Tag Archives: Thatcher

The Falklands War – My guilty secret.

argentina, falklands war, thatcher, royal airforce, nimrod, vulcan, harrierNormally, at around 4.00 in the afternoon, my writing life will be dominated by one of two things.

If I’m in writing mode, it’ll be the sounds of Bjork in my headphones and if I’m in skiving mode it’ll be some crap TV show like Come Dine With Me or Deal or No Deal as I lounge on the sofa.

Recently however, I have discovered the delights of Simon Mayo on Radio 2 and having been listening to his excellent ‘Confessions’ slot, I have been inspired to confess something of my own. Not because I feel guilty about it and need forgiveness, but because I just feel the time is right to get it off my chest. So here goes…

In 1982, whilst a young, impressionable and innocent Corporal, I was dispatched to Ascension Island as a part of the Royal Air Force detachment involved with the South Atlantic Task Force. For those who do not know, Ascension Island is a volcanic rock in the middle of the South Atlantic. It’s hot, windy and dusty which can make things extremely uncomfortable when you’re living in tents and what with that and the huge amount of aircraft movements taking place, sleep was at a premium during the day.

More importantly, the island is home to a beautiful and very long runway which meant that it provided the perfect operational hub for the men and equipment being put together to repel the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands. As a consequence, by the time I arrived, at around the same time as the first British ships heading for war, it was somewhat busy.

Now, my job will remain secret for reasons which would be obvious if you knew what they were but suffice to say, my shift pattern was 24 on, 24 off. Unfortunately, the ‘on’ portion involved my sergeant and I remaining both awake and alert which whilst fine at first, was not fine after about a week. Zombies comes close.

As a consequence, we began a rota where one would snatch sleep whilst the other remained awake doing the work of two men. This worked well for a few days until it all went horribly wrong. Or to be more specific, I cocked it up.

It’s fair to say that being on an active and very busy airfield during time of war is extremely exciting but as you can imagine given our location, the facilities left something to be desired. And by facilities, I mean specifically, toilets.

This was fine for ‘number one’s’ but when the body placed additional demands on you (if you get my drift) you needed an actual toilet. And let’s face it, I wasn’t in the Army, I was in the RAF so our much higher standards meant that we couldn’t and indeed wouldn’t, just ‘go’ anywhere! 

Unfortunately, the toilets for us lowly airmen were about half a mile away and consisted of what are known universally as ‘long drops’. These being basically long planks of wood with holes cut in them. I will leave you to work out the rest but to say they leave a lot to be desired is an understatement. Especially at 3.00 in the morning when it is pitch black.

war, falklands, ascension, RAF, royal air forceHowever, within one hundred yards of my building on the side of the aircraft pan were four chemical toilets of the sort you see at music festivals and on building sites. The problem for me was that these were specifically for officers, pilots and aircrew and we oikes had been expressly forbidden to use them under pain of disciplinary action. Indeed, so serious was this threat that they were actually surrounded by barbed wire with a small gap providing the only entrance.

As you can imagine, being lowly non-commissioned officers, toilet envy rapidly became a huge factor in our lives. Something exacerbated by what I can only describe as  the habit of ‘showing off’ by those eligible to use them.

Well, at some ungodly hour of the morning during one particular shift, I was, to be blunt, caught short. With the airfield reasonably quiet and my sergeant fast asleep under his desk, I took the decision that rather than wake him and endure my long walk to the long drops, I would risk it. My thinking being that not only would I be away from my desk for a shorter period but I would obtain a small victory for junior ranks everywhere by taking a dump in the officers bogs. Such victories are, after all, what the British Armed Forces are based on.

So within minutes, I’d crept out of the building and in full SAS mode, has slunk through the darkness across the extremely crunchy volcanic ash, ducked through the barbed wire and was sitting comfortably doing what came naturally.

Inevitably, after two or three minutes I heard footsteps approaching and it suddenly struck me that I could soon find myself in serious trouble. I was after all, disobeying a direct order. But just as importantly, so could my sergeant who was at the very moment blissfully unaware that I wasn’t actually there holding what should have been a very secure fort whilst he was fast asleep on active duty. Being one of the most serious offences in the military, had he been caught he would almost certainly have faced a court martial which could well have resulted in a demotion and possibly even a prison sentence and dismissal from the service. We were after all, at war.

As all this ran through my brain, all I could do was sit and hope to goodness that the fast approaching officer would not even try the locked door to my cubicle (something which might well have led to him asking who was in there) but would simply enter one of the three empty cubicles thus allowing me time to escape.

