ I said, ‘you could have a
landrover round the back of the stores tomorrow lunchtime and ask one of your
lads to ask for me and no one else?’
do,’ he replied.
I’ll be waiting for him.
officer and I hit it off. I told him
that I was attempting to drink my way through the Playboy book of cocktails
before my tour of Belize ended. He
thought that was a brilliant game so since I was already so far ahead, I did
the decent thing and started again.
soon, we had it all organised. If
Captain Gopwo turned down a requisition, I would receive an informal
requisition. If it was from the RAF, it
would be delivered by my equivalent in the RAF Movements Section over a gin and
tonic in the officer’s mess. If it was
from F Company, it would be a hissed, ‘Boss?
Boss?’ delivered at night through the mosquito netting protecting the
window of my room in the mess. Either
way, delivery was always guaranteed by lunchtime the following day. I was better than the yet to be born Amazon
dot com. From not having a clue where
anything was in the sheds, I was even starting to amaze the storemen. I heard one of them call out, ‘For fuck’s
sake, does ANYONE know where the double overhead chrome dipsticks are?’ and,
before I could stop myself, I called back, ‘Aisle E, halfway down, top shelf,
brown box right at the back.’
that the Army had a very efficient logistics apparatus which depended on
everyone following well developed and tested procedures so it was perhaps
surprising that a young officer would hone larceny to such a fine art and buck
the system. Not really. I just hated Captain Gopwo and delighted that
every time a theft was detected, he had to stay up all night supervising a 100%
stock take of the stores and identify any discrepancies so the extent of the
theft could be determined. For a holder
of one of the very rare Married Accompanied appointments, this must have been
especially galling, counting blankets instead of sleeping under one with his
some reason, he took an instant dislike to this young officer, an ex-Corporal,
now Sandhurst trained who could eloquently express himself much faster than he
could think. What really irritated him,
though, was how well liked I was by the troops.
He insisted that this was due to familiarity on my part. There is a necessary divide between other
ranks and officers. For an officer to
become over familiar with the soldiers under his command can be disastrous for
his authority and, in war, cost more than just status when instead of orders
being obeyed immediately, they are questioned.
He cited, as an example, that at least once a week I could be found not
only drinking in the FOCInn, I would be pulling outrageous stunts. The FOCInn was all ranks. Everyone from Private soldier up to Field
Marshall had the right to enter the bar.
Senior NCO’s and Officers had their own messes in which to let their
hair down but occasionally, it was nice to get in amongst the troops, the guys
that did all the hard, sweaty work.
Dressed in mufti without the pips on my shoulders, I learnt a hell of a
lot. The things that really pissed the
troops off but were so easy to rectify as well as improvements to procedures
and any number of other good ideas these lads who actually worked the system
had. All I had to do was listen. And if occasionally, well tanked, I stacked
one barstool on top of another and climbed the unstable pile right to the top
until, inverting myself, I could plant two boot prints on the high ceiling of
the Nissen hut while all the lads, with fore fingers and thumbs making pretend
pilots goggles chanted, Dah Dah dah de Dah to the tune of the Dambuster’s
theme, so what? The floors were wooden
planks; I bounced well if I fucked up.
The stores were
suffering from ‘Stock Shrinkage’ long before I arrived. I am sure that my contribution to the overall
loss was negligible, the local tea leaves ran rings around camp security and
the military police and we were not talking about kit you could stuff in your
pocket. Hundreds of Landrover tyres
would disappear out of the war maintenance reserve, even vehicles. But I still felt guilty that every time a
loss was identified, these poor buggers, instead of drinking in the FOCInn,
were trying to match store records with stock on shelves. You didn’t think Captain Gopwo was going to
do it by himself? Of course he
wasn’t. He would turf the troops out and
delegate responsibility for supervision to me, retire to his office and sulk
himself to sleep. Brilliant, the poacher
left in charge of the estate.
Of all the very
pissed off storemen going through their own section of the sheds, not one had
an overview of overall losses. I was
receiving the individual section reports so it was up to me how I reconciled
them. If I realized that F Company had
hammered the boat supplies a bit hard, I could let them know they had to lay
off for a month so I could roll some of the losses over to the next month and
normal service would resume a couple of months later. It was the same with the RAF and both parties
knew to keep their gobs shut and let me run my end of the parallel logistics
the guys through the night, I would would usually finish off by pointing out to
the OC how hard his men had worked, without sleep and that, by the way, F
Company had scored an LCL (Landing Craft Logistic) and were going to sail out
to the Cayes to fish and barbecue and had offered to take our lads along in
gratitude for the excellent service we, as storemen, were providing them. As Force Training Officer I pointed out that
if the Guatemalans charged down the Western Highway to take the airport, we
might have to move troops via sea and tropical islands so that, by landing them
at Dangriga we could outflank the enemy and retake the initiative by pushing pretty
much unopposed up the Hummingbird Highway, the Vaca Plateau protecting our left
flank and the sea our right, to San Ignacio, cut the enemy’s supply lines and relieve
the aptly named Holdfast camp’s defence of the route to the airport at the same
This was all
bullshit. You could execute such an
audacious maneuver with enough well-trained light infantry but with a handful
of cooks and bottle washers? Anyone with
even a modicum of tactical awareness would have realized that such an
ill-trained no doubt sea sick force, no matter how well led, would not make it
more than ten miles from the beach.
