Tag Archives: ArmedForces

Set a new World Land Speed Record of 1000 mph

My Role as an Army Reservist


Inspire the next generation about science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Share an iconic research and development programme with a global audience

Set a new World Land Speed Record of 1000 mph

Mission Statement

Create a unique, high-technology project, focused around a 1000 mph World Land Speed Record attempt. Share this Engineering Adventure with a global audience and inspire the next generation by bringing science, technology, engineering and mathematics to life in the most exciting way possible.

In April I became a REME STEM Ambassador, an Engineering adventure that just entices the passionate Engineer to be drawn in and offered the chance to talk endlessly about the design challenges, make rocket cars, offered the challenge to inspire and ignite a similar passion in the next generation and not forgetting being part of a project that breaks the land speed record…who could say no!

Craftsman Sarah Dorey, 678 (Rifles) Sqn (REME)

Craftsman Sarah Dorey, 678 (Rifles) Sqn (REME)

Friday 13 June 2014 saw the reveal of Bloodhounds cockpit and what will be Andy Greens 1050 mph office. The project is supported by a stunning website and following the link you can take a 360 degree tour narrated by Andy Green http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/news/andy-green-guides-you-round-his-1000mph-office. The big press event linked live across the net around the world including South Africa where the car will be making its record breaking runs and the local community are supporting the project by every day collecting stones to ensure a smooth runway, to date 78 tonnes of stones have been collected. Ambassadors attending the event served many purposes; we experienced the event first hand – gaining first hand knowledge that we can pass on at other events (fuelling our own passions and interest helps transfer interest to others), met Andy Green and in speaking to the press promoted our project objectives and mission statement.

Goodwood Festival of Speed Schools day was my next big even on 25 June 2015. We had 300 school children visit during the day from primary and secondary schools, to listen to science demonstrations by build members, make Styrofoam rocket cars investigating how shape affects aerodynamics and the forces applied to an object travelling at high speed and then time trial them down a track, make K’nex cars powered by compressed air, show pupils round our 1:1 scale model of Bloodhound SSC and all of our interactive Bloodhound stand. The day was also open to the general public, many people are already following the project through the website (http://www.bloodhoundssc.com), Twitter (@Bloodhound_SSC, @spinningdorey), Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/95684012@N02/) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BLOODHOUNDSSC) but many visitors came to see our stand out of curiosity…bright orange and blue car, soldiers in uniform, crowds of excited children! Everyone that came in to had a positive enthusiasm once they listened what we had to say. Many were amazed that this group of people were going to attempt such a challenge, more amazed that British Army REME soldiers were hand making individual components and building the car. Generally people are shocked that soldiers have the skills to do this but very proud to say its British and handmade by British soldiers.

Bloodhound SSC has many events and tours and is continuously tweeting and keeping project updates in the public mind. Personally I am beginning to get bookings to attend schools and organise activities so I now go forward with planning with teachers over objectives they wish to achieve from my visit then looking at tailoring my content to their aims. Quoting Maj Morgan “if we can leave the memory of a soldier coming into their classroom and build cars and taught them rocket science when a child looks back at their school days then we have done our job”.

Please follow the project and see the effect it is having, see the quality of Engineering from the REME team and see if we reach our objective. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me on sjdorey@yahoo.co.uk

To know more about 678 (Rifles) Squadron visit http://www.serfca.org/en-gb/reservists/armyreserve/678squadronaac6regtaac.aspx

Promotion for County Public Relations Officer

Promotion in Kent ACF

Vicky Robinson, 35 from Staplehurst, has been promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant within the Kent Army Cadet Force (KACF); she is the County Public Relations Officer (PRO).

Second Lt Robinson has been with KACF for six years; she is Director of Communications for the Association of Business Schools in London, a Chartered Marketer and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors.

Second Lt Robinson

Second Lt Robinson

Second Lieutenant Robinson said: “I am really proud to attain this rank as a specialist within the county; it is nice to be able to help the organisation promote the great work that is being done to provide cadets and adults opportunities that they might not otherwise get. I was a cadet myself when I was a teenager and I firmly believe that life skills are being taught and discipline which will help people later on in life”.

The Commandant of KACF, Colonel Jeremy Wilson, TD said: “The ACF encourages people to develop into capable, confident adults by putting themselves through structured, demanding and rewarding programmes of training. It is a hugely responsible role and I congratulate Ms Robinson on her promotion. It is vital that we encourage and support the commissioning of new officers to help shape the future of the ACF across the county, we are actively encouraging adult instructors to consider the future as officers.”

