Royal Military Police 2.
BACK INTO TRAINING
time travelling to Woking to join the Army I knew I was not making a
I seemed to have done the journey so many times. In fact I had done it
only three but it had been done many more in my mind.
Passing through the main archway it was as if I had never been away. In
fact it had been almost three years since I originally obtained my
discharge. Since then I had learned that the barracks had been named
after the battle of Inkerman of 1854 in the Crimean war.
I booked into the guardroom with little or no apprehensions. The guard
Sergeant bellowed at me, almost identically, as when I had first
entered though now I had inner knowledge. I was still a new recruit but
this time I was not new to the system.
In training I certainly found things had changed.
Most of the squad instructors were now full Corporals rather than
National Service had been revoked, practically all recruit intake were
I did not have to send my civilian clothes home. When not actually
doing training we were allowed to wear civvies.
In theory recruits were allowed out of the barracks providing they
registered in and out at the guardroom. In practice we rarely went out
of the barrack area. Although occasionally at the weekend a few mates
and I would go for a short stroll.
There was still much work to be done preparing of kit but more emphasis
was placed on the academic subjects.
Saturday morning workings had been phased out. When a recruit finished
training Friday afternoon, providing he had no guard or piquet's, he
was free until Monday morning. We had always to be in barracks before
2359 hrs. Midnight, when lights were out.
There were no cookhouse duties or potato peeling, all food preparation
and washing up was now done by machines.
Recruits were now only issued with one Battledress uniform. BD was to
be finally phased out. A modern No 2s uniform had been issued. The
number 2 uniform was easier to iron with far less creases. Personally I
would be sorry to see the Battle Dress uniform go, I always felt very
smart in mine. We also were issued shoes as well as boots.
Some brasses, like buttons and badges, were now stay-bright and did not
need polishing. Brasses on the webbings though still needed attention.
Boots ammunition had been changed to Boots DMS. These were easier to
clean and more comfortable. They had a rubber sole, needing no studs.
The fatigue denims were issued but they had largely been replaced with
'Greens.' A trouser and top, rain and windproof uniform. Greens were
designed for field use.
The old 303 rifle had been fully phased out and the SLR (Self
Loading Rifle) had taken its place.
The spider barrack rooms were now centrally heated. The flock filled
mattresses being replaced by a foam mattress.
All in all life was a lot easier for recruits. Although still much
attention was given to the smartness and cleanliness, more emphasis was
placed on the academic subjects.
I was issued with kit and given the rest of the week to bring it up to
standard. I almost immediately applied to be up squadded due to past
I was placed in a squad in the fifth week of training. I was overjoyed.
Now I had only twelve weeks to do rather than the full sixteen.
Although a little apprehensive at first as to whether training had
changed too much. I soon slotted into the new R27B training squad
reasonable easy. A Corporal, John Redman, was the squad instructor. I
found him to be a very hard exact taskmaster but always found him fair
in all circumstances
Training was just as hard as I remembered it but now I knew what the
score was. Whenever a senior rank berated me for my lapses, I did not
take it to heart. I accepted it for what is was. It just made me try
Pass-out week eight came and went.
In weeks nine to twelve in Military Law I found that the old judges
rules had been rewritten. A whole new set of rules and definitions had
to be learnt. The cautions given to an alleged offender had changed.
Whereas I had been looking forward to the Military Law stage I found
that I had to work just as hard if not more so. I had to abandon much
of the old Military Law and accept the new.
Weeks Twelve to Fifteen were MT training. I held both Motor Cycle and
Motor car licences. I was required to take a driving test with one of
the civilian instructors in a 3 ton Bedford truck. I had driven the
heavy vehicles before and my driving must have been acceptable because
he passed me as capable of driving most Military vehicles. Throughout
the MT stage all I did was a weekly guard and fire piquet duty. Within
reason the rest of the time was my own. In week 15 the Physical
Training instructors held a competition to find the best recruit in PT
Always being a physical person rather than an academic one I managed to
win. the comp.
Week sixteen we prepared to pass-out on the square. By now all our
uniforms had now a single stripe on the sleeves. It was all over bar
I was still having problems getting my boots up to scratch. that chore
was the biggest headache that the army had ever thrown at me. Although
they were acceptable when viewed on their own, when placed with other
recruit boots they were inferior.
In April 1963 27B squad passed out. It was a glorious day. I felt so
proud. If someone had given me a million dollars not to pass out I
would have refused the offer. It gave me the greatest satisfaction of
I now had three weeks leave in
front of me. Two weeks after that I would be off to my posting at 247
Pro. Coy RMP (Berlin) Germany. BFPO 45
On return to Inkerman Barracks after pass out and embarkation leave,
again things changed. I was now an NCO and others treated me as such. I
now had no fear of senior ranks or officers. I treated them with
respect and it was returned.
We had to remain at Woking until our flight plans to our individual
units were arranged. Some of the squad were Home Posted, meaning
postings within the UK. I was glad that had not happened to me.
Although I would have preferred a more exotic posting like the Far or
Middle East, I was satisfied with Berlin. I had heard that it was the
plum posting in Germany.
Prior to embarkation all kit, other
than walking out uniforms, both civvies and army was pre-packed and
sent on ahead.
The Sunday evening before my coming Fridays flight, a few of the squad
mates suggested that we all go into town. It was for, what could be,
the last time we socialised together as a group.
Many of the squad had already left on postings leaving only nine of us.
We all agreed to as night on the town. I then remembered that I had no
civilian suit. At that time we always wore a suit and tie when exiting
the barrack area. It was unheard of to go out casual, just slacks and
sweater. My civvies and non essential military kit had been packed away
in a wooden box and had been pre-sent to Berlin, to travel separate.
I intimated that I would not go out drinking in uniform. One of my
squad mates suggested that I borrow one of his two suits that he had
not pre-packed. I agreed.
He lent me a very light grey, almost white, single breasted, mohair
suit. It fitted me like a glove. I felt like a ten foot tall movie star.
We went out on the town for our last drink together. Towards the back
end of the evening someone suggested going to the Atlanta ballroom for
the last hour. We all agreed.
Every one seemed to be having a good time. I was dancing with someone
when I realised there was an argument over in one corner of the room.
It involved some of my mates. I went over to give support. There was
this big guy shouting the odds. He was with a party of guardsmen from
Pirbright, the guards camp. The argument started when one of my mates
had asked the lady friend of one of their group to dance. The other had
taken offence to this. All parties had a lot to drink, beer was
talking. I intervened because It looked like we were outnumbered. The
big mouthed lad seemed to be the leader of their group. I took the part
of spokesman for our group.
I said that the outcome looked like being a fight. As they outnumbered
us I suggested that he pick his best fighter and he and I would go
behind the dance hall and sort it out. He agreed. He looked around at
his group. I didn’t particular want to fight and thought I would
try and bluff him out by saying. "Make sure you chose yourself? cos I
want you". He obviously would have been one of his group but I was
hoping to put the wind up him and expecting him to back down. He didn't.
He growled and replied "Yer, and I want you as well"
"Tell you what then," says I, "None of us wants a riot in this place,
why not just let the two of us sort it out around the back in the car
To my surprise he agreed to my suggestion
The fight was on, he seemed a big lad but I felt confident that I could
give as much as I would take . It would be a hiding or else. We made an
pact that whatever happened between us no other would step in. Instead
of it being a free for all it would be a fair fight.
He, his group, me and my mates began heading out of the dance hall.
Then I realised I was wearing someone else's white suit. I could take
the coat off to fight but not the trousers. If it had been my suit I
would not have thought twice. How do I get out of a situation that my
big mouth had got me into.
"Was it your bird my mate was chatting up. I enquired?
"No, my mates." he replied. "It wasn't even his bird either. she a bit
of a slag anyway."
"What do you say that we agree that nobody has her"
"What do you mean?"
"I'll tell my mates to leave her alone. You do the same to yours. We
are Military Police after all and we should not really be doing this."
Whether he did not want to fight or did not want to get entangled with
the MPs I don't know but he readily agreed to my suggestion. We each
would warn our own group to keep away from the trouble making girl. We
moved back into the ballroom bar together, almost as new found friends.
I was so relieved to get out of the situation that I almost bought my
own beer. The white suit had made me feel like a million dollars but it
just might have cost me almost that to replace it, if it had been
ruined in a fight.
A good farewell party was had by all.
Monday I was to fly to Berlin.
Jock S. and George P. and myself were to fly from Gatwick to Berlin. I
had never flown before it was to be a first. I was quite exited by the
coming flight but I tried to hide it, acting nonchalantly. We three
travelled in uniform aboard a commercial flight.
The actual boarding, take off and flight were really quite ordinary.
Was I becoming a seasoned traveller? The English channel soon appeared
and was left behind. France was the first sight I had of a foreign
soil. It looked remarkably the same as England. What had I expected?
West Germany came next and then the air corridor through East Germany
to Berlin was announced by the captain. A Soviet fighter plane soon
appeared on the right side of our aeroplane. It escorted us through the
corridor and left us as we entered the allied sector of Berlin. Looking
out of the plane window I could see a long swathe of ploughed ground
that stretched into the distance, it was my first sight of the
Our aircraft touched down at Templehof airport.
was late afternoon as the aeroplane doors opened out to a new country
and career for me. We stepped down on to the tarmac at Templehof, my
first time in a foreign country. Everything seemed normal. I had been
expecting a sudden rush of adrenaline or emotion but nothing, although
I had the inner feeling that I was glad to be where I was.
After passport and custom controls, we were met by an MP from our new
company. He was driving a Volks Wagon Mini Bus with an air cooled
engine. The Volks Wagon was a very quite and comfortable ride. "Hmm," I
thought. "Almost as good as British buses."
Our driver drove us through the streets of West Berlin, pointing out a
few of the sights. The street lights were just beginning to come on. I
knew very little about Berlin. I had the common knowledge of it being
the capital city of Germany during the war where Hitler had made his
last stand. I did not fully understand about Germany being split up
into the four powers. Nor did I understand where Berlin featured in all
I had heard of the 1948/49 Soviet road blockade, where all
consumable’s had to be flown in by air, even coal. I think I had
half expected a run down city, from where I was looking it did not
appear so. The Germans did not seem to be suffering from any
deprivation. The shops windows seemed full and the street lighting
along the famous Kurfustendam seemed very affluent.
Our driver pointed out the Brandenburg Gate on the right as we turned
up Strasse Des 17 Juni. This road led us on to Heer Strasse. He
explained that Heer Strasse runs through almost the whole of the
British sector. We were heading for the Olympic stadium area of
As we drove along Heer Strasse he slowed the VW's speed down to exactly
50 KPH. (about 30 MPH) The reason, he said, that on this very long road
there are many traffic lights. All are synchronised at 50 kph. At each
junction as we reached a set of lights they changed to green, allowing
us to carry on. If he had gone any faster, or slower, he would, at some
time, be met with a red stop light. It was in every drivers interest to
conform to the speed limit. The driver further explained that in
adverse conditions, fog or ice etc., the civil police can lower the
speed limit as necessary. At each junction there was an illuminated
sign denoting the current speed restriction. More respect for the
We turned off of Heer Str. at a large roundabout called the Theodore
Heuss Platz. I noticed that the main NAAFI called Edinburgh House was
Towards the end of our journey we passed through an avenue called
Sportsforum. The sides of the road had high double mesh fencing. The
road ended at a control box and beam barrier. The driver flashed his
vehicle blue light to forewarn that ours was a police vehicle. The
barrier was raised just at the right moment to let us through. I felt
as if we had entered a concentration camp. We had entered BIB. HQ.
Berlin Infantry brigade Head Quarters.
Arriving at a very modern white marbled building, which was to be our
home for the near future, we alighted and were lead into the RMP
control room. It had a long raised counter behind which sat a Sergeant
and two other MP attendants. The counter had a maze of radio and
telephone equipment. We were first required to produce means of
identification and then booked in.
Shown were to collect bedding and given a bed space, we were left to
our own devices until the coming morning. The accommodation was quite
luxurious by army standards.
That evening I found the Corporals mess, had a few drinks and
introduced myself to the other drinkers. I was made quite welcome.
Saturday morning at nine we introduced ourselves at the orderly room.
There we were instructed that Part 1 and 2 orders were posted on the
bulletin board at the entrance to the building. All persons were
required to read them daily. They contained future orders and notices.
Part 2 orders were posted every afternoon and had a roster of duties
for the coming day. Failure to read them was a punishable offence under
company standing orders. They enabled you to prepare for a coming duty.
When not on duty we were free to come and go as we pleased. The orderly
Sergeant asked if we need any English money changing into Deutch Marks,
we availed ourselves of the service.
Told that we would not required until Monday morning as per part 2s, we
were given the rest of the time off. Our kit, which had been pre-sent,
in the wooden boxes were waiting for us and we signed to take charge of
Saturday afternoon George P. and I decided to go out of camp to have a
look around. We were both dressed in heavy woollen civilian suits and
wore ties. It was a glorious hot summer day. We had no idea were we
were heading. We had walked about a mile out of the camp area. Other
Germans seemed to be heading in a general direction so we decided that
was the way to go. Walking for a further mile or so, the built up area
gave way to trees and countryside.
The track, called Havel Chaussee, led on to a very large lake called
The Havel. It was Berlin's beauty spot for water sports. People were
swimming, canoeing, sailing, sunbathing and picnicking. All were
generally having a happy good time. As we neared the waters edge people
were pointing and staring at us, laughing. We had no idea why.
We came upon a boat hire landing stage. George suggested that we hire a
canoe, I agreed. Not being able to speak German I gesticulated to the
boatman that we wanted to hire a canoe. He shook his head and pointed
to a large high off the water pontoon type craft. It had four seats and
2 set of pedals. He urged us on to it. Paying our Deutch marks he cast
us off. As we pedalled away many people were waving and still laughing
at us. I realised we were too formally dressed for the occasion. George
and I took off our coats and ties and rolled up our sleeves. The
laughing stopped but people still waved at us. The saying 'Mad dogs and
Englishmen came out in the mid-day sun' seemed perfectly apt for the
Rounding a bend in the lake we heard. "Coo ee" Both of us looked
around. The call was repeated. The sounds came from the bank a few
yards away. Coming out of the rhododendron bushes was the most
beautiful girl I had ever seen waving at us. She was dressed, or
undressed, in a white and pink polka dotted bikini. She had the most
gorgeous figure with long blonde hair. Without question she represented
a product of the supposedly German super race. She beckoned us over.
She spoke a little English. She motioned that she wanted a sail on our
pontoon. We readily agreed, after all we were on a diplomatic mission,
friends across the sea and all that. She asked if her sister come too.
With that her sister appeared out of the bushes. Her sister, also
dressed in a bikini, was a little plump but still very good looking. We
could hardly refuse, I gave up my pedalling seat to the gorgeous one.
George was in the other pedalling seat facing the plump girl. I were in
the passenger seat facing the blonde. All seats faced inward. As the
gorgeous girl began to pedal it became very evident that the bottom
half of her costume contained no elasticised sides. My eyes.. Well I
had better change the subject.
The hire period of the pontoon was about up. We paddled the girls back
to where we had first seen them. Bade our fond farewells and took the
boat back to the landing stage.
So this is Berlin can it get any better?
247 (Berlin) Pro. Coy. RMP. was situated in the area of 1936 Olympic
stadium. The modern marble floored accommodation blocks were perfect.
Centrally heated in winter, cool in summer. They had been built as
athlete accommodation for the 36 games.
Not One Hundred Metres away from our HQ were three large, up to date,
swimming pools. One outdoor pool had a fifty Meter racing stretch
attached to a large square recreation pool area. Immaculate lawned
areas were adjacent to the pool.
Indoors there was a 50 metre heated pool with fixed and spring diving
boards. It also had a 10 mtr high board. Along both pool sides were
granite tiered, heated, viewing stands. It was the most modern swimming
pool I had ever seen and all this was built circa 1935. My new found
respect for the Germans continued.
In the mess that evening I met Peter W. the mate who I had originally
joined up with almost 3 years ago. We had kept in touch by letter and
he knew of my imminent arrival. He informed me that his Berlin Posting
was about up and now he was to return to the RMP Depot for a further
posting. (He later went to Kenya.) Peter had been allocated an MSQ (
Married Service Quarters) and his wife Marlene and daughter were in
residence. He invited me to visit him later that evening for a meal and
chin-wag. It was gratefully accepted. Peter's MSQ was very modern and I
could hardly wait to have my wife and child ensconced in one, it would
make my life complete.
Studying Part 2 orders on the notice board that Sunday I found that my
first duty was to be East Gate duty.
Monday I paraded in shirt sleeved order,
(no jacket top) White gaiters, belt and cross belt, pistol and
ammunition pouch. Red top and armband. My first duty proper. A pistol
and ammunition had been booked out from the armoury. I had already
studied the 'Terms of fire'. These standing orders covered
circumstances when a weapon could be loaded and discharged. The parade
was at 08.45hrs. The duty sergeant inspected and briefed the company.
For the first hour I was to be accompanied by another MP who had prior
experience of the duty.
East Gate turned out to be the most boring job I have ever had. Exiting
though it was at first, with it all being so new, it soon became tame.
The East gate house contained two German civilian security staff. They
checked the identity cards of civilians who worked within the stadium
My job was checking the ID. of Service personnel. Looking back now I
realise it was a figure head job someone to stand at the gate looking
smart. I was relieved for NAAFI breaks and lunch. I remained there
until being stood down at 16.30 hrs and glad to be away.
Part 2 orders noted that I was on Zonal border duty in the morning. It
is here that I must, briefly and simply, explain the political
situation in Berlin at that time.
