Celtic Illumination, part 203, Biggles, Ginger, Algy and me.
I have to admit that some of the responses and comments I received for the previous couple of blogs have been interesting. I am very pleased to see the level of engagement from you, the Illuminati, and as a benevolent master I shall try to be gentler when exposing you to the life and times of the world’s leading Master Candle Maker, the High Chief of the Clan O Neill and the true King of Ireland. See? Just by saying that, many of you are beginning to see the light, the proverbial penny has dropped. Everything I have said is true, every event has happened, and as with most events, the explanation is simplicity itself.
Coincidence may be a word that some of you would suggest to explain random people from my past popping up in my hour of need. A much simpler and you will have to agree a much more believable explanation is that these events were planned by the double top secret cabal who were steering my life towards greatness. It was the double top secret cabal who had waited until they thought I was ready before sending me to Biggen Hill. Brown had been supervising my training at Watton. As Watton had been populated with such a fine bunch of fellows Brown was the ying to my yang, he was the party pooper, the balance. Thornton was in charge of my training at Valley, where like Prince William, I served on the rescue teams, but unlike William I was undercover. I am sure that these two had been brought to Biggen Hill to see how effective their training had been.
Had I known these facts at the time life might have been a lot easier, but when you are being prepared for greatness, the more suffering you experience, the more munificent you become. I am sure that had I peeked behind curtains at Biggen Hill I would have found Bishops and priests watching my progress, waiting to see if their violent input had any effect on my personality. You may think it strange that a King in waiting, like myself, would be sent to Biggen Hill but the OASC was, and could very well still be, a world leader in personnel selection. Almost every professional selection process and interview technique comes from Biggen, which was backed up with teams of psychologists and trick cyclists, not to mention years of experience. If you were ever lucky enough to be assessed by Biggen you would know exactly not just what sort of person you were but what you were capable of.
There was an urban myth that every second you were at Biggen you were being watched and reported on. However, as Saint Peter once said, or was it John Wayne, ‘A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.’ The pressure and stress of the process seemed to disappear on our final evening so my syndicate decided to go to the bar and have a small beer. The small beer turned into eleventeen pints. We had great craic and I honestly think it was because the experience was almost over and we had managed to stay the course. We still had the final day to survive but I knew that the time proven method from the air force was to start that day with a killer of a hangover which would take your mind off the serious business you had to attend to.
I do remember that we were playing a game of Fizz Buzz, a drinking game that involved counting. A person starts by saying the number one. Moving clockwise the next person says two, then the next person three. A very simple game you may think, even for a drunk, but now add the rules, the fizz and the buzz. Any number with a three in it, or divisible by three, now becomes fizz, so instead of saying three, or six, or thirteen, you say fizz. Got it? Good. Any number with seven in it, or divisible by seven, now become buzz, and; wait for it, the direction changes. Mistakes are rewarded, or punished if you like, by taking a slug of your drink. After about half an hour we had managed to get to nine when the orderly officer came in and found us rolling about having a great old time. It was remarked upon the following morning as we lined up ready for our final day, but it was said with a smile and we were not asked to go to room ‘F’.
For my individual exercise I was given a scenario where I was on the mainland. There was an island, connected by a road that could only be used at low tide. I had a helicopter, some trucks and various other vehicles. I was given the time of the tides, how much fuel I had, how much fuel each vehicle used, even the helicopter. I was then told that there were casualties on the mountain on the island. I had to rescue them. You are given twenty minutes to work this out, but it doesn’t make one iota of difference what you plan, because what they want to see is how you will react under pressure. I went in and sat down. You’ve just spent twenty minutes working times, fuel usage and man power out and they give you a different start time so all your calculations are out. They then lead you through their scenario watching and recording how you perform as you calculate and keep an accurate account of their plan in your head.
For the group exercises we sat at two long tables that were set out in a shallow ‘V’. I learned later that even your position on this table indicated how good a debater they thought you were. The stronger debaters were on the outside of the V while the weaker were near the apex. We had been given a similar exercise except this time we were in charge of a small unit in a faraway land. A Royal Naval vessel, with three hundred Royal Marines on board, has left a couple of hours ago. You had two aircraft, trucks, various weapons, and fuel. This time we had women and children thrown into the mix and the local militia was about to attack. They had already taken out our transmitter so we couldn’t contact anybody for help. All that was missing was a small bag of scientific instruments
Once again we were given twenty minutes to study the information and then they started, with me. “What are you going to do?” they asked. “First of all,” I said. “I will fire up one of the aircraft and using the HF radio call back the marines.” They didn’t ask me anything else after that, but it still wasn’t easy as I had to sit and watch a young civilian boy almost suffer a nervous breakdown beside me. We had two aircraft with very similar names. One could carry nine people and the other two. This poor young boy had nine people in the two seat aircraft. They didn’t correct him and none of us were allowed to speak. They continued on until he had moved all the personnel out and then pointed out to him his mistake. Of course the young fellow now realises that everything he said was incorrect but he can’t backtrack because they had moved on and started on someone else.
It was a very tense affair but at least it did seem to fly past. Before we knew it we were being thanked for attending. It was over. I know I felt confused as I left Biggen and headed back to Germany. Even back on the squadron J R and Tony were badgering me as to what had happened. I was unsure. The only positive fact we could be certain of was that I had remained for the whole assessment. It was nice to think that they had been through the exact same process that I had, all we had to do now was wait and that perhaps was the worst part of it all.