Draft History Project

| HOME | COVER | CONTENTS | FOREWORD | CH 1 | CH 2 | CH 3 | CH 4 | CH 5 | CH 6 | CH 7 | CH 8 | CH 9 | CH 10 | CH 11 | PHOTO'S |
Chapter 8

Langeleben 1982-1985 - John Richardson

I eventually arrived at Langeleben in April 1982. I was by now a Sergeant in the Int Corps, with eight years’ service. I had joined the Russian Interpreter Course at the Army School of Languages at Beaconsfield in 1980. Towards the end of the course myself and the other Int Corps Sergeant were informed about our future postings: “One of you is going to 13 and the other to 14. Let me know which is which.“ said the man from DI 24. I must admit, the thought of another tour in Berlin was very tempting. So before we resorted to fisticuffs, we tossed a coin. As the loser, I would be going to 14 Signal Regiment. Also attending the course was WO2 Dennis Weir from 14, he contacted the Regiment to ensure that I would be employed at 1 Squadron, Langeleben, and not at the RHQ in Celle.I was not too unhappy with my lot, as Electronic Warfare had been growing in importance in the Army, at least since the major organisational reforms of 1977. Before that time, Langeleben had been viewed as somewhere to be avoided, a backwater in the Sigint Community. But now there was a realisation that this posting could mark an important stepping-stone in a soldier’s career.
As we took the final exams, the Argentinians invaded the Falkland Islands and many people suddenly disappeared from the other courses to join the task force. Our voice operators who had done a Spanish course in order to spend a few months every year in Belize were now all heading south. So after leave at home, keeping an ear on the radio for news of the war, I arrived at Langeleben with Dennis.

I joined Support Troop, working in the transcription section. It was frustrating to find that I had no mobile role. Sp Tp was made up of the Odds and Sods, Reporters, Transcribers, Ops Bureau and a section called Squadron Plans and Operations Team (SPOT), which contained all the Warrant Officers with no real jobs. Our Troop Commander was Laurie Storey. „A“ Troop was far and away the biggest troop, consisting of the two half troops “Whiskey“ and “X-Ray“ the voice ops (R Signals and Int Corps) who manned the set room and carried out the mobile operations. “O” Troop was commanded by the Yeoman and contained all the Radio Ops and Data Telegraphists. “D“ Troop was manned by the Spec Ops with their DF vehicles. SHQ Troop contained the Orderly Room Sergeant and clerk, Pay Clerk, the MT drivers and the REME LAD. On paper the Squadron was about 140 men strong, but we always had people on courses and detachments. There were about 12 Warrant Officers in the Squadron, most of them looking for a job. The majority of DI 24 personnel were based with 1 Squadron at Langeleben. 2 Squadron (the old 226) worked at Wesendorf, being bussed daily from the RHQ at Scheuen, north of Celle. Scheuen was an old RAOC ammunition dump, and housed RHQ and HQ Squadron. It was a depressing place, and most of the Langy personnel avoided it like the plague, only visiting when we had to.

I reported for duty to the SSM to be told that I was on Summer Camp the week after next. The Regiment sent each Squadron in turn to Bavaria for ten days’ adventure training, hill-walking, rock-climbing, canoeing, etc. I was to go with HQ Squadron, as I would be staying with the Rear Party in Langeleben when 1 Squadron went down. As it turned out, I enjoyed the time in Berchtesgaden, HQ Squadron formed a patrol for Senior NCOs and we had some fun. I could read a map and speak reasonable German, so we managed to navigate our way from Gasthaus to Gasthaus through the mountains, seeing something of the magnificent Alps and the historic locations. I also made some useful contacts for the future. We were accommodated in an American transit barracks in Strub, a couple of kilometres out of the town.

JR JR finishing the confidence course

The two weeks in Berchtesgaden were not without hazards. One day’s activity involved attempting the local “Confidence Course” which was a course through the woods, over ropes and planks and the like, about thirty feet up in the trees. This concluded with a “Death Slide” down a rope by a harness attached to a pulley wheel. We were told the Yanks got a medal for completing the thing. One year our OC (known as Frogface) went first. He got to the end, climbed into the harness, and launched himself down the slide, but somehow started bouncing on the rope, which derailed the wheel on the rope and caused him to come to a sudden stop, and he was jolted forward so that he was hanging upside down in the harness in a rather painful position. “Arrggh; my balls”, he screamed, while his trusty men below rushed off to fetch their cameras and/or clods of earth and proceeded to pelt him while he struggled to extricate himself.

JR 



JR on the march in Bavaria

Even less enjoyable was the ordeal of Chris Jones. One section of the confidence course was a row of car tyres suspended by ropes, the idea was to swing from one to another “Tarzan”-style. Trying to get across, Chris missed his footing and fell backwards, but his foot was stuck inside a tyre, and he fell with a scream, his lower leg being turned through 90°. Fortunately he was wearing a safety harness, so he didn’t fall to the deck, but he was left hanging about twenty feet up with his leg in the air making an almighty racket. It tuned out later that he had dislocated his kneecap. This presented the problem of how to recover him, as he couldn’t pull himself up, and we didn’t have any twenty-foot ladders to hand. The nearest telephone was about five miles away down the bottom of the mountain. Luckily for Chris, we spotted some German Alpine Troops out training over the way, so I sauntered over and explained our predicament. They came straight over, all big beefy chaps with arms and legs like tree trunks, they swarmed up the trees and secured Chris with ropes to a stretcher and lowered him to the ground, then drove him off in their jeep to the local hospital. Here he was treated by a German doctor who told Chris to look out of the window, as Chris did this, the medico whacked the kneecap back into place. Chris said his scream of pain must have been heard up at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. The doctor shrugged and said “Soldiers don’t need anaesthetic”. Chris’s leg was encased in plaster from ankle to hip, and he was shipped back to Langy. His troubles weren’t over, as he found the Langy toilet cubicles were too small and he couldn’t sit on the throne with his pot leg extended. In the end he had to sit on the can with the door open and rest his foot on a chair. Of course, his comrades rallied round with much sympathy.

