February 24, 2009

Daft Laddie tales of North Tyne & Rede: Warming up a Korean winter

Daft Laddies, humour, military service, history, 1950s

By Donald Clegg

Caad wintors in Korea
Korean winters can be severe, and even in September, the ground round our camp was frozen hard as iron. Our Field Telephone Exchange (FTE) was housed in a sandbagged bunker with a canvas roof. There was a set of steps cut in the bank leading to the entrance. Inside was a table with logbook, the Exchange with its multitude of jack plugs and leads, a bed and the duty operator’s kit and rifle.

Our Signal Troop was attached to the 14th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery and, though we had our own officers and routine, the RA regarded us as rather inferior hangers-on, especially by their Sergeant Major – a fiery Scot. He never missed an opportunity to find fault with us.

He used to refer to our 6-man luxury ‘basha’ (sand-bag and canvas home) as the Glass Mountain on account of the heaps of empty beer bottles surrounding it! One morning, while mounting the steps to the FTE, he slipped on the ice and landed on his backside and dented his dignity. His already short temper was not improved when he saw that his downfall had been witnessed by half the Signals Troop.

And get your blank blank hair cut!
For the next few minutes the air was blue and we all learned several hitherto unheard of expletives. The Telephone Operator (Tele Op) was told in no uncertain terms and in a voice like a Farne Islands fog horn to “Get rid of this b…… ice and snow, cut some new b……. steps, tidy your b…… self up, man and get your b….. hair cut!!”

Somewhat upset by this uncalled for outburst the Tele Op decided he would start by melting the snow and ice by the simple expedient of pouring petrol right down the steps. When, after five minutes, the ice seemed as hard and solid as ever, he decided, in his wisdom, to set fire to the petrol and help things along a bit.

A good Daft Laddie idea
This was not a wise move, although it provided us with a glorious and spectacular display. With a tremendous WHOOSH! The orange flames roared up the steps like a lava flow in reverse. The fire melted the ice alright, and turned the steps into a mud slide. Unfortunately it continued on its merry way and burned down the entire FTE, lock stock and rifle barrel.

I should think the whole of the Commonwealth Forces in North Korea would hear what the RSM thought of the Tele Op’s brilliant solution. It certainly gave the rest of us a topic of conversation for weeks after. As far as I know, poor old Tele Op is still paying for the damage out of his 28/- (£1.50) per week Army pay.

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