«Smudge’s Gemütliches Lippstadt Ian Smith Tales from the barracks to the bar – with some soldiering in between BATTERY ORDERS MAJOR D I SASTER ...»
North Rhine Westphalia (Lippstadt circled) & Germany
The part which was East Germany is overlaid in grey
Tales from the barracks to the bar
(with some soldiering in between)
1973 to 1978
Tales from the barracks to the bar – with some soldiering in between
MAJOR D I SASTER ROYAL ARTILLERY
COMMANDING 56 (OLPHERTS) HEAVY BATTERY ROYAL ARTILLERYLIPPSTADT TUESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 1973 SERIAL No 107
ROUTINE FOR WED 7 SEPTEMBER 73Reveille 0630 hours Breakfast 0630 hours - 0730 hours Parade 0800 hours NAAFI Break 1000 hours - 1030 hours Parade 1230 hours Parade 1345 hours Parade 1630 hours Evening Meal 1700 hours
DUTY PERSONNELBOO Lt S Prog BONCO Bdr W Akeup BATTTERY RUNNER Gnr T Maker DUTY DRIVER Gnr D River
APPRECIATIONThe Author would like to thank everyone for their help and contribution to his book. Special thanks go to Kevin Davis for his cover design and Nick Bedford-Gaines for his robust approach to spelling and grammar.
BOOK LAYOUTL/Bdr R Bending is also to be congratulated for his relentless pursuit of the correct use of the word to and of including off and too. Additionally his skills and knowledge have been very much in demand for the page layout.
REPORTINGGnr I Smith is to report to the BSM at 0800 hours Wed 7 September 1973, he is to be as smart as a carrot.
2 Orders FORECAST OF EVENTS FROM 1973 -1978
1. Goodbye 24. Naughty places
2. Arrival RAF Gutersloh 25. The longest day
3. My first night in Lippstadt 26. Been there done that
4. The first day 27. The longest night
5. Breakfast 28. Abandon the building and run away
6. Get on parade
29. Small arms training
7. It’s Lippstadt down town time (again) 30. Exercise Snow Queen
8. BAOR 31. Pads
9. The gun park/battery square 32. Single soldiers
10. NAAFI break 33. Battery socials
11. Lunch 34. Warned for operations
12. Civilian clothes & 35. Northern Ireland training cigarettes 36. Helicopter training
13. Autumn exercise 37. Herbstwoche
14. The Goldener Hahn 38.
Preface As either a serving or retired soldier or indeed any serviceman or servicewoman, is there nothing more frustrating when in the company of those that have never had any military experience or training than to have them disbelieve your anecdotes or stories?
We have all been there. Listening to our civilian friends in the pub or at work with horrors stories of how they nearly starved to death working through lunch, suffered hypothermia whilst waiting for a bus or cheated death when an empty cardboard box fell on their head. But when the soldier who has listened to these stories begins to compare his own similar experiences he’s met with raised eyebrows and wry smiles.
At countless meet ups and reunions we always bring up stories from our days in the Army. Mates would say “I told my friends at work about that and they reckoned I was telling lies” or “my grand-kids think I am telling fibs”. Well here are those experiences for all to read and believe.
This memoir is dedicated to all my Army friends who feature in this book, maybe not in name but certainly in deed. Also to the friends and the people of Lippstadt, the town I see as my second home and the place where I spent my formative years.
goodbye I picked up my Paddington Bear look-alike suitcase containing all my worldly possessions and said goodbye to my mother and siblings. I was off to join the British Army. Walking to the local Railway Station I could not help asking myself what I have let myself in for? Yes it was my dream from an early age to be a soldier, but this was reality. I had only left school six weeks earlier. Was I really ready for this?
I stood on the platform of Alresford Station amongst the commuters that were either heading south to Winchester or north like me to Basingstoke.