JR  A Sgts’ Mess dinner night

The Sergeants’ Mess was bursting at the seams, the living-in personnel were divided into single sergeants and married unaccompanied (i.e. those who were waiting for discharge, who had sent their wives and families back to UK), known as the “bean stealers“, as they did not pay messing fees. I moved into a small single bunk in the overflow accommodation in the Cinema block, where I stayed for a few months until my turn came to move into a room in the Mess proper. Evenings in the Mess were mostly spent in the television lounge, or sometimes we walked down to Lelm, the first stop was on the right hand side of the road, 1 1/2 Km from Langeleben on the tree-line overlooking the Lelm-Helmstedt area, known as the "Halfway house" although it was really called "Heinrichsruh". For many years it was run by the Ehlers family, (btw, the daughter of the house, Sigrid, married Tony Buttery). In 1982 the landlord set up a big screen TV for the World Cup finals, so lots of us went down there. The other port of call was "Elly's" on the Königslutter road out of Lelm. A good little pub, Elly used to "mother" the lads. She retired in about 1984, we drank the boozer dry on the last night; the pub is now a very good restaurant "Kastanienkrug". Heini Feddeck still drinks in there, so they can't be too fussy about their guests.
The only problem was getting back to Langeleben, it was a long haul up the hill. I remember one night the Yeoman walked the whole 3 Km backwards, as he was convinced footpads were lurking in the woods to rob us (must have been something he ate). On Saturday evenings the younger element usually drove into Königslutter and played dice at the “Kaiserschenke“.

JR  Sartorially elegant: JR and Arthur Verit

One Saturday morning we were all sitting around in the TV lounge, drinking coffee and watching the box. Arthur Verity had borrowed Chris Jones’ chess computer and was deep in thought on about level one. He sat there with coffee cup on one side and a fly swatter on the other, occasionally despatching a kamikaze fly. He raised an eye from his game and realised that crawling down the wall opposite was one of eleben’s resident cockroaches. Suddenly he acted, and launched himself over the coffee table in the direction of the roach. Now Arthur was not one of the most graceful movers at the best of times, he sort of lumbered about. Now he charged over the table and the chair behind it like a bull at a gate to take a mighty swipe at the roach. Unfortunately the mains lead from the chess computer had wrapped round his ankle so as he lunged, the computer followed him, and ripped the cable from the wall socket with an almighty flash-bang. His fist grasping the fly swatter knocked a huge hole in the chipboard wall. The rest of us sat there stunned in astonishment, (even the sloth Chris Jones woke up). Sad to relate, Arthur missed the roach, which scuttled back into the skirting.

By the end of May the Squadron had returned from Summer Camp and I returned to work in the transcription section. The daily bread and butter work was artillery, the ranges in the Letzlinger Heide and Altengrabow training areas were easily audible. Now the infantry and tank troops were starting with their initial training after the May troop rotation, which would steadily build up to full Regimental and Divisional exercises in September-October. The transcription section was also responsible for language training, which was held in the training room in the ops block.

A typical day for us started at 0830, the first reels had come through and we worked until 10, when we walked over to the Sgts’ Mess for tea and toast. The telephone was continually ringing, and the Sqn Orderly Officer (a Sergeant or WO) had to answer it. We got a duty about once a month, and every couple of months a weekend duty. At 1030 we returned to work until 1230, when we broke for lunch. A full sit-down meal was provided for those who wanted, but most people had put their names down for a bread roll with meat or cheese. I usually ate two of these, while serving behind the Mess Bar, which was normally full, with dart games and dominoes being played. At 1330 I closed the bar and returned to work. I was appointed to the bar by the SSM because 1. I lived in the Mess and 2. I could phone Wolters’ Brewery in German with the order. In return I was excused serving on the Entertainments Committee, as I was now permanently Wines and Property Member. When I arrived the bar was a small affair in the corner, but not long after I arrived, Ray Jones (a trained carpenter) and Tony Buttery built a big new one, which was far more comfortable to work behind. We also got a beer pump from the brewery for draught Wolters’ beer. Work at Langeleben officially finished at 1600, as opposed to 1700 at Scheuen, the reason being that the married men had a long journey to their quarters in Braunschweig/Wolfenbüttel. I usually carried on working until tea time, as it was possible to work at this time of day without interruption. The evening meal was served at 1800 in the Mess, and was usually of a good standard. Every few weeks we would hold a living-in dinner, usually to say farewell to a living-in member, for which a jacket and tie were worn, and we would be served wine with the meal. After dinner we retired to the TV lounge for coffee and flopped around or got changed to go into town.

Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, we paraded at 0700 for a 5 Km run through the woods. The racing snakes would complete the course in record time, but for the mass of us it was a necessary evil plodding through the woods. After the run, we showered and had breakfast, before starting work. Fortunately, the runs were discontinued after the arrival of a new (rotund) OC.

The work behind the bar brought me into regular contact with my Mess colleagues. Many I, of course, knew well already, from previous units and/or courses attended. Those from outside the Y Services, though, were largely unknowns. The Yeoman of Signals became a good pal of mine, he was very correct and proper to his radio ops, though, they were very wary of getting on the wrong side of him. One day at the bays in Wolfenbüttel he had done himself a mischief of some sort, pulled a muscle in his back or something. He drove back to Langy, extricated himself from his car with difficulty and limped gingerly across to the Mess, past his men engaged in polishing a land rover, who diplomatically refrained from commenting on his obvious discomfort. He had almost reached the Mess door and safety, when SQMS Brummie Andrews stuck his head round the Stores door and shouted for all to hear: “What’s up Yeoman, strained yer bollox ‘ave yer?”

JR The Mess Staff: Ingrid, Sabrina, Blondie, Frau Brauer, Ilona, Cooks Keith Mooney and Jock Mutch

I also came into daily contact with the Mess civilian staff, run with an iron hand by Frau Ilona Hawxwell, the Mess Manageress. Her waitresses were Frau Wirtsch, an albino, half-blind, known as “Blondie”, and Frau Ingrid Schmidtke, blonde hair, blue eyes with an hourglass figure, known as “Schmitty”. In the kitchen worked Renate Ellis and her son, Trevor, as well as the redoubtable Frau Graf. The chambermaid was dear old Emmy Sturm, who worked in all about 40 years at Langeleben.

As senior NCOs we collected subsidiary tasks. John Neal returned from a Unit Fire NCO’s course and we were paraded on the tennis court for a demonstration of fire-fighting. John had obtained an old sofa from the quarters and had put it in the middle of the tennis court. Unfortunately, the night before it had rained and the sofa was soaking wet. John nevertheless proceeded to tell us about fighting fires, and as a pièce de resistance he wanted to demonstrate how to extinguish a burning sofa. His attempt to ignite the sofa failed miserably, the seat cushions just smouldered and went out. Undaunted, he dipped a torch in petrol, lit it, and thrust it deeply into the seat, “Just wait till it gets going”. The torch went out, so to the accompaniment of titters from the assembled soldiery, he poured a jerry-can of benzin over the sofa and threw in a lighted taper, the fire flared up -and went out. So he cut his losses and quickly summed up, “So, anyway, you now know what action to take in the event of a fire in your quarter”, and some wag in the rear rank (Pete Manger, I think) chipped in “Yeah, stick it in the sofa.” (Oh how we laughed!). (We found out later that the sofa was made of a safety non-inflammable foam, which wouldn’t have burned even without the soaking).