For further information about joining the Kent Army Cadets please contact: brian.hilton@serfca.org


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Combat Logistic Patrols (CLP)

The LAD’s role on CLP’s

As previously explained the CSLR’s primary role are CLPs (Combat Logistic Patrols). The LAD is expected to provide support for every CLP. We have a REME wagon, manned by two VMs (Vehicle Mechanics), which deploys out of camp with each CLP.

The vehicle we use is a Mann SV with crane – a HIAB. We carry spare tyres, a toolbox, oils, lubricants and various other items enabling us to attempt to fix any problems with the vehicles that may occur on the Op. If the problem is not something we can readily repair, there are also Recovery Assets to recover the problem vehicle back to CampBastion.

Local children seen in the CLP

Local children seen in the CLP

As I am based in CampBastion, CLPs are the only opportunity I have to get out of camp and go ‘outside the wire’. I have been on 4 CLPs so far and have to say, I have enjoyed each of them. For each Op we go on, we are given a set of Orders well in advance, fully briefing us on all aspects of the CLP. Once we know exactly where we are going and when, we ‘battle prep’ our vehicle i.e. get the GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) for the top cover, ammunition, rations, water, radios, night vision devices etc. The Drivers have to do the same for their vehicles. On completion of battle prep, drivers and vehicle commanders go on Enforced Rest. This allows them to get plenty of downtime and sleep before driving for the Op ahead.

The CLPs go out of Camp Bastion at various times. All those deploying on the Op have to be at their vehicle 2 hours before the Op goes out to rectify any glitches which are usually vehicle faults and comms problems. Everyone is also given an update on any changes to the route or destinations. Due to the potential vehicle problems there are also two members of the LAD (a Class 1 and Class 2 VM) that are on hand to fix any vehicle faults. The LAD’s role is therefore vital to the smooth running of the CLPs.

The LAD wagon with myself and Lcpl Angus from the LAD  and Lcpl Nicholson, Recovery Mechanic

The LAD wagon with myself and Lcpl Angus from the LAD and Lcpl Nicholson, Recovery Mechanic

Each CLP varies in length and can last anything up to 36 hours, which might include an overnight stop at a FOB or MOB.. As things change on the move, timings often change too. It is important that the drivers on the Op get enough rest if the CLP overruns to avoid them being overtired at the wheel.

As VMs, we are often called upon during the Op. The faults that occur can be simple, such as a tyre change or broken door ram, or they can be more complex such as a snapped belt or electrical faults. If the problem is not something the VMs can fix relatively swiftly with the tools that we have to hand, the Recovery Mechanics will hook the vehicle to one of their Recovery Vehicles (SV(R)) and tow it back to CampBastion to be dealt with by the LAD. The Recovery call signs are provided by 1 (CS) Battalion REME. Each Recovery asset has a Vehicle Mechanic as well as a Recovery Mechanic. As the CLP usually breaks up into smaller packets to attend different locations, there is a Recovery asset with each packet. We have only one LAD wagon which will always go to the furthest location on the CLP.

I enjoy the opportunity to get out of Camp and to see parts of Afghanistan. There is, of course, a risk of enemy contact on each CLP. That is why there is always  enough personnel in each wagon, including top cover observing their arcs. When I went on my first CLP I was surprised to see the living conditions of the locals. I have to say, it was a humbling experience. The more you go out though, the less surprised you are by what you see. Our wagons are constantly ‘stoned’ by the local children. This causes damage usually to the light clusters at the rear, mirrors and window screens. The feelings of sympathy soon fade. It is clear that there are mixed feelings amongst the local Afghans as to our presence here.

CLPs are vitally important out here, as I have highlighted in previous editions. The LADs role is essential to the continued maintenance of the vehicles. If the vehicles are not road worthy, the CLPs would not exist.

Time has gone very quickly for me on this tour. Having come back from my R&R the time is going quicker than ever. We will be leaving theatre next month as Herrick 18 takes over. The vehicles are up to a good standard for the handover/takeover and we are officially on our countdown to going home. However, it is important for us all to not get complacent. We still have a job to do and our tour does not finish until we are all back safe in the UK.