Sadly this little station would not be here to welcome me home on future homecomings when returning on leave. Like many branch lines and stations it would fall victim to Dr Beeching and his savage cuts when he was the Chairman of British Railways.
My little country train moved slowly through the green Hampshire countryside to Basingstoke in time for me to catch my connecting train to London Waterloo. After an hour or so the screeching of metal on metal announced that my train was slowing down as we went first through Clapham Junction and then on to Waterloo. My eyes were straining to catch glimpses of Big Ben and St Paul’s Cathedral; I had certainly left Alresford!
Stood by the famous Waterloo Clock I watched as people with umbrellas and posh leather briefcases headed at a determined pace to and from the many platforms. I searched out the signs for the underground and joined the queue of expressionless people on the escalator to the tube. The iconic map of the underground made it easy for me; I needed the Northern Line to Euston. Things were going well, this was an adventure I would repeat over the next two years every eight weeks or so.
Emerging from the bowels of the earth I stood on the concourse of Euston Station looking at my Army issued rail warrant. I was to catch the 11.05 train to Nuneaton. I was now travelling north, taking in all the different places and landscapes. Was I scared? I don’t think so anyway it was a bit late now.
The last part of my journey would be by bus to the Junior Leaders Regiment Royal Artillery, Gamecock Barracks Bramcote. I was sat amongst equally
apprehensive potential young soldiers from all over the country. We exchanged nervous smiles.
Gamecock Barracks would be my home for the next two years. Some of my friends who served with me see our time spent here through “Rose Coloured spectacles”. But I really did not enjoy Boy Service. Yes I learnt and grew up very fast I also did quite well. On my Pass Out parade on the 4th August 1973 of approximately 600 Junior Soldiers only 5 were of senior rank to me.
So what would these two years involve. For a start I would be going back into the education system, so I did not escape school after all. My two years would be planned right down to the hour, the only time I was on my own or not doing something was when I was asleep.
Army Training is the same all over but added on to this was the daily control and dictatorship which for me was well over the top. For example they would approve what civilian clothes you had to wear on the rare occasions when you could leave camp. These approved clothes would be a magnet to the local skinheads who would, if in greater numbers than us, cause trouble down town. I believe it was this control that was the springboard for me to be a total little sod when I eventually joined my Regiment in Germany.
I did survive my two years, but many fell by the wayside. When I was ready to leave I was a fully trained soldier. The expectations were that I would become a future Officer or Warrant Officer of the Royal Artillery.
So while I was on leave, post my Passing out Parade and prior to joining my Regiment, I had time to reflect. Looking at the positives I was very much self-sufficient, confident, extremely fit and highly qualified. I had been to the four corners of the United Kingdom and believed in God. I had been on cultural visits to Bosworth Field, Coventry Cathedral and a Hippy Commune to further my understanding of society. I also learned how to kiss properly while on the bus back to camp from Nuneaton, with a young girl I met in the “Holly Bush” after one Vodka and Lime too many during my last week.
Barely an hour before at around two o’clock in the afternoon, I would experience my first take off in a fixed wing aircraft from Luton Airport. Now I am about to land in a foreign country. Me, all alone, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and achievement. The emphasis on a fixed wing aircraft is that during my training as a boy soldier in the Junior Leaders Regiment Royal Artillery. We had already flown in and abseiled out of helicopters at the tender age of sixteen..
Looking out the window as we began our descent the whole area looked very unkempt. I could see a scruffy airfield, with old buildings which had seen better days, yellowing grass with rabbits running around in short spurts seemingly unconcerned by our aircraft about to hit the runway. In camouflaged Hangers I could see F2 English Electric Lightning’s, (the first British Fighters capable of Mach 2). As this was the nearest Air Force Base to the East German Border these fighter aircraft would have been the first to deploy in the event of hostilities.
