Celtic Illumination, part 97, G’day Bruce
We had various buildings we used as base camps all over North Wales. There was the scout hut in Bethesda, the stables at the rear of a hotel in Llanberis and an old farm that was used by most forces for survival training. I can’t remember much about the old farm except that it was a bit of an eye opener for me. From the outside you would have thought it to be just an ordinary farm house. The inside was decorated and furnished by the military. It was an actual working farm, with farmer, but he was a single, elderly, gent and I think everyone took him under their wing.
There was a bar in the farm house and every visiting unit would leave a shield, with their crest on it, and there were quite a few. I also remember that half way through the evening the lights, which gave off a creamy, yellow, light, began to flicker and dim. The trialists were then taken to the water wheel generator, which had to be cleared, and then became our duty for the remainder of our stay at the farm.
At Bethesda we had the use of an old scout hut. I supposed in inclement weather it was nice to have somewhere warm and dry to operate from. It is where I first met Bruce Worsop, an Australian member of the team, who was hanging by his boots from one of the rafters drinking a can of beer. Well; it was Christmas.
One evening, at Bethesda, we were milling about, when a civilian came in and gave us the internationally recognised sign, requesting immediate help. He was jumping up and down waving his arms and shouting help. It seems that his young son was injured up in the hills behind Bethesda and he asked if we could help. Now, normally a small land rover will hold six people. Two people in the front, one of whom is the driver, and four people in the rear. That day must have seen at least eleven people, I will not say in, for that wouldn’t be accurate, at least eleven people being transported, at a high rate of knots, into rough countryside, on a small wheel base land rover.
A stretcher had been quickly tied to the spare tyre on the front of the bonnet. For those of you interested in old military vehicles this particular land rover was a soft top. In other words it had a canvas roof which was given shape by a tubular steel frame. It was a pretty tough little machine for it was making great progress up the mountain. I was actually one of three people standing on the lowered tail gate of the land rover and holding on for dear life to the rear bar of the frame.
The going was quite rough and we were bouncing all over the place. It was as we hit one pothole that the land rover got airborne, again. However this time when it landed, the tubular steel frame snapped and one of the two ragged metal ends dug its way into my leg. I mean yes there was blood and stuff but can you imagine, the most loveliest legs in Ireland with a scar! The whole roof had collapsed, so the land rover stopped and the roof was removed, as I was. Seems that the more senior men didn’t want me bleeding all over them.
I was allowed to remain where I was and bleed all over the mountain; after all, I was an advanced first aider and could sort the problem out myself. There was quite a lot of limping involved as I made my way back to the scout hut. The team caught up with me as they had managed to find the young fellow. He was now secure on the stretcher, placed on the bonnet of the vehicle and brought off the hill to the waiting ambulance.
This wasn’t the only time we happened upon an incident where we could help. We were driving along the A5 road, it was late on a Sunday evening and I think we were actually heading for Valley when we came across a line of cars that were parked along the roadside. A man was greeting us, again with the internationally recognised request for help. The whole team disembarked and stood listening, as the man explained to Jack that his son had fallen in a river. He was pointing to the river, an area surrounded by huge mature trees. The man said that his son had managed to cling to a rock but no one could get close to him could we help, did we have a rope or something?.
I don’t think Jack had time to turn to speak to us when we had all cleared the barbed wire fence, and were running as quickly as our legs, I carried myself on my own pretty legs, could carry us to the river edge. Some of the troops didn’t even stop. They could see the boy and his predicament and went straight into the water despite the fact that they didn’t know the depth of the water, the speed of the current and it was about fifteen to twenty feet below the edge they were leaping from. Once again we had a happy father and a happy son.
The worst incident that I had to attend was when two Gnat aircraft, from Valley, had a mid-air collision over North Wales. It was near a village called Dolgellau. We were on scene in double quick time. It was obvious that there were no survivors. Initially we formed a guard around the crash site as Valley gathered the station crash guard together and brought them out. The crash guard replaced us. We were then given heavy duty plastic bags and asked to recover the four aircrew. So perhaps you understand why we would occasionally let off a wee bit of steam now and again.