Celtic Illumination, part 204, Semper Fidelis
I’m not a great one for the waiting and hanging around in Germany hoping for news from Biggen Hill was killing me, so I was pleased to hear that I was off on detachment again. For a change this time we were not heading south for some sunshine we were heading north, right to the most northerly tip of Denmark, to Alborg. We were going up to play with the Danish F 16’s. This would mean lots of meat balls, pickled herring and Akvavit. The first bit of information that flew around the squadron was that a bottle of whiskey that we could buy for five pounds, tax free, in Germany, would cost thirty five pounds in Denmark. We were only sending a small detachment up which would be led by Squadron Leader Keith Mac Burney.
There were quite a few meetings where we discussed what operations we would want to complete while up there. This allowed the engineers to decide what equipment and personnel to bring and allowed me to order in specific maps and charts. But there was more. Keith and myself were called in to an office where a fellow in air force uniform briefed us. Although he wore an air force uniform he didn’t seem to be in the same air force as we were. As Keith and myself would have access to the safes, on our host squadron, we were asked to find out certain information that might be there. I was being sent on a spying mission, exciting stuff.
I was a little disappointed that I would not be given an Austin Martin or a fountain pen that could turn in to a surface to air missile. But then at the same time I was glad they didn’t give me a cyanide pill. Keith and myself were the only two people who knew about the mission and we would occasionally joke about it. It was certainly stimulating and became even more so when Keith told me that Alborg was the home of the Danish Special Forces. You will understand that even now I cannot divulge what we had to do and if this blog stops being broadcast you can safely assume that some men will have been around to remind me about the official secrets act that I signed.
The day before we were to travel to Denmark one of my fillings fell out. I immediately reported to the dental section to see if our dentist could repair my tooth. I was given a temporary filling and told that the tooth would be properly repaired on my return. You can imagine how impressed I was the following day as on take-off the temporary filling fell out. We arrived in Denmark and were pleased to all be handed a beer before our security briefing. It was a standard security and familiarisation brief although at one point the briefing officer pointed to an area marked on the map of the airfield. He explained that there were three hundred and fifty American USMC Recon Marines camped there and we were to stay well clear.
I was sharing a room with a Welsh store man, I think there were about thirty five of us there and by the first evening we had already established a block bar. There was a party in full swing. It was quite a session and some of the Danes had come over to welcome us. It was about midnight when I wandered off to the toilets to relieve myself. It was just one huge bathroom with urinals, toilets, sinks and showers. I was surprised to see my roommate, Taffy, having a shower. “Oh man!” he gasped above the sound of the water. “This shower is beautiful, it’s really, really, warm.” As I was about to leave the bathroom I went over to stand beside Taffy who was still proclaiming that this had to be the best shower he had ever enjoyed.
Taffy had been slamming beers and schnapps down his throat all evening in the block bar so was very, very, drunk indeed. “Taffy?” I asked, as he allowed the full force of the water to splash across his face. “Don’t you think you should have taken your uniform off first?” “Oh bloody Hell man,” he sighed noticing that he was fully clothed. “I wondered why it was so warm.” I promise you for our first morning in Denmark every one of us, including the Danes, nursed serious hangovers. That evening we went to the Danish mess and met our first American. We had been getting into the swing of things for a couple of hours when a couple of American pilots came in. They were still wearing their flying suits so it was quite obvious who and what they were. We encouraged them to join in with us and as one of them said “I’ve met you Brits before, I know what you are like.” We sort of knew which one to focus on.
Americans love to be the world champion of anything and everything so they were impressed when we told them that we had the world’s wrist stepping champion with us. They were very interested in how this was achieved and no doubt wanted to challenge the world champion. Basically someone has their wrists tied together, initially with about twelve inches between them. You then step through your arms and back out again. For a young fit man this would be no problem so our American demands that we allow him to challenge our world champion. A suitable length of rope was found and the competition began. Our chap went first, to show the American how it was done.
The American steps through and declares that this is easy. The distance between the wrists is now reduced and the person has to step through again. Our chap does this easily, as does the American. Now the wrists are tied tightly together and this makes the exercise a little more difficult. Our guy completes the task and with a little bit of a struggle the American steps through so that his hands are now firmly tied behind his back. The look on his face was hilarious when a brush shaft was produced and slipped between his back and his arms. We hoisted him up and balanced him between two large bins so that he was suspended in mid-air. He was a good sport and took it in the way it was intended.
Not every daft game went according to plan. A few more Americans had joined us and a new game was developed. How or why it came about I have no idea but basically we were diving through an open window. The bottom of the window was about waist height. With a short run, you had to duck down and then propel yourself through the open window without touching any of the sides. As drink had been taken people were slamming in to everything and I have to admit it was quite a laugh. That is until one of our fellows dived through the window perfectly. Unfortunately he was not able to execute a forward roll to complete the manoeuvre.
Instead he went head first through a metal grating and smashed his lower jaw to pieces. He was in quite a mess and we had to fight the Americans off as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. They were all dismantling pens and opening knifes offering to give our chap a tracheostomy. The medics patched our guy back together again and we didn’t attempt that particular game again while at Alborg. Keith and I had been given access to the safes and were trying to be very casual in our approach to them. And of course as we were 92 Squadron and had been warned to stay away from the Americans, we had challenged them to a games night in the mess.