It was at this point that I noticed that I had neglected to lock said door and I also realised that I couldn’t simply place a boot against it because it opened outwards. It was lock or nothing but even as I reached for it, it swung open to reveal a very senior officer silhouetted against the South Atlantic sky.

As he took a step forward, I suddenly realised that it was so dark inside that he hadn’t actually seen me sitting there and so all I could to was shout ‘BOO!’ at which point he let out a high pitched scream, turned and ran back at high speed toward the collection of portacabins which formed the operations centre.

Within seconds I was sprinting after him and made it through the gap in the barbed wire just as an alarm went off and all hell broke loose.

By the time I made it back to the safety of my building, the first of the armed patrols had arrived as rumours spread that the very real fears of an Argentine Special Forces attack on the airfield had been realised.

It was some hours before things calmed down and an investigation began into what had caused such a flap. Of course, being the closest building to said toilets, suspicions that the culprit was close to home soon centred on yours truly but my vehement denials as well as my sergeants assertions that I had not left our office at any time meant that I escaped unpunished.

A few days later, the first shots were fired down South and the incident was forgotten but it has stuck with me ever since and the time has now come to put my hands up.

Not because I almost gave a senior officer a coronary or caused him a degree of embarrassment (after all, he screamed like a little girl and ran away) or because numerous police and soldiers ended up spending hours scouring the locality looking for non existent invaders, but because of my sergeant.

For not only did I almost cost him a twenty year career, his pension and a spell in military prison, but he spent the next five weeks terrified of shutting his eyes whilst we were on duty in case I actually did drop him in it. Mind you, that did mean I got all the sleeping time.

So sorry Tim. I hope you’ll be pleased to know I feel much better for getting that off my chest.

.

football, soccer, comedy, cost of football, manchester united, liverpool, derby, watford

My latest novel, Wings of a Sparrow  is available in ebook and paperback format from either Amazon or iTunes.

The audio version of Top Dog is now available to download via the link and joins the ebook, paperback and movie to make the clean sweep of all platforms! Not too shabby if I say so myself.

RAF, army, military, forces, hooligan, british film, top dog, green street, self publishing, manchester united, liverpool, sex, maggie thatcher, veteran, UKIP, tory Argentina

The Falklands War – My guilty secret.

argentina, falklands war, thatcher, royal airforce, nimrod, vulcan, harrierNormally, at around 4.00 in the afternoon, my writing life will be dominated by one of two things.

If I’m in writing mode, it’ll be the sounds of Bjork in my headphones and if I’m in skiving mode it’ll be some crap TV show like Come Dine With Me or Deal or No Deal as a lounge on the sofa.

Recently however, I have discovered the delights of Simon Mayo on Radio 2 and having been listening to his excellent ‘Confessions’ slot, I have been inspired to confess something of my own. Not because I feel guilty about it and need forgiveness, but because I just feel the time is right to get it off my chest. So here goes…

In 1982, whilst a young, impressionable and innocent Corporal, I was dispatched to Ascension Island as a part of the Royal Air Force detachment involved with the South Atlantic Task Force. For those who do not know, Ascension Island is a volcanic rock in the middle of the South Atlantic. It’s hot, windy and dusty which can make things extremely uncomfortable when you’re living in tents and what with that and the huge amount of aircraft movements taking place, sleep was at a premium during the day.

More importantly, the island is home to a beautiful and very long runway which meant that it provided the perfect operational hub for the men and equipment being put together to repel the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands. As a consequence, by the time I arrived, at around the same time as the first British ships heading for war, it was somewhat busy.

Now, my job will remain secret for reasons which would be obvious if you knew what they were but suffice to say, my shift pattern was 24 on, 24 off. Unfortunately, the ‘on’ portion involved my sergeant and I remaining both awake and alert which whilst fine at first, was not fine after about a week. Zombies comes close.

As a consequence, we began a rota where one would snatch sleep whilst the other remained awake rushing awake doing the work of two men. This worked well for a few days until it all went horribly wrong. Or to be more specific, I cocked it up.

It’s fair to say that being on an active and very busy airfield during time of war is extremely exciting but as you can imagine given our location, the facilities left something to be desired. And by facilities, I mean specifically, toilets.

This was fine for ‘number one’s’ but when the body placed additional demands on you (if you get my drift) you needed an actual toilet. And let’s face it, I wasn’t in the Army, I was in the RAF so our much higher standards meant that we couldn’t just ‘go’ anywhere! 