JR  Nick Turner and JR meet the Bundeswehr

The summer was rounded-off with me going off for a week on Exercise Beachcomber. This was run by Dennis Weir, and the idea was to get soldiers out of barracks during the summer break. In summer 50% of the unit were allowed out of theatre on leave, those left in camp manned the set room or just lounged around the bays. So the then OC asked Dennis to think of something to do with the bored soldiery. Dennis came up with a scheme to take a party off to the seaside resort of Cuxhaven to carry out environmental conservation tasks. Two parties travelled up to the coast for a week at a time, at first living in a German Naval Barracks, then in later years on a public campsite. In the mornings the party would do some task under the direction of a local German forester, building paths through the woods or reinforcing a badly-eroded lakeside. The afternoons were generally free, but included a visit to a local military unit, and one day for a hike over the mud flats out to Neuwerk Island – about 8 miles (returning by the ferry). In the evenings the “Strand Club” disco was favourite, but I found a quiet little welcoming bar, round the corner, where I could while away the hours. The week ended with a barbecue on the beach, to which the forester and the representatives of the town council plus the Bundeswehr were invited. When Dennis later moved on I took over the administration and running of the Exercise.

After the summer leave period, it was back to work with a vengeance, with the start of the NATO Exercise period, and the culmination of the Soviet Training Cycle. The set room was busy, and we generally had one or all troops out. I was still a member of the rear party, it was becoming quite frustrating without an exercise role, watching the troops continually coming and going. One evening in November, the shift supervisor called me in to transcribe a reel, it was the announcement to the Soviet Forces of the death of Leonid Brezhnev, the then General Secretary of the Soviet Union.

I did get sent to Corps HQ on an exercise, as a watchkeeper in the Corps Electronic Warfare Control Cell (EWCC), where it soon became apparent that I was the only one there who knew the foggiest about EW, the others were main-line Signallers, I Corps from the Security Section, and RAOC clerks. Still it was an interesting week seeing the Corps Commander and his Staff at close quarters, and we even carried out a river crossing over the Weser.

December arrived, and finally I took part in a Squadron exercise, albeit as an umpire, issuing tapes for the ops to listen to. This was Exercise “White Lightning” and had been written and recorded by us (the transcribers) as a training exercise for the voice ops. The scenario was of a Soviet attack on West Germany, instead of scanning the air waves, the ops were issued with a tape representing 20 minutes of activity. This lasted for a week, and we accompanied the intercept troops as they moved locations.

After we returned to Langy, then the Christmas period started. In the mess we held a decoration evening, and shortly before the festival we had a Christmas Draw, for which we wrote begging letters to every firm we could think of to collect prizes for the raffle. The Draw was held in the gymnasium that year. Over Christmas half the unit went on leave, when they returned, the other half went on leave for New Year. Priority was given to those with small children, so it meant that I was duty transcriber on Christmas Day. The day started early with the SSM and myself with the bucket of tea and rum (“Gunfire”) doing the rounds of the single accommodation, On shift there was not much work done, basically we sat round in the set room drinking beer. At midday, Pete Manger arrived to drive me down to his quarter, where I had been invited for Christmas Dinner. After a good dinner, washed down with wine we continued on drinking a bottle of port, and then I slept on his sofa. Next day we came into work (with thick heads) as the soviets (who of course did not celebrate Christmas) were out on exercise. After the changeover I went off on leave, I drove up to Berlin to visit some German friends and spent New Year there.

1983
The year started with the new OC announcing his plans for the reorganisation of the Squadron. The Squadron would be organised the same in camp as in the field. To this end A Troop disappeared and two intercept troops, Whisky and X-Ray were formed. D Troop’s two DF baselines were now permanently subordinated to each of the intercept troops. O Troop’s radio ops were also assigned to the intercept troops.


Organisatiion

Support troop vanished, and the reporters were assigned to an intercept troop. The transcription section was reduced and earmarked for the Squadron Probe, joining the now enlarged SHQ troop. The OC announced that new vehicles would be soon arriving, and about time, too, as the number of land rovers sitting waiting for spare parts outside the LAD was becoming embarrassing. The new vehicles would be one-tonne hard top land rovers. A third intercept troop would be formed, Yankee Troop, and would be part of the new 2 Squadron, but in barracks based at Langeleben. The intercept troops’ vehicles were all garaged at Wolfenbüttel. The first hard-top one-tonne rover to arrive was the new Squadron Command Post (SCP).

JR  FC101 Land Rover (Radio) like the SCP wagon

It contained two radio watchkeeper positions, and a space for the OC, which he furnished with an armchair from the mess. The two watchkeepers normally listened on the two radio nets, the Regimental Command Net and the Squadron Command Net, but could, if required, be operated by one man, with a net in each earphone. As I had no exercise role, I was detailed as one of the four watchkeepers, (2 men as day + night teams). This became “my” vehicle, that is, I was responsible for washing and scraping mud off the thing, and usually drove it when moving location, while my fellow watchkeeper slept. During the day, the OC sat in his armchair like a Buddha and commanded the movements of the squadron. At night he slept in his tent not far from the SCP, while the night watchkeepers updated the maps and carried out resupply and admin tasks, told jokes and read books, my collection of P.G. Wodehouse grew considerably. The SCP normally deployed with the forward intercept complex, which comprised the four intercept positions, the troop OC, analysts, DF controller and radio op/data telegraphist. The four DF vehicles were deployed out in the field, up to 100 Km away. For first-line repairs a radio technician had a small workshop parked nearby, and the cook wagon in a four-tonne Bedford truck was co-located with us.

The OC’s comfy armchair was the downfall of one Royal Signals WO1 who occupied the chair on a night shift; when he woke up and gathered his kit together he discovered that his pistol was missing. A hurried search of the wagon was fruitless, so he rushed over to the complex, commandeered a party of bods, and proceeded to search the surrounding woods in the cold light of dawn. He returned to the SCP in a somewhat agitated manner, and held his head in his hands, seeing his hopes of commissioning retreating fast. He sat in the armchair pondering his fate, when he suddenly reached down into the upholstery and with obvious relief, pulled out his pistol, which had slipped down behind the cushion. We had at the time a young coloured voice op in the Squadron, he had taken part in the fruitless search party before finishing his mid shift, after which he settled down to sleep in the back of a four-tonne truck, hanging his SMG on the side of the lorry. A while later, the SSM was wandering around, and saw this, and removed the SMG from its hook, then woke the sleeping Corporal and informed him that he was on a charge for mislaying his personal weapon (he didn’t like the bloke). When we got back to camp, he marched in to the OC who asked him what he had to say for himself. Young Cpl. C. announced that there were obviously different rules for different ranks in the Squadron, as a Warrant Officer had raised the hue and cry when he had lost his pistol, but he, a Corporal, was simply stuck on a charge. The OC, being a fair man, told him to be more careful in future and gave him a reprimand. The WO1 was invited to make a sizeable donation to the Royal Signals Benevolent Fund.