After World War 2 Germany was split into two parts East and West. The
allied powers, British, US and France controlled West Germany. The
other half, East Gemany, was Soviet controlled. A high wire security
fence had been erected separating East Germany from the West. The city
of Berlin was entirely within East Germany. It is over 100 miles from
Helmstadt, the nearest town in West Germany. Berlin was ringed on the
outskirts by what was called the Zonal border. There were high wired
fences, trip wires mines and such on the Soviet side. Berlin was
further divided into the four power states. Although we had full powers
in our own and limited powers in the American and French sectors, it
was completely open and we had free access. The Soviet controlled parts
not so. A thick 3 Meter high wall divided the Soviet sector from the
allied sectors. There were four checkpoint entrances in the wall. The
most famous being Checkpoint Charlie. The others were mainly for
civilian and diplomatic uses. West Berlin at that time had a population
of approx. 2.3 million and an area 185 Square miles. Whilst East Berlin
had 1.2 Million and 156 square miles. West Berlin was completely
surrounded by the Soviets. The Berlin Infantry Brigade badge flash was
a Black circle surrounded by a Red ring. the Red denoting Communism.
British Military Police patrolled, twenty four hours a day, both Zonal
and sector borders within the British sector.
A note was pinned up on the HQ notice board. It originated from the CSM
(Company Sergeant Major) stating that a visit was to be organised to
the United States Military Police Berlin HQ. Anyone interested in
attending were to append their names. I likened to the idea of seeing
how the other half lived and set my name down. The date was for the
following Saturday morning.
We boarded 2 VW mini buses 24 persons in all and duly arrived at the US
MP barrack gates. There the MP on guard phoned his Top Sergeant (who
has the equivalent rank of RSM). He came to see us and apologised to
our CSM in that somewhere along the line, wires had been crossed. He
had it in his diary that the visit was for the next Saturday and that
consequently nothing had been organised for us on this day. Our CSM
said he had it booked for today and we could not possibly come next
The US Top kick said he may have a solution. He could quickly organise
something but he apologised in advance for any thing lacking.
We followed him into the camp and he went into a barrack room and
roused a number of NCO’s who were in bed having worked the
previous night shift.
Each US NCO took charge of four of us and was briefed to show us around
their organisation and that we should all meet up for
'‘chow’ at 12-30 pm.
Our guide began his tour at the transport garages. The first thing I
had noticed about the US MPs was that they had their own vehicles
imported from the USA. The British Army in Berlin relied on the German
government to supply them with German made transport, usually Volks
Wagons. Not so the Yanks they provided their own. Their normal roadway
patrol vehicles were very large Ford Galaxy’s or Taurnus's and
were all very smart and flashy. We were given the chance of driving one
a short distance within the barrack area, luxury indeed. They had every
conceivable vehicle for every situation and I formed a new found
respect for the Yanks. Their vehicle maintenance area was spotlessly
clean and left nothing to be desired.
Next we visited the communications room that had banks of telephones
and radios. We were informed that phoning 'home' was a routine
occurrence and that they could patch in to any spot on the Earth that
had a US listening post. I had thought earlier that our own
communication room back at BIB HQ was second to none, now I realised it
We toured the camp looking in at all the aspects of life in the US
Military Police both work wise and socially. The more I saw the more I
envied them. The only place we were not allowed to enter was the
American PX. Their PX is a Services shopping centre within every camp
and we were led to understood that anything that is available in the
USA can be obtained there. If the article is not to hand immediately
then an order can be made and prompt attention given.
Arrangement had been made that we would all meet outside the Chow Hut
at 12-30. Hut not being the operative word, the building was the utmost
in modern design. Again on meeting the US Top Sergeant he apologised
that nothing food wise had been arranged for us and if we liked would
we join the food queue for chow. We each picked up an aluminium tray
that had separate compartments for the individual parts of a coming
meal. On taking our turn in the queue behind other US servicemen,
arrayed before us were great banks of differing food, with at least
five meat dishes all looking so succulent. There were also numerous
salad dishes for vegetarians. All our group had heard about the size of
American steaks and so practically to a man we indicated to the server
that we wanted steak. I had heard before about American steaks but the
one beset before me was ginormous. It was almost three inches thick and
almost a foot long. I exaggerate a little but not very much. Vegetables
were heaped onto the individual compartments of the tray until it was
We were guided to tables that were ultra clean, litres of milk were on
hand and could be taken as desired. I noticed that there was no rank
discrimination within the canteen, all officers, NCO’s and men
ate in the same area. We were informed that there was a small room for
visiting high ranking officers and VIPs but it was very rarely used,
they preferring to eat with the men. I was largely impressed.
On our departure the USMP Top Sergeant again apologised for not having
anything organised for our visit and I wondered, if what we had seen
and eaten was just run of the mill stuff, what would it have been like
if he had known we were coming. The Yanks moved up another rung of the
ladder in my appreciation of them.
with Ernie H. on Zonal. Ernie later became my best mate. The Zonal
border was situated mainly in the Spandau area of Berlin. Three of the
Nazi war criminal were held at the famous Spandau Prison. A little more
of them later.
Ernie was the driver of our vehicle a German made DKW jeep , a 'Deek'.
It was painted black with a Military Police nameplate. The Deek had a
blue light and Martin horn.
We rendezvoused at the border with the off coming shift. They handed
over the standard border items of kit; flares, flashlights, Zonal
standing orders, binoculars, maps, etc. and we stowed them into our
All vehicles were in radio contact to HQ.
Ernie, the driver had been issued with a pistol and .38 ammunition. I
with a 9mm Stirling Sub machine gun. Getting in the vehicle I placed my
SMG down by my seat on the floor of the vehicle.
I radioed base that we had successfully taken over from the previous
patrollers and reported that we were beginning duty
The full length of the zonal border, on the allied side had a small
width roadway for the patrolling traffic. Civilians were not normally
allowed access to this road. It is only a few metres from the first
fence which was erected on East German soil. The fence, which was 3
separate fences really, was over 3 mtrs high. The 2 Metre space between
the fences is freely patrolled by savage German Shepherd dogs. Further
past the fences was a freshly dug and raked soil area. Anyone
encroaching that area would leave an obvious trace. The fence also has
a heavily mined area. Every Five Hundred meters or so there would be
erected a high pylon watchtower, again manned by two border Police. The
Zonal border area is almost all woodland and countryside. On the
Western side it is quite beautiful. But across the wire the woodland
has been ploughed under. A very foreboding place East Germany looked.
We would drive slowly along the border road, occasional stopping to
note any changes that may have been, or were being made. All incidents
have to be reported however slight. Every mile or so, fixed points were
usually identified by a 'Bravo' number. A radio report to H.Q. as
"Bravo Ten, all correct." would announced we were at the start point of
our patrol and all there was how it should be.
About half way through the patrol the observer would radio to HQ ,
"Entering the Eis-Keller" This informed that we were preparing to enter
an area known as the 'Eis-Kellar'. A literal name translation is Ice
Cellar, how it arrived at it's name no one really could explain to me.
This area is roughly the shape of a frying pan or a cul de sac and is
completely surrounded by the East. The narrow inlet, resembling the
frying pan handle was just wide enough to allow our DKW vehicle to
drive down, leaving very little on either side, which was Communist
held territory. The dirt roadway had a slight bend in it and was
bordered by thick vegetation and bushes. Once in the area, the road
opens out to a shape resembling the pan proper. Very little is
noteworthy and all that can be seen is a small farm and the rough
roadway edges the outer perimeter. We would drive round the area and
exit the same way as we came in.
Usually there was nothing to report except for one evening. I was the
observer on patrol alongside a driver. We had begun our drive up the
short muddy roadway and was approaching the bend when suddenly we were
confronted by a party of East German Border Guards, being led by a
single Russian soldier dressed in full combat gear. The party had been
coming from the East, were crossing the Western held road, and were
about to pass back into the East. Strictly speaking they were
trespassing on Western held soil carrying arms. A strict protocol no
no. It could be taken, out of context, as an armed invasion of the West
Whether the patrol realised that they were in the West I know not for
they seemed as surprised as we. They reacted very quickly and pointed
hand held Kalashnikov rifles at us. Nothing was said by them to us but
the Russian gestured to his party to continue on their way. Still
pointing their weapons at us, they moved completely across the road and
disappeared back into the bushes of the East. It would have been
pointless us reaching for our weapons, I only had an unloaded 9mm
Stirling that was stowed in the side well of the 'Deek', it would have
taken me all of a minute to locate and load My driver had a holstered
unloaded pistol. We would have been no match for the Communist invaders
I, as a matter of course, reported the incident at once to our HQ and
had to submit a written report of the whole incident at the end of the
patrol. It was the first time I 'd had a loaded, (I assumed) weapon
aimed at me and I can report that it was not a gratifying experience,
quite terrifying really.
At meal break we would radio 'off watch' and drive to the British
Military Hospital where a meal was regularly arranged for border duty
Occasionally we would wave at the patrolling East German guards or in
their control towers. Rarely would they acknowledge us. They were never
alone, always at least two of them. It was common knowledge that at the
start of their duty the East German guards did not know which section
they were to patrol, or who with. It was designed to prevent them
making plans to escape over the wire to the West. The reason that there
were always two, one to keep an eye on the other.
Looking at it all, what a sad waste of human resources.
The third time that I pulled Zonal border duty as I got into the
vehicle as was usual I stowed my SMG on the floor at the side of my
On the way to the hand over point, the driver explained that the
vehicle we were travelling in had a fault. Instead of continuing the
patrol with this vehicle we were to take over the DKW that was already
at the border. Our 'Deek' would be driven back to the garages. We would
not have to manhandle any of the Border kit from their vehicle to ours,
it could remain as it was.
We met the off coming patrol team, handed over duties and began our
patrol. There were no incidents during the patrol. At break we retired
to BMH for a meal.
Arms are not allowed into the hospital. Anyone entering BMH must hand
over any weapons to the guard on the gate. My driver handed over his
pistol and I groped down for my SMG. Horror. It was not there. I could
not understand it. It should be there I had not moved it. I realised
that was the answer, 'I had not moved it.' I should have transferred my
SMG from the vehicle we came to the border in, to the vehicle we were
to patrol with. My SMG was still in the other DKW.
To lose a weapon is a court marshall offence.
I reported my loss to the driver. He was a full Corporal. He reasoned
to me that if I reported it to him officially, then he was duty bound
to report it to HQ. On the other hand if he knew nothing about it he
could not be expected to report the loss. Also the SMG may still be in
the original vehicle and may still be there when we were relieved with
it the coming morning.
Did I want to report the loss of a weapon to him?
I felt sick to my stomach. What was I to do. I finally decided that I
would wait and see if the Weapon was still in place when it arrived at
our location next morning. Officially I had not reported the loss to
The rest of that shift was the longest night possible. I could not take
my mind off the problem. The driver reasoned that it could not have
been found at this time because we would have been notified of its
finding over the radio.
Just before 0600 hrs next morning We waited at our relief hand over
point. I in extreme mental agitation.
As soon as the vehicle arrived and stopped I could contain myself no
longer and rushed over to it feeling down into the vehicle well. Low
and behold all my problems had suddenly disappeared. There it was. It
had lain within the vehicle all night long in the garage.
That incident taught me more about looking after your weapon than any
lectures I had previously had on the subject. From that point on I
always new exactly where my weapon was.
As I have reported the Zonal border area is mainly countryside. In the
fields there are lots of market produce growing. Months later when my
wife was in our MSQ I would plunder the fields for vegetables taking
the odd cabbage, carrots or swedes etc..
Early one morning I pulled up a large cabbage and stripped off the
outer leaves. Breaking the root off I flung it far into the field to
conceal the plundered evidence. As I flung it with my left hand my
large heavy gold wedding ring also flew off. It was pointless
searching, for it was not yet daybreak. That Sunday lunch was the
costliest meal I ever had.
Some dark mornings we would chase rabbits for sport. Driving along the
border path many times a rabbit would be picked out in the DKW's
lights. They would run away from the source of light but still within
the headlight beam. As we drove after them they were unable to see any
other way but forward. Soon they would become exhausted an as a last
escape resort fling themselves, into the darkness, out of the headlight
One time we were chasing a rabbit and instead of fleeing out of the
beam, as was usual, it suddenly stopped exhausted. My driver was unable
to stop in time and the 'Deek' ran over it. We stopped and found the
rabbit, alive but with its back legs broken. I told my driver that he
would have to finish it off. We could not leave it like it was. He had
a faint heart and asked me to kill it, my heart was no bigger and I
couldn't either. We both urged the other to do the dirty deed. I hated
the idea of killing it. Eventually I decided that as I could not do it
with my bare hands, I drove the DKW over the rabbit squashing it out of
I never played the 'catch the rabbit' sport again.
One morning at about half past five we were a little early and waiting
at Bravo Ten for our relief crew to take over. They would arrive just
after Six. All was quite and just getting light, my driver and I were
nodding. Suddenly a report rang out. It sounded like a gunshot and we
both startled awake. Another report then another. I immediately radioed
our HQ and we were instructed to investigate. The noises seemed to be
coming from within the British Zonal border area. We started our DKW
and began the drive along the border road. Another two shots were fired
and soon we knew where they were coming from. We stopped adjacent to
the wire fence and taking out our binoculars I observed that there was
a man lying on the dug and raked ground prior to the mined area and the
high series of wire fences. Two East Border Guards were pointing their
weapons at the fallen man. I could not see, at this time, if he was
alive or wounded. All the time I kept my HQ informed of every event.
The guards who had remained outside the mined ploughed area were
shouting something to the fallen person, of what I could not tell. He
remained completely motionless as we continued our observations. I
requested our HQ if we should load our weapons and received a negative
response at this time unless life is threatened within the West. It was
not being threatened at this time. We carried on our watchings of the
event and before long an East German all purpose wagon arrived on the
scene. Orders were shouted to the man on the ground and he regained his
feet. He began walking, nay stumbling because obviously he had been
shot in his right leg. He placed his hands on his head as he moved
towards his now captors and climbed into the waiting vehicle, soon to
be driven off. Our relief crew joined us at the scene just as the
vehicle disappeared. A full report of the incident was submitted by my
driver and self. It appeared to us that the shot person had attempted
to escape the East by running towards the wire with the intention of
climbing over it. To be quite honest he’d had no chance, even if
the guards had not been on hand to get him the land mines or dogs would.
The peace of the forest resumed.
On evening I was getting ready for border duty. I had been on it the
evening before and had forgot to properly clean my boots from an
earlier cross country run. I could not parade in muddy boots and so
reasoned that I could wear my best boots for parade then return to my
room and quickly clean my working boots before putting them on. At
least I would get through parade inspection without problems.
Strabelene had been discovered by someone. Strabelene was a colourless
liquid that was applied with a paintbrush to the toecaps and heels of
boots. It made them shine like polish although a little false. When
stressed the strabelene coating cracked into white Orange peel like
lines. Strabelene had been outlawed by the RSM.
I decided to put on my best boots for the inspection then ask my driver
to wait while I changed back into my working boots.
I paraded. Horror it was the RSM that was doing the pre duty
inspection, usually it was the duty sergeant. When he came to me he
looked me up and down and then at my beautiful best boots.
"Strabelene." He pronounced.
"No sir." I honestly replied
"Strabelene." he again insisted.
"No sir, Polish."
With that he placed the heel of his shoe on to the toecap of my boot
and ground it in. If it had been strabelene as he had suspected then it
would have cracked white. It did not, indicating that it was indeed
Looking down at my boots he said. " Yes, you were right. It is not
Strabelene. A nice polished pair of boots you had there. Well done"
One of my best boots was now ruined there was a great gouge mark in the
toe. I would have to strip it down and start it all over again. All
that work now to do because I had been lazy in not prior cleaning my
working boots in time. I learned my lesson.
Afterwards I thought of the RSM actions. Had he known that it was not
strabelene? Had he known that they were my best boots only being used
for the parade inspection, knowing full well that I was to change them
prior to going out on shift?
Our RSM was a wily old bird. He was also a fair wily old bird.
border duty was patrolling alongside the famous Berlin wall. The wall
stretched in an almost unbroken straight line through the centre of the
city. It took no account of buildings, streets or property continuing
through them all. In some places it actually cut houses in half. On the
Western side the half house could still be in use but in the other, the
owner would have been forcibly evicted. The wall is built completely on
East German land along with a 10 metre lead up to it. In places a
painted line denotes the exact position of the border. The height of
the wall , I estimated at about 3 metres and about a half metre thick.
The British Sector border began at the French Sector near Tiergarten
and ended at the American sector at Potsdammer Platz. In places it ran
along side the canal behind the Reichstag, the Ex. German Parliament
building. This building had not, as yet, been repaired to its former
glory. It still bore the hallmarks of war and its outside walls were
very bullet pockmarked.
Across from the Reichstag about half a mile away were many large blocks
of flats, all of them were of different designs, many were normal
looking but a few were very bizarre. When I pointed the diversity of
the high rises, my partner said that after World War 2 there had been
an obvious shortage of housing. With limited money in the coiffeurs to
spend on housing the Berlin government could not afford to build on a
large scale. They hit on an idea of offering a world wide building
competition. There was a price of many millions of marks worth of Gold,
as a reward to any building company who built a block of flats on that
site and that block was adjudged the winner. Builders from around the
world accepted the challenge and the unique set of High Rise buildings
were erected. The buildings were judged and the award given. As a
result the Berlin government received many residences for a relatively
very low cost outlay.
The border continued behind the Soviet war memorial past and in front
of the Brandenburger Tor, (Brandenburg Gate) Unter den Linden. This
gateway is a very impressive Arch with Twelve large stone round fluted
columns upholding the main block arch. It was built in 1788/91 It was
surmounted by a statue of 'Quadriga of Victory' which was a statue of a
chariot drawn by Four horses. It was heavily damaged during WW2 and was
restored to its former beauty in 1957/8 by this time the Soviets had
turned it round and the chariot was now facing into the East.
I felt quite proud to be able to have the privilege of viewing the
Brandenburg gate from what was later known as the Kennedy stand, which
was later re-built when the president visited Berlin in June of 1963
President Kennedy was able to view the memorial, from a height. It was
at this time that he uttered his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a
Berliner) speech. Although I was later informed that Ich bin Berliner
would have been more linguistically correct.
