Into my first month of training with Scots five of The Royal Regiment Of Scotland and we’re getting beasted (disciplined) again for a few days in the Yorkshire hills of England.
My section composes of eleven guys and our Corporals going nuts. Camp can’t be made until we get the hand signals right under the cover of darkness, but my glasses have steamed up and I can’t see for shit.
We’re in staggered formation which means there’s between five and ten meters between each of us. The man in front gives a signal and we pass it one by one down the line. I make up my own signals much to the annoyance of Corporal Pew. Yeah, I can admit that now IT WAS ME!
We’re made to run around a massive track every time we get it wrong while wearing our full gear including rifle, ammo webbing, two litre water bottles, backpack, fucking horrible boots and a giant helmet that makes me look like a magical mushroom from Super Mario World.
“Last five go again”. We’re told, but he makes us all go regardless. Still we push and shove aiming never to be the last five.
Sometime after midnight we crawl back to the forest our platoon, made from around fifty men, call home for the night. I’m as-well walking with my eyes shut it’s so dark. Ever saw the films Blair Witch Project or Dog Soldiers?!
My friend and I go on stag (lookout) first while the rest build their two man shelters made up from a poncho tied to four trees about two feet of the ground with just enough room to crawl into. Our stag position was built during the day, but now we’re seriously lost trying to find it. My ass is going to have a size ten, steel toed boot up it if my Corporal finds out about this. We give up and just lie on the ground deciding that this is the new lookout point for the night.
Cullinan goes to wake up the next in line while I wait keeping our makeshift position secure. I assume he will take the next soldier to where I am, but after about an hour of waiting I begin to realise it’s not happening.
Eventually I make my way back not knowing if I’m going the wrong way or if I’m about to walk through my Sergeant’s tent. Luckily I do neither and make it back to a whispered chorus of “Where the fuck have you been”? I crawl into bed removing my satchel, helmet, rifle and body armour only to be woken up less than ten minutes later for another turn to keep watch.
With one eye resting against the sights of my rifle I drifted off. Maybe only for a few seconds but I startle awake when another of our Corporals kneels at my side and quietly asks how it’s going. He didn’t notice. How fucking lucky do I feel? Especially after seeing what happens to people who get caught napping on stag. Thirty minutes later and I’m back in bed again.
The air fills with the clatter of machine gun fire and I answer the call of “Stand to”, by flipping open my sleeping bag, rolling over onto my chest, pulling on my body armour, helmet, rifle and slapping on a full magazine of thirty rounds. I heard of one guy from a previous platoon who woke everyone by firing a shot by mistake while keeping it in his sleeping bag –as we all have to do- but thank fuck that wasn’t me! I fire at anything that moves. Our Corporals are attacking us and we have to give em what for.
Side by side next to my friend I soon realise I chose the wrong side of the shelter as I’m sprayed in the face by red hot casings ejected from the rifle Cullinan fires. I’m sure my sleeping bags on fire and a bullet casing has landed right between my bum cheeks causing me tremendous pain that I can do nothing about, but continue shooting at my Corporal.
In the morning we have one hour to have everything ready. This includes cleaning our rifles, washing off camouflage, shaving, eating, cleaning impossibly burnt pans, polishing boots, packing away everything and re-applying cammo plus numerous other tedious tasks. During this time my Sergeant roars in an alarming, familiar tone “RITCHIE”! I grab my helmet and start to run while adjusting my rifle to avoid the same punishment dealt to those who neglect parts of their kit. An hour of Leopard crawl is something to avoid if possible.
I arrive on front of a crowd of Corporals, my Sergeant and Lieutenant. I’m in shit for sure. They must know I got lost last-night and now they’re gonna rape me and bury my corpse deep in the forest I think to myself.
“Tell us a story.” Suddenly they look cheerful and relaxed. My arse is still going like a rabbit’s nose. I’m known for being the one with the jokes and funny stories, so I tell them a few, can’t recall which ones but, we have a bit of banter then they let me go.
Eventually I trod back to my Section. They’re all ready to go and I’ve done nothing. Standing in line we wait to be inspected one by one. Every time we’ve not done something perfectly we get made to run with rifles and helmets around an area the size of a football pitch and you HAVE to beat the man on front of you. I do well when I’m sent to run, but every-time I get back I’m sent back out for something else I’ve done wrong.
In my head I can’t stop saying the words “This is fucking shit, this is fucking shit”, while running on blisters the size of eggs with that horrible SA80 assault rifle banging around while the strap tears at my shoulder.
We’re offered a lift back to camp. We know we’ll get in shit if we accept so we keep quiet and get on with the long, gruelling run ahead. God I wanted that lift so bad. We all struggle to make it back to the barracks in one piece, my blisters tore off near the start and I’m now running on naked flesh grinding on the insides of these boots, but everyones in the same boat and we pull through encouraging, dragging and pushing each-other until home and dry. Thank fuck that’s over.
“Same time tomorrow lads”.
Aye, smell yer Maw!
to be continued..