5th Edition: End of Tour

For more information contact : http://www.serfca.org/en-gb/reservists/ta/128fieldcompanyreme.aspx




Exercise Cockney Etrangeres

Tech Task

Whilst on annual camp, 135 Geographic Squadron RE was tasked with carrying out a live technical task – to produce orienteering maps of four areas on the island of Jersey in order to practice our core GIS and Data Collection skills. This essentially involved two disciplines in three stages, Data Survey and map production using ARC GIS 10 (Geographic Information Systems).

The first stage involved the GIS team to conduct a desktop study of existing geographic data.  The field computer banks were transported from Ewell to Jersey Field Squadron HQ via MAN trucks and set up as a working Geo cell.  Using existing aerial imagery of the designated orienteering areas, the GIS team interpreted and plotted overlays on top of the imagery according to the international orienteering map standards.  Due to the fact that the imagery was five years old, features, both manmade and natural had to be verified.  Interpretation of the imagery could be incorrect and there was a requirement to go into the area to confirm and gather information.  For example, what looked like a grassy field on the imagery could now in fact be an impenetrable field classed ‘as wooded area’.

The Hon Col Dr Vanessa Lawrence being shown one of the new orienteering maps by SSM Les Hunt

The second stage commenced with the data survey team going into each of the four areas to be mapped to collect data, armed with the image maps compiled by the GIS team.  Each area was recce’d to choose two suitable base station locations which are fixed in position for the duration of the survey.  Their job is to take continual readings from satellites and between each other to make error corrections in position and then transmit these corrections to the roving GPS poles which are used to collect data.  This improves the accuracy of the positions being surveyed.  We found the perfect location for base station one, on the top of the tallest hill above a second world war bunker. Unfortunately this also meant we had to keep traipsing up and down said hill!

Base station two had to be on the other side of the area being surveyed as there were no obvious high points so we had to settle with a sand dune.  The next day we returned to commence the task, only to find that the wind had picked up, so much so that the instrumentation that we had set up on tripod legs blew straight over.  Down we went to the Land Rovers, retrieved the sandbags and shovel and weighted down the tripod legs, having used the convenient abundance of sand from the dunes all around us.  To minimise the likelihood of a passer by stealing our base station survey equipment, we hid all of the survey equipment boxes (used to transport it) within the bunker.  Base station two was assembled and we were off, capturing data.  Two hours in and the satellite signal died; the battery powering the base station antenna had died. We learned our lesson and opted for the bigger battery the next day.  On top of all this, it was raining each morning but by the time base stations were set up, the Jersey sunshine came out for us.

Cpl Carl Presswood setting up on site

Two survey teams worked in conjunction in each area, communicating by radio.  Comms were critical since requirements were updated throughout the day including location of transportation vehicles and logistical challenges; we had to transport people from camp HQ to survey area and vice versa; this used up resource and slowed up the progress of the task in hand.

Second World War bunkers and gun emplacements were a strong theme of interest throughout our data collection and acted as useful markers and interesting history lessons!

A memorable highlight was when the survey team came to the aid of a lady stranded on the beach in her car. Like good Sappers, we safely recovered her vehicle before the incoming tide swamped it.  She turned out to be the daughter of the founder of Butlins but unfortunately we weren’t offered any free accommodation for next year’s camp!

Myself and Cpl Morley were busy ‘pinging; points when to our horror, as we were approaching our base station being guarded by our sergeant we saw him, stripped to the waist, his pale white body glistening like a beacon as he took in the radiant Jersey sun.  Embarrassed by our heckling since he thought no one could see him hidden in the undergrowth, he quickly got his top back on before any more blinded sea gulls fell out of the sky.

Cpl Carl Presswood and Spr Kieran Terry

This tech task was also a training exercise and the time taken to overcome problems rapidly diminished as the team became slicker.  Once all the information was gathered in the form of GPS linked photographs and GPS data points, they were transposed onto computer and read in conjunction with the existing imagery. The time consuming task of creating the correct international orienteering standardised symbology and correctly classifying parcels of land to the ease of movement was a challenge, especially as we had very little experience of using orienteering maps previously. By day five, tensions were rising in our makeshift Geo Cell; French spellings were being scrutinised, debates on whether bunkers were bunkers or gun emplacements got technical and Naafi breaks had been cancelled. However we were kept entertained throughout by the Radio Jersey karaoke by the chefs in the kitchen next door!

Cpl OJ kept morale high in the Geo cell; as an invaluable asset to the team, he also made certain that it was easier to get into FortKnox than locating the files we were working on!