The border continued through to Pottsdamer Platz. From the raised
viewing stand at Pottsdamer Platz over the wall and about 50 Meters in
the East there could be seen the famous Hitler Bunker. The area was a
kind of no mans land where very few East German guards went. The bunker
was just a small concrete indistinct building.
The Sector border was mainly in a built up area. Sightseers were
One day a colleague and I arrived at Pottsdamer Platz. We had arrived a
little before our appointed time. We parked up before radioing in our
position and 'Sitrep' (Situation Report). Both of us were in full
uniform, Red Cap, White Webbing, MP Armband. British Military Police
was emblazoned on the front of our vehicle. A lady approached us and
with an American accent, very slowly and pronouncing each word said.
"Do You Speak English?"
My partner reacted, also very slowly pronouncing each word said, "Yes
If You Speak Very Slowly."
With that reply I burst out laughing.
The lady was very offended. She thought I was laughing at her.
I did not mean to cause offence but the repartee reply was funny. I
apologised to the American explaining I was laughing at something else
I had seen. I hope that she did not return to America with the idea
that the British police are not so wonderful after all.
One late summer evening on patrol we were ordered by radio HQ to go to
an incident reported near 'the wall' at the Brandenburg gate. On
arriving we were confronted by a youth who had completely undressed
himself and had climbed up the wall and was kneeling upright with his
hands as in a prayer position. He was completely motionless. The German
Police were also in attendance. The wall and approximately the 10
Meters lead up to it is completely in the East. Nothing could be done
about the youth on the wall. The West German Civil Police shouted to
him but were getting no response. They told us that he was a West
German boy who was showing his protest to the East, he was probably a
little drunk. We climbed the Kennedy Stand to get a better view of the
surroundings, eventually Four East Border Guards approached the youth
and spoke to him, again getting no reply. They seemed to be gesturing
angrily and began cocking and pointing their weapons threateningly. A
civil Police man who had accompanied us ran down the steps informing
all that the situation could escalate. The West border guards and
Policemen held their loaded rifles in readiness. I radioed our HQ
describing the scene and events. I informed them of the Civil police
response as regards to the loading of their weapons. I requested that
my colleague and I also be allowed to load our weapons. We were given
the affirmative on my request but reminded about the standing orders
regarding 'The Terms of Fire'. Condensed the terms stated that return
fire could only be made to protect persons who were already on West
Berlin soil and were in danger of life from fire from the East. The
terms were held to be very ambiguous in their meaning. I instructed my
driver of our orders and we loaded weapons. All in attendance waited
expectantly and their was a pregnant silence. After what seemed like
hours and was probably Ten minutes, the East border guards brought a
ladder and the youth was manhandled down and arrested. I learned later
that he was detained for four days and then released back into the
West. It transpired that they had treated him rather roughly and I'm
sure he did not want to repeat the incident.
It was the first time I'd had a loaded weapon in my hands waiting to
use it in the manner for which it was designed.
The CSM (Company Sergeant Major) announced that for anyone who had not
yet visited East Berlin, he was organising a trip there. I put my name
down for it. It was to be in our own time and was planned for the
coming Saturday morning.
There were eight of us in a VW Minibus. To pass through the East West
border we would have to go via 'Checkpoint Charlie'
Checkpoint C was in the American Sector. It was situated in a normal
nondescript street called Friedrich Strasse.
Buildings, shops offices and living accommodation were still in use on
either side of the street on the Western side. Not so in the East.
Across the Strasse/Street the Berlin Wall crossed. It was not intact at
this point, one side of the wall runs nearly across and the other wall
runs almost across, with a gap in between for vehicles. Any traffic
that pass from East to West or Vice Versa must do a kind of S turn to
drive round the wall. The S bend was designed to stop speeding vehicle
escaping into the West.
At each side there was a risible swing barrier both controlled by a
East German Guard. All allied persons, civilian or other, travelling to
the East must first book out, then back in on return. Each allied power
has its own desk at Checkpoint C.
We booked out at the British office and were allowed to proceed on our
way. As we drove up to the first barrier from our viewpoint we could
see that another vehicle was beginning to exit from the East. The East
German Border guard held up his hand to halt our progress. We could see
he was to let the other vehicle out first before allowing us to enter.
An American MP from a short distance away saw that the East German
Guard was stopping our entry. It was a known fact that the allies
cannot legally stop the Russian Military into the West nor can the
Russians stop the allies entry into the East.
The American could not see the whole event and came to the wrong
conclusion, that they were illegally stopping our entry.
The MP opened the flap of his pistol holster and withdrew his weapon.
He began waving it in the air. He was calling his colleagues for backup.
We in the minibus could see a situation escalating. The East German
guard placed both hand on his automatic rifle that was slung round his
neck. It looked like a Kalashnicov.
The Americans were making something out of nothing. It only need
someone with a slippy trigger finger and a whole shooting match would
start, with us in between the war. Luckily the out coming vehicle
turned the bend at the wall and came into view of the Americans who,
after realising what was happening, relaxed.
I often wonder what would have happened if just one round had been
discharged accidentally. In the British army anyone drawing or
brandishing a weapon like the American had would have been severely
dealt with. To the yanks it was a non event.
We drove around East Berlin with the CSM pointing out things of note I
hardly remember any of it really, it was not worth remembering. The
East was a very drab place with very little colour.
The only feature I do recall was: IIAMRTHNK BONHAM COBETCKON APMNN
which translates as: The Soviet War Memorial Treptow. The park was a
beautifully kept and the memorial buildings were spectacular.
Another time I went into East Berlin a couple of mates and I decided to
organise a tour. We had to request permission from our CO to do so. It
was granted and we organised RMP transport to take us to Checkpoint
Charlie. On alighting we walked back to a German bank near C.C. to
change West German Deutch Marks to East German Deutch Marks. The
official rate in the East was one for one. We had been forewarned that
the bank we were visiting would give us 3 East for 1 West. We each
handed over 20 WGDMs and received 60 EGDMs. It was against Military
Authority Currency Rules to change money in the West for Eastern
currency. We were aware of this but we had conveniently forgot, I think.
Booking out at the British desk we walked into the East and further
changed 20 WGDMs at the official currency exchange. It was 1 for 1.
More important an official receipt, was given, for the exchange. We had
been warned that any purchases would require an official receipt to
prove you had exchanged the money legally.
Walking around we again realised what a drab place it was. There seemed
to be an absence of colour. No advertisements or wall hoardings. The
peoples dress was very lack lustre in style and shape. Everything
seemed to be made up of different shades of grey.
We toured the apartment stores or what proported to be stores. All
shopping places all had a sign outside saying that it was a HO
Warenhaus. This denoted that it was a trading place as sanctioned by
The products on sale at the HO were very few. I asked to see some cuff
links. A pair of cuff links were produced. I did not fancy them . "Have
you any more." I asked.
"No, these are cuff links." came the reply. This, to me, summed up the
East. Usually there was only one type made of every product. There was
no freedom of choice. Other than take it or leave it.
Looking around, there was nothing to spend our East German Marks on. We
went into a cafe and had a round of beers, sandwiches, crisps, anything
just to get rid of our Eastern Money.
We spent about three hours there but that was about two and a half too
much. On our return we again went to the official exchange desk and
handed back 20 EGDMs. Returned were 20 WGDMs. 1 for 1 We still had
about 40 EGDM. each. Returning to the bank to get the money
re-exchanged the bank refused saying they did not accept EGDMs.
We returned to our unit much the wiser, We gave away the EGDMs to other
potential visitors, they were no good to us. I am glad I went but I
never wanted to go into the East again.
A point of note regarding currency. At that time in 1964 the British
Pound Stirling was worth 11.27 Deutch Marks. At the time of writing it
is 2.26 100 Pfennigs = 1 DM
Has the Pound gone down or is it the Mark that has gone up?
As previously stated the Army pay day was Thursday. As duties were
round the clock we could go to the Pay Sergeants offices at any time
within working hours to collect pay. Usually you would decide how much
pay you needed and inform the pay section accordingly. On pay-day you
would collect your pay and the balance would be left in 'Credit'.
Credits could be withdrawn at a weeks notice, usually just before leave
when extra money may be needed.
In Berlin the army also had a system of Baffin's which stood for
British Armed Forces Special Vouchers. BAFV's could only be spent in
British Armed forces establishments, the NAFFI, Toc H, the Corporals
A soldier would normally arrange to have his pay in proportions of
German Marks and BAFS.
Sterling was never used in Berlin.
'Rocking Horse' was the code word for the mobilisation of the British
armed forces of Berlin. At random times and without warning an
'Operation Rocking horse' would be announced. Alarms would go off in
all establishments and the standby patrol vehicles that would be
dispatched from HQ. to loudspeaker announce that a stand to operation
had begun. The married service quarters also had to be hailed. All
service personnel, on duty or not, would have to leave whatever they
were doing and go immediately to units of command. There they would
receive their orders.
All units had respective detailed tasks. In the case of the Military
Police we could be dispatched to key Road Junctions, Bridges, Railway
stations, of the British Sector, for part of our tasks was traffic
control. Tegel Airport was a Royal Air Force establishment and was an
obvious key installation. Also there were lookout positions from where
a potential soviet attack could come in from the East.
For the duration of operation Rocking Horse these points would be
defended until announcement that 'Stand down' was announced. Everyone
would then return to their respective units, returning arms and
ammunition previously drawn. We could all then relax for another short
period but of course another operation could begin five minutes after,
It was accepted by all the allied armed forces in Berlin that in the
event of a Russian invasion The Allies would have no chance in a
realistic defence of West Berlin, other than as delaying tactic. It was
also understood that in a real war West Berlin would probably be the
last place that the Soviets would invade and probably the safest in
Europe. The allies would be going nowhere anyway.
H. and I had became very close friends, we had a close similar
interest, swimming. The company had a Water Polo team.
Ernie introduced me to Hans Otto who was the company water polo team
trainer. Hans was a German civilian police officer and had been a
member of the 1936 Olympic Games German Water Polo Team. Training was
Tuesdays and Thursday evenings. Hans Otto initially timed me over 50
Meters. He seemed pleased and invited me to train with them. On
Saturday afternoon the team had a match with the Berlin Customs
Officers. They visited the company every month for a friendly match.
A Water Polo match has 4 quarters of five minutes each quarter. I was a
reserve. For three of the quarters I watched intrigued. I had never
seen a water Polo match before but I soon became aware of the general
idea. Hans Otto told me to get into the water for the last quarter. I
protested that I knew nothing of the game but was literally thrown in
at the deep end.
The referee threw the ball into the centre of the pool and blew his
whistle to signify that the quarter had begun.
I swam for the ball and managed to get to it first. Due to inexperience
it soon was taken from me by an opposing player. I swam my heart out
that game. Towards the last few minutes I was so exhausted I was almost
drowning. I had always thought that I was a very strong swimmer but
although I may have been fast I certainly was not strong. At one stage
of the game I had to hang on the side of the pool trying to regain my
strength. Hans laughed and said he would soon get me fit and was soon
true to his word.
In the coming weeks I trained like I had never trained for anything
before. The main point behind it I enjoyed training. Enjoying any
training was another first for me. I soon became quite a strong player.
I secured a regular Left wing forward position in the team.
We played all visiting Army sides to Berlin plus a few civilian sides.
Under Hans Otto's expert training schedule we became very successful. I
had much respect for Hans.
That first summer in Berlin was second to none.
The sun shone practically every day. I gained an all over tan, my first
ever. Oh! how I wished that my wife was in married quarters here. My
life would be then complete. I was in a place and doing a job that I
enjoyed. I had enquired as to the availability of married quarters. The
news was not so good. Married Service Quarters or MSQ's as they were
called were allocated on a points system. A soldier gained two points
for every month of separation, plus five points per child. The number
of points currently required was twenty plus. I realised that I would
have to be apart from my wife for about another eight months.
I wrote home and explained the situation as regards MSQ's it did not
bode well with my wife. I said that I would try and get private
accommodation. On enquiring about a private flat they seemed out of the
question the rates were very high.
Before I left my wife the last time I had converted our whole house
into flatlets. My wife lived in the middle one and rented out the other
three. She also worked. Although not exactly flush she had an adequate
income and could even manage to save.
Later on in the year I thought I could sign a contract for a private
flat that I could afford. I grabbed it with both hands. I had to bring
my wife out at my own expense. When she finally came out the private
owner of the flat decided to renege on the verbal contract. I did not
have a place for her. We arranged to lodge temporary with another MP
and his wife. We had this temporary accommodation for about six weeks.
It did not work out. There were too many people trying to share one MSQ.
My wife returned to the UK.
Ernie and I continued as best friends. Whenever we were both off duty
we would be down at the pool training and generally larking about.
Ernie was an adventurous type of person. One day he suggested we make a
parachute and use it on the high 10 mtr fixed board. We obtained 2
single bed sheets and sewed them together with string. Fastening twine
to each corner and in the middle they were knotted them together to
make a makeshift chute. To an extent it worked. I would hold the
knotted end and jump off. Ernie would throw out and spread the sheet
after me. The bed sheets did slow down our fall.
Another foolhardy trick would be to tie a rope from the top board and
climb up whilst the other was shaking it attempting to dislodge him
into the water.
Often we would both wrestle on the top board trying to throw the other
off. Many has been the time when we have both fallen off the 10 mtr
board still wrestling in mid air. How we did not succumb to injury is
any body's guess.
The main pool attendant was a German national. We made a friend of him
and would often bring him British cigarettes. He did not want to upset
us, being Military Police I think helped. The trouble was the more
leeway he allowed us the more we took. Although at no time were we
other than foolhardy.
It all seems pretty childish now but we had to make our own
entertainment both Ernie’s and my wife had not yet arrived in
One evening Ernie and myself had been in the Corporals mess bar
drinking. Suddenly he said that he was going for a swim. I objected
saying that the pool area closed at Eight O clock. The Women's Royal
Armoured Corps, WRAC’s accommodation block overlooked the outside
pool and so it was out of bounds.
An armed sentry patrolled the area.
Ernie insisted, it was dark outside we could sneak up to the pool and
slide in with as little noise as possible. Because I'd had a few beers
I agreed. We undressed under an archway that led into the pool area.
Crawling like commando's we slithered along the grassed area that led
up to the pool, across a concrete path and then slipped into the water.
All around was in darkness. Suddenly a flashlight swung across the
water. we both dived and swam to the far side, away from the light. The
sentry was unsure if anyone was in the water and began walking around
the edge looking in. I stayed put under the pool steps while Ernie
sneaked out. I was in danger of being discovered. The uniformed sentry
was nearing my position and I was about to swim underwater away from
him. Ernie by this time had crept round the outside edge. Just as the
sentry was near me and bending over looking into the water, he pushed
him in. The sentry was in full uniform and carrying an SLR rifle. This
was my chance to escape. I exited the water sharpish and both of us ran
The sentry was in no danger as the point of his entry it was quite
shallow. We did remain under the arch until he had got out of the water
safely. He may not have known but he had no chance of drowning we
certainly would not have left him to that fate.
That first winter was the extreme opposite of the summer. The winter
air seemed so clean. The snow once it fell remained for quite a number
of weeks. It did not seem to thaw into a dirty slush like it does in
the UK. Although it was a lot colder than England it was not a damp
Ernie and I had a day off. He suggested that we book a pair of skis out
of the sports store. We did and arranged company transport to take us
to the 'Berlin Ski Run' Neither Ernie or I had ever been on skis before.
The Berlin Ski run is a large mound of artificial hills and is in the
American sector. The hills were supposedly made from the rubble made
from the bombing of Berlin during WW1.
The slopes were purposely built. First there were the junior and
learner slopes. Ernie and I tried those. We soon came to the conclusion
that we were both natural born skiers. We did not immediately realise
that we both had big heads as well. It seemed easy providing you keep
your skis slightly apart and lean forward maintaining balance.
We needed something harder, something a little more testing. We
enquired where the main slopes were and were directed to following
others who were heading in a general direction. We came across a very
steep slope and stopped, other continued going ahead.. This slope had
virgin snow and no one was using it. Its far too steep for everyone
else we reasoned. The slope disappeared far below. I dared Ernie to ski
down it. He dared me. We both dared each other.
"I'm going down." said I.
"So am I." Agreed Ernie.
"Well both go together then."
"Okay. We both get set on the edge and at the count of three we both
"Yes." said I. I had no intention of going down it. It was far too
"I'll count us down. One two three go!" I pretended to take off. Ernie
had the same thoughts as me. He was trying to fool me like I was him.
I was calling him chicken for not going, when suddenly my skis slipped
forward. I was moving unintentionally down the slope. I could not stop.
I tried to keep my balance but my confidence was weakening. I was out
of control. This skiing larks not as easy as I had made out. As I got
half way down I was going miles too fast for my liking, probably about
10MPH. Looking forward further down the slope I realised that the end
dropped off. I was on a snow concealed ski jump and hadn't known it. I
could not stop and I certainly could not complete the jump. I did the
only thing I could think off. I flopped backwards on my skis. It did
not stop me but it did slow me down, there I was going down the ski
jump on my back. When I came to the end I just flopped over it. Luckily
the snow was quite deep over the end and I landed in a snow drift. I
picked myself up and was very lucky I had not damaged my back. I did
rip my new black anorak that I had just recently purchased from the
main NAAFI stores. It had cost me all of Five Pounds.
I trudged back to where Ernie was waiting, laughing. Up there, even
then, knowing it was the ski jump, it still looked like one continuous
slope. None of the other Berliner’s were fooled by appearances,
only us idiot Englishmen.
We located to the main ski slopes. They turned out to be far too
advanced for us. The slopes were interspersed with trees and very steep
and severe. One workman was even spraying part of the slopes with
water. When it quickly froze it made the run even faster.
