On the 10th January 1977, a Sunday, I went to bed about 10 pm and was reading a novel when I opened a new pack of cigarettes, Capstan Full Strength, without filter tips and was reading and enjoying the smoke! at around 3 pm while I was still reading, I opened a second pack of cigarettes and lit up the first one! About half way down the cigarette I paused and thought of how many cigarettes I had smoked in such a short time and put it out! This was the last cigarette I ever smoked to this day! It was a real struggle going Cold Turkey but on the 17th January, just one week later I was informed that my Farther Had Died and with that sad news I decided there and then to leave cigarettes alone forever in his honor and I kept my promise to him to this day!
In January 1978 I decided to see the doctor as I had been having quite severe pains in my right upper arm. I had had this pain for a long time but each time i was going to look into it, a good job came up so I kept putting it off for a long time! After having had basic xrays taken, I had an appointment made at the Queen Elizabeth’s Military Hospital in Woolwich. The Hospital was brand new and state of the art with the most modern facilities available. My doctor was the Colonel Coule, the Queens Orthopedic Surgeon, That’s a heavy rank to deal with me! The took blood and lots of weird blue xrays which really showed the bone in great detail but unfortunately this showed the problem in high definition! Once the Surgeon saw my results he told me that I had Tumors on the Humerus which should not be there, he checked his appointment book and told me to report to the hospital in just 3 days time for surgery! To say I was afraid was an understatement, I imagined having my arm amputated and all kinds of other nasty things and my military friends were no comfort to me either so for the time i waited to go into the hospital I had a lot to drink to drown my sorrows. It did not work, I was very nervous before I entered hospital as I had never been in one before!
For the first few days I was poked, prodded, xrayed and had blood drawn and in the end it was decided that the tumors would be removed! Being a Soldier, I was given a chance to test out a new oral Pre Med method instead of the usual injected one! OK, I am up for that and I swallowed 2 tablets. I was told later that this medication did not calm the group of us who took them but had the opposite effect and we were told we were nearly dancing on the ceiling until we calmed down after an our or so! The next thing I remember is after the surgery where I woke up starving so the nurse fed me a little!
The next day, the surgeons inspected me and were very happy with the results. All seemed well with the procedure but they wanted me to stay in for a couple of weeks so they could check my progress. To stop getting bored I used to assist serving the tea and coffee to the other inmates on my ward. this was fun and some of the soldiers were really badly injured from wounds in Northern Ireland but all were in good spirits and made the best of their situation!
After about 3 weeks I was sent on leave for one month so I reported back to the Training Regiment and from their I went home! after about a week my sister and her 2 kids wanted to take me swimming at the new Richard Dunn, Sports Complex! Richard Dunn was a heavyweight Boxer who fought and lost to Mohammed Ali in 1976.
Against my better judgement I decided to go with them and it was very nice having a swim! After a while I noticed an ex girlfriend and her kids (Not Mine) at the side of the pool in the deep end so I swam over to say hello! I got to the edge of the pool and just rested my arms on the side when there was a sound like a log splitting and a severe pain shot up my arm, stupid me, I had split my humerus from top to bottom!
My sister took me to the Bradford Royal Infirmary where he took an xray and put me in a collar and cuff bandage which was not uncomfortable but that’s what they had in the Victorian Hospital. I was in a lot of pain and asked for pain killers but was told that the Orthopedic surgeon would give me these the next day once he had assessed my injury! With this news I went home and phoned the Military Hospital and told them what had happened so they told me to come back there so I went and caught the train from Bradford to London which was a nightmare! With my arm just hanging in a sling, the movement of the train caused me real pain. I got a cup of coffee on the train but I could not open the milk and sugar so I asked the other 3 men on my table to help but they just ignored me. A lady across the isle saw my plight and came over and assisted me with my coffee, I think she was German, the bloody English were too ignorant to help me!
I arrive back in the hospital in the early evening and was taken back to the ward where I was bedded down the nurse in charge gave me some pain killers which did not work! She later gave me an injection to make me sleep but that did not work! She then gave me a super jab which she told me would knock out an hippo, that did not work also! I had a very sad night to say the least!
