You will know by now that I never do anything by the book – not even write them. It follows, therefore, that when I was in the military I played cat’s cradle with all the regulations so that I could do what I was best at. I only nicked a Hercules once but that was with the permission of the pilot so it was over-looked.
Officially I was a teacher. Imagine that – yes I was trained and have a degree from University of London in English and Drama teaching but that isn’t what I was doing. It was a sneaky way to get me off to anywhere I was needed to teach survival. Remember that there were very few women in the Royal Air Force then and even fewer who needed my services.
The rules then being that one female could not be left amongst a bunch of men, I was the officer acting as mother hen. Any intake with females required me. Wheeeeeeeeee. I got to go all over the place. Although officially stationed at RAF St. Mawgan in Cornwall I worked where I was sent and no, I wasn’t a spy. Mainly I liaised with their NCOs to get them through initial training including survival. This meant I ended up doing a lot of assault courses, teaching the teams to compete in inter-services games. The NCOs loved that – send me in first and shout
“Look at her! She’s a woman, she’s older than you and just pi**ing through it!” This spurred the young men to do better. It was especially effective to send me behind them in the canvas tunnel promising that if I could see their bottom in front of me, I’d bite it.
If any of you sharp-eyed readers have ever noticed that in my photos I’m wearing German fatigues, that was deliberate. I had to stand out. Either in Casualty Evacuation under fire (did that too) my team were “the opposition” or when I was leading, I had to look different. A silly wee flash on the shouder can be missed when someone is losing it but a totally different set of cammo gear isn’t – I also used Alice webbing (American issue, borrowed from my pals)
The US Marines based in St. Mawgan thought I was awful strict. They adopted me as their little mascot, them not having females in their ranks at that point. I’d often go off to train with them for fun, all five feet four of me at the end of a line of very tall, muscled blokes singing out as they jogged along. I even got my own chant. When they sang “I love working for Uncle Sam, lets me know just who I am” I’d give it a few paces then strike up “I like working for HM Queen, let’s me know just where I’ve been”.
It all started when one of my lads was spring man on the wall (cupping hands to chuck his comrades higher) and this lil berk wouldn’t learn to put his head back against the wall. Constantly having his head shot back into the wall, I figured, would teach him to listen. The Marines wanted to examine him and I said “No – if there ‘s blood we get a medic. Otherwise leave him alone.”
On my bithday one year they decided to make me an honorary Marine and gave me THE haircut. That’s why I wasn’t bothered when I shaved my head for cancer charity. bzzzzzzzzzzzz bzzzzzzzzzzz bzzzzzz and my shoulder length hair started to hit the floor. I knew what would be expected so when given I mirror I turned my head this way and that, beamed at them and shouted “OURA” I believe I got quite drunk that night.
I’m told, although I don’t know, that when I was invalided out with cancer, those boys were the most upset. They lost their pet monkey.