Lets go home we both decided, I didn’t want to learn to ski
duty in Berlin was 'Allied Kommandatura'. AK. was situated in
Kaiserswerther Strasse it was a large four story building plus cellars.
It was supposed to have been a Gestapo headquarters during WW2 Now it
was the four power conference building. Regular three power conferences
were held at AK, the Soviets had long ceased to attend them.
On entering the double massive oak doors that led into the ground floor
foyer, a British MP was on duty at a desk. All persons entering had to
The top forth floor had been allocated to the Russians but as they had
pulled out of the regular conferences theirs was empty of staff or
To the left of the foyer a French Gendarme had an office. His
responsibilities lay on the third floor.
In the right office was an American MP. His floor was the second.
Ours was the first floor. The German Policeman controlled the basements
and ground floor. In the basements there were many cell like rooms that
in the past had been used for the incarceration of political prisoners.
On taking over the duty at 2000 hrs an MP had to sign over to his
relief. During working hours most rooms would be used.
Of an evening the respective policeman would go up to his floor and
check that all doors and rooms were locked and made secure. There were
supposed to be numerous secrets held in the many offices. Any doors
that were found not secure he would take the key from his key press
down in his office and lock it. Each was required to check his floor at
least every hour.
In the case of the British MP he had to record all incidents however
slight in the Daily Occurrence Book, DOB. Anything and everything had
to be recorded in the DOB. The American, French and German Policemen
had similar responsibilities. It was an ideal place to study or catch
up on your reading. Most MPs would visit the others in their respective
offices for a chat.
One evening, on duty at the AK, in the wee small hours I visited the
American in his office. As we were talking he kept putting small
counters into paper packets, making notations and sealing them in
envelopes. He would then address the envelope. I enquired what he was
doing. He replied that he was playing postal chess.
"Oh! you play chess do you" I asked and he nodded.
"I play a little as well. Do you want a game?" I thought I was quite
good at the game.
He produced a chess board from within his desk drawer. We set them up
and I drew the white queen. I played a pawn. He quickly played his
No more than a couple of dozen moves after I was completely beaten. And
I thought I could play chess. He proved me such a beginner and compared
to him, I was. We were not in the same class. All the time we had been
playing he hardly looked at the board and had continued playing his
postal chess games in between.
Afterwards, and without any sense of boasting, he said he was the
American Forces Champion. He had travelled the world playing chess for
the American Army. He hoped to make a living from it when he was
demobbed. I had a few more games with him but I could not really enjoy
them. I had no chance of winning, but he was a really nice guy.
Another time at Allied KOMANDANTURA. I was in the Americans office. We
were chatting away about things in general. I was to one side of his
desk. The yank was laying backward in his chair balancing himself on
the back legs.
He enquired what my pistol was. On receipt of it I had not noticed if
it was a Webley or a Smith and Wesson. They do look similar. I removed
it from my holster. It was not loaded. It was a Webley. I re holstered
The American took his out. It was a 45 Browning. He was explaining the
virtues of a large bore weapon like the 45. From his pouch he produced
a clip of ammunition. Sliding the clip home in to its hand grip
housing, he pulled the cocking slide back. It was now loaded. I warned.
He was a little cocky and said not to worry the safety catch is on. I
asked him to uncock the weapon.
He replied "Okay, seeing as it makes you nervous." Just as he was about
to do it he overbalanced his chair. The weapon exploded. The safety
catch cannot have been on. He had pulled the trigger as he was falling
I could exaggerate and say the bullet just missed me, but I will not.
Suffice to say it missed. The round embedded into the wall in front of
him. The noise was deafening. I had never been in a room where a round
has been discharged. There was a large pall of smoke.
Alarmed by the noise, both the French Gendarme and the German Policeman
came running into the room. The American realised that he could be in
serious trouble. He pleaded with us not to report the incident. All
agreed not to. The whole in the wall was hastily covered up.
When I asked him how he would account for the spent bullet he replied
that it was easy to lose or gain rounds. Little checks was made on
them. Not so in the British army all rounds are carefully checked and
have to be accounted for at all times.
I felt guilty for not reporting the incident but no harm came to anyone
and I could not let the others down.
The next time I visited the American's office a calendar covered the
Another time at AK it was months after the a/m incident. Again I was
visiting the American MP again he was showing off his Colt 45. The
Americans seem mesmerised where hand guns are. I warned him not to load
it. He agreed that he would not.
"How long does it take to strip your weapon." He asked of me.
"We do not have to strip a hand gun. That is the job of the Armourer.
We only have to clean them." Was my answer.
"I can strip mine in 9 seconds." He boasted.
He then asked me to time him. I looked at the second hand of my watch
and as it reached the top said. "Go" He began stripping his 45. Sure
enough he stripped it well within the 9 seconds. There were about six
to eight pieces in all. He then said he could reassemble it in 20
Seconds. "Go on time me again." He urged.
Again I said "Go."
This time he had decided to explain his actions reassembling the
weapon. "This cocking spring locates here." He began. Unfortunately,
the indicated spring would not go in it's place. Something must have
gone wrong. He continued to try to relocate the spring. It would not
fit. He picked up another piece still no joy.
Two minutes passed and he still had not completed his task. I got bored
and left him. No I didn't get bored. I left because I wanted to go
outside so that I could have a good laugh at his expense.
Two Hours later his relief came. The yank had still not completed the
re-building of his weapon. He gathered up all the pieces and wrapped
them in a newspaper. His parting words were.
"Well I can do it in 20 seconds with a Browning 45."
The Americans have a fatal fascination with guns.
I had been on home on three weeks leave.
My first duty back was AK. It was an evening shift. The first duty was
to make sure all doors on my floor were secure.
When I checked room 127 it was unlocked. I entered the room but there
was no furniture or anything in it. It was a small room with one
wrought iron barred small window. I got the key from the downstairs
keypress and locked the room.
One hour later, on re-checking the doors, 127 was unlocked, once again
the room was empty. I determined that the lock on the door was faulty
and locked it once more. I noted in the DOB that the lock on room 127
appeared faulty and repairs may be needed.
Each time that evening I checked the offices, room 127 was found to be
unlocked. Although each time I relocked the door it appeared very
secure at the time. No matter, no problem.
At the end of my shift my relief came. He studied the DOB and said "Oh
no, not that room again."
I asked him what he meant by that. He replied that two weeks
previously, when I had been on leave, a Lance Corporal Garle had been
on duty there. When he checked room 127 it was unlocked. On entering
the room he was supposed to have seen a women cringing in the corner
crying out as if in terror. The women turned out to be an apparition
and faded away.
He is supposed to have fled the building refusing to re-enter it. The
German Policeman phoned our Head Quarters and related the incident. A
relief was sent for the L/Cpl. A search was made but nothing was found.
L/Cpl Garle was RTUed (Returned to unit) that day to Woking.
I must have looked as if I disbelieved the incident for my relief asked
if I had read the DOB of two weeks ago. I admitted I had not, there had
been no reason to. The past Daily Occurrence Book was retrieved from
the back issue cupboard and turned to the relevant dated page. Sure
enough L/Cpl Garle had been on duty and some other, a Corporal Sedman,
had reported the event as described.
I myself had found nothing untoward about the room or the building. I
have to admit that AK was a very gaunt and severe place. All the
landing lights were on time switches. If you did not check the doors on
the landing quickly enough the lights would go out. It suddenly left
one in a very dark and lonely place. AK was supposed to have been a
building were many Gestapo tortures had taken place. If ghosts do
inherit buildings then I am sure they would have liked AK.
A point of coincidence, my surname is Gale his was Garle.
Tilbury (that is not his exact name but he will recognise himself) had
newly arrived at BIB HQ RMP. He was a short lean impressive man who
always looked immaculate dressed, civilian or uniform. He seemed to
have no regular duties around the HQ and his name very rarely came up
on the standing orders duty roster. Very occasionally he would appear
on the ranges and proved what a competent shot he was, both with Rifle
The first time I spoke to Sgt. Tilbury proper was one evening when I
had drawn night desk. I had done the duty on numerous occasions and
considered myself almost competent at the job. I always liked the desk
duty because it made me feel important, every time I answered the phone
and said "Royal Military Police Berlin, Lance Corporal Gale speaking,
Sir." gave me a little buzz. I was always the most junior and lowest
rank on desk duty but at that time it mattered not.
When he took up this first duty I expected Sgt. Tilbury to ask, what
the score was, how everything ran etc. Normally a new senior rank would
take advice from his full corporal, or even his Lance Corporal at
times. The Sergeant must have done his homework because he slotted in
as though he had been doing the job for years. He was equally competent
or more so than many of the other senior ranks. I now realise that most
of the duties of the desk were common sense and having the confidence
that incoming problems are only old ones in a new guise. I respected
and liked the new Sergeant.
On desk in normal circumstances, the early hours of the morning are
very mundane, every ten minutes or so the Zonal and Sector border
Patrols will radio in to confirm that all is well but in general there
is little excitement.
The other duty Corporal had gone to the cookhouse to get his mid
morning meal, leaving just Sgt. Tilbury and myself in the room. He
opened polite conversation by asking what I had done previous to the
army. I briefly explained my pit career and he immediately bonded by
stating that both his father and grandfather had been old colliers in
Kingsley, South Yorkshire and that he initially had worked on the pit
top but soon realised underground was not for him. We began chatting
like long lost cousins, each relating to the other. I felt that if Sgt.
Tilbury had carried only one or two stripes on his sleeve instead of
his Three I could have made a serious friend of him. The rest of the
duty hours passed without comment.
Since our initial introduction whenever our paths crossed Sgt. Tilbury
would acknowledge me and pass the time of day, he became a kind of peer
figure to me.
Looking on the duty roster one evening I noted that I had to report to
the Sergeant Tilbury after morning parade. After the duty Sergeant
briefed all as to duties, the parade was dismissed. As ordered I
reported to Sgt. Tilbury who took me to a nearby interview room. He
explained that our coming task was to be carried out in civilian
clothes and to speak out now if I objected to that condition. He could
easily replace me. Exited a little I immediately agreed.
"Don't go reading things that are not there." he cautioned "All we are
to do is to go and pick up a parcel. Once that is done we return here
and the duty is done. No cloak and dagger stuff, a simple case of
receipt and delivery. Understand?"
I answered "Yes Sergeant."
"That's another thing when we leave BIB HQ in civvies it would be wise
if you called me by my Christian name Reginald, well call me Reg, it
will save explanations all round. I'll call you Jack, Okay."
Again I answered in the affirmative then added. "What type civilian
dress do you want me to wear.
"Casual. Just a Shirt and tie, slacks and a jumper should be about all
right, keep the colours low key. Manage that?" I nodded. "See you back
outside the duty room at Ten sharp then. Don't forget to bring your ID
and Warrant Card with you." and with that he left the room.
At Quarter to Ten I entered the duty room foyer, true to my initial
training RSM’s saying, 'Be Five minutes early for the Queen and
Five minutes for me', I had decided on Five for me as well.
At Five to Ten Sergeant Tilbury, Reg, walked in his dress similar to
mine but more sombrely. He beckoned and I followed him outside to his
own private transport, an old black 220s Mercedes Benz. Sitting in the
right hand real leather upholstered passenger seat seemed like the
height of luxury. The highly polished walnut dash-board was very
appropriate, a magnificent car. I made a mental note to have one, one
As we left BIB HQ Reg began to talk further of our duty. We were to go
to a flat in Charlottenburg and meet a male person. After identity
verification a package would be handed over by him and another received
from the other man. It was to be a straight forward deal and nothing
should go wrong. I was to take no part in the proceeding other that
once inside the flat position myself by the closed doorway and deter
anyone from entering until Ted had said so. Did I understand and were
there any questions?
I didn't have any, other than to ask why did he pick me for the duty.
He replied that he hardly knew any others in the company and he rather
liked me and looked as though I could look after myself. I grew a
little in stature.
Arriving at the designated address we drove through a arched driveway
into a small square cobbled courtyard. All Four sides were built up
into what looked like flatlets.
We debussed and after noting the numbered addresses on the outside wall
we began climbing two flights of stairs. As we reached a landing, just
coming out of the numbered door we were to visit was a man aged about
thirty. Ted spoke to him in a language I could not verify but it
certainly was not German. The man became agitated and started to
re-enter the flat. Ted followed him in and I brought up the rear. All
the time the Sergeant was speaking to the man in his own language, the
man was becoming more agitated. As previously instructed I closed the
door and stood with my back to it. This action further made the man
more uneasy and he gestured at me. Ted said to me "Jack take out your
Id card and show it to him." As he was speaking he put his hand to the
inside of his shirt, I assumed to produced his. I reached to my back
trouser pocket for my ID card but before I could produce it the man
suddenly produced a small hand gun from his jacket side pocket and
pointed it at us. I instinctively cowered to one side, never ever
having a loaded (I assumed) weapon pointed at me, I am truly ashamed to
say this but I was extremely frightened. Nothing like this had ever
happened to me before A report rang out.
At this point I would lik to report what it is like to be shot.
Feelings of pain, numbness or at least something, but I felt none of
these. I was too astounded and shocked by this sudden turn of events.
Sergeant Tilbury did not seem to be surprised at the production of the
gun or the deafening sound of the gunshot, he immediately jumped on the
man grabbing first at the hand that held the gun, immobilising that. He
shouted to me for assistance, for at that stage I was just stood there.
As we suppressed the struggling man Sgt. Tilbury was talking to him in
a calming manner. It surprised me how calm Ted was as my heart and mind
was going ten to the dozen. Eventually the man stopped struggling and
once again my Sergeant told me to produce my ID card and to show it, at
the same time he reached for his. The man seemed more calm now. I was
instructed to let the man regain his feet. Just then there was a
hammering at the door accompanied by German voices. The man answered
back in halting German and Sergeant Tilbury went to the door to explain
away the loud report of the pistol shot and show means of identity. It
was around this time that I realised I had been hit by the discharged
bullet. My upper arm did not really hurt but blood was oozing into the
wool of my sweater. When all had calmed down Ted pulled down the V neck
of my sweater to look down at my arm injury. He pronounced it nothing
more than a simple flesh wound and said something to the man, who
produced a clean looking piece of cloth which was tied over my sweater
directly on the wound and quite tightly. He then took off his own
sweater and instructed me to wear it over my own. Wondering why I
complied, it was a little tight but it stretched sufficiently for me to
pull it over. After, I realised that by putting Ted’s jumper over
mine it would hide my injury to outsiders when we left. During the
first aid treatment the man was talking to me in his own language, Ted
translated it as words of apology. I nodded my acceptance.
Once I had been seen to, the two men conducted the business we had
originally come to do, of exchanging packages, or more to the point
thick envelopes. The Sergeants envelope coming from the waistband of
his trousers which his jumper had been covering. What each envelope
contained was never explained to me.
When the business was concluded we both shook hands with the man and
left. Exiting the building a German Civil Polizie car pulled into the
square. Someone had obviously called the Police. Both policeman
alighted and as one began his approach the other stood back with the
covering advantage of the patrol car. Identification was requested and
produced Sgt Tilbury spoke in, what appeared to be, fluent German
explaining the circumstances. After my ID was shown notes taken and our
identity confirmed by radio the German Police allowed us to drive away.
Ted immediately drove me to the British Military Hospital in Spandau
where I was treated for a gunshot wound to the triceps area of the
Right upper arm. On the journey I had been told that the reply to any
enquiry as to my wound was that it had been sustained by accident on
the ranges. Funnily enough, no one asked me how I came by the injury,
not even the doctor, which in it's self was very unusual. Although
insisting that I was physically okay, the MD decided that I should
remain overnight for observations of any delayed shock. Whilst in
hospital I was visited by Sergeant Tilbury who said it would best in
all our interests that the past events be not mentioned to anybody
other than my Commanding Officer, if asked, of course. He reminded me
that I was subjected to the Official Secrets Act which I signed on
Whilst in hospital I was required to submit a full written report to my
CO. detailing all the past events.
Late afternoon the next day I was released.
The injury healed almost fully within ten days with no detriment to me
other than a scar which I still have. I was later fully re-embursed for
ruined civilian shirt and sweater. This is the first account of the
incident I have made since the event happened in May 1964
duty was the cream of duties. Standby gave you the chance to be what
you had been trained for, a proper policeman, rather than just a
Normally there would be two persons working standby duty together. One
was the driver and the other was the observer. The driver had full
charge of the vehicle but the observer, provided he was of similar or
senior rank, was in command of the situations as they arose.
Usually the pair would wait in the standby room. A bell would summon
them to the control room, from there they would be dispatched to what
ever incident. These were many and very varied.
One time the alarm bell summoned my partner and I into the control
room. we were given orders to sign out an SMG (Stirling Sub-Machine gun
) and 2 mags of live rounds. We did so and were ordered to report to
Bravo four on the Zonal border. Bravo four was an area that at one time
had been a cross over point between the East and the West. A Wooden
control building had been erected on the Eastern side and was usually
attended by border guards. On the Western side there was nothing to
denote it from any other part of the Zonal border. When we reached the
designated place we were met by a Military Police Major, whom I did not
know, and the regular zonal border patrol. This officer seemed not to
be in control of the coming proceedings this was being organised by
'suits'. We referred to 'suits' as persons who although dressed in
civilian dress were obviously someone of importance, even being
deferred to by officers, high ranking officers at that. On our side of
the border were 2 'Suits', 2 uniformed Officers (the other one carried
the cap badge of the Intelligence corps) a civilian dressed person who
was handcuffed, our border patrol and ourselves. Our officer explained
to us that there was to be a ' hand over'. We were in attendance just
in case there was any trouble which was not expected. I remembered a
few weeks earlier when confronted by a Kalashnikov Russian rifle in
comparison with my SMG. I hoped all would go off all right. Not the
weapons! the coming events.