The surgeon was not happy with me when he saw me, he did not believe how it happened and said I was probably running around and slipped. I had more xrays over the next couple of days then they decided to put me into a full upper body cast for 3 months and send me home again! I had seen body casts before as some of the patients were wearing them but I got lucky as there was a new type of cast from Canada available for trial and I was chosen as a guinea pig to test it! Lucky me! It was called a Comfy Cast and was really an epoxy Bandage. First the nurse fitted a full top end body sock on me, then the surgeon came with the cast. It was kept in a sealed tin with a ring pull opener and one opened wow, did it stink. I needed 3 tins to cover my damaged area but it did not take long to fit. I was then told in no uncertain terms to go away for about one hour until the cast set up! Instead of going outside I decided to go for a walk around the hospital but the smell was so bad that I was quickly escorted outside into the fresh air!
When I was allowed inside the cast was inspected and trimmed and I was inspected by lots of people for 2 days until I was sent home again this time for 3 months to allow the healing process to take over so home I went!
At home I removed the body sock which was under the cast and then I could take a bath, a thing you cannot do with a plaster cast so I could keep most of my body clean except for under my arm pit, a place I could not get too.
After 3 months I returned to the hospital where the Surgeon was very happy with the state of the new cast. I was pretty tatty really but the integrity of the cast was still intact and had done its job as xrays proved! One morning, the surgeon and a group of interns came to see me as it was time to remove the cast which took seconds with a pair of scissors. One the cast was off he told me to straighten my arm which had been across my chest for 3 months. Try as I might, my arm did not move so they called in this beautiful blond haired Physio Terrorist with a wonderful British Accent. She felt my arm and gently told me that my muscles, what was left of them were locked up and would need a few visits with her in her bath to ease the muscles, the thought of which made me happy but then, quite suddenly she held my wrist and elbow and straightened my arm. I have never felt such pain and I cursed her in good military style but she just smiled nicely as the rest of the spectators laughed. My arm was now free but had no strength so I did end up in the bath with the Terrorist but only for therapy. She was actually a very nice lady once she had stopped administering the pain!
I once again had a full body scan to see if the Tumors were still there in any form but nothing was found. I was then given some medication in a sterile room which I believe was a form of Chemo Therapy, over a week I was given injections which felt like I was having Cheese Wiz pumped into me! That was not nice at all but that was it for treatment so I was sent back to my unit in Chatham but my physical status was down graded to P7 which was one step above dead!
Once back in my unit I joined the training and could lecture and supervise but no hands on works as all drilling gear was very heavy so my life was easy once again! It took a while but I got my strength back after a while!
At this time my 9 years service was coming to an end so I decided to contact some Civilian Drilling and Water Supply Companies as I was really interested in continuing my career overseas. I had very positive feedback and offered work in Africa and the Middle East which were interesting so now I had to see what the Army had to offer me in order to convince me to re enlist!
The day came when I went in front of a military commission to sort out my future but they offered me the position as Drill Sargent at the 521 STRE based in Barton Stacy in Hampshire, a very expensive area to live! The Camp was a pre Second World War Wooden Camp next to a Motorway and 2 miles from the nearest pub. Being a junior Sargent living in the Camp I would be doing all kinds of extra duties as most other NCO’s were married and lived out of the Camp so this did not sound to me as a good future! Also, they told me I would receive the Queens Silver Jubilee Medal and I would be sent on my Class 1 Store Mans Course, non of which interested me in the slightest. I was told that this was the career path that they had chosen for me and they would need my answer in Writing in one week but I already knew my answer!
I had a last appointment with my Surgeon and I informed him that I would be leaving the Army and asked him If my Fitness Status could be upgraded again to P1 Status to which he agreed.
After that, my 9 years service was almost concluded so I was sent on leave until my Discharge day and during this period I had several Job Interviews with civilian companies and secured my first job in Nigeria!
When I returned to Chatham for my Discharge and met some of the lads that I had trained with, most of these had spent all their Military Careers in the UK and never went anywhere unlike me who traveled all over! It took me 2 days to do my clearance in the camp and say my good buys to the people I knew and once I got Discharged I jumped into my car and drove out of the gate with a heavy heart really as I enjoyed my service but it was time to move on in life, Next Stop, Nigeria!
For the next 5 years I had full body scans in Bradford when I was home on leave which proved that I had a clean bill of health! Happy me!