This should have only ran on for two episodes, but the entire Squaddie Life in Germany thing is a much bigger beast than I thought. And I’m only looking at the 90s here.
I suppose 1992 had a bigger impression on me than most of the other 22 years in the Army. That’s where my drinking originated from – I wouldn’t say it was a problem at the time as I was only 19/20 and I didn’t really give a flying fuck to be quite honest, about it. Drinking was part of the culture we just did it on a regular daily basis.
We’d finish work and were faced with two possibilities : either get pissed in camp or go down town and get pissed. We even turned board games into drinking games. There was this one time….
I look at Dave who’s got this Monopoly Board laid out. It’s 6pm on a Friday night, the Battery Bar is open upstairs in the Attic, and he’s got this look in his eyes. That means there’s something else, it isn’t just going to be Monopoly and from the bottles of plonk behind him, I could only guess. “Dave, Battery Bar is open now – It’s fucking happy hour,” I remind him.
“Aye, but howay. Lee wants a gan,” he motions to Lee, our resident sober person and recluse.
“I want to have a drink and see what you lot get up to,” he says, all sort of innocent like.
Dave mentions the rules. We’ve got Appel Korn, Vodka, Korn, Jager Meister (fuck!), Johanishofen and a few bottles of nicked, Officers’ Mess Port. Each street on the board had a different drink assigned to it, Mayfair attributed to 2 shots of Korn as it was the strongest stuff on the board. The other streets, as they went round to Old Kent Road went lower in potency and finally you’d be on the crate of beer and drinking about 2 fingers of Herforder for Whitechapel or Old Kunt Road.
Within 15 minutes Lee is a gibbering wreck and we put him to bed. “Fuck! That’s him out of action for the weekend by the look of it,” says Benny.
We carry on until 8pm and I’m starting to flag. We decide to fuck the Battery Bar off and head down town. Just before we depart the block we head over to the Command Troop’s part of the flat. I’m now talking to Jimmy Carter who’s popped down to get some fags from his room.
“Where’s the alarm? What happens if I hit it?” I ask and whack the space above it.
“That’s 10 minutes valuable drinking time lost, Duggy,” goes Jimmy.
I laugh and make a back hand at the space above the alarm again and I feel contact, crunch and then…..
The alarm is screeching and we’re running down the stairs and the out of the Block: Me, Dave and Benny. We run across the car park, behind the Engineers’ cookhouse, across the Wedgeheads’ Regimental Parade Square and out of camp. We even have the decency to sign out and the Guard Commander doesn’t suspect a thing as he’s crashing out his lads to tackle the non-existent fire. Tee hee hee.
The town is a blur. Later, I’m pushed in to a Taxi. The lads are trying to get me back to camp as I am too, by default, baggage, and a fucking moronic wreck. I’m forced in to one door and make my way to the other side and exit. I run across the dual carriage way and sometime in the morning I’m found in a german’s back garden asleep. The GCP pick me up and take me to camp. Nice fellahs.
It’s Monday morning and we’re stood outside of the RSM’s office. Les Plaice, the RSM walks up to us. There’s four of us. Me, Lee, Dave and Benny.
“Who did it then? Who’s fucking Fireman Sam? Was it you!?” He asks a quivering Lee, who’s cacking himself. He’s not had a bollocking before by the look of it.
“N… no..no,” he says.
“No, it wasn’t you. Fuck off. NOW!” He says to Lee, who right turns and marches quickly off down the RHQ corridor.
“Now… Who was it?” He asks again, his Geordie accent, a quiet menacing and calculating tone.
“It was me, sir,” I say.
“Oh. It was you? Gunner Douglas? Think we’re fucking hard now? You think you’re the bees knees, eh? You fucking retard,” He walks off down the corridor, looks back, “Douglas. I’m watching you!” He’s gone and that’s when I get the Chief Clerk giving me my punishment, which is a weekend in the cellar sorting out the forms, files and stationery. Benny and Dave weren’t happy with this. I think Benny was on Officers’ Mess fatigues for the weekend, while me and Dave were in the stationery room.
There were other tales that are still there, 20 odd years later, they still resonate.
The time a lad went tried to shoot himself in the head. He was in the gate sanger to the entrance to Roberts Barracks. He put the SA80 beneath his chin and just as he was about to pull the trigger, he changes his mind and blows the tip of nose off. Lucky bastard.