Anyone who has seen the film "The spy who came in from the cold'
showing the handing over of a Soviet spy for a Western one describes
almost exactly the events that were to come. At a pre arranged signal
the handcuffed man on our side was released and he was allowed to begin
his walk to the East. The released man in the East began to walk
towards us. As they past at the half way point little recognition of
the other was given. They passed like ships in the night apparently
unnoticed by the other. Our returned spy, for that was what I assumed
him to be, was ushered into a waiting limousine and was whisked away.
We were ordered to return to HQ and hand in our weapons. A non event
really for which I was quite grateful.
All vehicles, service or British civilian that were involved in a Road
Traffic Accident, RTA. in the British sector had to be reported to and
attended by the British Military police.
On arrival at a RTA (Road Traffic Accident) an MP had to take charge of
the situation. First Aid had to be organised if needed and ambulances
called. Traffic control may have to be initiated. Measurements taken.
Plans of roads and positions of vehicles involved were drawn.
Statements taken from all persons involved and witnesses. Moving of
vehicles to be organised and roads reopened as necessary.
I attended many RTA’s and found that no two were alike. I have
been to some where the vehicle has been a complete write off and it had
seemed impossible that anyone could survive and all passengers and
driver have come out without a scratch.
One RTA I attended was where a large American Maroon Ford Galaxy that
had been driven, full frontal impact, into an oak tree just outside
BMH. The car was a complete write off and at first glance seemed
covered in a white dust that I later learned was powdered glass. It
seemed impossible that anyone could have survived the impact. Before
our arrival the driver had a disentangled himself from the wreckage,
which was a feat in itself, and walked to the nearby hospital. When we
met him there later his injuries were a slight cut to his chin that
needed little treatment other than cleaning. A very lucky Yank.
On the other hand, in some cases little vehicle damage could be
observed at a RTA but serious injuries had resulted. I only ever
attended one fatal accident. That had to be handed over to a more
senior rank. Serious repercussions can result from a 'fatal' and have
to be handled very diligently.
One time My partner and I were returning from an incident involving
British soldiers having problems in the American sector. On arriving it
was a minor incident which Iwe sorted out. It required no further
action (NFA) from the military point of view. We allowed the soldiers
to continue on their way.
We were driving along Bismarck Strasse at the usual 50 ks. (30 mph) As
we approached a set of traffic lights they changed to Amber then Red.
Across the road on the other side of the junction a small Fiat, German
registered, car suddenly had the brakes jammed hard on. It stopped at
the lights. There was no reason for the driver of the Fiat to carry out
an emergency stop. He had plenty of time to safely carry on through the
lights at Amber.
A German lorry driver with a long trailer who was behind the Fiat had
expected the Fiat to go through the lights.
The driver locked his brakes on to avoid collision. His trailer jack
knife behind him. He struggled to maintain control and managed to avoid
hitting the Fiat, ending up just inches from it. His trailer skewed
across the road and collided with two other on coming cars. Behind
three other vehicle also ran into the back end of the lorry. two other
cars, one of them was a British Army DKW, had to swerve to avoid
further impacts and ended up in a ditch.
It was primarily a German Police job but because we were on hand we
took charge until they arrived and were given full control. Our main
concern was with the British Army vehicle. He would be reported, by me,
for not driving with due care.
Immediately after the accident when the lights changed, the fiat which
had escaped unscathed, drove off without even a backward glance.
In all eight vehicles were involved with no serious injuries in any of
One evening I was ordered to attend 23 Polizie revier. The 23rd was a
German civilian Police Station. The German Police were holding a
British Green Jacket soldier.
On reporting, a German Policeman led me into one of their cells. There
I interviewed a soldier who told me that he had been having a few
drinks at various bars and had gone into the Rainbow Bar. He had asked
for a drink but the woman owner ignored him serving all but him. He
raised his voice to get a drink but with that the woman came from
behind the counter and began hassling him out of the bar, shouting to
him that they did not serve coloureds. He was a half cast soldier. She
was pushing him out of the door saying he was drunk. He explained to me
that to break contact with her he put his hand up behind him. But he
made no purpose contact with the female. He then left and went to the
ABC bar lower down the road, he had not run off but walked the whole
time. At the other bar he joined some of his mates. The barwoman at the
Rainbow had called the civilian police who found and arrested him at
I asked the German Policeman to put him back in the cell until I could
take a statement from the owner of the Rainbow bar. I went to the bar
and through my interpreter I took a statement of complaint. The woman's
statement was at odds with the soldier story. She said he was
staggering drunk and hit her before running away. I could see no sign
of drunkenness in the soldier, he had a drink but certainly was not
staggering. he had admitted putting his hand up but not to making
contact. He had not run away, the owner of the bar was easily able to
follow him to the next bar. There were other facts but the soldiers
story rang more true to me, although it was not my job to decide fault.
I returned to the police station and took charge of the soldier. I told
him that although I believed his version of events It was not my
decision. His commanding officer would decide. I told him that I would
not place him under arrest provided he peacefully accompany me back to
his barracks. There I would hand him over to his own duty officer with
the recommendation that he be allowed to sleep in his own bed that
night rather that in a guardhouse cell.
The soldier thanked me for being understanding and agreed to my
As we were leaving I noticed that he was in shirt sleeves. It was cold
outside. I asked him where his coat was and he replied in the ABC bar,
he had not collected it when the German police had arrested him.
I said as we are passing the ABC we would drop in and collect it. We
did. My driver remained with his vehicle while I went in to the bar, I
had told him I would not be too long. As I entered the bar all hell
broke loose, the bar was full of squaddies and all the soldiers mates
began accusing me of arresting an innocent man. The Green Jacket was
trying to explain that I was treating him fairly but I was in no mood
for explaining my actions to anybody.
"Get your coat now" I ordered the soldier. Just at that time a very
large drunken soldier began prodding me telling me I was not going to
arrest his mate. He was head and shoulders taller than I. He was very
drunk. I shouted out to all in the bar. "I have not arrested him yet.
But I can arrest him. In fact I can and will arrest everyone in the bar
if you do not quieten down and behave yourselves. I will close this bar
There was no way I could have carried out my threats.
Looking around I saw one soldier who was sat quietly. I knew him to be
an NCO in the same regiment. I said to him.
"I know you to be an NCO. I give you a direct order to get this man off
my back." indicating the large soldier. I then grabbed the first
soldier and began ushering him out of the bar. Just as I was pushing
him out, my partner thinking that I had been a long time, came to see
if I was all right. Just then I heard a smack. It was obviously the
sound of a punch. I looked back. The NCO whom I had ordered to control
the large soldier had hit him. My mate saw this and said "Jack its a
fight" He began to try a bustle past me into the bar. I pushed the
soldier and my partner out. I had got my man and I didn't want any more.
I returned the soldier to his barracks and handed him over to his duty
officer with the recommendations as promised.
My statement of evidence to the soldiers CO slanted in favour of the
soldier. Although in theory I should have remained completely unbiased.
Prostitution in Germany is Legal providing the rules governing it are
observed and acted upon.
Squaddies whether it be legal or not will always avail themselves of
the services of women of the night. Although strictly speaking it is
not an offence for a soldier to pay for sex, it is frowned upon and
discouraged. To ensure that the German Civil Police can be seen by the
British army to regulise and keep in check legal prostitution,
occasionally an MP is detailed to accompany a Civil Policeman on his
I was instructed to escort a civil police officer on his vice patrol.
We visited the many bars of the red light district of Spandau and
requested the health documents of known prostitutes. At that time
providing they were registered and that they kept up medical checks at
least every month the civil police treat them with respect. We also
visited the rooms that the ladies took their clients to, I must remark
that they seemed very clean to me. The brothel that I saw was also
clean and very efficiently run. The average going rate for services
rendered at that time was around 25 DMarks (around 2.50 Pounds) at that
I did notice a person in anticipation of service in the waiting area of
one of the Brothels. noticing his short haircut and an English suit he
was obviously a British soldier. I could have asked for his ID of
confirmation and then sent him packing or even reported him to his
Commanding officer but he wasn't causing anyone any harm and was going
about his own business. I conveniently looked the other way.
In a way I envied his daring I had not seen my wife for many months now
and it did enter my mind, however fleetingly, to..... Well
On our rounds the German policeman did approach one lady who looked to
me to be around sixty years old. Again he spoke to her very
respectfully. After inspecting her Medical card and passing a few
pleasantries he said. "Wiedersehen Lottie" as he bade her good-bye.
He told me that her nickname was One mark Lottie. She had been on the
game most of her adult life. She used to charge 1 Mark for services
rendered but due to inflation her price was now 10 marks (1 Pound). She
was said to be worth every penny and her services was always in demand
by the Germans and hard up British Soldiers.
He said that if he had to be in a position to have to use one he would
see Lottie, not because she was the cheapest but because she was the
I learned a lot of lessons that evening. Even females, practising the
oldest profession, can still be given respect. The ones that I met
seemed very nice persons. It made be revise my idea of the 'ladies of
It certainly made me believe that Legal prostitution should be allowed
within the UK.
There were many different characters within our unit. Some I liked and
respected. Some I disliked but still respected and one I did not like
and did not respect. I would hate being his partner in any duty. I was
not alone. Many of the unit had requested not to be accompanied by him.
I will not give his correct name but will call him Colin.
Colin had been in the RMP for over 4 years. He was a thick set loud
mouthed man. He was also thick in the head. How he managed to pass out
of our depot in the first place amazes me. He had tried twice to pass
promotion exams but failed miserably each time. These exams to gain the
second stripe, although not easy, are well within the average mans
capabilities. He remained a Lance Corporal.
Whenever he was out on patrol he would take every opportunity to
belittle any soldier he could lay his hands on. Because he was your
partner there were times that you had to back him up and hate it at the
same time. Whereas a normal procedure would be to check a soldier when
he had committed a minor offence, caution him as to his future conduct
and then let him proceed on his way. Colin would dangle the man on a
piece of string berating them in a loud voice, trying to prove how
powerful his stripe was, which it was.
The stripe and police powers are very powerful and most times they were
used in a correct manner. Colin always picked on Privates or other
Lance Corporals, never any of senior rank to himself. He gave the
Military Police a bad name. In many cases he tarred us all with his
Usually the powers that be kept him on duties out of the way of other
Colin had not been around for some time. I assumed he was on leave or
had been transferred. One day, who should be striding down the pathway
to our unit was Colin. He was wearing 3 stripes. I looked amazed
especially as he was wearing a Karki forage hat with a badge that I did
not recognise at the time.
I asked him what the story was and he grinned. He had taken a course
and transferred into the Military Prisons Unit. Their lowest rank, it
seems, is Sergeant. I know very little of Military Prisons other than
they are very hard places to be in. The film 'The Hill' starring Sean
Connery springs to mind when I think of them. And from what I have
heard it also describes the type of person needed to run them. A
prisoner is treated like Shit within the system. Tales I've heard about
the 'Glasshouse' are quite believable.
Colin was a hard man and although he was a square peg in a round hole
whilst within our corps he certainly would have been in a square hole
in the Prison Service. Hole, Square and thick being operative words.
Spandau was a suburb of West Berlin and was within the British sector.
In 1945/46 at the Palace of Justice Nuremberg, the famous Nazi war
crimes trials were held. Twenty alleged criminals were tried. Twelve
were sentenced to death, five were jailed and three were acquitted.
Spandau Prison that the criminals were incarcerated to, now held only
three of the originals, Rudolph Hess, Albert Speer and Balder Von
A leaf from the Belsen concentration camp
and Baldur Von Shirach's autograph.
RUDOLPH HESS (1894-1987) Had been Adolph Hitler’s second in
Command. At his trial he had conducted his own defence and had entered
a plea of insanity. That had been rejected by the court He was
sentenced to life imprisonment and died in August 1987
ALBERT SPEER. (1905-1981) He had been Hitler’s main architect for
the new third Reich.
BALDUR VON SCHIRACH. (May 9, 1907 – August 8, 1974) June 1933
Adolph Hitler had made anti-Semitic Von Schirach the head of the German
Hitler youth organisation. Gualeiter of Vienna 1940/45 he carried out
the policy of deporting all Jews. He was released from Spandau in 1966
Spandau prison was a strictly Military one. Consequently it was guarded
on a monthly rota basis by the four powers, British, American, French
and the Soviets. It was against prison rules for any guard to speak to
any prisoner without good reason. A soldier guard was liable to be
reported to a superior, by the prisoners themselves just to cause
problems. Rudolph Hess was the main trouble causer in this. Very rarely
did Military Police have cause to go into Spandau Prison.
In 1964 Baldur Von Shirach had a medical problems that could not be
treated in the prison, he had to be escorted to the British Military
Hospital. The BMH was also in Spandau. He was detained there for an
operation and treatment. It fell to the task of the RMP to guard him.
He had a private ward that consisted of 2 rooms. All windows were
barred. One MP guard was permanently on duty within the first room, he
was unarmed. Unless an emergency arose he was instructed not to go into
the inner room that contained the prisoner. There was also a guard
stationed outside both rooms who was armed. An armed guard was also
situated at the entrance to the hospital.
My friend Ernie H. guarded Von Schirach on many occasions. Although it
was strictly against regulations to speak to the prisoner, Ernie made
friends with him. He had told me that the prisoner spoke perfect
English. Von Shirach was supposed to have said to Ernie that Hitler had
been completely wrong in the war against Europe, and often atoned for
his misdeeds during that part of his life. Ernie always looked forward
to that guard duty and the long conversations with the prisoner.
After a few weeks of treatment Von Schirach was returned to Spandau
A few months later he was returned to BMH for with a re-occurrence of
I was to do duty guarding Von Schirach within the first room.
Ernie by this time had joined the MT (Motor Transport) section. His
prime job was as a driver. Ernie drove me down to BMH for the guard
duty. He decided to look in on Schirach.
As he was more aquainted of the layout than I, Ernie entered the room
first. He opened the door of the inner room Von Schirach was standing
with his back to the door looking out of the barred window. Ernie
opened the door and seeing him said. "How are you going you old Nazi
With that and even before he had turned round Von Schirach shouted.
"Ernie. How pleased I am to see you." The War criminal spun round and
grabbed Ernie round the shoulders in a hug then taking his hand,
pumping it up and down in greeting. He was genuinely pleased to see him.
Ernie then introduced me to Baldur Von Schirach. He held out his hand
in greeting. I, hesitatingly, shook it.
A long conversation between them took place. Von Schirach said that his
20 year incarceration in Spandau should come to an end in the mid 60s.
He felt that he should be given parole now and that it was only the
Russians that were holding things up. They did not want to give up the
excuse of regular entry in to Western Berlin. He insisted that when he
was released, Ernie must then come to visit him and his family. He had
said that his family was quite well off. If Ernie ever had any money
troubles he was to contact his wife or elder son, they would help.
Very few words were spoken between Von Schirach and myself during the
duty. Although I did get his autograph. I tried not to appear rude but
I kept any answers to his questions as a plain yes or no. I was
cognisant that even those few words could have got me into trouble with
I lost contact with Ernie when I left Berlin and I often wonder if he
ever took up Baldur Von Schirach's offer.
previously said, in October my wife Brenda had returned to the UK after
a brief visit to Berlin. I was still applying for married quarters. I
had been promised one early in the new year after acquiring enough MSQ
On the 9th of November 1963 I received 2 letters from her.
The first letter opened said how lonely she was. How just that day a
tenant in one of our flats had done a moonlight flit taking furnishings
from the flat and owing 3 weeks rent. She had no idea what to do next.
She was feeling very depressive.
After reading that I was really down. How could I help almost a
thousand miles away?
The second letter I opened apologised for the first. It had been
written and posted in haste. The letter confirmed that everything had
now been sorted. She had been to see her father and he promised to
redecorate the flat. He had already got a new tenant and was in the
process of tracing the previous one. Anyway it was only one weeks rent,
discounting the deposit, not Three and not a substantial amount, the
furnishings were easily replaceable. My father in law was to become the
landlord of the property when she came to join me. He would sort
everything out. All was now in order at that end.
The Second letter was the exact opposite from the first.
I was greatly relieved to receive it. It helped a little. Having said
that, I was still feeling I should be home to sort it out.
I had an idea.
That same morning I applied to see my Commanding officer.
I explained to him the content of the first letter saying how desperate
I felt in that I was losing money. My wife was due to come to Berlin
soon and I must have all my financial affairs in order before that.
I omitted to say that I had received the second letter.
The CO asked that he might read the letter for confirmation. I agreed
and handed him the letter. He read it then sympathised with me,
especially about my losing money.
He asked if I had any leave left. I had not. He said that he was
prepared to grant me 2 weeks compassionate leave.
Did I have any free air flights in hand. I didn't
He called the Orderly Sergeant into his office and explained the
circumstances. The Sergeant said that he could issue rail travel
warrants that would get me to 50 miles over the German border into
Belgium. I would have to pay from there to Ostend at a reduced
serviceman's rate. The same would apply on the channel crossing ferry.
Another rail warrant would be issued from Dover to Leeds. All the
warrants would be return. He said that the total cost to me would be in
the region of five Pounds.
The CO asked if that was agreeable. I affirmed. He gave instructions to
the Orderly Sgt. "Get this man on his way ASAP."
I was jumping for joy. I caught the Military train down the Zone and
was home fourteen hours later, with a fourteen days leave pass in my
The incident proved how the army can be understanding when it wants.
The Military machine has a heart.
I sorted some of my domestic problems out in the first few days and
enjoyed the rest of my leave.
I began my return to my unit.
On Friday the 22nd of November I had reached Hannover, West Germany. I
booked in at railway station with the RTO (Rail Transport Officer), to
reserved a place on the Military Train that returns through the East
German land corridor.
Once on board I could relax until the train arrived in Berlin. We
arrived at Brunswick (Braunschweig) the train, as normal, stopped prior
to being allowed to enter Soviet territory.