Unfortunately, the toilets for us lowly airmen were about half a mile away and consisted of what are known universally as ‘long drops’. These being basically long planks of wood with holes cut in them. I will leave you to work out the rest but to say they leave a lot to be desired is an understatement. Especially at 3.00 in the morning when it is pitch black.

war, falklands, ascension, RAF, royal air forceHowever, within one hundred yards of my building on the side of the aircraft pan were four chemical toilets of the sort you see at music festivals and on building sites. The problem for me was that these were specifically for officers, pilots and aircrew and we oikes had been expressly forbidden to use them under pain of disciplinary action. Indeed, so serious was this threat that they were actually surrounded by barbed wire with a small gap providing the only entrance.

As you can imagine, toilet envy became a huge factor in our lives. Something exacerbated by what I can only describe as  the habit of ‘showing off’ by those eligible to use them.

Well, at some ungodly hour of the morning during one particular shift, I was, to be blunt, caught short. With the airfield reasonably quiet and my sergeant fast asleep under his desk, I took the decision that rather than wake him and endure my long walk to the long drops, I would risk it. My thinking being that not only would I be away from my desk for a shorter period but I would obtain a small victory for junior ranks everywhere by taking a dump in the officers bogs. Such victories are, after all, what the British Forces are based on.

So within minutes, I’d crept out of the building and in full SAS mode, has slunk through the darkness across the extremely crunchy volcanic ash and was sitting comfortably doing what came naturally.

Inevitably, after two or three minutes I heard footsteps approaching and it suddenly struck me that I could soon find myself in serious trouble. I was after all, disobeying a direct order. But just as importantly, so could my sergeant who was at the very moment blissfully unaware that I wasn’t actually there holding what should have been a very secure fort whilst he was fast asleep on active duty. Being one of the most serious offences in the military, had he been caught he would almost certainly have faced a court martial which could well have resulted in a prison sentence and demotion if not even dismissal from the service. We were after all, at war.

As all this ran through my brain, all I could do was sit and hope to goodness that the fast approaching officer would not even try the locked door to my cubicle (something which might well have led to him asking who was in there) but would simply enter one of the three empty cubicles thus allowing me time to escape.

It was at this point that I noticed that I had neglected to lock said door and even as I reached for it, it swung open to reveal a very senior officer silhouetted against the South Atlantic sky.

As he took a step forward, I suddenly realised that it was so dark inside that he hadn’t actually seen me sitting there and so all I could to was shout ‘BOO!’ at which point he let out a high pitched scream, turned and ran back at high speed toward the collection of portacabins which formed the operations centre.

Within seconds I was sprinting after him and made it through the gap in the barbed wire just as an alarm went off and all hell broke loose.

By the time I made it back to the safety of my building, the first of the armed patrols had arrived as rumours spread that the very real fears of an Argentine Special Forces attack on the airfield had been realised.

It was some hours before things calmed down and an investigation began into what had caused such a flap. Of course, being the closest building to said toilets, suspicions that the culprit was close to home soon centred on yours truly but my vehement denials as well as my sergeants assertions that I had not left our office at any time meant that I escaped unpunished.

A few days later, the first shots were fired down South and the incident was forgotten but it has stuck with me ever since and the time has now come to put my hands up.

Not because I almost gave a senior officer a coronary or caused him a degree of embarrassment (after all, he screamed like a little girl and ran away) or because numerous police and soldiers ended up sending hours scouring the locality looking for non existent invaders, but because of my sergeant.

For not only did I almost cost him a twenty year career, his pension and a spell in military prison, but he spent the next five weeks terrified of shutting his eyes whilst we were on duty in case I actually did drop him in it. Mind you, that did mean I got all the sleeping time.

So sorry Tim. I hope you’ll be pleased to know I feel much better for getting that off my chest.

.

football, soccer, comedy, cost of football, manchester united, liverpool, derby, watford

My latest novel, Wings of a Sparrow  is available in ebook and paperback format from either Amazon or iTunes.

The audio version of Top Dog is now available to download via the link and joins the ebook, paperback and movie to make the clean sweep of all platforms! Not too shabby if I say so myself.

And speaking of movies’, my next project will hopefully be announced at some point over the next month. It’s going to be a cracker.

RAF, army, military, forces, hooligan, british film, top dog, green street, self publishing, manchester united, liverpool, sex, maggie thatcher, veteran, UKIP, tory Argentina

Why this Thatcher fan will never vote Tory again.

Thatcher, greatest leader ever! And sexy too!
Come back Maggie. We need you!

It’s not often I write about politics but today, I have to make an exception.

Quite why this compulsion has hit at this particular time is unclear as the decision I’ve made and the reasons for it were made months ago but hey, my subconscious has decided that today is the day and so here we go.

I have never made any secret of the fact I have always voted Tory and am a huge fan of Lady Thatcher. My father led me along this road from an early age but it was reinforced when I joined the RAF (the military are traditionally right-wing) and set in stone when I headed south as part of the South Atlantic Task Force in 1982.

