As most readers of my posts know, I spent two years towards the end of my military career as the Chief Instructor ((SMI) Senior Military Instructor) of the British Jungle Warfare School back in the early 90s.
One of the first things I was keen to do, was to re establish the combat tracking course.
In order to do that, I would require the help of a combat tracker from the Kiwi SAS. I had done their course back in the 70s, and hands down it was the best military course that I’d ever done. My plan was to firstly introduce tracking back into the LRRP courses…then in time implement a stand alone basic tracking course.
Bob in Mess Dress at the WO’s and Sgt’s Mess Xmas party, Jungle Warfare School, Brunei, early 90s.
A great young laddie (who I already knew) was sent over to our school. The first thing he asked me…”is there a rugby game on anywhere?” I told him that we could both play in a game the weekend before going into the trees to run the course.
Well, play we both did. Centre and winger respectively…he would punch a hole in the defence, ready to offload and get the ball out to me on the wing…or that was the plan.
After about 20 minutes of the first half, he came walking off the field holding up one arm across his chest…fractured clavicle.
After 25 minutes or so (just 5 minutes after him), I came hobbling off the field with torn hamstrings.
Well, there’s a course to run…and we both well know, that without us there is no course.
Monday morning…bright and early, we’re on the first chopper lift into the trees. I looked at my Kiwi mate, bergen over one shoulder only, a nod and a grimace…and slowly onto the chopper…with me slowly following behind him. If it was to be captured on film, we could have pretended to be wounded on operations…as that must have been what we looked like…walking wounded.
We arrived onto the jungle camp landing site, down the spur into the basha area, put up our accommodation for the next 3 weeks from the contents of our bergens, got a Milo on the boil…then I set off to the school house to get ready for my brief to the students who’ll all be arriving imminently. This batch of students would be from the UK, USA and Malaysia, therefore it’s all about first impressions.
As I walked down the incline of the school house’s natural sloping seated area (rows of logs for seats with a large tarp as the roof), I slipped on the wet surface and smashed the left side of my chest into the end of one of the logs.
Proud of myself for adhering to my own rules for the jungle of low tones only…I didn’t scream out. Just softly softly wee swearies for about 2 minutes, between short and shallow breathing in order to narrow down the extreme pain.
The students came in on various chopper sorties, and we’re now ready for the briefing.
The looks were bewildering from the students to say the least. Stood in front of them, old Bob, hobbling with torn hamstrings, while bent forward and still taking shallow breaths. My Kiwi mate with one hand across his chest and fixed into the shoulder strap of his belt kit to mimic an arm sling.
Needless to say, we got on with it…and got through a very successful Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols Course with the introduction of tracking for the first time in years.
We basically laughed our way through it, while cursing ourselves for daring to enjoy a game of rugby…and for me the tracker…falling over like a toddler at the school house to add insult to an already injured body and pride.
When we got back to base after the course, I went to see the doc. He X rayed my chest…only to find out that in all his medical career…those were the best set of fractured ribs he’d ever seen.
Four ribs snapped in two and overlapping.
Yes, long long uncomfortable sleepless nights during that jungle trip, when normally I sleep like a baby while working in the trees.