Celtic Illumination, part 175, Mad dogs and Englishmen.
Thankfully I’m not a gambler, although if I were I believe my chances of getting good odds on my claim that dear old Noel Coward was referring to 92 Squadron when he wrote, ♫ Mad Dogs and Englishmen ♫ would be high. I’ll have to check the archive and see if he was an honorary member of the squadron. Normally on a Saturday morning we would go into Cagliari, this was the capital of Sardinia and a very busy sea port. We would simply sit at a pavement café and drink coffee or beer and watch the traffic, which I can assure you was madness personified, if you get my drift. We wouldn’t visit the shops as there was nothing really special on offer. Everything we wanted was provided for us in a small gift shop on Decci.
The gift shop was run by a group of wives and sold two items, Capodemonti porcelain figurines and Scalextric racing sets. There was always a good range of figurines but only the largest available Scalextric set. Both items were ridiculously cheap and the shop would be sold out within half an hour of it opening. There was nothing that would require me to enlarge my security package for the return journey. There was one game which we played in Cagliari which I am a little reluctant to tell you about; however, as it happened, I feel that I should explain what we got up to, despite the embarrassment.
As I have already said Cagliari was a very busy sea port and therefore teeming with sailors of every nationality and hue. After our coffee or beer we would then dream up the most depraved sexual act we could think of, that was theoretically achievable, and go off in teams of two or three to find a magazine that would show such an act. We would arrange to meet back at the café at a set time and we would all have put some money into a pot which the winning team would collect. As you may imagine this treasure hunt would take us into and around the more ‘colourful’ part of the city, however it was always a bit of a laugh and I feel sad to admit that someone always won the challenge. I don’t feel ashamed that we played such a game but I do feel ashamed that people could be so depraved to engage in such practices.
Sardinia has a very long and rich history and I understand that there are quite a few places of interest to visit. We never bothered with the cultural side but concentrated more on the beaches. Groups of the lads would hire minibuses and set off for the coast. A favourite target would be one of the German hotels with private beach. Whether we would blag our way through the hotel onto the beach or find a gap in the fence, that surrounded the area, we would always plonk ourselves on the beach, with beer and simply lie back and enjoy the sunshine. In the evening we would fire up a barbeque and more than often crash on the beach as making your way back to the minibus, or tent, was far too much of an effort.
The Germans didn’t really mind us lying about on their beach as long as we behaved ourselves. It was the Italians the Germans couldn’t stand. One evening Graham Moss and myself went for a few scoops with some German guys. We were in the German club, which had Italian staff. We noticed that they had Apfelkorn on ice and as this was a favourite schnapps for us, in Germany, we ordered round after round. The staff must have been new or very poorly trained, for rather than serve it to us in small shot glasses they served it to us in half pint mugs. We were swilling the stuff down as if it were going out of fashion.
The Germans then told us that in Germany they had a character in a children’s book that every German child would read in primary school. The character was a monkey and was called Tricky. They then explained that they thought all Italians looked like monkeys so called them Tricky. So from then on Graham and myself started calling the staff Tricky. The Germans left leaving just Graham and myself in the club and this is where you begin to understand clichés such as ‘a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ What the Germans had omitted to tell us was that the Italians knew why they were called Tricky and understandably didn’t like it too much.
As we came out of the club a car came hurtling towards us bristling with Italians who wanted to show us exactly how much they didn’t like being called Tricky. Graham and I were giving a good account of ourselves, against about nine Italians, when two passing Americans saw the commotion and joined in, thankfully on our side. The Italians withdrew with much gesturing and names being thrown about, while we staggered off to our pits. I was sitting on the edge of my bed trying to find my feet so that I could remove my shoes, when a gang of Americans came bursting in wanting to know where the Brits were who had been attacked, as they wanted to go and find the Italians and start world war three. We told them to forget about it and go to bed.
The American’s were always ready for a good fight as were we. One day the squadron runner came to me and told me that I was to report to operations immediately. I went directly to operations to find the detachment commander and the senior engineering officer, the SENGO, waiting for me. I was presented with a signal which was stamped all over with the words ‘NATO Top Secret,’ in red. Everyone’s favourite Mad Mullah, Colonel Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, was pissed off with someone or something and had threatened to dump a thermo nuclear warhead on top of Decci. I had to dig out my little files from the safe and open the appropriate orders for such a situation. The engineers prepared the aircraft and the aircrew were similarly prepared.
I have never seen so many aircraft take off in such a short amount of time. It was clear that the other nations had been informed of Gaddafi’s threat and they too had opened their secret files and got their instructions. The Germans went home, as did every other nation, even the fecking Italians, leaving just ourselves and the Americans. As we were almost on a war footing our aircraft were dispersed all over the airfield as did the Americans, the Italians had left theirs in a nice neat row on the flight line. It was quite an interesting time, with reflection, as we could do nothing more than sit back and wait. There were certainly some curious thoughts going through the old head.
After a while we stood down and went to the bar. The Americans were going mental and had even issued personal weapons and had all their people in full camouflage gear. Our quick beer turned into a full on squadron session with barbeque and I can remember a gang of us sitting on the veranda watching the day pass us by. It’s a wonder we didn’t have a lottery gong on what time the first missile would arrive. Although in the quieter moments I’m sure many of us glanced up at the sky to see if there were any largish objects hurtling toward us.
The most popular, and common, form of transport on Decci were small three wheeled vans that zipped about the place. One American actually pulled up in front of us and got out shouting. “Hey you guys! Don’t you know we’re at war? Gaddafi’s going to attack us.” None of us could match his enthusiasm, as we were slightly weary until the SENGO spoke. Pointing at the little three wheeler, as it zipped off down the road, he said. “If anyone can get one of them back to the squadron for me there’ll be a crate of beer in it for them.” Strangely enough Gaddafi was forgotten about as many of us started plastering our faces with camouflage paint so that we wouldn’t stand out among the Americans.