Sergeant Windle kept us motivated and encouraged us, with comments like ……. unrepeatable in print, and “get this kit set up”.

Cpl Presswood took overall command but like all good leaders, he omitted to tell us that the witness marks had not been taken and then flapped when we told him we didn’t have time to cover for him…haha, funny – we sorted him out after letting him sweat.

LCpl Walmsley did a smashing job in creating the orienteering map and then died of shame when the visiting CO pointed out that there was a spelling mistake.

This same CO caught Cpl Presswood and Sgt Windle eating lunch; the exact time when they downed tools for a brew was the exact time that he rocked up in the car park to see them ‘working’ flat out – busted.

Sgt Trepanier (American exchange) did a great job in collecting survey data on vegetation until she found that she had used the wrong base point and she had to do it all again – next time check first

We had all checked that each team had the correct kit before leaving base, and then one team promptly drove off without the booking sheets meaning that they had to write everything up after the days surveying, doh – special. All good learning points for the next time!

By the end of the five day task, we had captured over 2500 GPS points, taken over 400 photographs and successfully produced two orienteering maps to officially handover to the Combined Cadet Force and Jersey Field Squadron. The customers were happy and we had all learned a great deal.

For more information please visit : http://www.serfca.org/en-us/reservists/ta/135independentgeographicsquadronre.aspx


Welcome to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan

LCpl Davies, 128 Field Coy with CSLR LAD, Op Herrick 17

Having gone through some initial training with 1(CS) Battalion REME, I joined 12 LSR LAD, Abingdon in August 2012. Immediately the LAD made me feel welcome. The three week FTX that followed my arrival at the Regiment, gave me a good opportunity to get to know everyone. It also helped me to understand what would be expected of the LAD on tour. The Regiment left Abingdon late on Tuesday 18th September and arrived in Camp Bastion on the morning of Thursday 20th.

The LAD workshop with the sun setting

The first week in CampBastion passed by in a bit of a whirlwind. On the first day, we were all allocated our accommodation and essential items of kit. I was able to sort out admin and prepare for the following day.

On Friday I started the 5 day RSOI package. RSOI is mandatory for everyone deploying in Afghanistan. This package ensures that everyone is current and up to date on the potentially life saving ‘skills and drills’. The five days allows for acclimatisation and I quickly became acquainted with the complete PPE; Osprey, helmet, gloves and eye protection.

Even though the temperature is dropping in Afghanistan; for those arriving in mid September there is no escaping the fact that this place is hot by comparison to the UK. The first couple of weeks here were blue skies and blazing sunshine. Whilst the temperature had crept back up to 30 degrees + during the day, already the mornings have a crisp chill to them. I have also experienced a couple of rain showers, both lasting all of about 30 seconds. There will be plenty more of that to come, I have been told!

So after completing the RSOI package and Equipment Support RSOI, I had been here a week already. With no time to spare, the LAD quickly got on with the handover/takeover from 4 CSLR LAD, Op Herrick 16. It didn’t take long to fall into a very basic work ‘routine’. In addition, I started to adapt to life in CampBastion; “home” for the next 6 months. Tents and ISO containers become the scenery. Carrying Osprey to and from work everyday has soon become the ‘norm’. Mobile phones have been replaced by the IPod Touch. No one leaves home without their rifle. Gunfire and explosions are regular background noise.

The cookhouse on Bastion 2 has excellent food, so much variety. The NAAFI has all the essentials and the American PX at CampLeatherneck is full of life’s little luxuries. My spare time in the evenings is taken up by general admin, going to the gym or writing blueys. ‘Op Massive’ has already started for some of the LAD, many of them spending their evenings in the CV suite or the weights room. For those not so self disciplined, we have three sessions of PT a week; CV and spinning class.

Scenery of tents and isos

So as the first month in Afghanistan draws to a close, the ripping in/out process almost at an end, our main effort is the LAD workshop. As a unit we maintain all of the RLC vehicles for the CSLR, keeping them operationally fit.

Look forward to the next installment For November 2012 ~ “Working for the LAD and our primary role”.