There were other suicide attempts, one succeeded. An unfortunate soul hanged himself in the transit block. I won’t go in to any detail as I was on an Operational Tour at the time. He’d attempted to kill himself previously and failed, once by trying to jump in to oncoming traffic outside of camp.
Another attempt was to jump from the 3rd floor of the accommodation block. He jumped, landed and got back up again to go for a re-try until someone pulled him back from the window ledge in his room. Not sure what the mental health policy was back then, not sure if it was taken seriously. A lot of people were suffering from various traumas including the guys who did the Falklands back in ’82. They said if you went ‘Loony Tunes’ you’d get Section 8 and referred to Wegberg or another place in Catterick. I went there in 1996 for my drink problem and that was a strange place.
We had this one guy called Sydenham. I think he worked in the QM’s department. He was as crazy as they come. I can remember him in the Battery Bar with a stool on his head, it was with the legs that came down over his shoulders so he wore it like a hat and he pretended to be a Dalek. He left for 3RHA eventually.
John Ginty…. Christ, I could write a book on this guy. He was in Command Troop and as I’ve stated earlier he was also known as the Tazmanian Devil for his lightning speed in fights. One evening he got back in, well, it was morning really, about 6am. He shared a room with Chris and another guy (can’t remember his name) they set themselves a challenge. It was called the Anneka Rice challenge. It was to clear the room in 60 seconds. So they bomb burst into the room and begin to throw stuff out of the window. It’s the third floor too and it backs on to the Vehicle Park which is over shadowed by the RMP building behind it. The room they’ve burst in to isn’t theirs, but they carry on. Settees, chairs, books, a TV, a Fridge, clothes and stop at the bed. They stopped there as they couldn’t fit the bed through the window, but that didn’t stop them they tried until the 60 seconds was up. Panting and coughing and laughing… in tears at the absurdity of it. This was further spurned on by the frantic shouts of a BONCO (Battery Orderly Non-Commissioned Officer) below by the fallen furniture. (This was 25 years ago, so some of this may be slightly wrong – it may have been their own room and not sure if it was Chris who was with him).
There was a Radar Troop function on in the Battery Bar in the attic of Block 4. Jimmy Carter was the Barman and that Saturday afternoon Benny (who was a Radar Troop operative) had been out on the piss. Dave was with him and it was about 8pm when they both burst into the bar, door flying open and Benny – all sparkly eyes and grinning says, “Ladies and Gentlemen. I’m gonna shit the bed tonight!!” And that was that. Some of the wives laughed, some didn’t, some just stared in horror.
I remember going to a Radar Troop get together at the Bowling Alley and could see a lot of the guys had bought their own gear to improve their bowling techniques, like gloves and other such crap. I didn’t go rounds, I was tanking the beer and by 10pm I’d say, fuck this and off I’d go to Broadways. But 10pm was way too early for Broadways.
If you were going to Broadways it was the last stop before the Breakfast bar of course. You’d get ready at 11pm and gab a taxi at 11.45pm to be there queuing up, sometimes, to get in. Queue up? To get in to Broadways? Are you fucking mental??? Yes, we were.
Behind the dancefloor, you’d step up and walk to the DJ who was in his cubby hole. I asked him once to put a dedication on for a friend of mine as it was his birthday. The dedication was to me and it was my 20th Birthday, well it wasn’t but it got me loads of free drinks and I ended up absolutely smashed. At the 4am and 5am period, if you hadn’t trapped off, you’d be looking at the remainders. It was like being in a line up and being picked for a footy team. What you had here was the people the Team Captain didn’t want. Rancid birds waiting for the next train to Muenster and with their Peroxide hair like fucking Harpies, bloated like leeches, waiting for the next desperate squaddie approach them. They’d be sipping on the last dregs of their Bacardi and Coke, whilst keeping a beady eye on the next shambling idiot to cop a feel.
I remember not being able to find a taxi back to Camp and it was about 4am on a Saturday morning. I and another lad from HQ Battery shared my Wax Jacket and slept under it, in some corner of Osnabrueck Train station. We looked like tramps and didn’t really attract any attention. I pissed myself and my mate whilst under that wax jacket. He wasn’t too happy about that and we managed to find a solitary taxi in the cool light of a June morning in 1992.