5th May 1980, Prince’s Gate, London, UK.
Tomorrow it’s the big forty two…just where has the time gone. Last weekend I took a few minutes in my garden here in New York to remember mates from my original unit, 2 (Parachute) Squadron RAF Regiment, as it was the unit’s 100th birthday having began in the early 1920s in the Middle East as an armoured car squadron.
This morning I went through an SAS squadron photo taken between the time of the Iranian Embassy Siege (Op Nimrod) and deploying off to the Falklands War…way too many lads from that photo already taken from us, and many too early.
Not once over the years have I met up for an Op Nimrod anniversary officially put together by 22 SAS. I don’t even know if there’s ever been one. Most years, just like marking other key events in my military career, I’ll go out into the garden and raise a wee glass of whisky to the sky…a special moment for a special memory.
This year though, I won’t be doing that. It’ll have to be a cup of tea instead. Right now I’m undergoing tests for TBI (traumatic brain injury) or Parkinson’s Disease. In a few weeks I’ll know which one it is.
I mention this not for sympathy or personal attention, but instead to highlight the type of injury one can get in the military, yet not show signs until some years later.
During the early days of “team” training back in the mid 70s, everything explosive was pretty raw and ready, no different to that used by the Royal Engineers or indeed the rest of the Army. Yet here we were making our own window frame charges out of PE4 and Det cord. The Regiment was famed back then for using the Who Dares Wins demolitions formula of P for Plenty!
During one two week period a small group of us were left to our own devises playing with explosives in order to blow our way into different types of buildings, from wood, metal, concrete, single and double brick wall etc. It wasn’t the first time that I would place the charge, and in order to get into the building as quickly as possible, be just that wee bit too close to it going off. “Bob…Bob mate you alright?” As I come to after knocking myself out by being concussed by the over pressure of the charge. Mike Tyson had nothing on those uppercuts. When you’ve done several dozen of those in a fairly short time span, there is no doubt that parts of your brain is turning to mush over the coming decades. Not including being inside the over pressure of incomers from other conflicts and operations around the world.
Mix that with hours and hours of firing in the original “killing house” with no extractor fans over a good few years until the new camp was built with a suitable “killing house” worthy of health and safety, then often we’d step outside into the fresh air and be coughing up and spitting black phlegm which was basically releasing some of the lead from our system. The original anti terrorist team cocktail…free of charge.
It was hours and days and weeks and months of training like this that made us the best in the world. It was training like this that led to today’s young troopers being world class tier one SF types. Each of us being taught by those who know, then passing on our knowledge to others younger than ourselves.
A wee light shed on what it took to be a trooper way back then, and the commitment from individuals given the freedom to hone skills to suit the threat with the equipment or lack of available at the time.
Today at sixty seven years young, I’m getting to find out what’s wrong with me…but on the plus side, there’s still a whole lot right. I’m still out running/tabbing with a Bergen, and loving every minute. I’m still doing my weights, my pull ups and my dips. I’m still holding intelligent (fairly anyway) conversations…and I’m still writing and from time to time boring mates with my poems.
Tomorrow’s a big day for me, back in the garden for that special moment. But if I can just hang on for another 8 years, just maybe the Regiment will invite the few of us remaining for that one anniversary gathering, for what arguably is the most famous SAS operation in modern history.