For more information on 128 Field Company please visit: http://www.serfca.org/en-us/reservists/ta/128fieldcompanyreme.aspx

Oxfordshire the (Rifles) Battalion ACF Tour of France & Belgium 2012

Guest of the Robin Hood Rifles Corp of Drums, Nottinghamshire ACF

Day One Thursday 28th June 2012

We made our way to South Mimms service station to meet up with the Robin Hood Rifles, Corp of Drums, Nottinghamshire ACF, we all had a short break and boarded the coaches and made our way to the Euro Tunnel. At 12.30hrs, we left the UK for Calais arriving in Calais at 13.05hrs; we then departed for the final leg of our journey to the Royal Astor Hotel Ostend Belgium, our home for the next five days. We viewed our rooms and unpacked. After our evening meal, we had a briefing for the next day then spent the evening visiting the local town and of course, the beach, this was a stone’s throw away from the Hotel.

Day Two Friday 29th June 2012

This morning we went onto the promenade to rehearse our marching displays, this was well received by the locals and tourist alike. At 11.30hrs, we boarded the coaches and departed for the Town of. Dikesmuide to visit the Dikesmuide Tower Museum. This posed a great opportunity for the Buglers to play the last post and reveille on the top of the tower, it was a very proud moment for the Buglers, especially seeing the public stopping in the streets, and getting out of their cars.

Buglers from The Robin Hood Rifles Corp of Drums, Nottinghamshire ACF,& the Corunna Band & Bugles of Oxfordshire the (Rifles) Battalion ACF, on top of the Dikesmuide Tower.

We then went to Fromelles Cemetery, which is the newest commonwealth war grave, which was opened officially in January 2010. Most of the Soldiers laid to rest here were from the Australian Army. We laid a wreath on the monument whilst the Buglers played last post & reveille. We then departed for the hotel and returned just in time for dinner.

Day Three Saturday 30th June

This morning we had rehearsals on the promenade, again to the delights of the locals & tourist. We departed the hotel at 11.30hrs and were en-route to visit the Town of Ypres, seeing the Menin Gate was a first for many of our Cadets & Adults, we had a chance to look around the shops, to try the local cuisine, to visit the Cloth Hall Museum, Flanders Fields’ Museum, and St Georges Memorial Church. We departed Ypres and took a short journey to Tyne Cot Cemetery, which is the largest British Cemetery on the Western Front with 11,500 war graves a memorial wall at the back of the cemetery that has 34,888 names of soldiers from many different regiments that were killed between 16th August 1917 and the end of the war. We laid a wreath, whilst the Buglers played last post and reveille, while the buglers played everyone in the cemetery came to a standstill to pay their respects.

The Robin Hood Rifles Corp of Drums, Nottinghamshire ACF & The Corunna Band & Bugles of Oxfordshire the (Rifles) Battalion ACF, At Tyne Cot Cemetery.

We then departed for Langemarck the German Cemetery, within the cemetery, it contains the remains of 44,000 German soldiers, and 25,000 of these lie near the entrance in a single mass grave. At 16.45 we departed for the hotel, after dinner at 19.45hrs we did a full dress rehearsal on the promenade for our big day tomorrow.

Day Four Sunday 1st July 2012.

Sunday was our big day. It was an early start, as we had to depart the hotel at 08.00hrs for the two and half hour journey to the French Village of Foncquevillers. When we arrived at Foncquevillers, we had to change into our uniforms ready for our first parade to the British War Graves a great sense of pride was felt by all, as we marched off to the  cemetery, a short service was delivered in English and French and wreaths laid to honour the fallen. We then had a short march to the French Resistance Memorial and the Monument of a Canadian Plane that was shot down over the Village during the Second World War. After we had finished our parades, the locals put on a delicious three-course meal, which we all enjoyed very much.

Parade and Service at the British War Graves Cemetery in the Village of Foncquevillers.

We departed Foncquevillers at 16.00hrs and headed for our final parade at the Menin Gate Ypres Belgium, We had time for a short walk and refreshments in Ypres before we began our final parade. At 19.30hrs, we needed to be ready and formed up at the Menin Gate by 20.00hrs. The amount of people from so many different countries was amazing to see, and the atmosphere of the Menin Gate was quite over whelming. As we marched off to the whole crowd clapping and cheering, I do not think any of us had ever been as proud as we were then. At 21.00hrs we departed Ypres for the hotel for our last night in Belgium and too McDonalds.

Marching through the Menin Gate

Day Five Monday 2nd July 2012.