My boss was
impressed so the lads and I got our regular fishing and diving trips courtesy
of F Company. Did I think there was any
chance of Guatemala invading Belize? No,
of course not, but I liked fishing and diving.
occasions I could report to him that the RAF were running water skiing lessons
and a barbecue with free beers and were wondering if some of our chaps would care
to join them? He would appear slightly
concerned how his stores would continue to run so denuded of staff but I was always
able to convince him that, if Captain Gopwo remained in charge, a skeleton crew
could deliver the service and how, with such experience, the personnel
comprising the Defence Company he commanded could be so much more effective.
was a lazy bastard. His annoyance grew
in parallel with the increasing numbers of his platoon in Callaghan’s and my
running group. At that stage, we were
only running very early in the morning, still making breakfast and morning
parade so he really had nothing to complain about. I thought it a little unfair that I, as
Training Officer, could knock off at three in the afternoon and go for another
run and still make tea and toast in the Mess.
We were at nominal wartime staffing levels but had a peacetime workload
so most of the guys were bored shitless.
Fortunately, Captain Gopwo rarely had the energy to venture out of his
air conditioned office outside of mealtimes so the lads did not have to spend
all their time trying to look busy but could play cards hidden away in one of
the store sheds instead. I could not
force everyone to go running, except during scheduled physical training
periods, but if there were volunteers, keen to keep themselves fit, why
couldn’t they run on the Army’s time rather than their own? There was no point talking to Captain Gopwo
about this (which was rich considering he always knocked off at four, earlier
if he was off on one of his frequent shopping trips to town) so I slid the idea
past the Old Man pointing out that his unit had always come last in the inter
company and inter corps sporting events, apart from cricket, and that at the
last inter-company shooting competition, one of our men occasioned a negligent
discharge and had been promptly marched off the range and jailed. I said that as Force Training Officer, I was
embarrassed at the woeful performance of my own unit compared to the others I
was training and really wanted to do something about it. He agreed with me but once again was
concerned how stores platoon could maintain its service if all the men knocked
off at three pm. I assured him that only
volunteers would be running and that since, by three in the afternoon, most of
the outstanding daily requisitions would have been cleared, the remainder,
under the stores platoon commander’s guidance, would cope. Besides, I said, if every other unit sends
men along for extra training, it’ll start to look bloody odd if we didn’t. The OC gave me the go ahead.
reaction was predictable.
DARE you buck the chain of command!’ He screamed at me, temporarily halting all
work in the store shed as soldiers dropped work in favour of sneaking close to
the offices and listen in. ‘You are
NEVER to go directly to the OC without talking to me first. I am your superior! You work for ME! DO YOU FUCKING WELL
UNDERSTAND!’ He paused, eyes and veins
popping, his face a very peculiar shade of puce. I paused just in case he would do the decent
thing and keel over with a heart attack allowing me to save my breath but no
such luck was forthcoming.
I said, ‘I am not part of Stores Platoon.
I am the Force Training Officer and as such report directly to the
Commanding Officer Force Troops through Officer Commanding Force Ordnance
Company. That is why I have to go to the
Brigadier’s weekly O Groups over at HQ British Forces Belize and you
don’t’. Now if THAT didn’t induce an
immediate and catastrophic myocardial infarction, nothing would.
I think I can
safely condense what followed by describing it as being barfed over by a giant
rabid dog. Had he been a great deal
lighter and fitter, I am sure he would have left boot prints all across the
ceiling. As it was, the only thing he
could manage was to barge a bit of furniture over so keen was he to get his
hands around my throat, all the time yelling obscenities and telling me exactly
how many years I would either spend doing extra duties or in jail after my
court martial for insubordination and insolence. The troops thought this was hilarious; the
man had really lost it.
At that moment
the door to the flimsy glass partition separating us from the store shed and by
then virtually all of stores platoon opened and Captain Inions, the Supply
Platoon Commander walked in. Captain
Inions was the living, breathing embodiment of a young Sergeant Wilson only
with pips on his shoulders. I never
heard him raise his voice or get in a flap about anything.
‘Tom, run along
to the OC’s office, please.’ He said quietly.
All the time I had been in Captain Gopwo’s office, my back had been
turned to the glass partition. As I came
out of the office I saw all the lads wide eyed and grinning. I hurried down the corridor to the OC’s
office, knocked and walked in.
‘What’s that all
about?’ asked the OC.
is a little upset with me for coming to see you about the new volunteer
training programme without obtaining his permission first.’
upset! I thought he was murdering you!
Didn’t you talk to him about it first?’
‘No Sir, I
‘Why ever not?’
Sir. Firstly, it is not just his
platoon, it is supply platoon, all the other platoons; it is REME, catering
corps, HQ Company, Signals everyone in Force Troops bar Infantry and Royal
Engineers. Secondly, by asking him I
would have established in his mind an authority over me he does not possess, I
report to the CO through you, I just happen to share an office with Captain Gopwo. Thirdly, had I asked him, he would have said
no and placed me in the awkward position, having acknowledged his authority, of
not being able to do my job.’
‘You didn’t tell
him that did you?’ asked the OC hopefully.
‘I did, Sir’
muttered. I could have sworn I detected
a note of awe. Many times we had all
heard Captain Gopwo giving the OC, who was by nature a very kind man spending
all his time fruitlessly trying to please everyone, a hard time so we all knew
the OC wasn’t exactly fond of the pain in his side that was his arrogant and opinionated stores platoon
walked in, without knocking I noticed,
‘Ach, I think
the fat bastard is just worried he’ll have to do some running as well,’ said
‘Onions’ with breathtaking disregard for the golden rule of never criticizing a
fellow officer in front of a subordinate.
no way Tom can carry on sharing his office.’ said the OC.
‘There are no
more offices free,’ Onions pointed out.
‘I could easily
set up a desk in the typing pool with the secretaries,’ I suggested.
And that, dear
children, was how the cunning fox persuaded the farmer to let him into the