If anything, my anti-left resolve was hardened when Blair and his loathsome cronies came to power and set about their pre-planned destruction of the social (and as we later learned, economic) fabric of our country. A crime which is far more serious than the ongoing obsession with a so-called illegal war in Iraq yet which will similarly and tragically never result in any kind of justice being imposed upon those responsible.

Have no doubt, I was thrilled when Brown was ejected from number 10 and chuffed to bits that my vote contributed to his demise. I had high hopes for Cameron and even though he was forced to bring the Lib-Dems in, I was convinced that anything would be better than what we had been enduring. Yet as the weeks unfolded and the true extent of the damage Labour had inflicted on the country began to be exposed, I began to become concerned. And the more I heard, the more my unease grew.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually support many of the things the coalition are doing and whole heartedly back the cuts the government are making because at the end of the day, that’s my money being wasted by the NHS, the Civil Service and even the MOD (don’t get me started on that!). I also applaud the stance being taken over law and order and the growing calls to repeal elements of the human rights act. However, I certainly don’t support some of the cuts made to defence especially the destruction of the Harrier fleet which will surely rank as one of the most crazed military decisions of all time.

But there have been two particular issues which have enraged me since Dave came to power and combined, they have ensured that I will never vote Tory again.

The first is the issue of Europe. I’m English first, British second and European never. Whilst I understand the concept of a European state and accept that there are certain elements of it which are of huge benefit to the nation, there are other aspects which disgust me, others which terrify me. To me, it’s clear that the EU is a club which needs us far more than we need it and that alone is reason enough to leave. So where is my referendum? The one Dave repeatedly promised.

As each day passes, the clamour from the nation calls for it and whilst we are finally seeing noises that it might actually happen at some point, the stumbling block remains the construction of the actual question. But it shouldn’t, it should be a simple in or out question. If the people say we stay in, then fine. But if they say we want out, then it’s a total out.

Either way, it will be a democratic decision and those who voted contrary to the outcome will have to deal with it just as the country will have to deal with the consequences whatever they might be. But the fact remains, we want our say and we should be given it. The fact that we haven’t is a disgrace.

The second issue is the one which not only leaves me baffled, but furious. Indeed, even as I’m sitting here I can start to feel my blood boiling.

Britain is a wealthy country, of that there is little doubt. Yet at the moment we have, thanks to Blair and co’s mismanagement of our finances, a huge debt. As a consequence, the government have been forced to make massive cuts to public spending the majority of which, as I’ve already said, I support.

However, given the fact that we are in such a mess, why the bloody hell are we spending £8.1 billion a year on overseas aid (and that will increase to £11.4 billion in 2014. That’s a 34 per cent rise!)?

Cameron argues that it is essential to spend this money to maintain our status on the world stage and more importantly, that we have a moral duty to help those living what must be awful lives. But whilst I think the former is bollocks and do have some sympathy with the latter, surely as an elected government you also have an even greater moral duty to ensure that you don’t have kids in your own country who live in abject poverty or elderly men and women who, having spent the bulk of their lives paying into the system, are being forced to choose between eating and heating because their pensions are so low.

I wouldn’t mind so much if it made any sense. Call me old fashioned, but does a nation which spends £20 billion a year on defence and £1.25 billion

Tory party giving away our money. Not sexy politics David!
Overseas aid.... the sad reality?

space programme really need £280 million from the British taxpayer? Would it not be better all round if someone were to give them a quick call and tell them to get their priorities right?

And did it not strike anyone at the Department for International Development as odd that many senior officials in Sierra Leone went on a huge spending spree shortly after they handed them a cheque for £1.2 million to aid ‘peacekeeping’ efforts?

I know I’m being flippant but sadly, those are two examples from a very long list of bizarre decisions and whilst the sums involved might not make much difference to the old age pension or child benefit, they would make a huge difference to organisations such as Childline, Cancer Research, Macmillan, the RNLI and even the RSPCA who as it stands, are essential charities almost wholly dependent on public donation. And I for one, would far rather my taxes went in that direction rather than risk them ending up in some African despots Swiss bank account or to countries who wish us nothing but harm in return.

Quite why Cameron and company cannot see that escapes me and that, in essence, is why I will never vote Tory again. Not because they are crap politicians or even dodgy characters, but because after years of Labour destruction and miss-management, they have failed to adhere to the fundamental rule of political life. That as a politician you are elected by the people to serve the people.

To do that, you have to listen to and act upon the will of the majority and the sad fact is that at the moment, at least when it comes to these two issues, they’re certainly not listening to me and plenty like me.

So why on earth should they get my support.