After breakfast, we loaded the coaches ready to set off at 09.00hrs for our return journey to the UK. We arrived at the Euro Tunnel and departed Calais at 13.00, having arrived in the UK, we headed off to South Mimms service station to pick up our transport to take us back to Oxfordshire and say our final good byes to the Robin Hood Rifles, Corp of Drums.


The tour gave all us an experience of a lifetime, and opened our eyes to the day-to-day challenges endured by the Service Man during the Great Wars. This tour was an opportunity not to have missed; the parades we undertook left us all with a great sense of pride to be able to honour the fallen and our Service Men still serving in the Armed Forces today.

For more information contact Peter Broome on broome234@btinternet.com

OP TOSCA (Part Two) Compulsory mobilised

Blog Episode 2 The Journey Continues

That was that then, the matter was settled. I held the famous brown envelope in my hands and therefore I had indeed been compulsorily mobilised. If there had ever been a good time to sit down and consider whether or not this was actually the right thing to be doing then that moment had now well and truly passed. From reading the inch thick wad of instructions contained within the envelope I learned that I had been given one month before I had to report to Chilwell RTMC, the reserves training and mobilisation centre. This actually seemed very reasonable as I had heard horror stories of previous mobilisations giving a week or less in which to close down your civilian life and get down to Chilwell. As an added bonus I wouldn’t be going alone either, a quick round of phone calls had confirmed that no less than two of my colleagues had also received envelopes. These were identical except that theirs specifically mentioned the United Nations peacekeeping operation ‘TOSCA’ whilst mine simply stated “to be engaged in operations overseas in support of the regular forces”, with nothing to suggest otherwise I assumed that this would be my destination also.                                                                                                            

One month seemed plenty of time, at least it did until i realised just exactly how much is involved in putting your civilian life into hibernation for nine months. For a full time soldier the prospect of an operational tour is challenge enough even though it involves little in the way of lifestyle alterations and there is of course no conflict of interests with an employer. For a reservist however, who is essentially a civilian, the prospect of being deployed on operations is a different ball game altogether, it involves bringing your existing lifestyle to a grinding halt at short notice. For nine months you’ll be overseas, fully preoccupied and certainly not in a position to sort out any issues back home. Putting in contingency plans for every conceivable eventuality whilst away for this period of time is a huge task, one that until you actually do it is impossible to appreciate the scale of.

So it was that for a couple of weeks i immersed myself in a mountain of paperwork. Civvie job, utilities, wills, mortgage, home and contents, childcare, vehicle tax insurance and mot, council tax (here the nice lady on the phone said that being overseas and thus not using any council services whatsoever did not entitle me to any rebate, however they would of course give me 100% discount if I was in prison. Anyone for a revolution?)  a multitude of other tasks. Last on my impressively long list of pre-deployment tasks was my young daughter. In true single parent style I decided to break the news while we fed the ducks, always a good time for big talks I find. However the concept of nine months or “270 sleeps” is hard to grasp for a six year old and thus after listening intently and pondering the idea for some time she told me to make sure that I packed a chocolate bar in case I got a rumbly tummy whilst away. Handkerchief anybody?

My MFO box duly arrived and I filled it (chocolate bar included) with all the things you normally pack when you’re not sure exactly where you will be going and hence are not sure what you will actually need when you get there. There’s a golden rule with MFO boxes though, don’t put anything essential in them–you may not see the box again until the tour is over so such items need to travel with you instead! Regardless of however much thought goes into this task the benefit of post-tour hindsight means that the list of what you actually should have packed rarely bears any resemblance to what you actually packed.

With much to do the month flew by, the reporting day got closer, and all the hassle of pre-deployment only served to make me more eager to actually get away and crack on with the job. So it was that on a late summer’s day I arrived, bergen and black holdall in hand, at RTMC Chilwell…

For more information on joining the Territorial Army visit www.serfca.org or tel: 01252 357605

OP TOSCA (Part One) Getting the paperwork

Blog Episode 1 The Journey Begins

Just for the record – and putting modesty aside for a
second – I’d like to say that I think of myself as a fairly switched on cookie.
I take a huge amount of pride in successfully juggling a full-time civilian
career with a part-time military one and to be honest very little succeeds in
catching me unawares. So in all fairness I agree that it shouldn’t really have
come as a revelation to me to be informed that actually I was a soldier.