An officer of the RTO section walked through the corridors of the train
re-affirming the identity of the passengers. He explained that there
was an emergency and a decision was being made as to if the train
should proceed any further that day. On sighting me in MP uniform he
suggested that I contact our Brunswick unit for instructions. I did so
and was informed that I was to proceed there immediately. I found that
the Helmstadt unit was on a full alert.
The US President J.F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas that day
and a world crisis could escalate.
I was issued arms and ammunition and instructed to help guard the
Road/Rail Transport Checkpoint at Helmstadt. For Twenty four hours the
British Army was on alert. I understood that all Three allied powers
were at a state of emergency.
The theory was that the Soviets may decide to take advantage of the
American power vacuum due to the assassination. They may begin an
advance into Western Europe.
The Russians did not seek advantage. We were later stood down. I was
two days late in getting back to my unit but I had a unique excuse.
Whilst on compassionate leave in November 63 I had discussed past
events with my wife. It would be some months before an army MSQ would
be available. I had always been interested in anything physical and had
already decided that some day I would apply to become a Physical
Training Instructor. As the Course was held at Aldershot, UK I thought
that I could kill two birds with one stone. Whilst my wife was at home
I could also be in the UK. I should be able to visit her of a weekend
and as a bonus I would be accruing MSQ separation points.
On my return I applied to my Commanding officer to be considered for a
Physical Training Instructors course.
A week or so later I was tested by an Army PTI as to my suitability and
passed. On Monday the 2nd of December I began a 3 week course of
instruction at Sennalager, West Germany. The course was designed to get
rid of unsuitables and to get a soldier super fit for the main event.
A successful passing of the pre ACI would allowed me to take the full
twelve week course in the UK.
The first morning we paraded in PT kit. Immediately 4 instructors set
us out on a cross country run. We had gone about 2 miles when the route
looped and we were headed back to barracks. That was easy enough I, and
most of us, thought perhaps they are just taking it easy on us with it
being the first day. As we neared the barrack entrance the instructors
did not halt us but carried on past it. They are just having us on we
all thought but we then continued on the second part of a figure of
eight run. This lasted about another 2 miles. Again we approached the
barrack entrance. Ah! this must definitely be it, again we thought.
Wrong again. Once more we ran past it. We began running in the
direction as at the onset of the run. We were to do it all again.
Another 2 miles. For the second time from that direction we approached
A soldier adjacent to me muttered, "If they (The instructors) take us
past the barracks again I'm packing in" I felt the same way although I
would never have admitted it.
One instructor overheard this. He halted the Squad. Pointing to the
soldier who had said he was packing in, the instructor said. "Fall out
you. Report to the CSM in the orderly room." (Company Sergeant Major)
To the rest of us he ordered. "At the double double march" and the run
set off again for the second part of the figure of eight course.
It was not at a very fast pace but very few of us had ever had to run
as far as this before. Up to that point I had thought that I was fit.
Probably for water polo swimming, I was. But for running this far I
Constantly the instructors kept urging us on and not to give in. We
were not being bullied but were cajoled. The bullying would come later.
After the run I realised that they were not looking for trainees to be
superbly fit at the start of the course, they could soon train that
into you. They were looking for soldiers that wanted to be on the
course and not shirkers.
The soldier who had complained earlier had been RTUed. No sign of him
was left, by the time our run had finished.
For the next seven days my calf muscles ached because of the first
extended run. We ran at least five miles every day for the first week
and thereafter we ran as a team carrying long heavy logs.
By the time the course had finished I was the fittest I have ever been
in my life. True fitness is a heady feeling which is impossible to
describe, you can actually feel your blood coursing through your veins.
I gave my all physically and mentally during the course and managed to
gain 'The certificate of Merit' as the outstanding student on the 84
Pre A.I.s course.
I returned from the pre-course on Saturday the 21st of December and
spent the next few days of Christmas 1963 in Berlin.
On the last day of the year I travelled back to the UK overland,
arriving at the Army School of Physical Training, Aldershot at 2300
Hrs. I had been travelling most of New Years Eve day and had nothing
wholesome to eat. I went to the cookhouse and requested the duty cook
to fix me a quick meal. I was eating beans on toast as a peel of bells
and hooters heralded the New Year of 1964
Here I was, completely stone cold sober, a lot nearer home to my wife
and son but still some Two Hundred miles away.
The following Wednesday morning the PTI course started proper.
The main course was not as tough physically as the pre- course. We were
already super fit and all that was needed to keep us in shape were a
few top up fitness periods a day. The bulk of the instruction was
learning the technique of physical exercise and passing it on to a
Most sports that are played in the army were studied and the coaching
techniques learned. In the minor sports we had to have a good basic
grounding but in the main sports, Rugby, Football, Athletics etc. we
had to have a thorough knowledge.
I was promoted to Section Senior Leader of our Squad. I had to present
the squad, as a whole, to whatever place and time for instruction. Part
of my job was to organise the daily cleaning of the barrack room. Every
Friday morning, throughout the British Army, there is the CO’s
inspection. He, accompanied with a senior NCO, usually the RSM,
inspects the living accommodation and conditions of his soldiers.
The sword of Damocles is hanging over the soldiers head during this
inspection because the CO can easily say the room is not up to scratch
and order no leave passes for the coming weekend.
Hence Thursday evening is busily spent getting the room up to perfect
cleanliness for the coming inspection. All squaddies are busy doing
their respective cleaning duties, then as if at a signal at 6.55pm all
work stops. Everyone retires to the NAAFI or the lounge. There 'Top of
The Pops' is on television. All watch the programme until it has
finished at 7-30 and then they would leave and resume cleaning duties.
I had often thought that if the Russians were going to attack the
British Army they should do it at 7-15pm on Thursday evening, they
would then be sure of the element of surprise.
I worked hard at the cadre and again, determined to pass it, gave of my
all. The course obviously enough involved much strenuous effort and it
was in the mind of all that any serious injury could involve an RTU
(Return to unit) until fit again, in that event the soldier would be
able to return and retake the course. It was not unusual for an entrant
to pass the majority of the cadre weeks before succumbing to injury and
being RTUed as unable to physically carry on.
In the Twelfth week of training I was in a class that was learning and
practising grand circles on the High Gymnastic bar. On one of the
circles at the height my grip became dislodged. I fell off and my chest
connected with the bar. It was a very painful injury but I was afraid
to report it for fear of RTUed. Unfortunately for me the next period
was boxing training. Whilst sparring with an opponent he punched and
connected to the injured part of my ribs. Down I went and was unable to
get up. Taken to the Aldershot Military hospital a simple fracture to a
left rib was diagnosed. The treatment for a simple broken rib at that
time was to leave it to heal itself and not applying any strapping. On
my return to the APTC school I reported fit to carry on. The thought of
my having to come back and do all that training again really frightened
me. I was very lucky as most of the more strenuous parts of training
had been completed all that was left was theory exams in the many
On the final week of training we were taken to the military swimming
baths for a recreation period. High above the water was a pair of
trapeze stands fixed to the ceiling with accompanied ropes and bars. We
were all given the opportunity of swinging from one trapeze stand and
in the middle letting go to grab hold of the other bar as it swung
towards you. Because most of us had forgotten to dry our hands before
attempting the traverse none could contain the grip on the oncoming
bar, consequently we all fell into the pool. I decided to dry my hands
and try once more, determined that I would be the first to succeed. I
managed to grab and keep hold of the oncoming bar and began my swing
back to the other landing stage. Unfortunately on landing my feet
slipped under the landing stage and my left foot connected with a bolt
that kept the steel stage in position. As I swung back to the centre
now I had lost my momentum to regain any position on any landing stage.
I just hung there with blood pouring from my foot. All I could do to
get down was to drop into the pool. The chlorinated water entered the
cut and it hurt like hell. Helped out of the water I was rushed again
to the BMH. The doctor, after examining the cut, announced that he
would have to stitch it. The worst was yet to come, he said that he
would give me a local anaesthetic and that needle going in the ball of
my foot was the very worse part. It was impossible to keep my foot
still, it is bad enough just touching the instep, never mind sticking a
needle in there. My leg had to be strapped down to contain my
involuntary reactions. Six stitches were inserted
Luckily the course was about over and once more I was not RTUed.
I passed the course and as a consequence I was allowed to attach to my
uniform the insignia of the crossed sabres on my right upper arm. A
very proud day, no one had given them to me, I earned them.
I had excelled in coaching PE, Boxing, Swimming and Gymnastics and was
recommended for special courses in these subjects and also for a
further Advanced PTI course which, on graduating, would grant my
acceptance into the Army Physical Training Corps and a promotion to
How I felt at this stage to transferring into another Corps I was not
sure. The idea of being a Sergeant greatly appealed to me but leaving
the Military Police did not. A Sergeant in the APTC or a corporal in
the RMP? But it was a decision I could leave until later.
Promotion to Sergeant in the RMP was dead men's shoes. With the RMP
being a very small Corps there was little scope for early promotion. It
only came after years of exemplary service.
Company water polo team continued to succeed, due mainly to the efforts
of our trainer Hans Otto. We won the Berlin Brigade Shield which gave
us entry to the BAOR Competition. (British Army of the Rhine)
We made a tour of the British Sector of West Germany playing matches at
different garrisons. Whilst the team kept winning we were going further
forward into the BAOR. competition. It gave me an ideal opportunity to
travel widely within West Germany.
Ernie and I visited Belsen, the sight of the infamous concentration
camp of World War Two. There was very little to see really. It looked
like a large landscaped park. There were great mounds of earth. Each
had a sign denoting how many bodies were buried beneath. '10,000 TOTE'
was the first plaque I saw, indicating 10,000 dead. There were many
It is said that no birds sing within the grounds of Belsen. I don't
know how true that is but none did whilst we were there. I took a small
twig with a few leaves from one of the bushes to put in my scrapbook
and even now when I open it at that page my thoughts return to the
It was a very moving experience.
Our team won the BAOR Water Polo championship which qualified us to go
to the UK for the finals of the British Army finals.
In the UK we managed to win all qualifying rounds to the final. There
we were runners up, being narrowly beaten by 3 coy of the Parachute
When we considered that our team was chosen from only around forty
soldiers of 247 (Berlin) Pro. Coy RMP. We had done very well. Most
regimental teams had hundreds from which to chose their teams.
All credit was to our trainer Hans Otto.
In June of 64 I was finally allocated an MSQ. My wife was a little
reluctant but returned with my son Stephen to Berlin.
The MSQ we were allocated was one of a block of four. Inside was very
modern. They had been purposely built and were completely self
contained. All and everything was provided.
Because of subsidies by the German government we were able to afford a
maid 3 days a week. My wife soon tired of the help. She reasoned that
she could clean the MSQ better than any maid. Anyway she had always
made sure that all was spotlessly clean before the maid arrived. She
soon dispensed with the services of her.
In August my brother Jim and his wife visited us on an assisted army
flight scheme. I had arranged some leave that coincided with his visit.
For the short period my wife was happy to see family faces. We visited
all the main sights of Berlin during the day and Jim, Ernie and myself
took our leave in the evenings to visit our mess and to take advantage
of the local brews.
The Germans are proudly famous for their beers and it is a well earned
fame. I had been told that just before the turn of the century the
German parliament equivalent had passed a law that stated the strict
conditions for the brewing of beer, that only natural products could be
used. My favourite tipple was Shultheiss, although there was no German
beer that I did not like.
Ernie was on Zonal and Sector border a few of the nights of my brothers
holiday. Jim and I arranged to meet him. Although it was strictly
forbidden Ernie took Jim on a tour of both of the borders which no
normal tourists ever see. It certainly added to his holiday.
Towards the back end of the holiday, funds were getting low. Jim said
he would have to tighten his belt for his last few days. Ernie
suggested we all go to give blood for cash.
In the past, Ernie and I had been to the Krankenhaus (hospital) in the
French sector to give blood. The current price was 25 marks, a beer, a
sandwich and a return autobahn rail ticket. With beer at around 50
Pfennigs (100 Pfs = 1 mark) one could have a good day on the beer with
the proceeds. Brother Jim had never given blood before but was quite
willing to earn the little extra cash.
We explained the procedure to Jim, the only identification needed was a
passport or an identity card. We duly produced these and was admitted.
Both Ernie and I were laid out on a bed before Jim entered the ward. My
plastic blood bag was half full even before Jim was hooked up to a
system. When he saw that he was behind us he immediately began pumping
his fist and arm. The blood began to flow into his bag rather quickly.
We urged him to slow down but his bag was filled even before mine was.
We were unhooked from the system and collected our cash vouchers. We
began queuing at the pay out window. Suddenly Jim looked over to me and
with an ashen face said. "I feel light headed." With that he turned and
fell forward, with his head butting a door that was slightly ajar. He
fell to the floor as if poleaxed. Immediately nurses came from all
directions to attend to Jim. They insisted that he go into a separate
ward to lie down for a half hour and gave him a yellowish liquid to
drink. The nurses would not let him out of the hospital until the time
was up. He later said that as soon as his head had reached floor level,
he felt all right. It has something to do with having less blood
pressure in the brain after a blood donation and as soon as the body is
level then the pressure levels.
When we left the hospital, our first thought was to have another drink
to even our body fluid levels up. Well you would have to, wouldn't you?
We had already been given one bottle of beer with our cash reward.
Going to one of the many lean to bars it was beers all round. Once we
had the taste, there was no stopping us. We began an 'All Dayer'
returning home rather late that night. Both Jim and I were in the 'dog
house' with our spouses but it was well worth it. We three musketeers
had a most glorious day, memorable even to this present time.
Over the coming months I slowly began to realise that my wife would
never adapt to life in Germany. She would always resent living in
someone else house. She wanted to be in one of her own. She had one of
her own and wanted to live in it. She wished to be back home in the UK
so that she could easily visit her parents. I began formulating plans
to appease her.
My second son David was born at the British Military Hospital in
Spandau in November 64. Both my wife and son could not have been better
taken care of even if they had gone private.
She was keen to take our new son home, to her parents, for Christmas. I
had to take a course of instruction to prepare me for another cadre
that would eventually gain me my second stripe. This would last from
just before and to a little after Christmas. After discussions I agreed
that we should pay for her and my two sons single flight home, well
before Xmas. I would arrange for me to have UK leave early in the new
year. I could buy a car and drive it home. We all could return after my
leave to Berlin by car.
I answered an advertisement in the 'Berlin Bulletin' which was a forces
newspaper printed by the Education Branch of the British Army.
It was for the sale of an Opel Caravan being sold by another soldier
who was soon leaving Germany. The name suggests that it was some sort
of mobile home but it was just a normal modern shaped car with a hatch
back. I fell in love with it immediately and the price was right. I was
very proud of the car and it turned out to be a beautiful runner. I
never had a moments problem with it even though I drove many thousands
of miles in it. I sold it when leaving Berlin and easily recouped my
I passed my pre promotion course and drove home soon after it. We had a
glorious leave in the UK.
I drove back to Berlin with my wife and two sons. The drive both ways
was incident free; other than stopping in France, on the return journey
and being charged the earth for a mid-day meal for what we considered
stewed offal. But even that meal, though horrible, is still memorable.
Memories, I felt, were/are like having your own private bank account.
You can take a memory out of it, use it as you will and it can still be
put back, still whole, into your account. Any amount of use of the
memory bank will not depreciate the balance.
I gloried in the chance of travelling, seeing and doing different
things, if only my wife could relax and enjoy the uncertainty of it
all. I was living, and enjoying, a life that would be hard to imagine
if I had stayed down the pit.
Brenda still continued to be uneasy with life in Germany. She wanted to
be back in the UK. I discussed it with her and applied to my Commanding
Officer to be considered for a post as a Physical training Instructor
at the RMP Depot, training recruits.
BEGINNING OF THE END
April 1965 I was transferred to the RMP Depot and Training
establishment. The Depot had now moved and was at the New and modern
accommodation at Chichester, Sussex. Inkerman Barracks at Woking had
I was immediately given an MSQ within the barrack area. They had been
newly built and were quite luxurious. My wife, my two sons and I moved
in. The MSQ (as all are) was completely self contained and even more
modern in outlook than the ones in Berlin. I hoped that Brenda could
settle down a little and grow to enjoy 'Army Life', some hopes.
Within a few weeks I was on a promotion course and qualified for my
second stripe. I now reasoned that I was senior to around eighty
percent of the British Army.
I easily and soon slotted into the life of an instructor at Chichester.
I was doing a job that I enjoyed. It gave me a lot of job satisfaction.
I like to think I was very good at my work.
In October 1965 I attended and passed a 'Self Defence in Relation to
Police Holds' course of instruction at the Civil Police College Hendon,
London. It qualified me to coach the subject.
Some of the other instructors and permanent staff had night jobs on the
side at 'Winguards'. The quite famous motor spares manufacturers had a
factory in downtown Chichester. I applied to my company Commander that
I may be allowed to take a part time evening job provided it did not
interfere with my army duties. Permission was granted.
Between the hours of 7 and 10 weekday evenings I worked at Winguards.
The jobs were many and very varied, about the only similarity they had
was that they were all boring and repetitive. One evening I was bending
wing mirror stems. The job entailed taking a short length of steel bar
and putting it in a bending crank. I then had to pull a long handled
lever and the crank bent the steel bar to the required shape. Release
the bar, take out the bent steel, throw it in a receptacle, repeat the
process. Can you imagine a more boring job?
Time after time I bent bars, thousands of them. I was so good at it
that I could look and talk to a work mate at the same time.
Unfortunately my mouth got me into trouble again, I left my Left index
finger in the crank as I pulled the bending handle. My finger bent much
easier that the steel bar. The resulting injury was a broken finger.
When the CO heard about the accident he reneged on all permission for
members of his establishment in having sideline jobs. For a while I was
not the most popular person on camp.
One recruit in training had said he was interested in boxing. He wished
to compete within the army championships. Me being also interested in
the event gave him every encouragement and sought out the dates of
competition which was only a few weeks away. Whilst enrolling him I
decided to enrol myself for I thought that I could still 'do a bit'.