Cpl. C., a clever bloke, got his own back on the SSM later. One spring day, he turned up at SHQ asking for a personal interview with the SSM. The SSM invited him in and asked him what was the matter. “I’ve decided to have a sex change, I want to become a lady” replied the lad with a straight face. The SSM gasped, and stammered “Have you talked to the MO, …, the chaplain, perhaps….”
The Cpl. said, “No, I wanted you to be the first to know, to save any embarrassment.”
“Well, thank you Cpl. C.,” said the SSM, perspiring, “I’ll have to discuss this with the OC, er, MO, er, maybe the WRVS sister”.
The Cpl. thanked him and left the office. The SSM staggered out into the Orderly Room, mopping his fevered brow. “Anything the matter, Sir,” asked the Orderly Room Sergeant, with a grin.
“I’ve never had to deal with anything like this in my life before,” groaned the SSM, and explained his predicament to the ORS, who pointed to the calendar… yes, dear reader, it was the 1st of April.

One exercise, I was standing on top of the SCP wagon, watching the intercept troop just over the way setting-up. A couple of bods were erecting the intercept mast, which was carried horizontal on a trailer, first had the antenna attached and then was wound up to the vertical, and then a hosepipe from a generator was attached to erect the mast pneumatically. As each section of about 5 metres went up, there was a locking ring, which the bod up the ladder twisted to unlock, to allow the next section to rise up. All went well until the last ring stuck, the bloke tried to unjam it, but the pressure built up and he couldn’t budge it. He shouted to the man on the genny to knock off the air, but it was too late, there was an almighty bang and the mast was launched up into the air, the blokes setting up the complex scattered as the 40-foot mast returned to Earth, and stuck into the ground at an oblique angle. The ancient mast, which had probably seen action at Waterloo, was declared beyond economic repair, and I believe it ended up in the Museum at Blandford.

The second intercept complex was maybe 50 Km to our rear, and co-located with it were the LAD and the SQMS. Resupply was carried out every couple of nights, we would receive our supplies of petrol in jerrycans, fresh rations, and anything else we had indented for.

I enjoyed the exercises in SCP, there was usually a good laugh somewhere during the exercises. Often, we deployed early on an exercise, to try and catch the opposing forces moving out of garrison. We were usually on radio silence for days, which meant that it could get boring at times. One night I was listening on the (silent) Regimental Command Net, when suddenly a voice broke the silence: “I’m fooking p*ssed off” it said. Immediately another angry voice came on the net: “Hello unidentified station, this is Sunray, I say again, this is Sunray, identify yourself, unidentified station.” After a pause, the first voice transmitted again: “I’m not that fooking p*ssed off!” (Oh how we laughed!)

At least now I felt that my military education was advancing, and that I was at last doing something useful in the Squadron.

I eventually got a summons to the SSM, who informed me that I had been selected to attend a Nuclear, Chemical and Biological (NBC) Defence Instructors’ course. This meant three weeks in the UK, just up the road from Porton Down. I found it an interesting course, I had to do a lot of swotting, as I had previously had little to do with NBC. Most of the others on the course were from the teeth arms, they were surprised that the Int Corps was represented. The theoretical side presented no great problems, but I had lacked practical experience in decontamination drills and radiac reconnaissance and the like, but my comrades rallied round to help me when they saw me floundering. In the end I got a good pass grade, and I returned to Langy to assume the duties of Squadron NBC Instructor. This entailed advising the OC on NBC matters, now and again he would call for a “chemical strike” on exercise, I would let off a few squibs and the lads would have to don their “Noddy” suits and carry on working in an NBC environment. I also carried out the annual checks on respirators, and prepared soldiers for the NBC parts of military training courses, (Det Commander, or SSgts courses for the R Signals, or Drill & Duties for the I Corps).

As a German speaker, I got roped in to assist in the Anglo-German Club, which drew it’s members from interested parties from the unit and citizens of Königslutter, mainly the English teachers from the school, but also others, town treasurer, bank manager, clockmaker etc. We organised various events, folk music concert, games evening, sports evening, car treasure hunt, pensioners’ Christmas dinner, kids’ party etc. The attendance swung between sell-out to a washout. The bulk of the organisation was borne by the hon. sec. (me).

For the single Sergeants there was a lack of female company. In those days WRAC personnel were not sent to front-line units, so we were left with the Germans. Opportunities for meeting suitable candidates were few and far between in ‘Slutter. The “Lord” pub in town where the young lads drank always seemed to be full of young girls, but we (almost 30) were classed as geriatrics. We drank in the “Kaiserschenke” which was more in the spit and sawdust class, and few women went in there. I was never interested in visiting discotheques, and the matrons who attended the Anglo-German Club meetings were more interested in improving their English irregular verbs. I was friendly with the young NAAFI manageress, Eileen, but her work prevented her from having much free time for other pursuits in the evenings. I was still writing to a WRAC friend at Beaconsfield, but now she had been posted to Northern Ireland, so I couldn’t call in to see her on leave any more. One Friday I was closing the bar, when Ingrid the waitress brought the washed glasses from the kitchen, we chatted as usual, and I mentioned that on Saturday I had to drive up to Celle, I had left my scarf in the Sgts Mess after a meeting. “Oh, Celle is a lovely town, and I like the Lüneburg Heath”, she said.
“You can come with me, if you like,” I said. So she accepted, and I picked her up next day. She was a bit wary, in case anybody in Königslutter saw her, but we had a pleasant drive round and towards evening I suggested something to eat. Königslutter was out of the question, so we went to the Chinese restaurant in Helmstedt. She was pleasant company, good-looking, blonde, blue-eyed, with a cracking figure. She was not long divorced from her alcoholic husband, and her friend Renate Ellis had told her that there was a job going in Langeleben. Although she couldn’t speak English, she had taken the job. Her good looks meant that she soon got plenty of offers from married men, but she wasn’t interested. I took her home and we said we would do it again sometime. I also promised not to say anything to the others (they had such warped ideas on sex, anyway).

JR  The Squadron football team vs. Lelm

In June the village of Lelm celebrated it’s 1000-year anniversary. I was invited to have a chat with the chairman of the parish council, and he outlined the plans for the festivities. I reported back to the OC, who gave his assent to us taking part. On the Saturday the sqn football team played against a Lelm eleven (as the village did not have a football team, the handballers turned out). Before the game the teams were presented to the local dignitaries and the village band played the national anthems.