You could be forgiven for thinking that over the years
the countless weekends that have I’ve spent cold, wet and grubby in some remote
corner of the UK would have been adequate proof of that to me. The necessity to
purchase a second wardrobe to accomodate all my kit should also have provided
me with a good clue, and the tendency for my civvie workmates to avoid asking
how my weekend went ( for fear of losing an entire morning’s productivity
whilst listening to war stories ) was surely a dead giveaway. That aside surely
the tell-tale signs that long periods of training had left me with, eg: being
unable to bring myself to ‘fat finger’ a map while navigating, cringeing at the
sight of civvies wearing camo in the high street or of course that marked
tendency of mine to break into full blown voice-procedure on my mobile at the
merest hint of a bad reception, should all have rammed the point home to me.
But no, despite all this and more my awareness of my chosen vocation somehow
eluded me, that is until last summer when something happened to bring the dawn
of realisation to me. A realisation that no amount of crawling around on
Salisbury Plain at 4am whilst setting trip flares had ever seemed to succeed in
doing so.

It took a visit from a young lady with a bag of letters
for the point to finally sink in. Of course I had heard rumours of possible
mobilisation before, every so often a Government of ours would commit to an
operation in some far flung corner of the world and our not under stretched
forces would then hastily task themselves with running around filling the now
all too apparent spaces in their ranks with a liberal sprinkling of Reservists
to actually get the job done. Operations come and go, Bosnia, Iraq, Sierra
Leone, and yes everyone does know someone who knows someone who got called up
for a free suntan and adventure holiday at the Queen’s expense, but to be
honest it was never worth getting too excited about as these rumours often
passed quietly as quickly as they came. It was generally agreed that unless the
infamous ‘Brown Envelope’ actually landed on your doormat there was no reason
at all to assume you wouldn’t be home at Christmas.

And so it was that on a glorious sunny morning on the
Isle of Wight last summer I was summoned from my kitchen by the doorbell, a
doorbell clearly being pressed enthusiastically by someone who was just passing
through and had no intention whatsoever of loitering any longer than was
absolutely necessary. Clad in boxer shorts and with hair like Chuckie I
shuffled to the door, newspaper under my arm, toast in one hand, tea in the
other, and succeeded in opening the door with a succession of body parts
normally reserved for other purposes. The ever-cheerful vision of loveliness
standing on my doorstep in her regulation- issue trendy-blue Post Office shorts
seemed equally challenged in the free hand department, but after we exchanged
greetings that were muffled only by toast on my part and bubble gum and a biro
between the teeth on hers she offered me an armpit full of letters before
accelerating away with a lightened load.

With hindsight I like to think that had she been aware of
the magnitude of one of the letters that she had just dropped off, then she
might have stayed for at least one round of toast and a cuppa to make sure I
was Ok. She had of course no idea of what she was delivering, and of course at
that stage neither did I. I shuffled back to the kitchen with an armload of
letters offering me, in turn, stuff I had no use for and new credit cards with
which to afford the stuff that I had no use for, oh and an innocuous white A4
envelope. Had this particular envelope indeed been ‘official brown’ in colour
rather than white, ie: as per the mythical mobilisation papers of legend then
it might have aroused my suspicions. I dare say that my ‘switched-on-cookie’
radar would have flagged it as worthy of further investigation, and I would
probably have swallowed my toast, turned off Kylie and sat down to give it the
attention it deserved before opening it. But no, it was merely white and so it
was that on that fine summer’s morning I absently mindedly opened it as Kylie
thumped out on the radio. I read it very briefly, stopped and read it again
slightly less briefly and then read it even less briefly again, before
retrieving my toast from the floor. And then the penny at last dropped, I was
indeed most definitely in the army…

The letter was noticeably short of small talk, infact it
managed to come to the point in the very first sentence, it said who I was –
picked out in capitals – where I was to report to, at what time I had to be
there, and what I was to make sure I had with me. It reitterated this point
several times and the majority of the letter then seemed to be concerned with
the consequences of me not being where I had to be at the time that I had to be
there with the stuff that I was to have with me. It’s a curious trait with
people that if you tell someone that they are not allowed to do something in
particular then they will want to do it, and equally if you tell them that they
have no option but to do something in particular then suddenly they can think
of a thousand reasons why they actually need to be somewhere else entirely,
doing something else completely. As Army-barmy as I was and indeed still am (
after all hadn’t I religously spent my Saturday nights for many years crawling
around in the dark when the rest of the world was tucked up in bed ? ) I must
admit that right at that particular moment I was falling into the latter
category.  Did I mention that I had
volunteered for this?!