Having completed my Basic Military Training with the Royal Engineers myself and a plane load of other new soldiers found ourselves in Germany and we were about to enter a new phase in our Military Service! I was posted to 23 Engineer Regiment in Osnabruk which had a garrison of about 15,000 British Servicemen from all services there!
My first job was on the Regimental Police Stall where we did stags, 24 hours on duty and then 48 hours off duty, this
gave me and my Police mates plenty of time to check out the local bars! The duty was easy, doing Gate Duty, Escorting Prisoners and Roving Patrols around the barracks. We had the odd bit of trouble but with me being one of the smallest on the staff, things were easily worked out! after 3 months I was transferred to 16 Field Squadron where the real Engineering Works Began for me!
New members of a Squadron, especially ones with no Field Experience are called Sprogs and that name will stick with you until you prove yourself worthy to be a part of the Squadron! This did not take long for me as I was a quick learner and could drink more than most in the Squadron! We had an excellent Squadron Bar in the Attic Space ob the Barracks and I spent a lot of time there! Drink And Smokes were cheap as the NAAFI Supplied them
We were constantly on Field Exercises living inside our Armored Personnel Carriers APC’s and eating Compo Rations which were great to me. We used to cook the food cans on the Engine Exhaust Louvre’s of the APC so we had hot food any time we wanted!
The main reason that we were in Germany was to defend against the Russians Forces if they decided to invade, Our Life Expectancy if such an event was to occur was just 48 hours! Scary Thought Really! On these Exercises we practiced everything that we would have to do in the case of a real emergency, this meant Building Bridges, Laying Dummy Mine Fields, Setting Dummy Explosives on Bridges and in Tunnels and generally preparing defenses! All this work usually happened at night and when it was raining of snowing so I thing that you can imagine, it was pretty tough and miserable and you usually did not get a good bath or change of clothes for up to 3 weeks!
Playing War Games was fun but we always had other training going on! I learned to drive the APC and got my class H Licence from that! I could now legally drive Armored Vehicles on the roads but not a normal car! There were Radio Courses and the Radios in them days were horrible to tune! We were always cleaning our weapons and shooting them on the ranges which was fun! Sports was always a big thing as we had to keep fit so I played Rugby. I was not really good at it but it was fun and the drinking after made all the pain worth while! We worked very hard and always had to be ready to move out at very short notice, these exercises were practice for the real thing so we had to get out super fast! This used to really upset the local German Population, can you imagine a 15,000 strong army moving out in the middle of the night through a Town, that was very noisy!
In the Summer Time we usually got a public relations project in the Black Forest area near the Swiss Border. These were good as we built things like Wooden Bridges, Log Cabins, Barbecue Huts and other things like that. There was always lots to drink there also as it was the local Festival season in the summer as well!
I was having a good time but was called back to England to start my Class 3 Trade Training at the Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham Kent! Instead of crane driving I changed to Water Engineering specializing in Well Drilling!
This is Where I went back to school and decided that this time I was going to get a second chance to get going and
learn what I refused to learn at my High School, there were many other skills also for Drilling such as, Steel Cable Splicing, Welding, Hydraulics, Pneumatic’s, Geology, Engine Mechanics and of course, how to operate a Drilling Rig! I did very well at this and got an A Grade on completion of the training which set me up for my Class 2 Training!
Upon my return to Germany my Squadron was doing a tour of duty in Northern Ireland, they would not let me join them as I had not done the Training so I stayed back and looked after the APC’s until the Squadron Returned! During this tour of duty, 2 men were killed and several others were wounded!
Things were getting back to normal with Field Exercises and things, I got my first promotion to Lance Corporal but then, after another trip to the Black Forest came around, I was called back to England to do my Class 2 Water Engineering Course! I did not want to leave again at this time but the Army does not give you a choice
on such matters! Once again I was away to Chatham and Again I did very well during the training and was told that I would be doing my Class 1 Training sometime in the future and this came with a good pay rise! The Bars in Chatham really missed me!
When I got back to Germany I was put on my Class 2 Combat Engineer Training, I did the Class 3 in Basic Training! I really enjoyed this and was put in charge of a Night Build of a Medium Girder Bridge which I managed successfully with the help of my mates! After that I was put on my NCO’s Cadre Course where you learn skills for future promotion, again this I passed with ease but I was getting fed up with training when myself and more of my Squadron Mates were sent Back to Chatham on an Explosive Search
Team Training in preparation for our up and coming tour of Northern Ireland!
This Training was very interesting as we were working with the ATO’s, these were the men who actually made the Bombs and Booby Traps Safe, Bomb Disposal but before they could do their job it was our job to find the explosives! It was truly amazing how cleaver and devious the Irish were when it came to making Booby Traps, They cost the lives of many Soldiers, Police and Civilians during the conflict, and quite a few of their own fighters also!
Back in Germany we started training in earnest for the Northern Ireland Tour. The main training was Crowd Control where for the purpose of training, Infantry Troops Played the Irish and we had to keep them in line! Wow, they made it real by throwing rocks and petrol bombs at us and they had Female Soldiers on their side who were just as mean and nasty as the men! Several of the boys got injuries but nothing really serious and we would drink with the Infantry after the days training!
Being Engineers we also had to practice Building Defenses, Instant Road Blocks, Installing Sleeping Policemen of Speed Bumps and of course, Installing all kinds of Barbed and Razor Wire. Shooting our weapons was also very important as we would live with our weapons during the whole Tour of Duty! The Training was finished and now, all we had to do was prepare our equipment, pack it all up and wait for the go signal into the conflict zone!
The Go Signal Came and away we went but that is for another episode!