Beyond the airbase, I saw roads and houses that looked clean and welcoming. Each one was like an island surrounded by immaculate, tidy gardens. In these houses lived Germans. Yes, I was abroad. This was Royal Air force Gutersloh a former Luftwaffe airfield where JU 88 Night fighters were stationed in 1944/45 as part of the defensive battle for the Reich.
As the plane came to a halt and the ‘unfasten safety belt’ sign illuminated, people began to busy themselves opening the overhead luggage compartments.
“These people seem to know what they are doing” I thought to myself as I reach for my 200 King Size Rothmans I had purchased at Luton Airport. A whole carton, I was a real jet setter!
I followed my seasoned fellow travellers down the steps onto my first foreign soil, albeit tarmac. The warm September afternoon sun felt welcoming as I walked into the main building to wait for all my worldly possessions to be unloaded from the baggage hold. I eventually tracked down my heavy Army issue suitcase amongst all the other heavy army suitcases in the arrival lounge. Then with case in hand made more difficult through sweaty palms and after exchanging my Sterling Pounds into Deutsche Marks at a rate of 6.95 I followed everyone else to the exit.
I started to feel nervous and very much alone. I just hoped that the information given to me by the Air Trooping desk at Luton would be correct.
There should be a green Army bus outside the terminal. I was told just jump on they will take you to your camp. Walking down the steps from the Terminal building my heart rate started to slow as I spotted the green Army bus. Well there were a lot of green Army buses actually and everyone knew where they were going except for me.
Walking up and down the rows of parked buses I notice each one had a sign stating the destination where they would be travelling to. There must have been a bus for every town in West Germany Paderborn, Munster, Osnabruck, Dortmund the destinations were endless but eventually there it was my bus, destination Lippstadt.
I must have looked totally lost even though I had found my transport. A cheerful portly man beckoned me to put my case and me on the bus. He didn’t speak English, and I guessed rightly that he was a German. So this is what Germans looked like, much the same as me really. I wondered what his name was, Fritz or Hans? They were all called these names in the war comics. But it was nice to know that my first native was friendly no matter what his name was.
9 Tales from the barracks to the bar – with some soldiering in between I sat on the bus with about a dozen other people, lit a cigarette and started to relax. The driver jumped on, spoke and gestured to his passengers as he eased himself into his seat. What did he say, I have no idea, but he seemed to know where he was going which was helpful.
As the bus pulled out onto the main road running past the airbase my interest turned to people watching as we made our way through villages and towns.
After a while the two passengers who were sat behind me started to chat, which was welcome as I hadn’t really spoken to anyone since leaving home that morning.
They became instant friends as comrades in arms always do introducing themselves as Smiler and Blacky. They began to make things better by telling me they were in the same Regiment that I was being posted to. We talked as if we had known each other for years and I began to feel very much ease.
Not knowing how far I had to travel I sat watching the buildings, fields and trees disappear for the best part of an hour and a half until we started to slow down and moved into a right turn lane waiting for the oncoming commuter traffic to stop.
Looking out the left window I was amazed by an old but impressive tall brick built tower, later to become known as the water tower and the best reference point to be seen from my new camp.
Turning right and then left the bus moved slowly along what I now know as Sudstrasse. The sun had by now dropped below the horizon to be replaced by street lights. We were now in a suburban area, people were going about their business or making their way home to their families, lights were on in the houses either side of the street. A totally new world for a young 17 year old brought up in a quiet market town in Hampshire, Suddenly there it was my new home, Churchill Barracks, 27 Regiment Royal Artillery, The Hampshire Gunners. My thoughts turned to Harry Pizzey our Physical Training Instructor, (PTI) in Junior Leaders who used to stop PT to tell us stories about his Regiment and Lippstadt. Thanks Harry,
he was right and I was to meet him again as he returned as the Provost Sergeant, some months later.
The bus lumbered through the gates and stopped outside the Guard Room. My fellow passengers collected their suitcases and disappeared along cobblestone roads into the darkness. My friendly German driver also left to park his bus leaving me alone again with just my shadow.