Eight hours wasn’t enough. It should be fucking 12 hours, not bloody eight. Gnr ‘Marty’ Barella sat up and swore when he made contact with the bed 2 metres above his head. Fucking bunkbeds!! He rubbed his head and swung his legs out, the icy floor reminded him of what the next 24 hours would be like. He checked his watch, this despite his team commander turning the radio on, a sign that every fucker should get up and get all the Ss out the way : Shit, Shave, Shower. Shag would have to wait until R&R.
His ordeal, well, not just Marty’s ordeal alone, but his team’s ordeal would last 24 hours. It was a guard shift and that meant hour long, mind numbingly boring sangar shifts for eight hours, then it was QRF for 8 hours and then 8 hours off. To be fair, the QRF stint was a sleeping stag anyway, but sometimes the establishment would make you do a routine local patrol around the base – just to fuck you about.
“You look like shit, Marty,” Keith said.
The sinks were about 20 metres down the corridor, men in flip flops and towels would saunter in, some would pass with heavy packs and guns. These men would have been out all night, their faces etched with sleep deprivation and fatigue. Boots, muddy and trousers, ripped and wet from countless fields. Cigarettes out and coffee on for these boys after their de-briefing with the shiny Int Cell.
Later in the morning and it was only 15 minutes since he’d shaved and dressed, Marty attended a briefing followed by a breakfast which included an Egg Banjo and beans. The conversation drifted from the events in Iraq: news of friends over there that the fighting was over and they were just stagging on like every fucker else was.
“It’s no different from here, Marty,” Keith said.
“No different, except they’ve got sand and it’s about 35 degrees difference and they’ve got fucking tanks,” he laughed and put the rest of the Eggy mess into his mouth.
“Aye. Why not,” Marty whipped out a cigarette and tossed it to Keith who deftly caught it between forefinger and index finger. The morning air brought a sobering chill, a chill that their jackets couldn’t stop. A cigarette sorted that out, so did coffee: they were essential.
“I hear John Major’s turning up today,” John said, not sure why he said it in the first place. They were just enjoying the southerly view of the gate and brick wall of Bessbrook Mill, the blue, icy sky beyond and the distant thwop of a helicopter.
Smoke billowed from Marty’s mouth as he took in the cigarette’s intoxicating effect. John Major? Who the fuck…? “That’s the cunt who took over from Maggie, wasn’t it?”
“Marty, which planet are you on?”
“He’s turning up some time today. That’s why we’ve got QRF picking up every fucking thing from fag butts to bird shit, from the Helipad to the Mill. Fucking bullshit city. Be thankful you’re on guard, mate,” Keith flicked the butt away. It spun a crazy seven times into the air before the wind took it.
“That cunt’s got a lot to answer for. Fucking poll tax.. Options for fucking change. Cunt,” Marty declared and crushed the cigarette under a Jungle boot.
The front sangar was the main defence to the base. This was Marty’s first rotation, after this he would be making his way down to the Helipad sangar. He was tooled up with a rifle, his body armour, helmet, chest webbing, pen, notepad and most of all, a sense of humour.
It was Neil who was on stag now as Marty mocked a knock at the back door. “Knock knock, rise and shine, hands off cocks.”
“Aye up mate. How you doing?” Marty noticed with disdain that every time he relieved a sangar post, the dude there was always happy.
“What’s the crack?” Marty asked. This was where a full debrief should occur. There was a sheet that you could use to read off, but nobody ever did, unless it was an inspection of course.
“Nothing much, just the Prime Minister visiting, that’s all. Erm…. what else, was there,” Neil continued, “erm… just the Prime Minister visiting – that’s it.”
“I can’t remember what the fucker looks like,” Marty said.
“Here.” Neil thrust a Sun newspaper in his hand. “Page Three.”
When Neil was gone, Marty signed into the Log Book, stating who he was and that all the gear was there and that he was happy and that the sangar was clean and tide and that there were no grot mags stuffed behind the heater, blah blah fucking blah.
He looked up and pulled open the double window, they slid open with a pull. The cold March air dutifully drifted in and he could smell the aviation fuel from here. His intercom sparked in to life.
“Front gate sanger. Is that Barella?”
“Yes, Gunner Barella here.”
“Remember no fucker is allowed in, if they’re not meant to be there – not allowed in. No exceptions, got it?”
“Aye, no problems. No fucker gets in here if they’re not meant to be here,” he repeated even though this was standard practise and he knew what to do. It wasn’t rocket science.
Several helicopters took off and hovered above the mill for about five minutes. Another came in, this was a Puma. A crowd got out of the helicopter and began to form up like they were queuing up for soup. There were a couple of men who were uniformed, most likely body guards. It was raining and when out of the way of the Puma an umbrella was unfurled.
The crowd walked toward the sangar. Marty’s heart beat began to quicken. Fuck. Just do your job, just do your job. You can’t be bollocked for doing your job. They approached the pedestrian gate and Marty undid the bolt.
“Aye up lad, let us in,” a bearded man asked Marty, who peered at them through the open slats.
“No can do. I’ve been told not to let anyone in.” The radio burst in to life. The voice at the other end, a high squeak – a sense of urgency by the sound of it – maybe it was panic?
“You gonna let us in?”
“Orders are, not to let anyone in who shouldn’t be here.”
It took a while for Marty to register this, but the voice on the radio was now calling for him by his name. “Marty… Barella. Are you there?”
“Gate sanger, over.”
“Let them in. Let them in. It’s the Prime Minister.”
Marty opened the pedestrian gate and in filed the important people, the man under the umbrella stooped under the overhead bar to get the umbrella in. He straightened and regarded Marty.
Marty smiled. Uh, oh. Here comes the million dollar question.
“Do you know who I am?”
Er, yes, you fucking dickhead. I’ve seen you on Page 3 of the fucking Sun above Linda Lusardi and her massive fucking tits, you fucking Tit. “Are you the NAAFI Manager?”
“BSM wants to see you!” A runner gasped as he reached Marty. He was making his way up the stairs to the rooftop sangar, two hours later.
Russ, the BSM was a Marine Commando and he took no shit. He liked his Cigars and right now he was puffing on one like his life depended on it. “The NAAFI Manager!?”
“Yes, sir. It was a stupid fucking question, sir.”
“It was a stupid question. Did you do an A-H on him, then?”
“Yeah, he certainly not fucking Paul Gascoigne,” Marty answered and got the bollocking he was expecting.
Main Actor :
Gnr Barella 24852389
88 (Arracan) Battery
4th Field Regiment Royal Artillery
Other Team Members :