JR  Bill Nelson leading us through Lelm

On the Sunday a contingent in No. 2 dress led by the 2IC, Capt. Bill Nelson, Int Corps, marched in the procession through the village. In the evening we came down in force to the celebration dance in the tent, for an evening of oompah music and much alcohol. Langeleben was well represented, not only the soldiers, but a lot of the civilian staff were present, including Ilona Hawxwell and Ingrid, so we had a couple of dances.

In Summer I again took part in “Beachcomber” in Cuxhaven, this time we were accommodated in tents on a campsite, which definitely furthered Anglo-German relations.

When I got back off summer leave, the Sqn was preparing to go on Exercise Silver Shield, which was a military training exercise for the entire Corps Signal Brigade, consisting of 7, 16 and 14 Signal Regiments. It meant an early start, so our SSM decided that everybody would come in to camp the night before. In the Sgts Mess he had planned a curry supper, and then a good night’s sleep before rising early to get on the bus…..As I got up early the next morning (I had gone to bed at midnight) the last drunks were just coming out of the bar to go to breakfast. We drew arms and got on board the Sqn bus (the “White elephant”). Army busses are not built for comfort, so we threw all the kit at the back with the beer and got our sleeping bags out, so very soon the bus resembled a low-class doss house. The bus had a top speed of about 20 mph, going downhill with the wind behind it, and there are a lot of hills between Langeleben and the Rhine Mountains, so going uphill we just about made a brisk walking pace. This wasn’t too bad, as it meant people could stand in relative safety at the open side door to take a leak, or in one case, throw up. After a sumptuous meal of stale haversack rations (“death packs”) we eventually rolled into Vogelsang Camp, some twelve hours later. As we drove in, the other Regiments were forming up on the square, for allocation of accommodation, and all eyes turned as the Langeleben bus rattled round the corner, spilling empty Wolters’ beer bottles out of the loose emergency exit door at the back (I kid you not!!).

JR  Aerial photo of Vogelsang Camp with Urft reservoir

The location of the exercise was at Vogelsang Camp, in the Eifel mountains. The camp had been built by Adolf as a Nazi Party leadership school, on top of a mountain, overlooking the Urft Reservoir. We took our year’s allocation of pyrotechnics and for a week the troops were chased up hill and down dale. The rifle ranges fired across the lake, from morning till night they were banging away with everything, rifles, machine guns, anti-tank rockets, grenade launchers. The lake was crossed by paddling like mad in little assault boats, and for fun you could run up the couple of hundred steps from the lake up to the camp (and back again). I struck lucky, as I was an NBC instructor, and was sent to join the training staff. It was quite good fun, letting off lots of squibs, firing airburst simulations at the advancing troops, covering them with foul-smelling gubbins. And on the same theme, in the evenings, when we weren’t carrying out night shoots, we drank copious amounts of a Belgian lager, which produced the most foul-smelling farts I have ever been unlucky enough to experience. (A pity we didn’t have respirators in the bar). And it was an incentive to be at the front in the early morning runs, as the poor blokes at the back got the benefit of the noxious mixture of sulphur and after shave.

We did get one day off, on the Sunday. The SSM informed us that there would be a bus departing for Cochem, on the Mosel River. If anybody was interested, there would also be a demonstration of tank-hunting out on the training area. Well, I thought I would give my liver a rest, and put my name down for the tank-hunting, as did one or two others. We marched down to the training area, where a Belgian Major was waiting for us. First he showed us how to make Molotov cocktails (you never know when these skills come in useful) and then we proceeded to throw them at an old burnt out tank, while the Major pointed out where to aim for. “Jolly good fun”, we thought. Then he led us to the track round the back. At his signal, a tank sped down the track towards him, he stood out in the middle and allowed the tank to run over him, then, as it passed, he jumped up and mounted the beast from behind. As the tank came to rest we applauded, impressed by this feat of arms.
“Bon,” he said, “now eet ees your turn.”
“Eh, what??!!”
I don’t know if you have ever wished that you would vanish down a crack in the ground, but that day I certainly did. To lie on mother earth while a 50-ton tank rumbles forwards and backwards over you is an extremely unpleasant sensation. The more rotund members of our little group were wishing they hadn’t over-indulged at lunch. As we finally were allowed to get up and jump on the back of the tank, I was mopping the sweat from my furrowed brow. But we weren’t finished. “Now we do it in pairs”, said the swine. So, after looking quickly round for a thin partner, we had to undergo it all again, lying stuck together like two logs of wood, trying not to look at the caterpillar tracks rattling past your nose. Strong men had to rally round with brandy afterwards. But what really hurt was seeing the party coming back from Cochem, later that evening.

The next week was spent playing cowboys and indians in the hills. The Squadron moved out and dug defensive positions on the training area. I was detailed off to be one of the “Enemy”, we were divided into sections under the command of officers and attacked the defenders. My section commander was our Commanding Officer, who I got to know quite well during that week, he had a good sense of humour and we had some fun, roving about shooting at the entrenched troops. At the end of the week I volunteered to drive one of the Land Rovers back to Langeleben, it was preferable to twelve hours in the “White Elephant”.

The 1983 Exercise season continued apace, the Squadron deployed on the usual Divisional Exercises. I continued to drive the SCP wagon around until at last the time came for Yankee Troop to pick up the “new” 1-tonne Land Rovers from UK. Included in the delivery was the new Squadron Probe vehicle, for which I had been warned off earlier in the year. The Probe vehicle was a miniature intercept complex, with two intercept positions and a radio set. The wagon towed a 20-metre mast, and we received a short-wheelbase Land Rover as support vehicle to carry our tentage and kit. The Probe was crewed by four men, three of us from the transcription section plus one radio operator. Yankee Troop brought the vehicles over from UK and started training with the new vehicles. The Probe crew joined in the work-up exercises, practicing setting-up and tearing-down ad infinitum, first by day, then by night. We were finally pronounced ready for action. We garaged the vehicles in our bays at Wolfenbüttel. The time spent with the Probe would prove to be the most enjoyable part of my tour at Langeleben.

I was still working at my German, the nearest Army Education Centre was at Hildesheim, so once a week I had to drive 70 miles for a tutorial, and before the examinations spent a week there swotting up for the Civil Service Linguist examination, which I passed, and received the language award (about ₤60, if I remember rightly). This did not go unnoticed as shortly afterwards I was called to RHQ to act as one of the guides for the visit of the Staff College to 14th Signal Regiment from UK. Part of their tour was a visit to the Memorial at Belsen, just outside Celle, for which interpreters were needed, and the Regiment had several good German speakers.

