AT…………ON……….AT………., I WAS………..I SAW………..I DID……….
This page allows an opportunity for past Unit members to recount some favourite memories to be saved and shared. Now is the time to submit that report………..!
CONTENTS (SO FAR!):
DAVID CURRIE REMEMBERS – NATIONAL SERVICE (1)
DAVID CURRIE REMEMBERS – NATIONAL SERVICE (2)
ROBIN BUZZA – ADVENTURE TRAINING IN NORWAY, 1967
DAVID CURRIE REMEMBERS – NATIONAL SERVICE (3)
GORDON ROBERTS – ‘THAT’S THE WAY IT WAS IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS!’
David Currie remembers:
NATIONAL SERVICE (1)
National Service, or Conscription, was first introduced in the UK in 1916 to 1920 and again in 1938 to 1960 to boost the Regular army. In October 1950 the period was extended to two years in response to the British involvement in the Korean war. The bulk of the forces was made up of National Servicemen (NS) in Korea, the Malayan Emergency, Cyprus, Kenya, and the Suez Crises 1956. From 1949 all healthy males in the UK at the age of 17 had by law to register for NS with no excuses. Men could be called up after the age of 17, service could be deferred on medical or religious grounds or if they were still in apprenticeships or full time education. The last NS entered the army in November 1960. In 1962, due to the ‘Cold War’ and lack of Regular recruits, NS was extended by 6 months. The last NS left the service in 1963 – the ‘Last of the Mohicans!’
David Hartley, Ronald Greenwell, Robert Christy, John Freeman and I (David Currie,) were called up in September1960 and trained at Inkerman Barracks, Woking in 811 squad under Sgt Fisher. Our MT training was cut short by 2 weeks as there was a shortage of RMP in Germany. We were posted to join 6 Bde in Münster in the Spring of 1961. Eric Speed was the last N.S. to join 6 Bde, he was given the extra 6 months then he signed on and did 22 years. Due to end our service in September 1962 we were informed that we would have to serve an extra 6 months service, with no appeal. When the extra time started we were awarded Regular pay rate with no account for time served.
In 1960 new equipment was in short supply so NS were issued with mainly second hand items of equipment. No winter clothing was issued to NS, special battle dress and boots were issued for winter Exercises, all remnants of the Korean war. Regulars were issued with brand new kit. The 1960/63 army in Germany was a second hand army, it was a case of make do and mend. We really were a rag tag mob. If the Russians had known how poorly equipped we were they would have been over the borders in a flash!
After passing out and 10 days leave we were sent off to our postings and Germany was regarded as a home posting. Our journey to Münster was by train to Harwich then a night voyage in a cramped, squalid little troopship to the Hook of Holland . The accommodation was primitive, three tier bunks in one large hold , and no going on deck for fresh air. Next morning we piled on to a troop train and told to get off at the second stop. Good old Münster.
6 Inf Bde Pro Unit was in York Barracks. The OC was Captain Trevor Campbell and the 2 i/c was Ssgt Brian Gater. The Unit was made up of 2 Sergeants, 4 Corporals, 2 ACC Cooks, 1 REME mechanic – Cpl. William ( Tiffy) Goat – 3 civilian interpreters, 3 civilian ladies in the office, Horst Hopp the sign painter, other civilian cleaners and kitchen staff – and a motley bunch of Regular Lcpls and National Servicemen! It turned out after two years that it wasn’t a bad posting!
6 Inf Bde Pro Unit RMP was a unit to support the whole Brigade and we carried out garrison duties and field duties. The garrison work was to police our area dealing with all manner of incidents, traffic control of military units, escort to tanks, policing of military gatherings and general police work. Duty Stand By was a day to day routine, carried out by a two man team, duty driver and duty NCO who would cover any incident on a 24 hour shift. Duty desk duties was on a three shift system or if short of manpower, two 12 hr shift duties and on occasions a 24 hr shift. This was to man the desk taking phone calls and keeping records of the day’s events in the Daily Occurrence Book. This was a VERY special duty to be carried out without mistakes, blots, scribble outs and in your best printing. Most people had to rewrite at least one page more than once . If manpower permitted there might be a foot patrol Thursday to Saturday nights patrolling the town centre. Return to barracks was on the last bus, often a very noisy affair, but I never had any trouble on foot patrol. Every night 2000 hrs to 0200 hrs, a mobile patrol was sent in to the town to handle any problems. When petrol was in short supply, the time was cut short and time was spent in the German police station, in the centre of town. With only a very small number of NCOs available at any one time, days off were few.