The recruit was well under my weight and so although we trained
together we could not spar fully.
The army championships came round. I having not properly boxed in years
still had confidence that I was as good as ever.
The competition began. I was matched with a Scots Guardsman. He was
short, for a Guardsman, and stocky. He looked a pushover to me. The
upshot of the fight was that I was not as good as I had thought, he
beat me easily.
I must be getting old. I should have boxed him not fought him. I was
ring rusty. I was ...Well there was a few other excuses I consoled
myself with. But none of them seemed satisfactory. I realised I was
just not good enough anymore.
As I was always interested in Rifle shooting I joined the Depot Small
Bore team. Matches were arranged and eventually I progressed far enough
to compete in the army competition at Bisley. Although not coming first
in anything I did shoot well enough to become one of the GOCs 20 I
received a medal that certified that I was one of the 20 best shots of
Southern Command. Not bad when considering that Army trained 'snipers'
also took part in the competition.
It was towards the end of 1966 and my wife was still unhappy within the
army and was determined not to stay in it. She wanted us to buy another
house near her parents.
We still owned the large Victorian House and it continued to bring in
rents. The mortgage on that had been paid off long ago. We had a little
money saved and so I agreed. We raised a mortgage on a 2 bedroomed
bungalow within shouting distance of her parents.
Brenda now wanted to live in our new home and I had to agree, we would
vacate our MSQ and she could return home to live in the newly acquired
bungalow. I would go into single accommodation within the barrack area.
I had said to Brenda that I would leave the army as soon as I could get
it out of my system. But inwardly I knew that time might never come.
Within hours of Brenda leaving I felt so alone. I began to question the
judgement of my agreement in to letting her go back At the very
beginning I was very lonely, during the day I had my very agreeable job
and revelled in it but in the evenings all I had to look forward to was
watching TV in the NAAFI or chatting to the other instructors,
permanent staff or NCOs passing through the Depot on route to other
It was around this time that females were integrated into full Military
Police Training and a Female Physical Training instructor called Leslie
was assigned to our Gym. One of our other PTI instructors, Leggy, and
Leslie soon became an item.
It became a regular occurrence for a number of staff to meet regularly
in the NAAFI of an evenings and all kinds of fears dreams and themes
were discussed. One subject put forward was the after-life and how
contact could be made via the 'Ouija' board. At this stage I still had
not made my mind up about the existence of ghosts or spirits and became
avidly interested. I had only fleetingly heard about the Ouija board
and was a little exited at the prospect of getting a session going. Joe
R. seemed to be the most knowledgeable of our group and at first,
although he would relate his past experiences, was reluctant to take
part in any session proper. Eventually, after much persuasion by us
all, he relented and set about making small cards. On each he printed a
single letter of the alphabet and the numbers 1 to 10 He also made
cards, one YES the other NO. He said he would need a short wine glass
with a wide base and I went to the bar counter to get one. The barmaid,
Beryl, said that there were no such described glasses in use. I noticed
that there were two very fancy coloured wine glass ornaments on the
glass shelves behind the bar and asked to borrow one. Beryl said it was
more than her job was worth to remove one from the display, they were
the personal property of the Manageress who was quite an Ogre. I urged
and gave my assurances that I would take good care and be personably
responsible for it. After much cadgoling the barmaid relented and I
returned to a table that had been set up in a back room, the electric
light had been switched off and somebody had produced a lighted candle,
the scene was very eerily lit. Four persons were chosen for the initial
experiment and I found myself seated in the order of Leggie to my right
and Leslie to my left, across the table was Joe. One other was assigned
to take notes of any answers and the rest crowded around as onlookers.
The candle that flickered and cast many shadows provided the only
light. It was quite hard to make out the whole proceedings.
Joe had placed the letter cards around the outside edge of the table
and instructed each of us to place our Right forefinger lightly on the
upturned wine glass in the middle. He said not to try and push the
glass but if it did move allow it to and not to hinder any movement.
The atmosphere, for me, was very tense and I knew not what to expect.
At first, for quite a few minutes, the glass remained motionless and I
began to feel a little disappointed and foolish. I was about to rise
from my seat to conclude my part in the fiasco when the glass moved,
then stopped again. It had been only a small movement but move it had.
A chill went up my spine for, knowing that I had not pushed it I
equally believed the others had not either. I was uncertain what I was
getting myself into and unsure if I wanted to go any further with the
experiment, should I pack it in? My excitement and curiosity got the
better of Joe R. suddenly said, very sombrely, "Is there any body
there?" Who was he taking to I tried to reason, surely not to someone
in the spirit world. In normal circumstances I would have laughed at
the thought of someone talking to a ghost but the atmosphere at this
time was far from funny.
"Is there anybody there?" again intoned Joe. This time the glass shot
to one side of the table and although not going over to the YES card it
did go to the Y card. It then continued moving around the table without
stopping and I had quite a job trying to keep my finger up with it.
Ask it a question, Leggie" said Joe
"What shall I ask it?" enquired Leggie.
"Anything you like, anything you would like to know"
"Who will be the first, among us, to die first?"
What a stupid question I began to think, but before I had chance to
continue my thoughts Joe swept his hand across the table knocking the
wineglass from it. Fortunately it fell to the carpeted floor and did
I began to rebuke Joe for almost breaking my borrowed wineglass.
Joe, with obvious anger replied "Blame him, has he no more sense than
to ask such a question as that? Does he really have no respect, I'm
packing in." With that he looked about to get up to leave.
All, myself included, began to scold Leggie at his stupidity. He
apologised with the excuse that he couldn't think of a suitable
question to ask at the time.
"Ask it what will win the 2-30 at Goodwood tomorrow." someone
Suprisingly Joe did not treat the remark as unusual. "You have to be in
proper contact with someone one the other side before the board will
answer questions like that." he answered seriously.
Joe was reluctant to begin the experiment again but after
much inducement he relented.
It was as before, the glass would not move at first but before long,
move it did. Slowly to begin with it then it began to circulate the
centre of the table.
"Can you tell me the name of whom we are in contact with?" Asked Joe.
The glass then veered to one side and stopped at the Letter J. "Put
that down." said Joe. The person with the pencil and pad wrote J down.
The glass then quite quickly moved to other letters and slightly
pausing before carrying on. "It has spelt out JRYECROFT" said our note
"Does anyone know a J Ryecroft?" asked Joe. "I knew a Jimmy Rycroft."
answered Leggie "Ask it how long it's been dead."
"How long have you been on the other side?" asked Joe
The glass responded by going to the figures 3 and then 2
"Thirty Two Years someone murmured.
"That can't be who I'm thinking of," said Leggie "the Jimmy I'm
thinking of has only been dead around Two or Three years."
"Lets try and experiment." announced Joe. "Have you been on the other
side 32 Years?" The glass moved to the NO card then continued moving
round the table in a general circle. "Please J. will you keep control
of the circling glass?" intoned Joe and the glass, first moving and
stopping at the Yes card, then continued it's movement round the table.
"Leggie," said Joe, "When I say now, take your finger from the glass
but continue to follow it around. Now "
I could just make out Leggie taking his finger from the glass but
continuing circling with it smoothly
"Leslie can you now take your finger from the glass but same as Leggie
continue following it around." Leslie did so.
"Jack take your finger off." I complied and the glass continued
"I am now taking my finger off and the glass should continue moving."
said Joe. The glass did so.
I could see that Leslie and Leggie were not touching the glass only
following it with their forefingers. I knew I was not in contact with
the wine glass. This left only Joe who could be moving it but as he was
at the opposite side to me I was unsure if he had genuinely removed his
finger. Was he pushing the glass around? After a few seconds the glass
stopped moving. Someone turned on the electric light. Joe then stood up
and with a quiver in his voice said. "If you did not believe in the
'Ouija board before tonight then you most certainly must believe in it
now." With that he took out his handkerchief and began blowing his nose
and wiping obvious tears from his eyes.
"Oh! come on," says I "I could see the three of us were not pushing the
glass but you could have been." I contended.
Joe seemed genuinely hurt by my accusations and said "I promise you I
was not pushing that glass, believe me or not, please yourselves."
He was either a good actor or he genuinely believed in the power of the
Ouija board, his tears seemed real enough. I did not know what to
"Lets try it again." said someone and with the agreement three others
took the places of Leggie, Leslie and myself. We Soon the glass, as
before, began to rotate. Questions were asked of it and they neither
proved anything one way or the other. "Ask it a personal question."
said Joe to one of those round the table.
"Who will be the next to get injured?" said one. With that Joe swept
the wine glass from the table and it smashed to smithereens against the
wall, shouting "That's it You stupid XXXX. I’ve finished." and
with that he flounced off.
The wine glass that I had personally taken charge of lay in shatters at
the foot of the wall, how do I explain this to Beryl the barmaid.
Making my profound apologies to Beryl I said I would pay for any
damages and offered to meet the NAAFI Manageress myself to explain.
Beryl seemed to take it all in her stride and told me she would square
The whole Ouija incident left me more at loggerheads with myself, did I
believe in the afterlife or not? Many times after we practised with the
Ouiga board but no conclusive results were obtained one way or the
One of our group announced that a seance was held every Wednesday
evening at the Christian Science Church down in Chichester. Along with
others I expressed the opinion that I was keen to attend. The following
Wednesday a group of us attended the church. The proceedings were
exactly the same as in most Christian church services, prayers were
offered, hymns sung and a preacher gave a sermon. At the end of the
service the preacher announced that this evening's visiting medium was
a Mrs Hodlin. A small round of applause was given her and she began.
"Would you all think of someone departed this life." I couldn't at that
point thing of anyone other than my grandfather.
Can I take you first." she said, indicating one of the ladies in the
congregation. The lady affirmed and Mrs Hodlin said" You seem to have
the apparition of a man standing just behind you, could this be your
husband?" The lady nodded and Mrs Hodlin then tried to find the
husbands name which she did after a few tries. The Medium began giving
names of spirits that wanted to be remembered to the lady along with
other information that only the lady could relate to. Sometimes the
lady nodded in agreement at what was said and sometimes shook her head.
The medium moved on to another person, then another.
Then she looked into the direction of our group, at the time I was
sitting next to Leslie (Leggie was on the other side of her) The medium
said "Do you mind if I take both of you together?" Indicating Leslie
and myself. It could have been misconstrued that we were couple, we
were within a group but not together, together. We both nodded
agreement and the Medium carried on, "There seems to be a rainbow like
aura coming from each of you and joins in the middle, it is of a golden
or silver colour. Are you married by any chance?" I could not resist
the facetious remark. "I am, she's not." My comment seemed to put the
medium off her stride, she flustered a bit asking if we were engaged,
trying to explain her remarks. Failing to make any impression she
quickly moved on.
The whole episode was really a damp squib and nothing like what we had
earlier imagined any seance to be like.
At the end of the service as we began to move out of the pews a Lay
Preacher came over to us and said that he knew it to be our first time
and that we should not to be put off by the evenings events. Without
exactly coming right out with it, he indicated that that evenings
medium was not very good. He explained that, as in all walks of life,
there were good and not so good people at their jobs. He urged us to
try again the following week and assured us that when we heard some
information from a medium that no one else could possibly have known
then we would be assured at the existence of life after death. The
evening had been different and we'd had a laugh, it was agreed that we
would come once more. We wandered off to a local pub
The following week we again turned up at the church for the service.
There were Six of us this time Four fellars and Two females, Leslie and
Beryl. Beryl had now began to join our company when she was not on duty
at the NAAFI. This evening the visiting medium was a man. I forget his
name I'll call him Mr X. He began talking to members of the
congregation handing out deceased names and backing then up with facts.
Up to this stage most had agreed with Mr X, in what he said, to be true
and correct. He seemed quite impressive. Looking over to me he asked if
he might take me as a subject and asked that I think of some who I knew
had departed. Again the only one I could think of was my grandfather. I
nodded but was sure in my mind that he would not get him. "Do you know
a name beginning with J?" he asked. I nodded amazed within myself in
the knowledge that my grandfathers name was John. "It's either Jack or
John." he stated. A lucky guess I thought. He began reeling off a
number of names who wished to be remembered to me but I shook my head
that I knew none of them, which I didn't. Then he quite determinedly
said "Harry is looking over you and wants to be remembered." Again I
shook my head in the certain knowledge that I knew no one, named Harry,
in the spirit world.
"Ah! but you do know someone called Harry I am positive this message is
for you, think back it will come to you." Again I definitely disagreed
with him. With that he moved on to another of the audience. Parts of
what he had said to me were ambiguous and facts could be related to his
words provided you wanted them to fit. I was totally unmoved by the
Our group retired to a nearby bar for a round of drinks and the past
events were soon forgotten.
As our group was walking home from the pub we were all chatting, Beryl
asked what I had done before joining the army. Always ever eager to
relate my mining experiences I went into a story telling mode. Part of
"And there was this fellar that got killed down the pit, he was a good
friend of mine was Harry D." As soon I said the word Harry my mind went
back to church medium. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled and
stood out. I looked up in to the star spangled night sky and inwardly
gasped. "Wow" I'll never ever forget that feeling, is there more into
this than meets the eye? Have I just learned another lesson of life?
(Harry’s death has been described in an earlier chapter)
Andy was another PTI instructor and we had became very good friends.
One time we all visited the Christian Science Church Andy was told that
the medium could see Andy in Uniform and that she could see a brown
uniform did that mean anything? Andy, who was dressed in civilian
clothes, replied uncommitedly. Seeing that the whole group of us had
short military style haircuts and that there was a barracks just up the
road did nothing to help us believe the Medium was genuine. She also
told Andy that soon he was soon to go on a course of instruction. Again
most soldiers go on courses throughout their Military Life, nothing
enlightening about that. She also said that he would succeed in his
course and would then completely change his occupation. Andy at that
time was waiting to go on a pre-advanced PTI course and if he passed
and was accepted as suitable, would transfer from the Military Police
to The Army Physical Training Corps. A very large step indeed with the
certain promotion to Sergeant. Myself and the other PTI staff did not
think Andy up to the standards required of the APTC and consequently
thought he would fail the course. Six to Eight months later the Mediums
prophesy came true and Andy passed the course with flying colours and
transferred from the RMP to the APTC with the rank of Sergeant.
Coincidence again? maybe.
Every Friday evening at 5.00pm providing I did not have any guard
commanding or other duties, I would vacate the barracks and begin a
trek home to Leeds. Occasionally I might have a train warrant, or
sometimes a mate may be going in my general direction but 95% of the
time I hitchhiked. The journey by road, door to door, was over 300
miles and if things fell into place and I was lucky I could reach home
by Midnight. By train it would be around 1.00 PM the following morning.
Hitch hiking was a most enlightening way to travel. I have had lifts
with some fine people. Come to think of it only good persons give lifts
in the first place. But seriously, hitch hiking in uniform was easy.
During the daylight hours I could even be very particular and almost
chose the vehicle in which I wanted to travel. Obviously lorries were
slower than Jaguars. During the night hours all oncoming lights look
the same and I had Hobsons choice.
I have met all types of people from Bankers, Lawyers, Diplomats,
Engineers on the oil rigs and even crooks. Being willing to talk and
listen I have had many enjoyable journeys. I thank them all they all
added to my memory bank.
I particularly remember the then Belgian Ambassador and his wife who
picked me up on the A1 just outside of Leeds. We had a most
scintillating conversation about the state of the world and how if we
ruled it we would change it.
They were travelling to their London residence. Normally I would have
been dropped off at the A1/A3 junction but they insisted and drove me
to right up to my barrack gates. Almost 150 miles round trip out of
their way. Many thanks to them
I hitch hiked, almost every Friday and returned Sunday for almost six
In November 1966 a Southern Television Camera crew visited Chichester
Barracks to film the training of recruit Military Police with the
emphasis on females. All aspects of training were filmed including a
visit to our gymnasium. Being Senior PTI NCO I was assigned to take a
class of recruits, both male and female, in a Self Defence Period. The
lady director of the programme first ordered her camera crew to take
general shots of the lesson.
At that time females, about six of them, always Self defence practised
with other females and never mixed with the men. The director asked
could a judo throw be demonstrated on a female just for effect. I
explained the training procedure as far as
females were concerned but the director was insistent.
I proceeded to demonstrate such a throw on Leslie the female PT
instructor following it up with a ground restraining hold.
A week later in the evening a show was televised showing all aspects of
recruit training included PT. The clips of myself hip throwing and
ground restraining a female seemed totally out of place because no such
training is given nor needed.
I continued as a PTI and enjoyed my work, but all good things must soon
come to an end.
In February 1967 I had cause to see the posting sergeant. He told me
that my tour of duty at Chichester was about up and I would have to
rotate. He had the position and authority that could post me to any of
the places in the world in which the British Army serves. I got on very
well with him. He asked if I had any preferences of posting. I had
known of my coming move and had thought about it a great deal. I had
two choices; to try and carry on with my marriage or to abandon it
altogether. My marriage would not survive another move abroad, without
going into fault finding, all was certainly not well.
To call it a draw and forsake my marriage I would then be able to take
an option for posting to Hong Kong, Singapore, Kenya Cyprus Gibraltar.
My only problem would be of choice.
To save my marriage and continue in the army would be impossible Brenda
was insisting that I, once again, obtain my discharge by purchase. This
time though it would be Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds. The money was not
the problem, I was.
Trying to appease my marriage and also myself I requested to the
posting Sergeant that my posting be to Catterick, North Yorkshire.
The Posting sergeant almost laughed in my face when I told him. "Only
fools and idiots are posted to Catterick. It is a real dead and alive
hole." was the way he described Catterick.
He intimated about all the other exotic postings.
I reaffirmed my decision to go to Catterick and explained the reasons.
As Catterick is only some forty odd miles from Leeds I hoped that I
would be able to visit my wife and family most weekends. I could still
have the best of both worlds. It could prolong my army career a little
He agreed to see what he could do.