Just before Christmas the Squadron hosted a party for Old Age Pensioners from Königslutter and Lelm. The OC asked me to write a speech for him and I ran the bar, assisted by other members of staff. The Civil Labour also held a party, for which I also ran the bar, which gave me an opportunity to chat to Ingrid. Unfortunately I was also called upon to break open a toilet door, as one of the cleaners had passed out after locking herself in. I was invited to spend Christmas Eve at Ingrid’s, we had the traditional German Christmas dinner and I had brought presents for her and her two children. I worked over the Christmas period and then drove up to Berlin to visit friends over New Year.


1984
The OC’s address to us at the start of the New Year outlined what lay in store for us. The high point of the year would be Exercise “Crusader”, a 1 (BR) Corps Field Training Exercise, the biggest deployment of British Forces since 1945. The Regiment would be deploying as enemy, and our training this year would be carried out with this as the main aim.

The fact that we now possessed a self-contained Probe was not lost on the powers, and we quickly became involved in operations. The Squadron had a deployment plan to react to Soviet activity over the border, called Operation “Flagpole”. If a Soviet Division moved, say from garrison to the Letzlinger Heide, then a “Flagpole” could be declared by the CO, on advice from the regimental Int Staff. The deployment could take various forms, for example, a DF baseline could be sent out along the border, while the troop remained at Langeleben. Or the Probe could be sent to a location on the border, to see if anything was going on that was not being heard at Langy. If it was considered worth it, then the duty troop in full could deploy to the Probe’s location. This did indeed happen on several occasions, As the Probe Commander I had to see that our vehicles were ready to deploy at all times. Usually I would get a call from the Int Cell, receive a quick briefing and then call together the crew to tell them the good news, that we were off up the border again that evening. But I must say that it was a good feeling, that we were actually doing something worthwhile as part of the great picture. And of course a bit of pride in that we knew we were the best voice operators in the Squadron, as we rolled yet again out of the camp gates towards the border. In the field we usually deployed well away from the other elements, usually only returning to SCP at the end of an exercise. Sometimes it had it’s drawbacks, once bowling down the autobahn I caught sight of a big black SOXMIS car in my rear-view mirror. The Regiment’s 1-tonne vehicles were pretty well unique in BAOR, especially ones towing a mast on a trailer. The sod kept hiding a couple of cars behind me, but as we were coming up to our exit I signalled left, as if moving to overtake and at the last moment suddenly turned right onto the slip road, much to the annoyance of the Germans following us (much flashing of lights and honking horns), but at least the Sov had to carry straight on, so we lost him. One moonless night we arrived at the foot of a hill to take up a position somewhere up above. We were not sure which forest ride to take, so I got out to walk ahead to try and guide the wagon in. I set off in the dark with Tim Wood driving the 1-tonne wagon with trailer behind me. The next thing I was up to my knees in mud, I jumped to the side to let the wagon through, he ploughed in and got stuck, tried reversing etc. so we tried to shove it, all I got was a facefull of mud as the wheels spun. Eventually Tim managed to back the truck out and I tried to scrape some mud off me. Not a pleasant taste, raw mud. We found out we were on the wrong track, anyway, the correct track was a proper road leading up to the boozer on top.

Another trip we deployed up to the tip of the Dannenberg salient, only to find our planned location had been nicked by our Bundeswehr colleagues. So off we drove to try and find an alternative location (not easy, as there aren’t many hills up there). I pulled over in a village for a much-needed pee, as I was watering an oak tree on the village green I heard a rumbling behind me and my spray was illuminated. Well I’d been waiting a long time for this pee and it seemed to go on for ages. Eventually I stopped and did up my flies and turned to face a patrol of the German Federal Border Guard Service. Their boss asked me if I knew that I was within 5 Km of the border, that NATO forces needed special permission to approach the border. I told him that Fernmelde-Regiment 14 had permanent permission to be in the area, and he could ring the British Liaison Officer in Hannover for confirmation, This seemed to satisfy him, but they still followed us along the way as I decided to call it a night, and we headed for nearby Gross Gusborn (H Troop, 13 Sigs) where we dosed down.

At about this time I finally took delivery of my new car, which I had ordered a year previously. I had now sold my old VW Golf and was without a car for about a week. I was now seeing Ingrid on a regular basis, mainly going out in the evenings to Braunschweig. One day she approached me and told me that she had been invited to a wedding in Wolfsburg, and would I go with her. Now I had the problem that I had no means of transport, so I decided to tackle the Yeoman. He was the proud possessor of a shiny black BMW 320, he sucked his cheeks in when I asked him for the loan of it, but eventually said OK. “But if you damage it, you’ll ruddy well pay for it” was his parting shot. “Charming”, I thought, “I’m supposed to be his friend.” So off we went to the wedding, I stuck to drinking coke, and it was late evening as we set off back, it was cold and after a couple of miles, a blizzard hit us, it was a complete white-out, I could hardly see the road, I drove back at about five mph, and dropped Ingrid off in ‘Slutter. By the time I arrived at Langy, the snow was ankle deep, and I stopped off at the guardroom to book in. The guard was old Willy Baum, so I thought, here’s a chance to get my own back with the YoS. I told Willy to give me five minutes, then to ring up the Sgts’ Mess and tell them that the police had reported the Yeoman’s car abandoned in a ditch near Wolfsburg. I parked the car in it’s place opposite the Mess and went in, ordered a large Scotch and retired to the lounge where I proceeded to read the Daily Telegraph. A short time later I heard the telephone bell, and the duty officer answered it, then asked where to find the Yeoman. The YoS rushed red-faced into the lounge and screamed “What have you done with my car, you swine?” I lowered the Telegraph and asked sweetly, “Is something the matter, Stevie?” “You know full well what the matter is”, he raged, waving his fist in my face “you’ll pay for this, by God”. I turned round and drew back the curtain to reveal his car standing in his parking spot, and with a grin handed him his keys. (Oh how we all laughed). He didn’t speak to me for a week after that.

JR  The Panther Kallista

I returned to the UK one weekend to pick up my new car, a two-seater Panther Kallista, in British Racing Green, a beautiful traditional sports car. The drawback was that everybody knew where I was when I was out and about in Königslutter, it was difficult to remain anonymous in such a unique motor car. Still, it was fun driving up the airy mountains and down the rushy glens in the Harz, making Ingrid shriek as I rattled round the numerous hairpin bends.

In April we deployed as a regiment to test the communications for the forthcoming “Crusader”, the other Corps Signal Regiments were all out in the field, we were able to identify several major headquarters and indulge in a bit of jamming. As most of the radios were encrypted, there wasn’t a lot for the Probe to do.