For transport we had 2 x 1ton Austin lorries with a trailer, which was converted to form a caravan used as an information office. The Austin was a general purpose vehicle used for all larger sized use. The 1 ‘tonner’ had the old style crash gear box which had to be double de-clutched when changing gear. We also had 6, ¼ ton, 4×4 Austin Champs with trailers. The Champ was designed to replace the American Willis jeep. It was meant for desert warfare in the Middle East, not the North German roads. The Champ was a very versatile machine, fitted with a Rolls Royce engine which was fully water and dust proof. It could be completely submerged, after some modifications, a snorkel and removing the fan, and with the driver wearing a diving suit. I never tried it, and we never had the kit. The Champ like all MOD vehicles at the time had 24 volt electric systems, so any vehicle could jump-start another. On one Exercise we came across a tank with a flat battery so we fixed the tank’s long jump lead to the Champ’s socket to give it power. A German watching us started shouting at us, “Gummi gummi” thinking we were trying to tow the tank with a rubber rope! What happened to that good idea? The Champ had a lot of good features, like the front wheels had hubs that could be used like pulleys, by putting a rope round the hub and fixing the end to a solid object the Champ could pull its self out of a mud hole. The only problem was the towing ring on the bumper was not strong enough to take the strain. Ah well, you cant have it all right. The Champ was a great vehicle but very heavy on petrol, less than 18 miles to the gallon and was replaced by the ever popular Land Rover in two sizes. The third means of transport was the BSA 500cc motor cycle, circa 1939, a real heavyweight of a bike, but as I have said, everything was old or second hand. The BSA was heavy on petrol and not very fast but could get you from A to B.
. As well as Garrison duties, war games /Exercises were part of our routine, usually 3 or 4 days once a month. I enjoyed Exercises, having spent most of my teenage weekends on the hills and glens of Angus I could make myself comfortable roughing it. Sometimes I would be on a motorbike, which meant I had very often to fend for myself and sort out any incident I came across patrolling the routes. Remember we had no means of communicating back to the Unit. The other job was signing routes, ‘Nut Up’ being the main one . I always thought that our signs were superior to other units as they were hand painted by Horst the civilian sign writer whilst other Units used stenciled signs which were not always clear. Did anyone sign round Sendenhorst? Outside of the town was a wooden archway over the main road, ideal for nailing up a hardboard sign, if you could find a space for your nail! The structure was armoured with so many nails hammered in by countless RMP over the years. I wonder if that arch is still standing?
David Currie remembers:
NATIONAL SERVICE (2)
They say that an army marches on its stomach, we would not have got far in the early sixties. Food was still in short supply, how our two ACC cooks managed to feed us on the weekly rationsthey were provided with is a mystery. Being a small Unit we did not get the choice and variety of ingredients that a larger kitchen would be supplied with. Somehow our two cooks managed to feed us three meals each day. Bob Durbridge, a fish filleter from Bristol, and Kevin, a plasterer, had no experience of working in a kitchen, with only a few weeks of army training they worked wonders with the food they were given. With few mouths to feed at breakfast, as duty sleeps depleted the numbers, a large amount of breakfast cereal built up, the pile of flakes and Krispies were swapped for items of rations with other units giving us a more balanced variety of meals. On Exercise, ‘compo’ rations were used, boxes of tins of a wide selection of ready cooked foods, each box contained a range of meals. Most people had their favourites, usually several items would be cooked together to make it easier to produce a hot meal in the field. Imagination had to be used but we were glad of a meal. Well done all you part-time cooks.
On one Exercise we were a body short to man a road junction at the Brigade HQ start point. Solution – use the Cook! Bob was kitted out with long white traffic sleeves, instructed that all traffic was to turn right and to give a smart salute as the Brigadier drove past. At the appointed hour the convoy set off, I was tail-end Charlie, charged with picking up all the signage used to assemble the HQ vehicles, and Bob, duty done. The road was a very long straight country road, in the early morning the mist hung low over fields. I waited until the last truck had cleared the road then started picking up the signs, the only vehicle on the whole stretch of road, as we approached the end of the road we could see through the mist two white arms flailing the air. Yes it was Bob, still doing his duty to the last vehicle!
“War Alert,” was a phone message from Brigade, usually in the middle of the night . It was a signal that the unit had 20 minutes to pack up and clear the barracks as the Russians were about to launch their rockets . The unit moved out, every man for himself and collected in a wooded area near the local Command Ammunition Depot, ammunition would have been issued there . We had to set up a one way system round the site and set up the info post then hang about until the ‘all clear’ was given, all great fun in the middle of the night, and all top secret, except there was very often a Soxmis car sitting at the end of the lane.