He was as good as his word and soon I was on my way to Catterick.
DEAD AND ALIVE HOLE
March I was on the train to my new posting, 150 div.Provost Company
Arriving there I was allocated to a four men accommodation room that
had seen better days. The place was the 'dead and alive hole', exactly
like the posting sergeant had said. I began to regret my past decision
My new work mates were okay but there was a very poor morale within the
company. The main problem was that it was seriously under strength.
Consequently the hours of work were long and unsociable. I had very
little chance to regularly visit my family. I had to snatch a few hours
with them at a time. And then it was never more than eighteen hours at
any stretch. At least in Chichester I was able to visit every weekend.
The duties of the company were many and varied. They in themselves were
quite fulfilling. At least I was doing the job of a Military Policeman
One event that springs to mind. I was on Saturday evening patrol. My
driver and I decided to visit the Starlight Ballroom in Richmond. On
arrival the Civil Police were already in attendance. They had been
alerted to a disturbance inside.
A military Policeman can only enter civil premises at the invitation of
the owner or the police. We entered the dance hall with the Civilian
Police. One almighty fight was in progress. There was about equal
numbers of civilians and soldiers involved. The two policemen and
ourselves quickly brought the skirmish under control. We arrested a
number of soldiers and placed them in our army multi-van. The Police
had also arrested a number of civilians. After placing them in the
respective vehicles I stood guard over them. The two policemen and my
driver went back inside to see if all was still quite and we could
There were a number of soldiers and civilians outside the ballroom.
Many were still restless. One Soldier, who was in civilian clothes,
began harassing me, uttering the words, "Let my mate go, He didn't do
I had no intention of letting his mate, or anyone else go and said so.
He became verbally abusive. I said to him. "I know you to be a soldier.
I am giving you a direct order, leave this area now or I will arrest
you. Do you understand the order?"
Ignoring my direct command, he then reached over to the vehicle door
handle to open it, in an attempt to release his mate.
With that action I took his arm and said. "I am arresting you..."
Before I could finish my sentence he suddenly and without warning swung
round, grabbed my lapels and head butted me. I remember things going
quite dark and I actually saw stars. I was blacking out. As I was going
down I realised that he was trying to kick me on my way down. I
instinctively grabbed hold of his coat lapels to try and close up to
him and save myself from falling down and a kicking.
As I grabbed his lapels he turned his head sideways and downwards and
bit my knuckles with his teeth.
I was almost out on my feet and could not defend myself. Luckily the
Civil police and my mate were just coming out of the dance hall. They
intervened and saved my bacon. The soldier was arrested.
We drove the soldiers to their respective barrack guardrooms and had
them placed in the cells under arrest.
The soldier who assaulted me was handed over, under arrest, to his duty
officer for detention to the cells. The serious gravity of the charge
was explained to him.
My next course of action was to go to the Catterick Military Hospital.
I arranged to be examined by a medical officer.
I asked him to examine my teeth and confirm that two front ones were
loose. He did. "Are they consistent with being head butted?" I asked.
He confirmed they were.
Would he examine my Left index finger, main knuckle. He did and
confirmed that it was an open wound. "Was the injury consistent with
being bitten by someone's teeth?" Again he confirmed that it was.
I requested that the officer put the injuries to my person in writing
and asked that the consistencies with being head butted and bitten were
The officer did so and the certificates were attached, with my report,
to be forwarded to the offending soldiers Commanding officer. He would
dole out any punishment he saw fit.
Although any punishment given to an offender should not concern a
policeman, and in the past it has not interested me; in this instance I
made it my business to get to know. He received 56 days under close
arrest within his own guardroom. I am unashamed to say he deserved
every second of it.
Another time I was on stand bye duty. My driver and I had a call out to
the Main Catterick NAAFI. The NAAFI was a large two story building that
had bars, cafes, a social area and a dance hall.
There was a fight in progress at the dance. We raced to the NAAFI. The
duty officer and another two man squad had also been informed. They met
us there. The duty officer was dressed in civilian clothes.
When we arrived we all walked slowly into the dance hall. It had always
been instructed in training to take your time when attending a fight.
You never saw the old time policeman, like Dixon of Dock Green, racing
about. They were quite content to retrieve the broken bodies after the
fighters had spent themselves. The fighters were not smashing your
furniture or bones in the fight.
The duty officer who was comparatively new to the job did race in. As
he entered a very large Fijian was about to hit another soldier.
Our duty officer said to the Fijian. "I am Lieutenant Le Tissier of the
Royal Military Police. You are under arrest."
He had hardly got out the words, ' under arrest' out before the Fijian
slammed a punch directly to the chin of our officer. He went
flying across the room as though he was weightless. He then hit the
soldier he was about to hit when he had been so rudely interrupted by
our Duty Officer, Lt. Le Tissier.
If the incident had not been so serious I could have laughed, it seemed
so funny at the time. It still brings a smile to my face to retell the
incident. We of course had to take action. I must say that it took four
of us to place the Fijian under close arrest. I wished he could have
been on our side he would have made our job so much easier.
The many times I have been called to fights that were already in
progress I tried to keep a low profile. I always found that my mouth
was my greatest asset and used carefully could stop an incident or
certainly help not to escalate it.
Having said that last paragraph one evening I was on patrol duty and I
passed the then famous Catterick Fish and Chip shop. After a few beers
many soldiers congregate outside prior to returning to barracks. This
particular evening a group of Tank Corps soldiers were having a heated
alcoholic argument with some Royal Signals lads. Things looked as if
they were going to get out of hand, or so I thought. I would nip the
problem in the bud.
I decided to separate them and walked over.
As I've said, in the past my mouth had usually calmed down a lot of
situations. This time it must have let me down. As soon as I arrived
and asked them to call it a draw and shake hands, a fight started. I
managed to separate the two main offenders. After I had cooled things
down I reminded them that we needed all branches of the British army
and that no one regiment is better than any other. They both readily
agreed and said they had no intention of fighting until I had arrived
on the scene. The original argument had about who was to pay for the
fish and chips. Seemingly they both wanted to pay. Seeing me they had
forgot what their argument had been about and thought that they might
as well give me something to do. In beer people do some odd things.
I cautioned them and said that I would take no further action if they
left the scene and returned peaceably to their barracks. They asked if
they could get some food first. I agreed. They left arm in arm
seemingly the best of friends.
I will never understand human nature.
One Saturday afternoon I was on mobile patrol. My driver and I had
little to do. All was quite. We drove around the garrison showing our
police presence. As we neared the Catterick outskirts the racecourse
came into view. A race meeting was being held that day. The driver
stopped our vehicle by the side of the course where it skirts the road.
A race was in progress and we began watching it. A message from control
came over the vehicle two way radio. We had to report back to the HQ
On reaching HQ the duty sergeant gave us one almighty roasting. What
were we doing watching the horse racing instead of patrolling?
How did he know we had been watching the racing?
When he had calmed down he said that the company commander had been
watching racing on Television at his home. He had seen our vehicle
parked up and had got on the phone to our control. We were showing the
whole nation, on TV, that the Military police had nothing better to do
than to watch horse racing.
On afternoon I was duty desk duty in the control room. A man entered in
civilian dress and said he was a Staff Sergeant in the Military Police
and was just passing through. He wanted to look up and old acquaintance
of his in our Sergeants mess. I asked him for some means of
identification and he produced his 2603 identity card. I noted that he
indeed was a Staff Sergeant and that his surname was Friende. I asked
if he had any relations in the Corps. He replied that he had not. I
said that my old squad Sergeant back in 1959 had a squad sergeant
"Yes" he said "That was me"
I was flabbergasted. The man I remembered was a very large man. head
and shoulders taller than me and built like a brick wall. Here was a
Sergeant who looked normal and was in fact much smaller than I.
I introduced myself and he replied that he remembered me, which I very
much doubted. He probably did not want to hurt my feelings and was
using a man management technique. It made me feel good at the time
We had a little chat about old times and I felt perfectly at ease with
him. I remembered in the past when I trembled whenever he gave me a
dressing down on parade. I recalled how one day he had threatened to
stick the end of his pace stick up my Left nostril and throw me bodily
over his Right shoulder with it. At that moment of threatening I
believed he could do it. How things had changed.
I realised after that in my younger days when I was very impressionable
I was in awe at my squad sergeant and looked up to him as an example.
My mind had made him larger than life.
How the mind can play tricks and distort events.
One Friday A sergeant and five Corporals were briefed about a coming
escort duty. We were to escort a convoy of the Royal signals Regiment
in a move to Salisbury, Wiltshire.
There was to be a Military Police vehicle at the front and one bringing
up the rear. Our two vehicles would be in radio contact and also in
contact with the Signals officer who was in command of the move. We
were briefed that the convoy contained many secret documents and
electronic equipment. It was reminded that a potential enemy would give
their high teeth for some of it. At the time it seemed a little over
the top to us but the fact that we were issued with arms and ammunition
made it all too real.
Very little of note occurred during the move but I wondered how many
persons had been trusted with loaded arms on the roads of mainland UK.
A far cry from my previous life down the pit. Of course it is different
now with the IRA threat but in those days a heady trip indeed.
I was detailed for A&Ds, Absentees and deserters. There are few
serious A&Ds in the British Army. Most soldiers who do not return
to their units do so because of emotional problems that once are solved
are happy to return to the army. I could relate to that.
When a soldier has been absent from his unit for over 21 days his
commanding officer will inform the RMP.
An absentee soldier only becomes a deserter when he disposes of his kit
and is determined never again to return. In theory a soldier can be
absent for years without becoming a deserter. Most times A&Ds is a
pretty much a non event but a couple that spring to mind are:
This instance I had to go to a soldiers previous address in Bradford,
Yorks. My colleague and I first contacted the local civilian police and
requested that they accompany us. A civil policeman came with us. I
knocked on the door as my mate went round into the back garden to
prevent any attempted escape from the rear door or window. A lady, who
turned out to be the mother of the absentee, answered the door. No she
had not seen her son in weeks, was the reply to my question. Could I
come in and have a look round? I requested. She invited me in.
I have been in a lot of untidy or dirty houses but never in one such as
this. The front door led into a hallway and in front was the stairs.
Beneath the stairs was a space that had been fenced in. The space
contained a medium sized pig.
They tell me that pigs are clean animals but this one had not been
allowed to be. The straw, faeces and food combined to make a smell that
was nauseating. How any human can live in such conditions was an insult
to the pig. I made a very quick cursory search of the house to fulfil
my duties but I was more than glad to get out into the fresh air.
Another time on A&Ds I visited a house in Durham Town. After pretty
much the same preamble as the previous incident I asked to be allowed
to enter the premises. Consent was given. The householder accompanied
me round every room. I looked in one of the bedrooms. The large double
bed had not been made and the blankets were strewn around. Nothing
unusual I turned and was about to leave. Out of the corner of my eye I
saw a very slight movement. I turned about and approached the bed.
Pulling back a corner of the covers a small beady eye peeped up at me,
it was the absentee whom I was looking for. Had he not moved I would
certainly not have discovered him. He was arrested and returned to his
Another time on A&Ds I had arrested a Soldier from the North East.
We were travelling down the A1 at about 50 MPH I was in the back of a
Land Rover. Because he had made a prior attempt at resisting arrest I
handcuffed his right wrist to my left wrist. Suddenly he made an
attempt to escape by trying to climb over me and to jump out of the
back of the vehicle. I had to haul him back in. He was almost over the
tailgate. I was trying to save myself injury even more than trying to
prevent his escape. It was a case of self preservation first. What he
was thinking of I know not. He could not possibly have got away from
the handcuffs even if he had survived the fall from the fast moving
One evening I had drawn standby duty. As reported we were seriously
undermanned at 150 Pro Coy. RMP. I had already done duty on the day
shift and although normally I delighted to work stand Bye, this evening
I was ill at sorts. My driver and I were in our barrack room, cleaning
kit and generally getting ready for the coming duty. I remarked to him
that I felt very tired. He said he had just the job. When asked what he
meant, he produced 2 small Yellow pills. In my sight he took 2 and
offered me a further 2. I refused saying I did not take drugs.
He had now put me in a quandary, should I report the matter? At that
time there was no serious drug problems in the Army, in fact there was
no drug problems in all the British Services. It was unheard of in
As I refused I told him that I ought to report him on the matter. He
produced the packet that they had come from. They were 'Phylosan' and
were advertised as "Fortifying the over Forties." They were openly on
sale at any chemist. I had seen them advertised on TV. He convinced me
that they were harmless. He said he took them all the time when he had
pulled frequent duties. It was like taking Aspirin for a headache.
In normal circumstances I would not have but I took two with water.
That evening I had completely forgotten all about the pills and the
tiredness for I was full of life. It was only the next day that I
realised the effect that the 2 tablets had on me. I remembered
purposely going out looking for any trouble that I could clear up.
I had entered the NAAFI hoping that something would happen. This fact
in it self should not have occurred. We were supposed to wait for an
invitation to enter by the manager. The sight of MPs walking in amongst
soldiers trying to enjoy themselves is antagonistic.
As I strolled, or shall I say as I strutted in through the NAAFI past a
group of soldiers having a quiet drink one of them began singing
"Little Red monkey, monkey, monkey" It was a tune of the day. The Red
part of the song pertained to our red covered hats. I swung round and
threatened to arrest them all and to clear the place if they did not
behave. Really they were just having a bit of fun but I took it the
wrong way. They knew I meant business what I had threatened. They shut
up and said nothing. I was completely out of order. I should have been
the one to be arrested myself and put in the nick.
To those soldiers if they get chance to read this account, I apologise.
Through out that evening I was looking for problems to solve I was full
of my own importance. I was acting completely out of my character, at
that time though I did not know it.
When 2 soldiers began a small skirmish outside the chip shop I waded in
and grabbed both collars and crashed their heads together. Again
completely wrong, my action was worse than their minor disagreement.
It was a good job that nothing really serious happened that evening
because I was not in a right mind in which to deal with it. At the time
I was 'under' the influence I felt perfectly normal I was unaware of
the extremes of my actions. It was only the following day that having
reviewed my self I realised that I had acted improperly. I was rather
lucky that evening.
I learned a valuable lesson about drugs and never again took mood
enhancing drugs, legal or otherwise again.
Another time I came into contact with drugs I had been legally issued
with them. I had pulled convey duty. We had been briefed that the duty
would last approximately 36 hours without rest or sleep. We each were
issued with 2 small white tablets that looked just like saccharin.
Briefed that we should only take them if we could not keep awake during
the duty but warned that they were amphetamines and would keep you
awake for at least 36 hours after taking. During the time after taking
we would have heightened stamina. After that time we could expect an
There is no more boring duty that driving in convoy. A driver is
instructed to keep approximately forty yards from the vehicle in front
and the speed is restricted to forty miles per hour.
If one feels sleepy in convoy it is almost impossible to keep ones eyes
open. Sleep deprivation is an experience in itself.
The convoy was about ten miles from barracks and the end of duty. I was
driving and tired. My eyes were heavy with sleep and I was tempted to
take the issued tablet. I remembered that if I did I would remain awake
for about 36 hours after. How I managed to stay awake without driving
my vehicle off the road or into the one in front, I don't know, but I
did. As soon as I reached barracks I was to bed. Others who succumbed
to taking their speed remained awake for ages after and afterwards came
down to Earth with a bang. The unused tablets were returned to the camp
I continued to get home at my every possible
opportunity. I hitch hiked the forty odd miles to Leeds and return as
often as I could. Very rarely would I be able to sleep overnight at
home. Although my two sons made me very welcome my wife didn't.
I now began to suspect my wife, but had no
definite proof, of adultery. Many times when I arrived home she would
be out elsewhere. A male persons name, called G, kept cropping up in
conversation. When I taxed her on the subject she denied everything.
Had I been like the proverbial Ostrich and hidden my head in the sand?
Looking back over the past few years could I have
seen it coming? Could I blame her? Yes in some respects, no in
others. I knew in my heart my own marriage vows were still intact
and that I loved my wife but had I committed adultery with the Army?
Was I was just as much at fault as her?
I realised that I was guilty of being selfish and
wanting the best of both worlds. Now I was torn between two worlds,
worlds that I now realised could never come together. I realised that
it had been my selfishness now my marriage was in such jeopardy.
One Wednesday morning in a fit of depression I
made petition to see my Commanding officer. I explained my predicament
in that I could not have both the army and my family. I requested that
I be able to obtain my discharge by purchase for the second time in my
army career. He sympathised with my problems and granted it. Within a
few hours my discharge was arranged and I was in possession of
discharge documents. My discharge certificate reference comments
written by my Commanding Officer were second to none and I was/am
justifyingly proud of them. Soon after handing in all my army kit I was
on my way home.
Arriving home, my wife's parents were already at
our bungalow. They had heard of the situation that she was in love with
another. They, and I began to berate her, trying to show her what she
was in danger of throwing away. We had two fine children two houses and
no money problems. Suddenly in a fit of tears Brenda ran into the
bathroom to later emerge saying "Now no one will have me, neither you
nor G. ." with that she threw an empty pill bottle to the floor. What
type of pills the bottle had contained I know not. My wife had made a
suicide attempt and an ambulance was called and she was confined to a
hospital bed for four days. After much discussion and to cut a long and
difficult story short, the upshot of the situation was that we no
longer had any future together. We would separate it was agreed that I
would take custody of our eldest son Stephen. My wife would take charge
of the younger one David, who was then 3 years old. Later I would also
gain custody of my other son. Both our house properties and assets
would have to be sold.
If I had realised this situation would end like
this, could I have pre-empted it and remained in the army. Saying
good-bye to my marriage? I have asked myself this question on numerous
occasions. Even now, depending on my feelings at the time the answer
always comes out differently.
I was now stuck in a situation with no career
prospects and no training. Where was I to go from here? How did I solve
my problems? Well that is another story and it can't be told yet, for
I'm still adding pages to it
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