JR  Aargh…. the log race

Once a year we had to turn out for the Regimental Military Skills Competition. Each troop furnished a team of twenty men who were put through their paces. As SHQ troop we were obliged to field just about everybody. The Yeoman was appointed our team captain, and we embarked on a rigorous training programme, fitness, weapon training, NBC, first aid, vehicle recognition, Geneva Convention, vehicle fault finding, driving, etc. This year the competition was to be held over two days. The first part was a basic fitness test, a five kilometre run in boots in a set time, which counted for so many points. The second we spent going round the various stands, notching up points along the way. At certain stands we scored well, because in our troop we had a wealth of knowledge and/or experience. The MT Ssgt negotiated the driving obstacle course with no minus points, the REME fitters discovered all the faults on a prepared Land Rover, I scored maximum points on the NBC stand. We made a good time over the assault course, and as we returned to Langy that evening, we were among the leaders. The last day started at Langeleben, and comprised a “march and shoot” competition, a best effort run in full combat kit with weapons and 20 Kilos weight over the Elm to Obersickte Ranges (about 15 Km), then a 1 Km run with a log in NBC suits wearing respirators to the range, where we fired our personal weapons. Despite an unfavourable start time at midday in a hot sun, we made a good time over the Drachenberg and down the Reitling Valley road. The run in NBC suit was sweltering and I thought Nick Turner was mucking about as his legs seemed to turn to jelly, but he collapsed just before the finish, and we had to drag him over the line. The regimental medics revived him with a bucket of water and we proceeded to the shoot. When the results were announced, to our amazement, and the disbelief from the “real” soldiers of the Royal Corps, we had won, and the stunned Yeoman received the prize from the CO. That evening there was a Schützenfest in Lindenberg, just outside the married quarters in Braunschweig, so we all headed over there to celebrate in style. The “Wire” reported it thus:

This year’s Colonel’s Cup was split into two phases and held during the period 3 to 4 May. 3 May saw the 12 teams lined up at 0730 hours to be dispatched to the first of their eight tasks. It turned out to be an arduous day with everything from mental (the Geneva Convention) to physical (the log race) and in between (NBC) tasks thrown in. All credit going to 1 Sqn SHQ who led the field at this stage with Ohms and Amps hot on their heels. The second phase of the contest was held at Langeleben on the 4th and consisted of a 10 mile best effort run in CEFO. All teams completed the run with D Tp producing a stalwart effort to emerge as victors of this phase. 1 Sqn SHQ however, despite being pushed all the way by Jammer Troop, kept their lead and emerged as the overall winners at the end of the day (not bad for the old bunch).

JR  The “Beachcomber” Team 2004

That year I ran the “Beachcomber” in Cuxhaven, by now we had got the two weeks down to a fine art, the work went very well, the old conservationist who directed out efforts was extremely happy with what we achieved. I had managed to fiddle staying in Cuxhaven for both weeks. The change-over at the middle weekend was not so happy, the first group were driving back down the Autobahn past Bremen when the lads in the back suddenly started shouting. John Sands, the vehicle commander stopped the Land Rover on the hard shoulder and the boys jumped out, as the vehicle had burst into flames, and was a write-off. I had to attend a Board of Enquiry later to decide who was to blame for the accident. The lack of a Land Rover presented me with a problem, as later in the week the Regimental 2IC and Squadron 2IC, Bill Nelson, were coming up to visit us. I had my car, but it was only a two-seater, so I went cap in hand to the Bundeswehr, explained my problem, and they very kindly lent us a jeep for the week. The “Beachcomber” project was a great success, I wrote a report for the newspapers and the Regiment entered it in the Corps environmental conservation competition. A few months later I received the news that we had won first prize from among the military units, and I accompanied a young subaltern (who knew nothing about “Beachcomber”, but the CO had said that an Officer must accept the prize on behalf of the Regiment) to Corps HQ at Bielefeld, where we had a slap-up lunch and were interviewed by a ponce from BFBS radio. I think we won 500 marks, which went into the Sqn PRI coffers (and never saw again).

Exercise “Lionheart” that September, saw the biggest deployment of British troops since Adolf got stuck in a bunker. The exercise was well-publicised in the media, and covered the reinforcement of BAOR from the UK with 57,000 Territorials and Reservists before 1st British Corps then moved out for a full-scale field training exercise, codenamed Exercise “Spearpoint”. The opposition was played by Brigades from the Netherlands, Germany and the USA. The Yanks had been flown in from Stateside and set up a huge tented camp on the training area near Cremlingen. We were also part of the “Enemy” (or “Red” forces). The Exercise control itself was a huge organisation, with umpires attached to all units. The area covered by the exercise was also huge, including areas which were normally “out of bounds” for exercise traffic, such as the Harz Mountains (more of that later).
On the 12th September we closed down the set room at Langeleben (no rear party this time) and deployed for the long-awaited “Spearpoint”. The Probe deployed independently to our start position on the Hainberg, between Salzgitter and Bockenem. The “Border” between “Blueland” and “Redland” was the A7 Autobahn which ran just to the west of us. We set up our mast looking west over the crest with our wagon hiding behind the hill. We sat there watching the Blue forces deploy on radio silence, some thought they would be clever and use German telephone boxes, but of course we could hear them as well, we just had to listen for English voices. Otherwise there wasn’t much happening, so I had a mooch around our location. Surrounding us on all sides in the woods were Dutch tanks. Eventually early one morning they received the order to move west, and the silence was broken by a mighty roar of tank engines starting up and they streamed out of the woods, bypassing our little det, heading west. Awesome. From then on we were hard at work, as the Blue recce screen reported the Red advance, and then the battle started in the direction of the Weser. Soon we received orders to move and in the night we changed location north-west up to the Vorholz between the Autobahns A7 and A 39. It was a good high feature, but we found that the woods on the western side were conifers and planted too densely for us to get in among it. The woods on the eastern side were too sparse and gave scarce cover, so we had to try and hide the wagon down a little gully, which was full of mud. Fortunately we did not stay there long, as the Blue forces began to push the Red forces back East.

We were ordered up into the Harz mountains, our German colleagues were having problems evaluating their intercept, so our OC sent the Probe to give them assistance. We arrived in the Germans’ location high above the town of Seesen. Fernmeldekompanie 11 had set up a big intercept complex with their antennas, which looked like the Langeleben towers and we parked the Probe wagons next to them. Just over the way there was an American EW unit, so it was pretty crowded. Our own Whiskey Troop were a few kilometres away on the next hill. The good news was that our SQMS found his way up to us and delivered our fresh rations and supplies during the night. I was off shift, so I had to get out of my sleeping bag and accept the stuff, jerrycans, compo rations, sacks of spuds, etc. across to our wagons. It was raining hard, so the nice SQMS decided to stay in his truck and watch me tote it all. After eating the fresh food, we could use the luxury portable toilets which the environmentally-conscious Germans had brought with them. No digging was allowed in the Harz, and the woods seemed to crawl with German foresters watching our every movement. Of course the British Army did not provide Portaloos, which our Whiskey Troop solved in their own fashion. Every member of the troop was provided with a blue plastic bag, which he carried about with him. At the end of the exercise they drove down the hill and deposited the mound of redolent blue bags in a supermarket car park skip, before heading back to Langeleben.