Soxmis. After the second world war, with the partition of Germany into four allied zones, the four former Allies, Britain, US, France and the USSR set up “military liaison missions” to encourage understanding between the Powers. In reality they became intelligence gathering units spying in plain sight. Standing orders on sighting a Soxmis vehicle was to note the number on the yellow identification plate and report its location to RMP. A dedicated Unit monitored Soxmis movements to ensure they did not stray into sensitive areas . RMP had a unit of powerful cars to intercept and shadow Soxmis, they went by the name “White Mice Chasers”. Brixmis was the British mission operating in the soviet zone of Germany, “We did not spy”, well maybe a little. The French and US had their own versions. My only run in with the Russians was on an Exercise, I had to man a crossroad junction to ensure the safe passage of a squadron of tanks . A Soxmis car came up and parked at the junction. Following standing orders I parked my motor bike in front and noted the details to be transferred to the D.O.B. later. After a while a German Police car arrived and parked close behind the Soxmis and two more police cars arrived boxing in the Russians. The Germans did not take kindly to the Russian presence . In due course my convoy arrived, led by a Ferret scout car, one tank transporter, with an object covered with a tarpaulin, and a champ. Tanks with metal tracks were not permitted on the normal roads as they damaged the surface. I don’t think the Kremlin would have been happy with their lads’ daily report! The Soxmis / Brixmis missions lasted until the reunification of Germany in 1990.
In October 1962 an American U-2 spy plane secretly photographed a nuclear missile site being built by the Soviet Union on the island of Cuba, 90 miles off the American coast. President Kennedy, not wanting the Soviets so close to the American mainland placed a “quarantine” area round the island. A force of naval ships blockaded the island. Kennedy demanded the removal of the missiles and the destruction of the site . No one was sure how Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev would react to the naval blockade, his reactions might have triggered a nuclear war. On October 24, Soviet ships tried to breach the blockade and this would have sparked a military confrontation. Nato forces were put on alert, ready for any act of aggression by the Soviets. The deadline for the Russian ships heading to Cuba to stop was 12 noon, as Germany was 7 hours ahead of the Caribbean we were on war alert throughout the night, sleeping fully dressed, all vehicles fully loaded ready for war at a moment’s notice . Just before the deadline the Russian ships stopped, war had been avoided. There is a very good film, ’13 Days’ which covers the American side of the crisis. After watching the film I started laughing, my wife asked why I was laughing and I had to explain that the US and the Russians were about to fire nuclear rockets at each other and I was going to war with 6 bullets! The crisis was diplomatically resolved and the missile site removed. You can’t say that we were not ready.
After the 2nd World War, Germany was divided, to be administered by the four allied powers. East Germany was administered by the Russians making it a Communist State. As many people fled from the East the German Democratic Republic sealed their border to the West with a wooden and barbed wire fence, mine fields and guard towers. At one point the GDR closed the autobahn from the West to Berlin. Berlin was also divided ,with check points for entry to the soviet sector , many East Germans tried to escape to the West but not all made it as the guards would shoot any one who dared to try to break out.
In the summer of 1961 intelligence showed the GDR was about to do something along the border dividing east and west Berlin. We at 6 Bde went out on exercise, not the usual small scale affair but we found other brigades from all over Germany in the field. There were lots of strange tac signs along or crossing our routes. We also had live ammunition trucks to escort, usually they would be empty. Something was up. The exercise lasted for nearly 3 weeks, a bath unit was laid on, a QM store opened for essential items of clothing and we even had a night off. The local Gast Haus ran out of beer so the host must have loved us! In Berlin the East German army were removing the barbed wire fencing along the dividing line and replacing it with a concrete structure 12 feet high, mine fields and watch towers, and removing roads and housing overlooking the wall. They did not want anyone leaving East Berlin . The wall was broken in November 1989 and Germany reunified . Those RMP who served in Berlin at that time must have had a very shaky time. Thankfully these are the only times in my service that I was in a near war situation .
ROBIN BUZZA, AGED 18 YRS, WROTE THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IN 1967. IT APPEARED IN THE 2ND QUARTER EDITION OF THE RMP JOURNAL AND WE ARE GRATEFUL TO THE EDITOR OF THE RMP JOURNAL, THE RMP MUSEUM AND ROBIN FOR PERMISSION TO RE-PRODUCE IT. FOR ROBIN, IT WAS THE SPARK WHICH IGNITED A LIFETIME OF ADVENTURE AND EXPLORING IN THE ARCTIC.
Gordon Roberts’ Kansas front licence plate (mentioned above)