We stayed here for the rest of the Exercise, the Germans had everything well-organised, including shower runs down to a sports centre in Seesen. When the exercise came to an end, they organised a barbecue for us and the Yanks, which was quite pleasant, as we and the Germans had been to the supermarket in Seesen and stocked up with beer. It had not occurred to the Yanks, who were totally dry during the exercise, to buy some beer. (Serves ‘em right). The next day we drove over to join Whiskey Troop and drive back to Langy, along roads chock-a-block with tanks, APCs and lorries of all descriptions.

Back at Langeleben we stowed the kit away to get ready for the next event. 14th Signal Regiment had the Freedom of the City of Gloucester, and a party from the City Council was due to visit in October, and in their honour a Parade would be held for them. So, we began holding Squadron drill parades, progressing to Regimental drill parades at Scheuen. It was a real bind, travelling up on the bus in the early morning for a couple of hours plodding round the square and then back on the bus to Langy where the morning’s tapes were waiting to be transcribed. When I complained to the Int Corps WO1 about this, the miserable old jock barsteward told me to stop belly-aching and get on with it. We did have some laughs, I remember on the Dress Rehearsal, the RSM got one of the drivers – a weedy specimen with pebble glasses- to stand on the saluting dais with a coal scuttle on his head holding a toilet brush as a sword for us to march past and give a snappy eyes right to. Then somebody spread a rumour that the Lord Mayor of Gloucester was in fact a coloured woman, and the RSM –not noted for his liberal views- would have to salute her. The RSM had also heard the rumour, and was visibly relieved when a large white Anglo-Saxon male emerged from the staff car. In the event the parade went off well. As one of the smaller men in the Squadron (only 5’ 7”) I was the centre man in the front rank, (this was reinforced by the fact that I was wearing a green beret, while the Signals wore a forage cap), entrusted with keeping our new OC in front of me, not easy as he tended to wander all over the place. As No. 1 Squadron, we had the pride of place on the right of the line, and my old pal Pete Manger was the Regimental Right Marker. We marched past at the head of the Regiment, past the assembled wives and families. As the others headed for the beer tent, we got back on the bus to Langy, (and to the tapes waiting for us). No rest for the wicked!

Because we had used up all the money for “Lionheart”, that Autumn there were no other major exercises for us to deploy on, so we had to be content with Squadron exercises, the OC asked for NBC content on one, so I obliged by letting off various fireworks. The Soviets were also active and we deployed several times up the border. Once I arrived at our proposed location to find that our old friends from Fernmeldekompanie 11 had beaten us to it.

A new CO took command of the Regiment, he made a very arrogant impression on his first visit to Langeleben, and made it plain that he didn’t like us being detached from the rest of the Regiment. He questioned me closely about language training and I gave him my opinions. The next thing we heard was that he wasn’t satisfied with the level of fitness, and he reduced the standard time for a Basic Fitness Test, letting it be known that he would take a dim view of any Senior NCO who didn’t pass. The Squadron paraded one afternoon and took the BFT on the road to Räbke, with the new CO leading the way, and he stood at the finish to see who didn’t make it in time. Fortunately I managed it as I had had a birthday which gave me an extra half minute time, but I could see that things were going to be interesting.

At the beginning of December, we deployed for the annual “White Lightning”, and when we returned to barracks the traditional run-up to Christmas period lay before us, Mess Decoration Night, Living-in Christmas Party, Sgts’ Mess Christmas Draw before the Christmas leave grant period started. One day after work I drove into Königslutter to pick up my Mess Kit and a couple of suits from the cleaners. When I returned I parked up my car and walked across to the Mess, where I met the Yeoman.
“Ah, there you are,” he said, “the OC wants to see you”, then added, “I think your promotion’s in”. As he ran the commcen, he was always well-informed on personnel matters. So I dumped my clothes and walked round to the Squadron HQ, where the OC was sitting at his desk. I knocked and went in.

JR  Ingrid on a trip in the Harz

“Ah, Sergeant R.” he said, offering me a chair. “You’ll be pleased to hear, your promotion to Staff Sergeant has come through, congratulations.” I thanked him, then he went on, “And your posting to Communications & Security Group at Loughborough is also there, effective from the 1st of March.” This took me by surprise, as I had applied for, and been granted an extension of tour at Langeleben, so I mentioned this, and he explained that the extension had been granted as a Sergeant, now I was being posted to fill a Staff Sergeant’s vacancy. I made my way back to the Mess and told the Yeoman the news, then quickly collected my uniforms and drove over to the tailor’s in Helmstedt, to have the crowns stitched on to my Mess Dress. I rang up Ingrid to tell her the news, before she heard it from other sources.

The time sped past, in the New Year I drew MFO boxes from the Stores and started packing. I had booked leave from the middle of February, so I organised my farewell party, to which the living-in and some friends were invited. We had a Russian menu, borscht soup, chicken kiev, rum babas, much vodka, etc. the SSM and some of the officers were there, we had a pretty boozy evening, I suspected the Yeoman was spiking my drinks, but it didn’t really matter as we all ended up stinking drunk. The next day I had a head like a pea in a drum. I went out with Ingrid for a meal, and we arranged that she should come over to UK for a holiday in Summer. And so the day came when I loaded up the car and said my farewells, and drove out of the gates heading for Rotterdam.

What had the three years at Langy brought me? On the positive side, I had moved another rung up the ladder, and I had certainly learned a lot about the mobile side of Electronic Warfare. I had met some great people from outside the DI 24 sphere, and, though I didn’t know it at the time, my future wife. Negative points? None that I can think of. I also didn’t know it, but as I left, we were coming to the end of an era at Langeleben, as the creep CO carried out his mission to unite the Regiment under one roof, and in March moved the Squadron from its Langeleben home to Taunton Barracks in Celle. From this time, the rot had set in; the Squadron was never the same again, and with hindsight it was good that I left when I did with a head full of happy memories.
End of chapter 8

Last updated 26 March 2009

 

| HOME | COVER | CONTENTS | FOREWORD | CH 1 | CH 2 | CH 3 | CH 4 | CH 5 | CH 6 | CH 7 | CH 8 | CH 9 | CH 10 | CH 11 | PHOTO'S |